Vauvenargues ou le séditieux. Entre Pascal et Spinoza, une philosophie pour la seconde nature, and: Créature sans créateur. Pour une anthropologie baroque dans les Pensées de Pascal (review)


Vauvenargues is one of those authors we think we know without having read. Sidelined among the minor moralists, the texts he published are rarely considered rigorous and powerful. Hence we are endebted to Laurent Bove for having taken this thought seriously, and for having systematically brought into relief its most striking intellectual aspects. Vauvenargues himself asked his readers to “read slowly” (“lire doucement”)—a reading ethic that has finally been followed to the letter. Pascal also sought the right rhythm of reading, but not without a certain anxiety over an exaggerated slowness: “when one reads too fast or too slowly, one understands nothing.” In a brief and dense work, Bjornstad Hall finds a rhythm in closely analyzing the immanent condition of the human being before the stakes of Christianity attempt to propel it onto the mysterious pathways of grace, thus resisting jumping too quickly into Pascal the apologist in order to keep him closer to his attentive description of man in his day-to-day actions. The “anthropology” contained in Les Pensées has long been a subject of study, but Bjornstad proposes to remain within the descriptive logic of man’s condition as creature/created—his condition before being carried away with thoughts about the Creator. Thus these two studies share the same exploration of the human condition (what Christian theology calls “second nature”) at the beginning of modernity, but also, from a methodological point of view, they share the same scrupulous concern with the text and the same conceptual richness that allows them to combine, with exemplary rigor, philology and philosophy.

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