It is very likely that Blaise Pascal would’ve been one of the greatest skeptics and pessimists of all time except for a “miracle” that happened in 1639.
He was driving a carriage along the Seine when something startled his horses and they all fell into the river. Somehow, Pascal survived, and he determined this experience to be miraculous. Converted, and henceforth he became a champion of Christianity, providing rational support for brand new convictions – the very same he once ridiculed.
In the second part of the Pensees, Pascal attempted to list a variety of proofs to uphold theological doctrines. However, before his leap of faith, Pascal offered insights into a philosophical defeat. Chronicling his inner anxieties, this angst-ridden genius experienced truly hopeless days. In the first half of Pensees, Pascal methodically eliminates the props that sustain our illusions. Our most cherished values are completely imaginary, and our human relations and institutions are inconsistent.
All things are in fact inconsistent, relative and uncertain. However, there’s at least one certainty: man is finite, and the “finite is annihilated in the presence of the infinite and becomes pure nothingness.”
Pascal’s prescription is to immerse our selves in strenuous activity – while the activity itself will be meaningless, it will help us to overcome meaninglessness.