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Pascal's Wager


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Being open-minded doesn't mean losing the ability to know when something is retarded. Pascal's Wager is a retarded argument, and it is quite idiotic to see it used even after it has been so thoroughly destroyed so long ago.

I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

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Being open-minded doesn't mean losing the ability to know when something is retarded. Pascal's Wager is a retarded argument, and it is quite idiotic to see it used even after it has been so thoroughly destroyed so long ago.

I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

Pascal's wager assumes without foundation that a supreme being, if such exists, would:

(1) have a hell in his universe at all, an assumption that is morally and spiritually depraved for reasons that have already been pointed out in the related topic humorously titled "Atheist's dilemma";

(2) consign to hell only those who did not believe in --- well, what exactly? Jesus as savior? the Christian god? the Judeo-Christian god? a supreme being generally? something else? what? How does anyone know that his religion is the one God favors? Better still (in the sense of a grander irony), what if this supreme being uses the idea of hell as a test, so that the only people who go to hell are those who believe others go there? Rather turns old Pascal on his head, now, don't it.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but those two are more than enough for anyone who is truly and objectively thinking.

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Being open-minded doesn't mean losing the ability to know when something is retarded. Pascal's Wager is a retarded argument, and it is quite idiotic to see it used even after it has been so thoroughly destroyed so long ago.

I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

Because it was. This was explored in Atheist Dilemma, a topic opened just a few days ago. It's the same set of arguments.

Pascal assumed that Christian belief was a win/no-lose proposition. However, if one assumes that a supreme being might exist who is willing to send some people to heaven and others to hell based on their beliefs, and if this supreme being's preferred belief is not Christianity, then the Christian loses. In fact, a more plausible scenario is that literalist Christianity, with its proclivities toward self-righteousness and hypocrisy, is a trap for the unwary, a test that God uses to see who really loves God and who is just interested in saving his own ass: under that scenario, too, the Christian is the loser. Pascal just made a stupid, self-centered argument that doesn't amount to a thing.

The other problem, of course, is in looking past the problem of having a god who is willing to have his children tortured eternally. It amazes me that so-called "believers" don't seem to understand that this is a fatal defect in this kind of monotheism.

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I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

Pascal's wager assumes without foundation that a supreme being, if such exists, would:

(1) have a hell in his universe at all, an assumption that is morally and spiritually depraved for reasons that have already been pointed out in the related topic humorously titled "Atheist's dilemma";

That isn't part of Pascal's Wager, from what I can tell, though clearly he does not give time to universalism. His point, I believe, is that it makes little sense to be satisfied with one and done if there is a possibility for an afterlife.

What atheist do you know of who believes in universalism?

(2) consign to hell only those who did not believe in --- well, what exactly? Jesus as savior? the Christian god? the Judeo-Christian god? a supreme being generally? something else? what? How does anyone know that his religion is the one God favors? Better still (in the sense of a grander irony), what if this supreme being uses the idea of hell as a test, so that the only people who go to hell are those who believe others go there? Rather turns old Pascal on his head, now, don't it.

No, it doesn't turn Pascal on his head.

What atheist do you know that expects only those who believe in hell to go to hell?

I'm sure there are other reasons, but those two are more than enough for anyone who is truly and objectively thinking.

Have you ever read Pascal's Wager as Pascal presented it (penned as it was in the form of pre-publication notes)?

http://www.thocp.net/biographies/papers/pensees3.htm

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I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

Because it was.

:lol:

This was explored in Atheist Dilemma, a topic opened just a few days ago. It's the same set of arguments.

Are you quite certain of that?

Pascal assumed that Christian belief was a win/no-lose proposition.

Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO?

However, if one assumes that a supreme being might exist who is willing to send some people to heaven and others to hell based on their beliefs, and if this supreme being's preferred belief is not Christianity, then the Christian loses.

Is the Christian worse off than other non-believers in the correct supreme being?

In fact, a more plausible scenario is that literalist Christianity, with its proclivities toward self-righteousness and hypocrisy, is a trap for the unwary, a test that God uses to see who really loves God and who is just interested in saving his own ass: under that scenario, too, the Christian is the loser. Pascal just made a stupid, self-centered argument that doesn't amount to a thing.

I don't think you understand Pascal's Wager. I only say that because of your complaints against it--nothing personal.

The other problem, of course, is in looking past the problem of having a god who is willing to have his children tortured eternally. It amazes me that so-called "believers" don't seem to understand that this is a fatal defect in this kind of monotheism.

Perhaps you'd like to explain that "fatal defect" in a companion thread. Perhaps they're just waiting on your clear and concise explanation.

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Pascal's wager assumes without foundation that a supreme being, if such exists, would:

(1) have a hell in his universe at all, an assumption that is morally and spiritually depraved for reasons that have already been pointed out in the related topic humorously titled "Atheist's dilemma";

That isn't part of Pascal's Wager, from what I can tell, though clearly he does not give time to universalism. His point, I believe, is that it makes little sense to be satisfied with one and done if there is a possibility for an afterlife.

What atheist do you know of who believes in universalism?

No, it doesn't turn Pascal on his head.

What atheist do you know that expects only those who believe in hell to go to hell?

Have you ever read Pascal's Wager as Pascal presented it (penned as it was in the form of pre-publication notes)?

http://www.thocp.net/biographies/papers/pensees3.htm

It's not about what atheists believe, you nitwit. It's about what a supreme being might do, and on all sides all you can do is make it up --- which is another reason why Pascal's wager isn't worth the time of day.

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Pascal's wager assumes without foundation that a supreme being, if such exists, would:

(1) have a hell in his universe at all, an assumption that is morally and spiritually depraved for reasons that have already been pointed out in the related topic humorously titled "Atheist's dilemma";

That isn't part of Pascal's Wager, from what I can tell, though clearly he does not give time to universalism. His point, I believe, is that it makes little sense to be satisfied with one and done if there is a possibility for an afterlife.

What atheist do you know of who believes in universalism?

No, it doesn't turn Pascal on his head.

What atheist do you know that expects only those who believe in hell to go to hell?

Have you ever read Pascal's Wager as Pascal presented it (penned as it was in the form of pre-publication notes)?

http://www.thocp.net/biographies/papers/pensees3.htm

OK, I read Pascal’s essay again after many years, and it’s every bit as stupid as I remember it, every bit as flawed as we said it was, and exactly as critiqued. It is flawed in every particular, exactly as alleged. Pascal wrote:

“Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. . . . But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; where-ever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all. And thus, when one is forced to play, he must renounce reason to preserve his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, as likely to happen as the loss of nothingness. For it is no use to say it is uncertain if we will gain, and it is certain that we risk, and that the infinite distance between the certainly of what is staked and the uncertainty of what will be gained, equals the finite good which is certainly staked against the uncertain infinite.”

The fallacy here is that if one believes in what Pascal was calling God (which the Christian literalist would insist is the Christian God, complete with belief in Jesus as Savior, to dispense with Bryan’s argument on that point), one may be “saved” (assuming God exists) but that if one does not so believe, one will surely be either damned or annihilated. The basis for Pascal’s wager is the following paired assumption: “"As I know not whence I come, so I know not whither I go. I know only that, in leaving this world, I fall for ever either into annihilation or into the hands of an angry God . . .” He knew nothing of the kind. There is no basis for so limiting the universe.

A. If one believes in God, or the Christian God (take your pick), one runs the risk that:

1. God is an angry Jew with a bad temper and a genuine dislike for Christians;

2. God is Allah with an equally bad temper and a genuine dislike for Christians;

3. God is Zeus with a bad temper, a hammer and a genuine dislike for those who dispensed with him as their god, including Christians;

4. God is Buddha, who is laughing his ass off at this lunacy;

5. The list goes on infinitely.

B. If one does not believe in God or in the right God, (take your pick), it is as possible anything else that:

1. God loves him anyway and doesn’t care what he believes;

2. God rewards him above those who claimed to believe in God to save their ass;

3. God rewards him above those who claimed to know that God existed;

4. Buddha is still laughing his ass off;

5. There is no god, and when we’re dead we’re just dead;

6. When we die we all get to listen to Beethoven and Coltrane, watch Gretzky play hockey, eat Dove bars (without gaining weight), and discuss philosophy with the greatest minds of all time, we having risen to their level --- oh, and we get to have all the sex we want, and it’s great, all the time --- and we don’t have to hear about Paris Hilton;

7. The list goes on infinitely.

So Pascal’s first problem was a lack of imagination. It does not follow that atheism produces either eternal damnation or eternal annihilation. It simply does not follow. You want to defend Pascal’s wager, nitwit: explain why the universe is necessarily limited as Pascal described. Go ahead. We're all waiting.

Pascal’s imagination was also limited in his understanding of what he might have termed non-believers. He wrote: “Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself.?” This is a tired old saw, entirely untrue. As Bertrand Russell observed in his essay “Why I Am Not A Christian,” there is no less moral and ethical responsibility among atheists and agnostics than among self-styled “believers.” It doesn't take a belief in a god to believe that we are responsible to each other and live accordingly. This lack of understanding produced an arrogance that has persisted to the present day, and is characteristic of many religious fundamentalists, which is why the rest of us can't stand them.

Pascal’s second problem was his dim view of life:

“Let us reflect on this and then say whether it is not beyond doubt that there is no good in this life but in the hope of another; that we are happy only in proportion as we draw near it . . .”

“This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern.”

One of the central points of Humanism is that life is intrinsically valuable. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I believe it will strike a responsive chord that when I hear one of my children laugh or awaken to a fresh spring morning, that has meaning in and of itself. How one looks at it is a choice. The rest of us are not bound by Pascal’s dim view of life.

Finally, Pascal did not begin to understand the non-theist: “Nothing reveals more an extreme weakness of mind than not to know the misery of a godless man. Nothing is more indicative of a bad disposition of heart than not to desire the truth of eternal promises.” Never mind that many atheists and agnostics are far more inquisitive and vastly more searching that the theists who think they have the final answers to questions we don’t even know how to ask properly. I thought your position was that non-believers were irresponsible heathens reveling in wanton pleasure. When you guys make up your minds what you want to imagine into existence, let us know.

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Because it was.

:lol:

Are you quite certain of that?

Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO?

Is the Christian worse off than other non-believers in the correct supreme being?

I don't think you understand Pascal's Wager. I only say that because of your complaints against it--nothing personal.

Perhaps you'd like to explain that "fatal defect" in a companion thread. Perhaps they're just waiting on your clear and concise explanation.

David Paszkiewicz insisted in open class that one must be a Jesus-accepting Christian to win Pascal's wager. People interpret Pascal's wager, as they interpret all things, according to their own light or lack thereof. The wager is equally and entirely meaningless either way.

A companion thread isn't necessary, and in any event it has already been opened, twice if memory serves me correctly, once by you. If you don't understand what is wrong with a parent setting up the conditions for, and then allowing his child to suffer in eternal torment, I'm afraid I can't explain it to you.

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Being open-minded doesn't mean losing the ability to know when something is retarded. Pascal's Wager is a retarded argument, and it is quite idiotic to see it used even after it has been so thoroughly destroyed so long ago.

I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

This is classic Bryan. I thought as soon as I saw it that he would simply wait for a few posters to take the bait, then bring out his Post Vegomatic and have at it, paring off the pieces that would serve his purpose and ignoring the rest. If he thinks others are doing this, even if his perspective is debatable, he calls it...lying.

If he honestly intended to inform the discussion, he is smart enough to reference easily-accessable materials on Pascal's Wager. He is smart enough to know and then acknowledge the numerous arguments against the Wager (as well as, I'm sure, the counterarguments to those arguments).

If you want to anticipate where Bryan might head, but also get the broader picture, consider the Wikipedia entry on the Wager, at this link.

For another discussion, more purely from the philosophical bent, try the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at this link.

Both of these links have additional resource links.

I think that theists love to throw out the Wager in contexts like the PBS program, where exploring it's meaning and complexity is very difficult, and the viewer is left with a soundbite rationale for a fundamental personal and moral question. At minimum, some of the rebuttal soundbites need to make it into the conversation: like the assumption that Christianity -- as opposed to other faiths with similar claims -- is the answer to the wager, that God rewards faith-by-wager (as opposed to faith by true belief), the assumption that the mathematics of faith-by-wager includes infinite utility for belief in God...

One can't expect on NPR to respond to the gauntlet of the wager with a statement like, "So, then, would you agree that the expected utility of belief in God, being infinite, would still have the same infinite cardinality of Aleph One, regardless of whether the wager was booked at the time it is posed, rather than at some later time in one's life? Is the mixed strategy of wagering equally justified?" I just don't think it would stick quite as well.

So, Bryan, are we going to have to endure another round of your Melanocetus johnsonii strategy? Have you made your own Wager yet? If so, with whom did you make it? How did you reconcile the arguments pro and con on the seven or so most common rebuttals to the Wager?

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Because it was.

:lol:

Are you quite certain of that?

Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO?

As noted in this article on the Wager from Wikipedia, "In his other works, Pascal hoped to prove that the Christian faith (and not for example, Judaism or Paganism, which Pascal himself mentions in his Pensees) is correct."

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Pascal's wager assumes without foundation that a supreme being, if such exists, would:

(1) have a hell in his universe at all, an assumption that is morally and spiritually depraved for reasons that have already been pointed out in the related topic humorously titled "Atheist's dilemma";

That isn't part of Pascal's Wager, from what I can tell, though clearly he does not give time to universalism.

It is part of Pascal's justification for the Wager.

From Pensees (Trotter translation), at the Oregon State site linked here.

Section III: Of the Necessity of the Wager

239. Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or he who certainly believes there is a hell and hopes to be saved if there is?

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Guest: 

In fact, a more plausible scenario is that literalist Christianity, with its proclivities toward self-righteousness and hypocrisy, is a trap for the unwary, a test that God uses to see who really loves God and who is just interested in saving his own ass: under that scenario, too, the Christian is the loser. Pascal just made a stupid, self-centered argument that doesn't amount to a thing.

Bryan:

I don't think you understand Pascal's Wager. I only say that because of your complaints against it--nothing personal.

Guest appears to me to be stating a version of the common rebuttal to the Wager that it appears to bet that God simply rewards belief, regardless of the motivation or manifestation of that belief. See this link.

If Guest does not understand the Wager, he is in good company, including Voltaire (click link and search on Voltaire), who was repulsed by the concept of Pascal wagering and calculating self-interest as a basis for declaring faith.

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It's not about what atheists believe, you nitwit.

Hmmm. Yet another reason to suppose that you don't understand Pascal's Wager.

It's about what a supreme being might do, and on all sides all you can do is make it up --- which is another reason why Pascal's wager isn't worth the time of day.

Non sequitur--with reasoning like that, it's little surprise that you don't understand Pascal's Wager. :lol:

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OK, I read Pascal’s essay again after many years, and it’s every bit as stupid as I remember it, every bit as flawed as we said it was, and exactly as critiqued. It is flawed in every particular, exactly as alleged. Pascal wrote:

“Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. . . . But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; where-ever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all. And thus, when one is forced to play, he must renounce reason to preserve his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, as likely to happen as the loss of nothingness. For it is no use to say it is uncertain if we will gain, and it is certain that we risk, and that the infinite distance between the certainly of what is staked and the uncertainty of what will be gained, equals the finite good which is certainly staked against the uncertain infinite.”

The fallacy here is that if one believes in what Pascal was calling God (which the Christian literalist would insist is the Christian God, complete with belief in Jesus as Savior, to dispense with Bryan’s argument on that point), one may be “saved” (assuming God exists) but that if one does not so believe, one will surely be either damned or annihilated.

Pascal does not commit that fallacy. What part of the reading do you suppose you drew that from?

The choice is belief or not, not heaven versus hell:

"the uncertainty of what will be gained"

The basis for Pascal’s wager is the following paired assumption: “"As I know not whence I come, so I know not whither I go. I know only that, in leaving this world, I fall for ever either into annihilation or into the hands of an angry God . . .” He knew nothing of the kind. There is no basis for so limiting the universe.

The passage you drew that from was not Pascal expressing his own opinion, but Pascal supposing the manner in which a person might think to himself.

Look a few lines prior, and you find:

"And how can it happen that the following argument occurs to a reasonable man?

'I know not who put me into the world ...'"

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/mod...ensees_III.html

(section 194)

Pascal need not know what he supposes might be somebody else's argument.

Your criticism fails because of your careless reading.

Pascal's argument is directed at a person with beliefs such as those he supposed a man might have, and Pascal had met and talked to such people.

A. If one believes in God, or the Christian God (take your pick), one runs the risk that:

1. God is an angry Jew with a bad temper and a genuine dislike for Christians;

2. God is Allah with an equally bad temper and a genuine dislike for Christians;

3. God is Zeus with a bad temper, a hammer and a genuine dislike for those who dispensed with him as their god, including Christians;

4. God is Buddha, who is laughing his ass off at this lunacy;

5. The list goes on infinitely.

B. If one does not believe in God or in the right God, (take your pick), it is as possible anything else that:

1. God loves him anyway and doesn’t care what he believes;

2. God rewards him above those who claimed to believe in God to save their ass;

3. God rewards him above those who claimed to know that God existed;

4. Buddha is still laughing his ass off;

5. There is no god, and when we’re dead we’re just dead;

6. When we die we all get to listen to Beethoven and Coltrane, watch Gretzky play hockey, eat Dove bars (without gaining weight), and discuss philosophy with the greatest minds of all time, we having risen to their level --- oh, and we get to have all the sex we want, and it’s great, all the time --- and we don’t have to hear about Paris Hilton;

7. The list goes on infinitely.

So Pascal’s first problem was a lack of imagination.

His problem is that you don't read very well. Except that's more your problem.

The Wager supposes either annihilation (as the expected outcome for atheists--by atheists), or the possibility of non-annihilation based on a god. Pascal emphasizes the epistemic uncertainty of either option.

It does not follow that atheism produces either eternal damnation or eternal annihilation.

Do you think that Pascal thinks one follows from the other as part of his argument? If yes, then based on what?

It simply does not follow. You want to defend Pascal’s wager, nitwit: explain why the universe is necessarily limited as Pascal described. Go ahead. We're all waiting.

Pascal did not limit the universe as you supposed. You read carelessly, apparently led to do so by your prejudices.

Pascal’s imagination was also limited in his understanding of what he might have termed non-believers. He wrote: “Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself.?” This is a tired old saw, entirely untrue. As Bertrand Russell observed in his essay “Why I Am Not A Christian,” there is no less moral and ethical responsibility among atheists and agnostics than among self-styled “believers.”

Pascal may be forgiven, I think, for having overlooked Russell's essays.

Pascal dealt with a particular type of person that he perceived. Do you think that no atheist ever advanced the suggestion that his belief in God freed him from various rules of morality?

Russell for that matter, was sexually promiscuous.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in 1929, in Marriage and Morality, he argued for sexual liberation and the rejection of monogamy and morality. Indeed, his own life reflected his beliefs, as he engaged in numerous adulteries during the course of his four marriages, three of which ended in divorce. His assertion that unfaithfulness should not “be treated as something terrible” was profoundly shocking to a still largely conservative and traditional public.

...

Russell’s controversial rebellion against what he saw as Victorian repression turned him into an apostle of personal liberation from any moral code.

http://vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=550

Pascal’s second problem was his dim view of life:

“Let us reflect on this and then say whether it is not beyond doubt that there is no good in this life but in the hope of another; that we are happy only in proportion as we draw near it . . .”

“This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern.”

One of the central points of Humanism is that life is intrinsically valuable. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I believe it will strike a responsive chord that when I hear one of my children laugh or awaken to a fresh spring morning, that has meaning in and of itself. How one looks at it is a choice. The rest of us are not bound by Pascal’s dim view of life.

Even with just the context you provided, it should be obvious that Pascal that there was no good in the present life. He simply suggested that in terms of eternal life that it might be considered that this life was no good in comparison to the other.

You seem to have taken the other quotation out of context. Pascal was talking about epistemic uncertainty. IOW, the world being "dark" in terms of its being understood, not in terms of a cloak of evil.

229. This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred times wished that if a God maintains Nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I might see which cause I ought to follow.

Finally, Pascal did not begin to understand the non-theist: “Nothing reveals more an extreme weakness of mind than not to know the misery of a godless man. Nothing is more indicative of a bad disposition of heart than not to desire the truth of eternal promises.” Never mind that many atheists and agnostics are far more inquisitive and vastly more searching tha[n] the theists who think they have the final answers to questions we don’t even know how to ask properly.

You're confident that there were plenty of those in 17th century France?

If you had allowed the quotation to continue, you'd find Pascal allowing for unbelievers who were interested in the truth--he just didn't happen to know many of them. You need to remember that atheism was not a respectable intellectual position until about the 19th century.

I thought your position was that non-believers were irresponsible heathens reveling in wanton pleasure.

Some of you are. Got a problem with that?

When you guys make up your minds what you want to imagine into existence, let us know.

You'll explain to me, then, the methods you use to read what you want to believe in what Pascal wrote that I may join you in the same technique?

If you're going to present arguments this pathetic, "Guest," you owe it to other readers to register with KOTW (so that you can be placed on ignore).

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Are you quite certain of that?

Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO?

Is the Christian worse off than other non-believers in the correct supreme being?

I don't think you understand Pascal's Wager.  I only say that because of your complaints against it--nothing personal.

Perhaps you'd like to explain that "fatal defect" in a companion thread.  Perhaps they're just waiting on your clear and concise explanation.

David Paszkiewicz insisted in open class that one must be a Jesus-accepting Christian to win Pascal's wager.

Paszkiewicz did not mention Pascal's Wager even implicitly in any of the transcripts with which I am familiar.

How about a quotation?

People interpret Pascal's wager, as they interpret all things, according to their own light or lack thereof. The wager is equally and entirely meaningless either way.

Are you omniscient, such that you are able to inform us that any and all interpretations of the Wager are meaningless?

Does that opinion stretch to encompass what you just told us about the Wager (thus leaving open the possibility that it has meaning)?

A companion thread isn't necessary, and in any event it has already been opened, twice if memory serves me correctly, once by you. If you don't understand what is wrong with a parent setting up the conditions for, and then allowing his child to suffer in eternal torment, I'm afraid I can't explain it to you.

If you can't explain it, then how can you expect somebody to understand it?

Awesome dodge, there, "Guest."

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I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood.

I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago.

This is classic Bryan. I thought as soon as I saw it that he would simply wait for a few posters to take the bait, then bring out his Post Vegomatic and have at it, paring off the pieces that would serve his purpose and ignoring the rest. If he thinks others are doing this, even if his perspective is debatable, he calls it...lying.

If he honestly intended to inform the discussion, he is smart enough to reference easily-accessable materials on Pascal's Wager. He is smart enough to know and then acknowledge the numerous arguments against the Wager (as well as, I'm sure, the counterarguments to those arguments).

If you want to anticipate where Bryan might head, but also get the broader picture, consider the Wikipedia entry on the Wager, at this link.

For another discussion, more purely from the philosophical bent, try the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at this link.

Both of these links have additional resource links.

I don't think the sort of person who thinks that Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed long ago" is likely to have sufficient curiosity to be directed in short order to a detailed resource. Thanks for providing some URLs, however. The SEP tends go give fairly balanced views on most stuff, for example. I'll join with you in encouraging those who wish to gain an improved understanding of Pascal's Wager to read the linked materials.

I think that theists love to throw out the Wager in contexts like the PBS program, where exploring it's meaning and complexity is very difficult, and the viewer is left with a soundbite rationale for a fundamental personal and moral question.

Which PBS program are you talking about?

I can't think of a single time I've employed Pascal's Wager in an argument. I'm just interested because of what appears to be a lack of knowledge regarding the argument--and the problem is probably just as prevalent among Christians.

At minimum, some of the rebuttal soundbites need to make it into the conversation: like the assumption that Christianity -- as opposed to other faiths with similar claims -- is the answer to the wager, that God rewards faith-by-wager (as opposed to faith by true belief), the assumption that the mathematics of faith-by-wager includes infinite utility for belief in God...

If you think those rebuttals require mention, then you appear to misunderstand Pascal's Wager.

The Wager (as I hope you've read?) should be seen in terms of the dynamics of making decisions--very much like the Game Theory concept that was part of the subject of the film "A Beautiful Mind" (about John Nash). Pascal pioneered Nash's field.

One can't expect on NPR to respond to the gauntlet of the wager with a statement like, "So, then, would you agree that the expected utility of belief in God, being infinite, would still have the same infinite cardinality of Aleph One, regardless of whether the wager was booked at the time it is posed, rather than at some later time in one's life?  Is the mixed strategy of wagering equally justified?"  I just don't think it would stick quite as well.

Plus they might feel a need to suggest the relevance of cardinality with respect to Pascal's Wager. An infinity on the low end of cardinality would still compare favorably to annihilation.

For my part, I think that the infinity Pascal had in mind was eternal life, not any particular bountiful reward on top of that. As such I would expect a contrary argument based on cardinality to miss the point of Pascal's argument.

So, Bryan, are we going to have to endure another round of your Melanocetus johnsonii strategy?

You seem to have taken the bait eagerly enough. What do you think?

Have you made your own Wager yet?  If so, with whom did you make it?  How did you reconcile the arguments pro and con on the seven or so most common rebuttals to the Wager?

I first discard those that do not appear to properly understand the Wager (since they amount to straw man arguments).

Any time you're willing to put in the time to describe one of the seven, I'll take the time to address it.

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Are you quite certain of that?

Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO?

As noted in this article on the Wager from Wikipedia, "In his other works, Pascal hoped to prove that the Christian faith (and not for example, Judaism or Paganism, which Pascal himself mentions in his Pensees) is correct."

What do you think Wikipedia has in mind when they refer to "other works"?

Was it your intent to ignore the question ("Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO?")?

onellama seems to be trying to set a record for most replies by one person to one post ...

Pascal's wager assumes without foundation that a supreme being, if such exists, would:

(1) have a hell in his universe at all, an assumption that is morally and spiritually depraved for reasons that have already been pointed out in the related topic humorously titled "Atheist's dilemma";

That isn't part of Pascal's Wager, from what I can tell, though clearly he does not give time to universalism.

It is part of Pascal's justification for the Wager.

From Pensees (Trotter translation), at the Oregon State site linked here.

Section III: Of the Necessity of the Wager

239. Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or he who certainly believes there is a hell and hopes to be saved if there is?

Make the context go away, Mommy!

239. Objection. -- Those who hope for salvation are so far happy; but they have as a counterpoise the fear of hell.

Reply.- Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or he who certainly believes there is a hell and hopes to be saved if there is?

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/tex...l#SECTION%20III

As you can see (or should be able to see), the notion of hell is not part of the wager, but is dealt with as a potential objection to the wager. It was so cute the way you dumped the context.

One more from onellama:

Guest appears to me to be stating a version of the common rebuttal to the Wager that it appears to bet that God simply rewards belief, regardless of the motivation or manifestation of that belief.  See this link.

I think that criticism fails to understand Pascal's argument. Try to find Pascal stating that God rewards belief.

If Guest does not understand the Wager, he is in good company, including Voltaire

Does this sound like a carefully-reasoned argument to you?

"Finally, Voltaire protests that there is something unseemly about the whole Wager. He suggests that Pascal's calculations, and his appeal to self-interest, are unworthy of the gravity of the subject of theistic belief. This does not so much support wagering against God, as dismissing all talk of ‘wagerings’ altogether."

<a href='http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/#5

(click' target='_blank'>http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/#5(click link and search on Voltaire)</a>, who was repulsed by the concept of Pascal wagering and calculating self-interest as a basis for declaring faith.

Voltaire did it so it must be good?

Doesn't it look like an appeal to outrage to you? Even if we were to suppose that Voltaire obtained a good understanding of Pascal's Wager, should we consider his response well-founded?

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I don't think the sort of person who thinks that Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed long ago" is likely to have sufficient curiosity to be directed in short order to a detailed resource. 

You may find it hard to believe, Bryan, but some of us think we have advanced sufficiently in the past nearly 350 years since Pascal died to move quite beyond matters he considered important. Why, some of us even think that the matter of spontaneous generation of life --- mice in grain bins, for example --- is no longer very interesting as a topic of conversation.

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Pascal does not commit that fallacy.  What part of the reading do you suppose you drew that from?

The choice is belief or not, not heaven versus hell:

"the uncertainty of what will be gained"

The passage you drew that from was not Pascal expressing his own opinion, but Pascal supposing the manner in which a person might think to himself. 

Look a few lines prior, and you find:

"And how can it happen that the following argument occurs to a reasonable man?

'I know not who put me into the world ...'"

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/mod...ensees_III.html

(section 194)

Pascal need not know what he supposes might be somebody else's argument.

Your criticism fails because of your careless reading.

Pascal's argument is directed at a person with beliefs such as those he supposed a man might have, and Pascal had met and talked to such people.

His problem is that you don't read very well.  Except that's more your problem.

The Wager supposes either annihilation (as the expected outcome for atheists--by atheists), or the possibility of non-annihilation based on a god.  Pascal emphasizes the epistemic uncertainty of either option.

Do you think that Pascal thinks one follows from the other as part of his argument?  If yes, then based on what?

Pascal did not limit the universe as you supposed.  You read carelessly, apparently led to do so by your prejudices.

Pascal may be forgiven, I think, for having overlooked Russell's essays.

Pascal dealt with a particular type of person that he perceived.  Do you think that no atheist ever advanced the suggestion that his belief in God freed him from various rules of morality?

Russell for that matter, was sexually promiscuous.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in 1929, in Marriage and Morality, he argued for sexual liberation and the rejection of monogamy and morality. Indeed, his own life reflected his beliefs, as he engaged in numerous adulteries during the course of his four marriages, three of which ended in divorce. His assertion that unfaithfulness should not “be treated as something terrible” was profoundly shocking to a still largely conservative and traditional public.

...

Russell’s controversial rebellion against what he saw as Victorian repression turned him into an apostle of personal liberation from any moral code.

http://vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=550

Even with just the context you provided, it should be obvious that Pascal that there was no good in the present life.  He simply suggested that in terms of eternal life that it might be considered that this life was no good in comparison to the other.

You seem to have taken the other quotation out of context.  Pascal was talking about epistemic uncertainty.  IOW, the world being "dark" in terms of its being understood, not in terms of a cloak of evil.

229. This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred times wished that if a God maintains Nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I might see which cause I ought to follow.

You're confident that there were plenty of those in 17th century France?

If you had allowed the quotation to continue, you'd find Pascal allowing for unbelievers who were interested in the truth--he just didn't happen to know many of them.  You need to remember that atheism was not a respectable intellectual position until about the 19th century.

Some of you are.  Got a problem with that?

You'll explain to me, then, the methods you use to read what you want to believe in what Pascal wrote that I may join you in the same technique?

If you're going to present arguments this pathetic, "Guest," you owe it to other readers to register with KOTW (so that you can be placed on ignore).

Pascal’s uncompromisingly dim views of atheism are quite clear in the essay containing his famous wager. So yes the immediate choice he posited may have been belief or not, but he seems to propose that from that choice consequences follow. This is entirely in keeping with the view of many Christians (including David Paszkiewicz, who said so in open class) that the choice of “belief or not,” as you phrase it, quite literally is a choice between heaven and hell. That is certainly the view of most modern-day Christians, and others, who have invoked the terms of Pascal’s wager as they understand them.

I am entirely aware that Pascal was supposing the thoughts of hypothetical atheists, but he was not doing so capriciously or without intent; he was doing so to criticize the contents of the proposed ideas. It doesn’t matter whether all atheists, or any atheists, actually think that way; what matters is that the premise is unsound, rendering Pascal’s wager a classic straw man.

You can’t have it both ways, Bryan: telling us that Pascal’s wager is sound, and then running away from its premises when you are challenged to defend it. If there are loopholes in the wager, as you now suggest, then it isn’t really a wager, is it.

As for my identity, I can hardly see how that matters so long as we confine ourselves to the contents of the argument.

As for owing anyone anything, the least you can do if you think that your dear Pascal’s wager is being misinterpreted is to tell us what you think it means. Else one might think that you don’t know yourself. You have every right, of course, to convince yourself that you are fully clothed in your cloaks of brilliance, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t see your nakedness.

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David Paszkiewicz insisted in open class that one must be a Jesus-accepting Christian to win Pascal's wager.

Paszkiewicz did not mention Pascal's Wager even implicitly in any of the transcripts with which I am familiar.

How about a quotation?

In open class on several occasions and in several different ways, Paszkiewicz his rock-hard belief that all who do not believe in Jesus are destined for an eternity in hell. This is the premise behind Pascal's wager, a premise that is at the root of perhaps the worst idea in intellectual history. The fact that Paszkiewicz didn't use Pascal's name doesn't change the fact that the premise is the same.

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I don't think the sort of person who thinks that Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed long ago" is likely to have sufficient curiosity to be directed in short order to a detailed resource.

Of course, it wouldn't ever occur to you that I've already looked into it, as opposed to your obvious implication that I'm calling it retarded having just heard of it for the first time (although it wouldn't take long after the first hearing to see the fatal flaws in it).

I know Pascal's Wager. That's why I know it's retarded. The fundamental error is that the Christian assumes that there being no God is the only way they could be wrong, when it's stupidly obvious that they'd also be wrong if there was a god, but not THAT one. An atheist and a Christian would both be wrong in meeting Allah after death.

Just when I thought you wouldn't stoop that low--you are sitting here, actually trying to defend this doomed argument. Incredible.

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Of course, it wouldn't ever occur to you that I've already looked into it, as opposed to your obvious implication that I'm calling it retarded having just heard of it for the first time (although it wouldn't take long after the first hearing to see the fatal flaws in it).

I know Pascal's Wager. That's why I know it's retarded. The fundamental error is that the Christian assumes that there being no God is the only way they could be wrong, when it's stupidly obvious that they'd also be wrong if there was a god, but not THAT one. An atheist and a Christian would both be wrong in meeting Allah after death.

Just when I thought you wouldn't stoop that low--you are sitting here, actually trying to defend this doomed argument. Incredible.

Not only that. Pascal also assumed that if there was a god, he would necessarily be the most vicious being in the universe. Not only is there no basis for that, but what makes it all the more asinine is that there's no reason to have faith in something like that in the first place --- why bother? If I was going to wager on a deity, I certainly wouldn't pick the mean old SOB described in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

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Of course, it wouldn't ever occur to you that I've already looked into it, as opposed to your obvious implication that I'm calling it retarded having just heard of it for the first time (although it wouldn't take long after the first hearing to see the fatal flaws in it).

If you pay attention to what I write (which is admittedly a stretch when it comes to Strife), you would have noted that I said that it was unlikely that one who wrote as you did would be likely to go in short order to a detailed source. Since I said "unlikely" instead of "impossible" or some equivalent, obviously I'm allowing that it's possible for one to (however inadvisedly) call the Wager "retarded" and the like while still being willing to look more deeply into the issue.

But I appreciate your willingness to draw an assumption on data too meager to support the assumption, Strifey.

You're the punching bag who seems to literally enjoy his role.

I know Pascal's Wager.

I doubt it.

That's why I know it's retarded.

I started this thread for people like you. Welcome. May you have better luck than your predecessors.

The fundamental error is that the Christian assumes that there being no God is the only way they could be wrong, when it's stupidly obvious that they'd also be wrong if there was a god, but not THAT one.

As I pointed out to earlier guests in the thread, the Wager is not from a specifically Christian POV (naturally Pascal is arguing it, and he's a Christian, but other than that Christianity isn't important to the argument).

You know Pascal's Wager, eh?

An atheist and a Christian would both be wrong in meeting Allah after death.

Likewise, the failure of the one seeking god to find out anything of god (the wise atheist, to Pascal) is just as doomed as the atheist if there is no god.

You give every appearance of having missed Pascal's point, Strife.

I can't pretend I'm surprised.

Just when I thought you wouldn't stoop that low--you are sitting here, actually trying to defend this doomed argument. Incredible.

Neither am I surprised that you bring along an appeal to ridicule with which to buttress your misunderstanding.

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Yes, I should think so, since he died 210 years before Russell was born.

This guy's as sharp as a tack. Next.

You may find it hard to believe, Bryan, but some of us think we have advanced sufficiently in the past nearly 350 years since Pascal died to move quite beyond matters he considered important. Why, some of us even think that the matter of spontaneous generation of life --- mice in grain bins, for example --- is no longer very interesting as a topic of conversation.

I guess that proves that you understand Pascal's Wager.

Not sure why you felt the need to share that, but whatever. Next.

Pascal’s uncompromisingly dim views of atheism are quite clear in the essay containing his famous wager. So yes the immediate choice he posited may have been belief or not, but he seems to propose that from that choice consequences follow.

They do. You can compose a truth table based on the argument.

The result of belief is the attempt to attain god's requirements for salvation, whatever they may be. In Pascal's time, he encountered people who knew well Christian dogmas and even professed to believe in the dogmas (atheist differed somewhat in meaning then compared to today) but refused to act on them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism#Etymology

This is entirely in keeping with the view of many Christians (including David Paszkiewicz, who said so in open class) that the choice of “belief or not,” as you phrase it, quite literally is a choice between heaven and hell. That is certainly the view of most modern-day Christians, and others, who have invoked the terms of Pascal’s wager as they understand them.

But you're not suggesting that the common understanding of Pascal's Wager among Christians is necessarily the correct understanding, are you? Shouldn't we consider what Pascal intended?

I am entirely aware that Pascal was supposing the thoughts of hypothetical atheists, but he was not doing so capriciously or without intent; he was doing so to criticize the contents of the proposed ideas. It doesn’t matter whether all atheists, or any atheists, actually think that way; what matters is that the premise is unsound, rendering Pascal’s wager a classic straw man.

Incorrect; you apparently have a flawed understanding of what a straw man is--either that or you don't give Pascal credit for knowing the atheists of his time better than we know them.

If you use an argument against David Paszkiewicz's understanding of Christianity, and I find that your argument does not apply to my understanding of Christianity, I cannot rightly accuse you of constructing a straw man based on the latter. You owe Pascal equal consideration.

You can’t have it both ways, Bryan: telling us that Pascal’s wager is sound, and then running away from its premises when you are challenged to defend it.

I don't recall [claiming] that Pascal's Wager is sound. Maybe you can point out where you think I made that claim.

Moreover, I'm not running away from any premise that I think Pascal intended. My true position appears immune to your criticism.

If there are loopholes in the wager, as you now suggest, then it isn’t really a wager, is it.

I don't know what you mean when you refer to "loopholes."

Pascal's argument is constructed in terms of probabilities. Perhaps that results in confusion on your part. I'll leave it to you to describe what "loopholes" you think you see and how they are significant in undermining Pascal's purpose.

As for my identity, I can hardly see how that matters so long as we confine ourselves to the contents of the argument.

What do you want me to call you other than "Guest"? It seems to me that if you really don't like being called "Guest" then you'd pick a user name or something.

As for owing anyone anything, the least you can do if you think that your dear Pascal’s wager is being misinterpreted is to tell us what you think it means.

I agree. But I think people are more likely to become engaged in the meaning of the argument if they have first invested themselves in an interpretation of the argument. Asking folks what they think is wrong with the wager is a good way to get to that point, IMHO.

Else one might think that you don’t know yourself.

Maybe I don't know. I'm open to that possibility. In my own humble judgment, however, the manner in which I interpret Pascal seems to have much in common with the opinions of experts. More so than Strife could claim, I dare say.

You have every right, of course, to convince yourself that you are fully clothed in your cloaks of brilliance, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t see your nakedness.

Describe my knobby knees and rippling 6-pack at your leisure. :)

Edited by Bryan
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