Monday, May 15, 2006

Incorrect Pascal Quotes

While rummaging around the internet looking for Pascal quotes, I found several inaccurate ones, and not properly attributed. They were little more than paraphrases or were just wrong! For example, Pascal did not say, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in all of us..." He said something similar, but not that! Here is the real thing, from the Penguin edition of Pensees.

"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself" (148/428).

So, you quotation hunters, beware! Try a site that has the whole of Pensees in an established version. Or, hold your breath, just read a book of Pascal. I, of course, have done the latter, but wanted a quote I could "copy" and "paste" on my blog. Dangerous business, that.


Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

My next book, "Pascal for Dummies," along with a contemporary translation of Pascal.

Old version, "The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of. We know this in countless ways."

Dummie version: "Dude, some things, like, I just know, but I don't know how I do it. You know, I just know it's cool."

Tim said...

This touches a nerve with me, since I recently discovered that there is a genre of Christian books where the most minimal conventions of accurate quotation have been abandoned.

In one wildly popular recent book, the author regularly gives what appear to be quotations (e.g. from C. S. Lewis) that are actually very loose and often wildly misleading paraphrases into something disturbingly similar to Doug's "dummies version" pastiche. This is not an isolated problem that could bother only a pedant; it is pervasive throughout the book, and it affects the author's use of Scripture at numerous points.

But hey, as Paul said, "Whatever works for you" (I Cor 9:22).

Tim said...


I'm glad you liked it. Believe me, that's no more crazy than some of the "quotations" (ahh, how often does one get to put quotation marks around that word?) in the book I was mentioning.

BJS said...

OK Dr. McGrew... spill it -- what is the book you are refering to?

Tim said...

B. Jay,

I didn't mention it -- on purpose.

Med/Peds doc said...

Hi Douglas,
I came across your quote from Pascal while looking for the "god-shaped vacuum" misquote. Thank you! I plead guilty to misquoting him -- thanks to reading the alleged quote in books and hearing it mentioned in messages preached. I always thought that the reference to a vacuum by the discoverer of the law of partial pressures was kind of cute. But I will quote him correctly now.
Some of the comments and reparte to this post were hilarious!