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Free Will in Montaigne, Pascal, Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire and Sartre


Mary Efrosini Gregory

Free Will in Montaigne, Pascal, Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire and Sartre takes the reader on a journey through the corridors of time to explore the evolution of thought regarding free will. The arguments and works presented in this volume raise critical and timeless issues for ethicists, the criminal justice system and the responsible citizen. Montaigne held that humans can break out of the determinist confines of their given cultures and acquired habits by employing reason, welcoming change and promoting education. In The Nun, Diderot chronicles portraits of pathology, records symptoms and leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the unfortunate victims are products of nature, nurture or both. Rousseau thought that civilized man, having joined society, surrenders his free will to the general will to enjoy protection of his person, family and property. Sartre, an indeterminist, averred that since humans have the capacity to be self-reflective, they can exercise creativity with regard to who and how they choose to be from moment to moment. Freud observed that we are marionettes whose strings are commandeered by various realms competing for dominance – the conscious and subconscious; id, ego and superego. Bernays, Freud’s nephew, employed psychoanalytic theory as a tool to advise corporations how to entice the public to purchase their products when confronted with a range of choices. This book opens the door to lively classroom discussion on moral issues. French literature, philosophy, psychology and political science classes will find it an invaluable source presenting a wealth of views on free will.


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3. Pascal 45


Chapter Three Pascal …every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God…But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. —1 Cor 3:8–10 The material below is taken from the introduction, Chapter One, Chapter Three, and Chapter Six of Mary Efrosini Gregory, An Eastern Orthodox View of Pascal. Selection from the Introduction Skeptics have asked throughout the ages and they still do today, “Is there any scientific, mathematical, empirical proof that God exists?” The objective of this study is to demonstrate that the answer is a resounding, “Yes,” and that Blaise Pascal does provide evidence to answer this question. Pascal’s genius resides in his ability to prove the existence of God using probability theory as a tool: because he was a brilliant scientist and mathematician, he was able to demonstrate that the fulfillment of hundreds of Messianic prophecies in the person of one man, Jesus Christ, the historicity of miracles, the unity of the OT and New (ie: evidence of the Holy Trinity in the OT and types), all fall outside the realm of statistical probability and that therefore, they provide clear evi- dence of the Will of God. The first five chapters of this study will examine in detail these proofs based on probability theory. We believe that Pascal’s evi- dence does substantiate the thesis that God exists. However, Pascal’s personal brand of theology, Jansenism, based on Au- gustine, is erroneous in its tenet that...

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