Philosophy 1020 Lecture Notes - Infinitesimal, Rationality
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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
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
• 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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