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Lecture

Philosophy 1020 Lecture Notes - Infinitesimal, Rationality


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 1020
Professor
John Thorp

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An Argument for the Rationality of Religious Belief.
• French Thinker/Philosopher
• Inventor of Probability Calculus, Laid the Foundations of Infinitesimal
Calculus, Built the First Calculating Machine, Religious Thinker
• "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me".
• Pascal thought the arguments for the existence of God were not compelling.
• Also that the arguments against the existence of God were not compelling.
• He thought we were caught in inescapable ignorance about whether God
exists.
1) Pascal's Fundamental Vision
He proposed that if we can't settle the truth of the matter about the existence
of God, we should ask a different question.
• Given that the evidence does not compel us one way or the other, is it
reasonable to believe in God?
• Is it more rational to believe in God (Behave Accordingly) Or Not to believe
in God (Believe Accordingly)
What's the Best Bet?
2) Constructing the Wager
Where G Stands for the proposition that God etc. Exists,
• G May be True or False & I may believe G or not believe G
• Cross-Diving these two pairs of alternatives we get four possible
combinations.
• I Believe G=G is True
• I Believe G=G is False
• I don't Believe G=G is True
• I don't Believe G=G is False
• Now let's think of the outcomes
Combinations & Outcomes
I Believe G--->G is True--->Big Win
• I Believe G--->G is False---->Little Loss OR 100% Loss!
• I Don't Believe G---->G is True---->Big Loss
• I Don't Believe G---->G is False---->Little Win OR 100% Win
• Note that the Big Win and the Big Loss are immeasurably bigger
than the little win and the little loss: The Big win and the Big Loss are for
eternity; the little win and the little loss are just for the span of a human
lifetime--70 years +/-
3) The Outcome of the Wager
The only way to sure of avoiding the Big Loss, and to have a chance at the
Big Win, is to believe G.
Therefore, Pascal reasoned, it is rational to believe G
4) Note Again: This does not prove that God exists, it only clams to show
that is rational to believe that God exists--indeed more rational to believe
that God does exist than that God does not exist.
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