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The Highways and Byways of Ritual: Pascal and Xunzi on Faith, Virtue, and Religious Practice

Erin M. Cline

Abstract

Blaise Pascal contends that ritual is not simply an expression of religious faith; it is also the means by which religious faith is cultivated. While Pascal fails to offer a plausible account of how ritual can lead to faith, the classical Confucian philosopher Xunzi’s account of ritual – especially his account of how rituals shape a person’s character and how one comes to “acquire a taste” for the things that rituals achieve – is a helpful resource for extending and refining Pascal’s account of how ritual works to transform not just our actions but our feelings, desires, and beliefs, as well.

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