Let’s read Pascal (12): “Our own interest is again a marvellous instrument for nicely putting out our eyes”

Let's Read Pascal

In the second section of the Pensées as they are arranged in modern editions, Pascal counsels us to be wary of the role that our own interests play in the judgments to which we come.

80

Our own interest is again a marvellous instrument for nicely putting out our eyes. The justest man in the world is not allowed to be judge in his own cause; I know some who, in order not to fall into this self-love, have been perfectly unjust out of opposition. The sure way of losing a just cause has been to get it recommended to these men by their near relatives.

Thinking about the Christian academic in particular, such “interest” can include the trending theories in our disciplines, the ideas of the “big beasts” or the smoothest debaters in our faculty or in our disciplinary area, and of course our own published opinions. Both Christians and atheists are vulnerable to such interested self-blinding, and all of us need to sharpen each other for no-one is immune from wielding this “marvellous instrument”.

That’s one of the great jewels of the university: a UNIty of purpose drawing together a diVERSITY of outlooks and approaches. It’s part of what helps us avoid the groupthink that Christians are just as prone to as everyone else. Long may our universities remain diverse.

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