Pascal's wager
Old 09-16-2011, 10:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I was reading an summary on pascal's Pensées a few months ago and the wager he makes still haunts me today, for example, there are multiple religons out there and i have to choose one in order to make this investment in 'eternal happiness' so the odds against me are too high and unfair. however what if thats reality? what if the odds were meant to be high to weed out a pretty much everyone except for a very few no matter their motives whether its a high motive, which that the person actually believes in that 'true religon' and has complete faith in it, or the low motive, that a person belived just to be saved from damnation, a his way or the highway mentality. Also what if this 'religon' which we must wager on is long gone, that a small group of people in the past who belonged and beleived in it died out? or what if it emerges in the future? when we are all gone and some new infallible spiritual dogma is the path that pascal meant and people must wager on that, and so we never had a chance (i think total depravity is the term?). this is just my thoughts and i would like to hear some opinions about his wager
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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For me, there are many problems for Pascal's Wager in almost every form. Note that many people talk about "Pascal's Wager" but he actually had many variations of the wager and discerning which precise version he favoured is not as easy at it sounds.

When someone talks about the weakness of Pascal's Wager, it is often framed in one of two ways:

1) Faux belief - It is claimed that someone following Pascal's Wager doesn't really believe, but is feigning belief so that they might enter heaven, a ploy that most conceptions of god would surely see through. Some people really like this criticism; I am not quite as excited by it, as Pascal himself anticipated such a complaint and addressed it in his writing.

2) Competing religions - Suppose that Pascal's Wager could compel us to believe in god. We still don't know what god to believe in. Because of the way that Pascal's Wager is often expressed, the only religions that pose a problem here are those that also offer infinite rewards of some sort. Following the logic of Pascal's argument, any religion that offered a finite reward (such as, say, Jainism) would be less rational to believe in than, say, Christianity or Islam, which offer an eternal and infinite reward.


For me, it is on the question of reward that this wager falls to pieces. When one says that they are believing in god so that they will receive such an infinite reward, they are glossing over god's criteria for giving such an award. The implication of this argument is that god chooses to mete out reward and punishment based solely on loyalty. I think that premise can be challenged in a big way! If we assume many of the other qualities ascribed to god, I am left wondering why god prefers faith over works. Could it not be the case that god will reward any person who did what they genuinely thought was good and right, whether they believe in god or not?

From the Abrahamic perspective, of course, this is obviously not the case (in fact, this is roughly the purpose of the story of Abraham: to show that god values faith in him above, say, the life of a child or your sanity). In any Abrahamic conception of god, it must be the case that faith has preference over works. However, I have to ask: do we have any real reason to believe this is true? Pascal was writing to many intellectuals who assumed and believed the truth of the broad Christian narrative, so to many of them, it was true in and of itself. My reflections, however, take me in a rather different direction, wherein none of god's supposed properties have actually been established and where, therefore, no claims about his nature should be assumed.

Last edited by Ligeia; 09-16-2011 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 09-16-2011, 12:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I only wish I had the chance to wager that Ligeia would respond. Oh well. Well done all the same.
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Old 09-16-2011, 12:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I only wish I had the chance to wager that Ligeia would respond. Oh well. Well done all the same.
I hope it was infinitely rewarding for you, regardless.
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Old 09-16-2011, 01:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I hope it was infinitely rewarding for you, regardless.
Haha - I'm not sure, but I will feign belief that it was, just to look smart, even though you'll see right through that. I think I might have just equated you with God though, so maybe you'll let it pass.
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Old 09-16-2011, 08:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Oh Sky Cake. Why are you so delicious?

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Old 09-16-2011, 10:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Oh Sky Cake. Why are you so delicious?

Sky Cake
That routine always makes me laugh. "I"m going to have rape for dinner". :cookie:

Ligeia doesn't like it so much. We had a little disagreement regarding the content. Translation: I was pissy douche.
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