The point of the book seems to be to describe life in the 17th century in western Europe. There is very much in here about warring Christian sects. Jansenists (anti-science), Thomism (from Thomas Aquinas, seeing God in all things), Augustinians (who think people are basically corrupt). Pascal was a sickly child, whose mother died when he was quite young. He was raised by his father, a fellow who did his best to climb socially and economically, and who moved the family from the 17th century boonies to Paris in quest of such elevation. He did succeed to a degree. It was clear early on that Pascal was an intellectual prodigy. Dad also wanted his son to benefit from exposure to some of the better minds, to be found in the nation’s capital.
The mid 1600’s was a time of intense religious fervor and conflict. Pascal was significantly affected by this environment. One of his sisters even became a nun. In fact, although he is remembered for his scientific work, he was quite religious and wrote significant religious treatises.
Pascal’s “wager” is a bit of logic concerning the benefits and disbenefits of believing in God. Although it is a famous item, I find the logic of Pascal’s wager massively narrow and flawed, riddled with unproven assumptions, and ultimately, of little real value. Sorry, Blaise.
The book was generally a very accessible read, offering a window into a time about which few of us have much knowledge. Definitely worthwhile for the intellectual stimulation of incorporating new knowledge, notions about gambling and class, the dialogue between belief and unbelief, a possible root for the contemporary notion of freedom.