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The concept of 'world visions', first elaborated in the early work of Georg Lukàcs, is used here as a tool whereby the similarities between Pascal's Penséesand Kant's critical philosophy are contrasted with the rationalism of Descartes and the empiricism of Hume. For Lucien Goldmann, a leading exponent of the most fruitful method of applying Marxist ideas to literary and philosophical problems, the 'tragic vision' marked an important phase in the development of European thought from rationalism and empiricism to the dialectical philosophy of Hegel, Marx and Lukàcs. The book is not a collection of isolated essays on Kant, Pascal, Racine, the status of the legal nobility in seventeenth-century France and the exact nature of the religious movement known as Jansenism, but an attempt to formulate, by an examination of these different topics, a general approach to the problems of philosophy, of literary criticism, and of the relationship between thought and action in human society.