T Nation

Renunciation, total and sweet

Writing in the You don't???...ok take care. thread reminded me this little gem.

Kinda interesting to know that this conclusion came from Blaise Pascal, a genius who studied both sides of life, mathematical AND religious.

Based on what I have seen so far in life, he was dead on. People, as a whole, live for the short term, and governments give a mighty good example of it too. Chicken or the egg, eh?

Could Pascals motto be just another form ofthe wise inner voice` or the instinct that you once in a while listen to and is always right, specially long term?

Pascal also invented the wheelbarrow… but what exactly is the question?

Hey! This is one of those trick questions, huh?

I perceive his statement to be one of the damn good category.

You know the type:

  1. Makes sense the first time you hear it, and could easily be used as a guideline without an afterthought (in this case hedonism…)


  1. When you really think about it, it covers a lot of ground and yet cant exactly pin it down to one specific example, look all goodtruths` of life.

Very much like the Fight Club/Sixth Sense ideology and movie. Nice to see/hear the first time. Then you hear the clincher at the end. And you have to see it again to re-connect the dots and see things you missed, all the time while mentally playing with the ideas.

I am still wrestling with this one.

I don’t see the issue here, people have always lived for the short term. When you consider that for the last 3 million years the overwhealmingly main concern for each human individual was…where is my next meal coming from, it’s not surprising at all. It’s only been in the last few hundred years that humans have even had the luxery of contemplating things like ‘the big picture’ and ‘what’s my purpose in life’. That’s not to say that thinking beyond the end of your nose is a worthless edeavour, in fact I believe the opposite to be true. I just don’t believe it is, or ever has been human nature to think about long term consequence.

plato lived longer than 300 years ago.

MAGNUS: Therefore, this world runs (fuels) on short-term.

Too bad most of our nervous systems and various mechanisms are geared the same way (…power law dynamics…).

I guess as a corollary to all of this I’ll have to keep on lowering my expectations of people (in general).

Or convert to Renunciation like Pascal did, ehehehe.

if a train is going 60 mph and a car next to it is going 60 mph, can underdog stop both at the same time?


Good point.

You know, the evidence is that Hunter-Gatherers only had to work about 25 hours a week. By my calculations, that gave them approximately double the amount of time that the average one of us has to contemplate the big questions.

So my guess is that Philosophy started about 60,000 years ago with modern Homo Sapiens Sapiens. That number’s from memory–I know that physiologically modern humans were around before then, but they didn’t have all the tools and crap that the 60,000 years ago versions had.

The reason I selected Sapiens as the beginning is because language is a prerequisite to Philosophy, IMO, and the probable “hunting signals” that Erectus used.


Sorry, that last bit should read:

The reason I selected Sapiens as the beginning is because language is a prerequisite to Philosophy, IMO, and the probable “hunting signals” that Erectus used don’t really count.

Dan “The Editor” McVicker

what was Pascal’s motto?

DanC: Sadly I think you are probably right, although I try to have faith in the base goodness of the human race.
BTW: Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly does renunciation mean

From dictionary.msn.com:


  1. denial or rejection: a denial or rejection of something, usually for moral or religious reasons

  2. declaration giving something up: an official declaration giving up a title, office, claim, or privilege

More into context:

(…) Pascal underwent some kind of mystical experience. He sewed a description of the event into his coat so that he could wear it next to his heart, claiming “Renunciation, total and sweet.” He abandoned mathematics and physics, swore off high living, dropped his old friends, sold all his possessions except for his religious books, and, a short while later, took up residence in the monastery of Port-Royal in Paris.

(…) Pascal wrote back in August:

I can scarcely remember that there is such a thing as Geometry (i.e. mathematics). I recognize Geometry to be so useless that I can find little difference between a man who is a geometrician and a clever craftsman. Although I call it the best craft in the world it is, after all, nothing else but a craft…It is quite possible I shall never think of it again.

Did he just go bonkers along the way? Was that a warning to those who think too much?

Sorry Dan, I’m a dumbass, I understood renunciation, just not in the context you were refering to concerning Pascal. Thank you for explaining it within the context of Pascal’s thoughts.
Without really knowing much about the man, it sounds like he basically became an extreme minimalist. I think many of us go through periods of wanting to simplify our lives and get rid of all the things that clutter us both literally, as well as intellectually and emotionally. It just sounds like he took it to an extreme that most of us would’nt consider or perhaps are incapable of considering intellectually.