Notes to Explore: Pascal and al-Ghazali

Apologies, this is not a complete thought yet:

There are three sources of belief: reason, custom, inspiration.  The Christian religion, which alone has reason, does not acknowledge as her true children those who believe without inspiration.  It is not that she excludes reason and custom.  On the contrary, the mind must be opened to proofs, must be confirmed by custom, and offer itself in humbleness to inspirations, which alone can produce a true and saving effect.  Ne evacuetur crux Christi.

~Pascal in Pensees, translated in 1904 by W.F. Trotter and offered, abridged, in The European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche (2002) by the Modern Library, NY: p. 121

I make mention of this because, it sounds distinctly Ghazalian (I should know better, I ‘ve just been reading Foucault’s Archaeology).  Particularly, this division of the sources of belief mirrors, I think so please correct me, al-Ghazali’s al-Munqidh min al-Dalal or Deliverance/Deliverer from Error.  Regardless, primacy is given to that knowledge which is revealed – inspiration.  It’s a thought I would wish to see borrowed more by those religious philosophies which claim that God has revealed Himself in the world.

Oh, and the other, which is perhaps more removed, is when Pascal comments that offering arguments to unbelievers is most likely to lead to contempt rather than belief, for they are likely to scorn your arguments as indicative of the weak strands holding your belief together.  Such an utterance would n’t sound out of place for al-Ghazali either, I should think, especially given the manner by which he defines theology – as first an internal defense and then an external one against unbelief.  Theology is not, in the function it serves, equipped to be particularly constructive.

Again, apologies for the incomplete nature of this piece, but I ‘m trying to catalogue major dialogue points with al-Ghazali and not only has this one interested me on prior occasion, but it jumps off the page when I hear Pascal echoing sentiments so near in tone.  I ‘m happy to be corrected in these matters.


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