Welcome to Pascal pense que…

October 5th, 2007

Welcome to the Pascal Pense Website, the first and only free website to host a complete and completely searchable copy of Blaise Pascal’s 1662 text, the Pensées, in the original French. The visitor to this exclusive website may search and download the full text absolutely free of charge! (Viva expired copyrights!)

The Pensées as we have them are a mess of more or less disorganized notes left in a drawer awaiting an occasion for their author to craft them into a projected work, An Apology for the Christian Religion. When that occasion never came (because of Pascal’s premature death in 1662), the notes were passed from editor to editor, each of whom has tried to make what he could (or what he wanted) of the notes. For example, the very first edition of the Pensées, published in 1671 by his Jansenist friends, omitted fully half of the text we now know to forestall further State and Church action against Jansenism.

Leo Brunschvicg’s 1897 edition of the Pensées (i.e. the edition reproduced on this website) was the first to treat Pascal’s original text scientifically, first gathering the notes together thematically (so, for example, juxtaposing all the notes that mention Descartes), and then (for the first time) numbering the individual notes. The publication of Brunschvicg’s edition was a major step forward in Pascal scholarship, so much so that, even today, when a new edition of the Pensées is published, it is standard to publish along with it a concordance relating the new edition and Brunschvicg’s. The numbering that Brunschvicg first gave the Pensées (e.g. B #233) has become a kind of (excusing the pun) lingua franca among Pascal scholars: we all know (or can figure out) what passage one is referring to in our own favorite edition of the Pensées because the passages all now commonly refer to the number Brunschvicg once gave that passage.

This is why it was so important for Pascal scholarship to bring Brunschvicg’s edition to the internet, making it freely available and searchable to anyone who wants it. Publication of the Brunschvicg edition of the Pensées in full on the ubiquitous internet means that a universal edition of the Pensées is now universally available. (It also saves on lugging it around!).

Now of course there have had to be some compromises made in bringing Pascal’s text to the internet, and I apologize in advance to the visitor for such inconveniences as these may cause. The visitor may at least have the benefit of knowing what these compromises are now, so that they will not make an unpleasant surprise later. The compromises are:

1) In reproducing the full text, I have not always been faithful to Brunschvicg’s original paragraph spacing, punctuation, and capitalization. The words are all there, though, and mostly in the right order –that seems to me to be the chief consideration.

2) Though the text itself is in French, of course (–Translations are of less use to scholars–), the critical apparatus provided is overwhelmingly bilingual, French and English. It is therefore twice as long as most visitors will need. (Presumably, all will know at least French, but how well will they know it?). This bilingual critical apparatus is meant to facilitate searching the text: If one searches for “Plutarch” where the critical apparatus is solely in French, one will find nothing –one needs to search for “Plutarque” to find anything (Conversely, searching for “Luc” will yield nothing in an English-only critical apparatus. One needs search for “Luke” in that case). The only exception to the completely bilingual critical apparatus is where the difference between the French and English is so minor (e.g. “Térence” and “Terence”) that translation would mean virtual redundancy. In any case, I have kept the critical apparatus to a minimum.

3) In cases where there are variant readings (marked by “Var. ed.”) of the same word, sentence, or passage, I have not always followed Brunschvicg’s 1897 reading, but have sometimes preferred later editions (Brunschvicg himself published the Pensées again in 1904). Except where I have been conclusively persuaded against Brunschvicg’s 1897 reading (which happened hardly at all), I always included the variant reading in square brackets. Where there was a perfect balance of probabilities, I always chose to give Brunschvicg’s 1897 reading preference, listing the other, later readings as the variants. Again, the words are all there: the visitor will have to work out on his or her own which words Pascal must have meant.

4) A bilingual version of this NOTICE is forthcoming.

Away with this pedantic stuff! Ça suffit des savants!

Enjoy! Bonne Lecture!

…The author of this notice would like to thank Octavian Busuioc for his technical savy setting this website up, and Jon Miller for generously helping to bring this project to fruition.

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