Pascal, Transcendentalist? pt.2
After reading more of the Pensees, I suppose my idea of Pascal as a would-be transcendentalist if it weren’t for dominant social factors of the sixteenth century is more of a stretch than is realistic. Or at least, that’s what I was thinking for most of the night. Then, I found another passage which hinted at a transcendentalist thought and I’m right back into thinking it a feasible project.
The first glimmerings of my idea that Pascal and Thoreau could be compared came about, as I mentioned before, because of the similarity in style between the Pensees and Thoreau’s journals. But the idea that Pascal might have been a transcendentalist came about in reading the early sections of the Pensees, when Pascal focuses on distraction and wretchedness. Pascal argues that, if man is so wretched that he must distract himself from the present, then he would be the worst kind of fool not to accept the divine.
It is that focus on the moment which first gave me the idea that Pascal might be a transcendentalist. Thoreau has a similar focus on the moment, and I think a similar attitude towards the things Pascal deems “distraction”. But where Pascal sees living in the moment as revealing how wretched man is, Thoreau sees it (in true, founding transcendentalist style) as the only way to link his subjective experience with a universal truth.
Why not claim that the time was right for one to think the way he did and not the other?