"The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find
no difference between men."
"For, in fact, what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a
mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things
and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing
from which he was made, and the Infinite in which he is swallowed up."
"Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to
know a little about everything. For it is far better to know something about everything than
to know all about one thing."
"One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a
rule of life, and there is nothing better."
"I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to
make Him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no further need of God."
"Descartes useless and uncertain."
"The vanity of the sciences.--Physical science will not console me for the ignorance of
morality in the time of affliction. But the science of ethics will always console me for
the ignorance of the physical sciences."
"The consciousness of the falsity of present pleasures, and the ignorance of the vanity
of absent pleasures, cause inconstancy."
"Some vices only lay hold of us by means of others, and these, like branches, fall on removal of the trunk."
"Nature diversifies and imitates; art imitates and diversifies."
"Weariness.--Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions,
without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his
forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will
immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness,
"When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and
after, the little space which I fill and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity
of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and am astonished at
being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now
rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and
time been allotted to me?"
"When we read too fast or too slowly, we understand nothing."
"We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end. When we
think to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and leaves us; and if we
follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us, and vanishes for ever. Nothing stays for us.
This is our natural condition and yet most contrary to our inclination; we burn with desire to
find solid ground and an ultimate sure foundation whereon to build a tower reaching to the Infinite.
But our whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses."
"We do not require great education of the mind to understand that here is no real and lasting
satisfaction; that our pleasures are only vanity; that our evils are infinite; and, lastly,
that death, which threatens us every moment, must infallibly place us within a few years under
the dreadful necessity of being for ever either annihilated or unhappy."
"The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great things, indicates a
"Plato, to incline to Christianity."
"It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that He should not
exist; that the soul should be joined to the body, and that we should have no soul; that
the world should be created, and that it should not be created, etc.; that original sin
should be, and that it should not be."
"But you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then?
Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two
things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will,
your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery.
Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of
necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the
loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all;
if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."
"Other religions, as the pagan, are more popular, for they consist in externals. But they
are not for educated people. A purely intellectual religion would be more suited to the
learned, but it would be of no use to the common people. The Christian religion alone is
adapted to all, being composed of externals and internals. It raises the common people to
the internal, and humbles the proud to the external; it is not perfect without the two,
for the people must understand the spirit of the letter, and the learned must submit their
spirit to the letter."
"Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only."
"Immateriality of the soul--Philosophers who have mastered their passions. What matter
could do that?"
"Things have different qualities, and the soul different inclinations; for nothing is simple which is presented
to the soul, and the soul never presents itself simply to any object. Hence it comes that we weep and laugh at the
"When all is equally agitated, nothing appears to be agitated, as in a ship. When all tend
to debauchery, none appears to do so. He who stops draws attention to the excess of others,
like a fixed point."
"We desire truth, and find within ourselves only uncertainty. We seek happiness, and find only misery and death.
We cannot but desire truth and happiness, and are incapable of certainty or happiness. This desire is left to us,
partly to punish us, partly to make us perceive wherefrom we are fallen."
"We are fools to depend upon the society of our fellow-men. Wretched as we are, powerless as we are, they
will not aid us; we shall die alone. We should therefore act as if we were alone... we should seek the truth without
hesitation; and, if we refuse it, we show that we value the esteem of men more than the search for truth."
"All the principles of sceptics, stoics, atheists, etc., are true. But their conclusions
are false, because the opposite principles are also true."
"Men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness."
"True nature being lost, everything becomes its own nature; as the true good being lost,
everything becomes its own true good."
"If we do not know ourselves to be full of pride, ambition, lust, weakness, misery, and
injustice, we are indeed blind. And if, knowing this, we do not desire deliverance, what
can we say of a man...?"
"Happiness is neither without us nor within us. It is in God, both without us and within us."
"The knowledge of God without that of man's misery causes pride. The knowledge of man's
misery without that of God causes despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ constitutes the
middle course, because in Him we find both God and our misery."
"Without Jesus Christ man must be in vice and misery; with Jesus Christ man is free from
vice and misery; in Him is all our virtue and all our happiness. Apart from Him there is
but vice, misery, darkness, death, despair."
"Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ.
We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know
what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves."
"I see many contradictory religions, and consequently all false save one. Each wants to be
believed on its own authority, and threatens unbelievers. I do not therefore believe them.
Every one can say this; every one can call himself a prophet. But I see that Christian
religion wherein prophecies are fulfilled; and that is what every one cannot do."
"That we must love one God only is a thing so evident that it does not require miracles
to prove it."
"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love
the truth, we cannot know it."
"This religion taught to her children what men have only been able to discover by their greatest knowledge."