"Philosophers startle ordinary people. Christians astonish the philosophers." --Pascal, Pensees In Wagering on an Ironic God Thomas S. Hibbs both startles and astonishes. He does so by offering a new interpretation of Pascal's Pensees and by showing the importance of Pascal in and for a philosophy of religion. Hibbs resists the temptation to focus exclusively on Pascal's famous "wager" or to be beguiled by the fragmentary and presumably incomplete nature of Pensees . Instead he discovers in Pensees a coherent and comprehensive project, one in which Pascal contributed to the ancient debate over the best way of life--a life of true happiness and true virtue. Hibbs situates Pascal in relation to early modern French philosophers, particularlyMontaigne and Descartes. These three French thinkers offer three distinctly modern accounts of the good life. Montaigne advocates the private life of authentic self-expression, while Descartes favors the public goods of progressive enlightenment science andits promise of the mastery of nature.
Pascal, by contrast, renders an account of the Christian religion that engages modern subjectivity and science on its own terms and seeks to vindicate the wisdom of the Christian vision by showing that it, better than any of its rivals, truly understands human nature.Though all three philosophers share a preoccupation with Socrates, each finds in that figurea distinct account of philosophy and its aims. Pascal finds in Socrates a philosophy rich inirony: philosophyis marked by a deep yearning for wisdom that is never whollyachieved. Philosophy is a quest without attainment, a love never obtained. Absent Cartesian certaintyor the ambivalence of Montaigne, Pascal's practice of Socratic irony acknowledges the disorder of humanity without discouraging its quest. Instead,the quest for wisdomalerts the seekerto the presence of a hidden God.God, according to Pascal, both conceals and reveals, fulfilling the philosophical aspiration for happiness and the good life only by subverting philosophy's veryself-understanding. Pascal thus wagers all on the irony of a God whoboth startles and astonishes wisdom's true lovers.
Wagering on an Ironic God by Thomas S. Hibbs was published by Baylor University Press in March 2017. The ISBN for Wagering on an Ironic God is 9781481306386.