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The Custom House – When Between Two Infinities, Go All In: Reading Pascal’s Pensées (Extended Conversation w/ Hall Bjornstad)

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In this episode of The Custom House we’re joined by Hall Bjornstad, an assistant professor of French in the French and Italian Department at Indiana University. We’ll be discussing the 17th century religious thinker and mathematical genius Blaise Pascal to see if we can find ways to fail better by reading his collection of fragments titled the Pensées where he has written, “Men are so necessarily mad that it would be another twist of madness not to be mad.” In this radio cut we discuss what is likely the most famous fragment, the one called “The Wager,” as well as the section often referred to as “The Two Infinities.” This extended cut focuses on the Pensées fragments labeled “Diversion.” We also confront Pascal’s own “conversion experience” represented in a fragment scholar’s have called The Memorial. This short piece resembles the poetry of religious mysticism and which, upon Pascal’s death, was discovered sewn into his clothing positioned over his heart. He had told no one about the experience.

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