W. H. Auden on Pascal’s “wager” and Kierkegaard’s “leap”

living thoughts

“It is,” Newman observed, “as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.” However convincing the argument, however holy the arguer, the act of faith remains an act of choice which no one can do for another. Pascal’s “wager” and Kierkegaard’s “leap” are neither of them quite adequate descriptions, for the one suggests prudent calculation and the other perverse arbitrariness. Both, however, have some value: the first calls men’s attention to the fact that in all other spheres of life they are constantly acting on faith and quite willingly, so that they have no right to expect religion to be an exception; the second reminds them that they cannot live without faith in something, and that when the faith which they have breaks down, when the ground crumbles under their feet, they have to leap even into uncertainty if they are to avoid certain destruction.  (The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard, W. H. Auden, Introduction p. 17)

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2013

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