- L'Esprit du Corps: La Doctrine Pascalienne de L'Amour by Alberto Frigo
The goal of this text is to give an exposition of Pascal's ethics, treatments of which are still rare and mostly outdated. Although the past few years have seen several new book-length works on various aspects of Pascal's philosophy, Frigo's monograph stands out for not merely perpetuating dated readings, but instead advancing the discussion with unprecedented historical research and drawing from recent developments.
The general focus of the book is to uncover Pascal's moral philosophy by means of the Morale chrétienne fragments of Pensées, 351–76 in the edition of Louis Lafuma, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer (numbers 383–408 in the edition of Philippe Sellier, translated by Roger Ariew). As Frigo notes, this set of fragments is especially valuable for Pascalian scholarship in that it is a lengthier collection with little redaction or modification. Though the Morale chrétienne fragments are dense, there are a few themes that unify the discourse: Pascal's ontology (a body of "thinking members") and his doctrine of love.
Frigo expatiates on several themes embedded in Pascalian ontology. Particularly, he considers how the selections on thinking members makes sense of the otherwise paradoxical doctrine of love (the right way and degree to which one should love oneself and others) and the body qua ecclesiastical anatomy, where Christ is the head and its members the body. Frigo's thesis, more specifically, is that the order of charity follows from the definitions of 'love' and 'hatred' offered by Descartes in the Passions de l'âme (articles 79–80); and when Pascal scholarship begins by understanding charité, itself embedded in a theological context, Pascal's ethics can be unlocked.
The first chapter explores Corpus mysticum, the theology of Christ's body, tracing the phrase through its medieval and modern uses, engaging most prominently the work of Henri de Lubac, who argued that the original sense in which it was used is eucharistic, not ecclesiastic. Frigo then turns his attention to an analysis of two early modern theologians, Saint Cyran, largely responsible for bringing Jansenism to France, and Pierre de Bérulle (chapter 2). He is concerned specifically with what they have to say about the Pauline theology of bodies, and thinking members united by charity. This is the most fruitful chapter [End Page 730] in his book, as it is the first monograph to offer this level of insight into two theologians whose influence over Port Royal is formative for Pascal. Importantly, Frigo addresses a concept that has been long overlooked in the secondary literature, deification. A concept central to Pascalian ontology, theologians often use this term interchangeably with theosis to describe the ontological unity between Christ and his elect. The analysis of this concept in terms of Bérulle and Saint Cyran is novel and makes a compelling case that this is the appropriate reading of Pascal's fragments on thinking members.
By offering this theological context, Frigo makes space to discuss Pascal's doctrine of love with a reactionary, though sometimes appropriate, emphasis on Pascal's Cartesianism (chapter 3). In spite of theological context, Frigo reads the doctrine of love through Descartes's Passions (articles 79–83): in article 80, for instance, Descartes expresses volonté in terms of joining the lover with the beloved. I found this chapter less compelling for, although the Pensées and Passions are similar in their understanding of love, its origin seems overdetermined in Pascal as Descartes himself is not original here. Nonetheless, these parallels can be useful: by considering Pascal's theological and philosophical background, and its implications in understanding the thinking members and doctrine of love, Frigo is finally able to address the second aspect of body discussed in the Morale chrétienne fragments, which is ecclesiastical (chapter 4). He concludes with his own constructive interpretation of the Morale chrétienne fragments (chapter 5).
The most significant curiosities of the book are some omissions. Existing arguments would benefit from deeper investigation into Augustine on...