From Publishers Weekly
Is there a God? Are you willing to bet your eternal soul on your answer? This essentially is what has become known as Pascal
's Wager, a bare-bones approach to challenging the folly of unbelief. Blaise Pascal
(1623–1662) is widely regarded as a brilliant mathematician, but he is less well-known as a deep student of religion and the Bible
. He and his father were devoted Jansenists, schismatic Roman Catholics seeking to revive Augustine's stern views of judgment, predestination and radical orthodoxy. Connor, professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey and author of Kepler's Witch
and Silent Fire
, believes that this passion, along with Pascal's insatiable curiosity and his father's deep love for learning, produced the prodigy who would change the way we view both God and the sciences. Driven by the tumultuous events of 17th-century France (vividly recreated by Connor), and meeting resistance not only from fellow mathematicians like René Descartes but from such powerhouses as the Jesuits, young Pascal repeatedly proved himself more than just a "spoiled son of a controlling father," rising above the challenges of his youth and diminutive stature. Written for a general audience, this biography is a compelling and readable study of one of the most influential thinkers in religious history. (Oct.)
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Following his biography of astronomer Johannes Kepler (Kepler's Witch
, 2004), which dwelt on the religious side of Kepler's life, Connor takes up a near contemporary also beset by problems of faith and reason. Mathematician and mystic Blaise Pascal
, Connor notes, matured during a revival of Catholicism in mid-seventeenth-century France. He was an adherent of Jansenism, whose theological parameters are explained amid Connor's narrative of Pascal's illness-plagued life (he died at 39). The account fixes Pascal amid his immediate family and their participation in Jansenism. Recounting the attraction of the Pascal family to the movement, Connor shows the conflict between domestic life and faith. His sister Jacqueline was prevented from entering a Jansenist convent, as she desired, because father and brother Blaise needed her help at home. Meanwhile, Blaise thought about probability and the existence of God, and devised the wager to which Connor's title refers. Well written and well informed (Connor is a former Catholic priest), this biography should interest readers drawn to the crossroads of religion and science. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.