I’m feeling intellectual these days because I’ve been reading works by seventeenth-century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal. I actually picked the book up to read during our school basketball game–in case there were slow moments–and I thought a volume from the Great Books series would be appropriately eccentric. So I started reading Pascal’s Pensees. Later I took the book home and discovered his Provincial Letters where he imagines a Parisian writing back to the provinces about an ongoing intellectual debate, a controversy between the Dominicans, Jesuits and Jansenists about theological minutiae. It sounds deadening, but it’s actually quite clever and even witty. It became something of a bestseller among the elites of Pascal’s day–though also very controversial–and ultimately led to some censuring of Jesuit behavior. It’s got an intellectual wit that’s appealing even if the original controversy is light-years away from one’s current life.
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