While Blaise Pascal is often remembered for his contributions to science and mathematics, the Pensees reads like an anthology of Facebook status updates. Typically modern, Pascal is often unconcerned with what man ought to do and instead directs his attention to what man is.
No. 72 Too much and too little wine. If you give someone none, he cannot discover the truth. It is the same if you give him too much.
No. 75 When we read too quickly or too slowly we understand nothing.
No. 177 What the stoics propose is so difficult and worthless.
No. 189 Atheism, sign of strength of mind but only up to a certain point.
I struggle to name a canonized Western philosopher whose thought comes down to us in such tasty morsels. We are all Pascal now. Pascal seems a man moving about town, going out to lunch, noticing the way a man flirts with a woman, noticing the changes in clothing trends, then returning home to jot down his thoughts before hurrying off to some other appointment. Pascal represents a quiet, discerning eye that roves about the city, about the bar, about the nave, looking for discrepancies, idiosyncrasies, gems of despair or joy, then intuiting their place within the whole fabric of the society, the world.
The Pensees represent a fairly new kind of intellectual, for Pascal was neither a monk, a cleric, a priest, a diplomat, nor a wealthy member of the gentry. Why should we take him seriously? The lucidity of his observations alone justify his presence in the canon. Pascal has been to the mall, has sipped a coffee and people-watched. He has returned to us to tell us how ridiculous a thing is man, and because he is right, we listen.