Man’s Disproportion

An excerpt from “Pensees” by Pascal: Man’s Disproportion:

This is where our innate knowledge leads us. If it be not true, there is no truth in man and if it be true, he finds therein great cause for humiliation, being compelled to abase himself in one way or another. And since he cannot exist without this knowledge, I wish that, before entering on deeper researches into nature, he would consider her both seriously and at leisure, that he would reflect upon himself also, and knowing what proportion there is… Let man then contemplate the whole nature in her full and grand majesty, and turn his vision from the low objections which surround him. Let him gaze on that brilliant light, set like an eternal lamp to illumine the universe; let the earth appear to him a point in comparison with the vast circle described by the sun; and let him wonder at the fact that this vast circle is itself but a very fine point in comparison with that described by the stars in their revolution round the firmament. But if our view be arrested there, let our imagination pass beyond; it will sooner exhaust the power of conception than nature that of supplying material for conception. The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge out conceptions beyond an imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an inifite sphere, the centre of which everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short, it is the great sensible mark of the almighty power of God that imagination loses itself in that though.

Returning to himself, let man consider what he is in comparison with all existence; let him regard himself as lost in this remote corner of nature; and from the little cell in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe, let him estimate at their true value earth, kingdoms, cities, and himself. What is man in the Infinite?

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