8. Pascal's Wager
An argument for the rationality of religious belief
0. Some biographical details about Blaise Pascal
The dialectical state of play
- Inventor of probability calculus
- laid foundations of infinitesimal calculus
- built first calculating machine
- Experiments in physics, especially fluid dynamics
- religious thinker and writer (Jansenist)
“the eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me”
“man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed.” However
insignificant we are, we have the power of thought
Pascal thought the arguments for the existence for God were not compelling.
And also that the arguments against the existence for God were not compelling.7
No conclusive evidence for or against the existence
He thought we were caught in inescapable ignorance. If we cant get out of this ignorance we will
stop asking whether or not he will exist….is it reasonable for his existence?
1. Pascal's fundamental vision: in a situation of insurmountable uncertainty the best we can do
is think about probabilities and make a rational best guess.
- He lowered the bar….
Is it reasonable to believe in God?
is it more rational to believe in God (and behave accordingly )
or not to believe in God (and behave accordingly)
What’s the best bet????
2. Constructing the wager, the rational calculation:
Where G stands for the proposition that God exists, along with the traditional (Christian)
Cross dividing these pair of combinations will get four possible combinations: I believe G G is true WIN BIG
I believe G G is false little loss
I don't believe G G is true LOSE BIG
I don't believe G G is false little win
Big win and big loss are immeasurably bigger
The big win and big loss are for eternity, the little win and little loss are just for the span of your
lifetime +- 70 years
3. Result: the