Pascal's Pensées: Week 4, We Do Not Prove That We Ought To Be Loved


The heart has its order, the mind has its own, which uses its principles and demonstrations. The heart has a different one. We do not prove that we ought to be loved by setting out in order the causes of love; that would be absurd.


There is a different famous pensée which features large in Hunting Magic Eels about the heart and reason. That pensée will show up later in this series. But today's pensée is a good introduction to a theme that Pascal dwells on in the Pensées.

Specifically, much of the appeal of faith is found within the affective, emotional, and relational sphere of human experience. This is a point observed by thinkers such as Francis Spufford in Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense and Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

To borrow from C.S. Lewis, the "dark enchantment" of the modern world is this pernicious assumption that "truth" means "factual" or "scientific." But that's nonsense. Taking a cue from Pascal's point that we "do not prove that we ought to be loved," I observe in Hunting Magic Eels

The great lie of our scientific, skeptical world is that science has become the sole arbiter and judge of “the truth.” We’ve been deceived into thinking that if something isn’t “scientific,” it isn’t “true.” But a moment’s reflection shows this is simply ridiculous...I don’t know the love I have for Jana because of the scientific method. I don’t verify the joy I experience looking at a West Texas sunset in a test tube or petri dish. I don’t measure the beauty I experience before a great work of art. I don’t make moral decisions by applying the laws of physics. And I can’t find the story that gives my life purpose, value, meaning, and direction written in any equation penned by the late Stephen Hawking. I know we’re all deeply grateful to science. I love air conditioning and antibiotics. But the truest things in my life are feelings, not facts.
You cannot prove that you ought to be loved. And even if you tried--"Here are all the logical reasons why you should love me!"--that proof would appear so strange it wouldn't move anyone to love you.

But still, you ought to be loved. The mind has its order. And the heart its own.

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