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The Pensees (literally, "thoughts") represented an apology for the Christian religion by Blaise Pascal, the renowned 16th century philosopher and mathematician. Pascal's own religious conversion had led him into a life of asceticism, and the Pensees were in many ways his life's work.

Although they appear to consist of ideas and jottings, some of which are incomplete, it is now believed that Pascal had, prior to his untimely death in 1662, already planned out the order of the book and had arranged the individual scraps of paper, on which the "thoughts" were written, accordingly. Those responsible for his effects, failing to recognise the basic structure of the work, handed them over to be edited, and they were published in 1669. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that scholars understood Pascal's intention, and present-day editions of the book contain his "thoughts" in more or less the order he left them.

The best-known quotations from the Pensees include:

Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point.
("The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing")

Le silence eternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie.
("The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.")

L'homme n'est qu'un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c'est un roseau pensant.
("Man is only a reed, the weakest thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed.")

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