Whatever interpretation is given to it, it can be seen to be particularly apposite to the potential constituency of libertines and gamblers whom Pascal was intending to address. Pascal’s apology is therefore not simply fideistic, postulating the two truths of faith and reason; it employs both faith and reason, as well as doubt, to achieve certainty. As one pensée has it ‘one must doubt in the right way, assert in the right way, and submit in the right way’ (1670: 523).

Descartes tried to demonstrate too much, and relied on his cogito to gain knowledge of an infinite and hence incomprehensible God; Montaigne doubted too much, and did not agonize enough about his passive acceptance of ignorance and hedonism; only Pascal (and his mentor St Augustine) used reason to affirm, to negate and to recognize its own limitations appropriately. In the second part of his apology, Pascal planned to use arguments from Biblical history, prophecies, miracles, and above all else the interpretation of Holy Writ to present the case for the truth of Christianity; but he conceded that such proofs were not absolutely convincing, although they were sufficient to secure the consent of those who read them free from the perverting effects of their own corrupt passions.