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Lecture 8

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Steve Joordens

PHLA10 – Lecture 8 Notes October 18 , 2012 Wagers and Evil Chapters 10 and 11 Pascal and Irrationality Chapter 10: Pages 100 - 108 Pascal’s Wager  The gambling problem: Argues the prudential reason of whether it could be rational to believe in God even if you think it is enormously improbable that God exists. o Existence of God is possible even if it is extremely implausible o Pascal says that it is a sensible wager to believe that God exists Prudential and Evidential Reasons  Prudential reason: Rational to try to believe, even though you think the proposition in question is very improbable.  Evidential reason: No reason to believe proposition is true, due to lack of evidence  Evidential reason increases probability of belief Expected Utility  Multiply the chance of the action succeeding by the ‘payoff’ (utility) of the successful outcome   ( )( ) ( )( ) o Example: If you can randomly draw an ace of spades from a standard deck of cards (52 cards), you win $1,000,000. It costs $1 to try.  Cost: $1  Chance of not winning: (52 – 1)/52 = 51/52  Payoff: $1,000,000 - $1 = $999,999  Chance of winning: 1/52  ( )( ⁄ ) ( )( ⁄ )  Expected utility = $19,230 o Thus, the payoff is so huge and the cost is so small, that it is a great gamble you are willing to take. Pascal’s Argument  Describes how an agent should choose among different available actions by seeing what the utilities are of the different outcomes; presenting a prudential reason to believe in God. o Payoff matrix: Actions Believe in God Do not believe in God Ways the World God exists +o Small negative might be o God does not exist - Small positive  To determine expected utility, take the probability of God existing, P(G) = ε, and suppose ε > 0. PHLA10 – Lecture 8 Notes October 18 , 2012 Wagers and Evil Chapters 10 and 11 o Expected utility of payoff matrix: Actions Believe in God Do not believe in God o Ways the World God exists + ε Small negative (1– ε) might be God does not exist -o ε Small positive (1– ε) o Thus, expected utility is positive infinity. Problems with Pascal’s Wager 1. Pascal suggests doxastic voluntarism, but we can’t decide to believe a proposition; we cannot control belief.  Pascal’s reply: In order to make someone believe, you must engage in actions related to the belief. You can choose to live your life in such a way that belief will come naturally. The right setting leads development of the right habits, for that belief. o Example: If you want to believe in God, you must go live among religious people. 2. The decision matrix is incomplete. Pascal only suggests two possibilities; that believers are rewarded and non-believers are punished. There is still the possibility that believers can get punished and non-believers can get rewarded. o Example: God rewards those who lead a good life and punishes those who are bad, independent of what they believe of God. Freud’s answer to Theism  Freud believed the special attraction of religion is that we are all scared to face the inevitability of our own deaths. Just like our ancestors, we feel helpless with so much of nature out of our control, beyond our understanding, and threatening our survival. Those that believe in God, like to construct a picture of forces more powerful than ourselves who take an interest in our fate; as a psychological benefit, he says that those who believe in God, are protected by him. William James’ Version  Pragmatism: Believe propositions that are useful to us, by being attentive to evidence. o Being pragmatic = being practical o For most beliefs, like science, evidence matters o For some other beliefs, like religion, there is no evidential grip  Provide a ‘vital benefit’ and are ‘low cost’ evidentially Clifford’s answer  Clifford’s reply to prudential reasoning is that it is wrong to believe without evidence; it is immortal. th PHLA10 – Lecture 8 Notes October 18 , 2012 Wagers and Evil Chapters 10 and 11 The Argument from Evil Chapter 11: Pages 109 - 116 The Problem of Evil  Argument from Evil: That the fact that there is evil in the world (or that there is so much of it) proves there is no God. First Version of the Argument (1) If God were to exist, then that being would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good (all- PKG, for short) (2) If an all-PKG being existed, then there would be no evil. (3) There is evil Hence, there is no God. Response to First Version  Since argument is deductively valid, can only use counterexamples to show that a premise is false.  Reject premise (1) o Problem: If there is a God, then God isn’t a
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