From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Pascal, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Pascal. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Pascal for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Blaise Pascal in no particular order.
Pascal the Philosopher: An Introduction – Graeme Hunter
Category: General Introduction | Length: 280 pages | Published: 2013
Publisher description: Blaise Pascal has always been appreciated as a literary giant and a religious guide, but has received only grudging recognition as a philosopher: philosophers have mistaken Pascal’s harsh criticism of their discipline as a rejection of it. But according to Graeme Hunter, Pascal’s critics have simply failed to grasp his lean, but powerful conception of philosophy. This accessibly written book provides the first introduction to Pascal’s philosophy as an organic whole.
Hunter argues that Pascal’s aim is not merely to humble philosophy, but to save it from a kind of failure to which it is prone. He lays out Pascal’s development of a more promising and fruitful path for philosophical inquiry, one that responded to the scientific, religious, and political upheaval of his time. Finally, Hunter illuminates Pascal’s significance for contemporary readers, allowing him to emerge as the rare philosopher who is spiritual, literary, and rigorous all at once – both a brilliant controversialist and a thinker of substance.
Pascal – Ben Rogers
Category: Short Introduction | Length: 69 pages | Published: 1999
Publisher description: The moralist who advocated dressing up, the ascetic who liked a flutter, the devout Christian who lauded vanity, Pascal is a funnier, more ironic philosopher than his reputation as an anguished existentialist would suggest.
Yet however irreverent the terms of his ironic project, its underlying impetus is both serious and profound. In this superb new introduction to the thinker and his thought, Ben Rogers demonstrates the deep wisdom of Pascal’s defence of popular folly – a defence which he used to highlight the higher delusions of the learned.
Setting the Pensées in the context of Pascal’s life and philosophical career, Rogers reveals how their apparent frivolity underpins a fascinating, far-reaching and still challenging body of moral and political thought. His remarkable guide offers an eye-opening account of the work of a marvellous and much neglected thinker.
The Cambridge Companion to Pascal – Nicholas Hammond
Category: Overview | Length: 304 pages | Published: 2003
Publisher description: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) occupies a position of pivotal importance in many domains: philosophy, mathematics, physics, religious polemics and apologetics. A team of leading scholars surveys the range of his achievement and intellectual background as well as the reception of his work. New readers and nonspecialists will find a convenient and accessible guide to Pascal and advanced students and specialists, a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of his works.
Penseés – Blaise Pascal
Category: Classic | Length: 333 pages
Publisher description: Blaise Pascal, the precociously brilliant contemporary of Descartes, was a gifted mathematician and physicist, but it is his unfinished apologia for the Christian religion upon which his reputation now rests. The Penseés is a collection of philosophical fragments, notes and essays in which Pascal explores the contradictions of human nature in psychological, social, metaphysical and – above all – theological terms. Mankind emerges from Pascal’s analysis as a wretched and desolate creature within an impersonal universe, but who can be transformed through faith in God’s grace.
This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:
- browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
- searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
- browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- searching for recommendations on philosophy forums
The following sources were used to build this list:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Pascal
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Pascal
If you want to learn more about Pascal, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Philosophy Books on the Meaning of Life
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.