Human beings hate the truth. This hatred of reality spreads within groups, organizations and even nations. I discovered this extract from the book Pensées of Blaise Pascal in 1978. It remains my favorite text to this day.

(Version française)

The nature of self-love and of this human self is to love only oneself and consider only oneself. But what is a man to do?

He can’t prevent this object that he loves from being full of faults and misery. He wants to be great, and sees himself small. He wants to be happy, and sees himself miserably. He wants to be perfect, and sees himself full of imperfections. He wants men to love and esteem him, and sees that his faults deserve only their dislike and contempt.

This fix that he’s in producing in him the most improper and wicked passion that can be imagined: he develops a mortal hatred against the truth that reproaches him and convinces him of his faults.

He would like to annihilate it, but because he can’t destroy it he does his best to destroy his and other people’s knowledge of it. That is, he puts all his efforts into hiding his faults both from others and from himself. He can’t bear to have anyone point them out to him, or to see them.

It’s certainly bad to be full of faults; but it’s much worse to be full of faults and refuse to recognize them, because that adds the further fault of a voluntary illusion.

We don’t want others to deceive us, and we don’t think it fair that they want us to admire them more than they deserve; so it’s not fair that we should deceive them, and want them to admire us more than we deserve.

So, when they discover only imperfections and vices that we really do have, they clearly aren’t wronging us, because they didn’t cause our faults. Indeed they are doing us a favor, by helping us to free ourselves from something bad, namely ignorance of our imperfections.

We shouldn’t be angry at their knowing our faults and despising us: it is right that they should know us for what we are and despise us if we are despicable.

Excerpt from the book “Pensées” by Blaise Pascal

Image: “Adobe Illustrator vs Artificial Intelligence” by Viktor Hertzis is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.