Chapter

The Anthropology of Disproportion

in The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780226409542
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226409566 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226409566.003.0005
The Anthropology of Disproportion

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Most philosophical spiritual exercises used knowledge of the natural world to comfort those who practiced them, whether to demonstrate the existence of Providence, to reveal a just creation, or to show the superiority of humanity over all other beings. In Pensées, Pascal used knowledge of the natural world to upset and to dismay, to shock his readers into recognizing that the natural and mathematical knowledge available to human beings rests upon presuppositions surpassing human ken. Beyond challenging traditional beliefs about nature, the new mathematical and natural-philosophical discoveries of the seventeenth century should unsettle rarely interrogated beliefs about human nature. Marveling at the limits of human mathematical and natural knowledge could lead to abasing reason without ever abandoning it.

Keywords: Pascal; Pensées; natural world; human nature

Chapter.  15460 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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