Monthly Archives: January 2010

still quoting

Nothing new, just a quote from LRB, 17-Dec issue, Michael Wood on Frank Kermode (p.10: link for subscribers), talking about William Empson, talking about Pascal’s Wager (my emphasis) which I liked and wanted to share:

Empson of course spent much of his later life attacking the very idea of salvation as long as it had a Christian tinge, but he had his interest in nobler magic too, and his idea of honour, eloquently drawn out by Kermode, is a matter of moral style rather than mere morality. Empson despised Pascal’s famous wager (we might as well bet on the existence of God since we shall win if there is a God and lose nothing if there isn’t) because he thought it made one who accepted it ‘the slave of any person, professing any doctrine, who has the impudence to tell him a sufficiently extravagant lie … Clearly, if you have reduced morality to keeping the taboos imposed by an infinite malignity, you can have no sense of honour or of the public good.’ This is stirring stuff, and the public good is a surprising note. Kermode says: ‘It does warm the heart to hear [Pascal’s] line of argument dismissed as simply dishonourable.’


Over the last few days I’ve been commenting on the TPM site rather than here. One long-running thread of comments to a guest blog by Andy Walsh is here, and an essay by Russell Blackford here. Both about Dawkins and the so-called New Atheism. All good fun.

Yes, I know that I ought to be writing that third short story. I know, I know, I know …

Oh yeh, Happy New Year 🙂