Pascalís Wager Summary

 

Hereís Pascalís Wager, with our criticisms of it.

 

Pascalís Wager

Conse-quences of Godís existing

Chances of Godís existing

Conse-quences of Godís not existing

Chances of Godís not existing

Expected Utility

You believe in God

Infinite reward

finite amount f

Finite loss

1-f

Infinite

You donít believe in God

Nothing or loss

finite amount f

Finite gain

1-f

Finite gain or loss

 

1. You should believe in God.

2. The chance that God exists is positive and finite.

3. If you believe in God and he exists, youíll get an infinite reward. If you believe in God and he doesnít exist, youíll have only a finite loss.

[This may not be true, and even if it is true itís not something that Pascal has any right to claim.]

4. Believing in God has an infinite expected utility.

5. If you donít believe in God and he exists, youíll either win nothing or else youíll lose something. If you donít believe in God and he doesnít exist, youíll win only a finite gain.

[This may not be true, and even if it is true itís not something that Pascal has any right to claim.]

6. Not believing in God has a finite gain or negative expected utility.

7. Believing in God has a much higher expected utility than not believing in God.

8. You should do that which has the higher expected utility.

[Maybe we shouldnít adopt beliefs on the basis of utility. And maybe itís impossible to do so, anyway.]

 

2††††††††† +††††††††† 3 L†††††††††††††††† 2††††††††† +††††††††† 5 L

††††††††† †††††A††† |†††††††††††††††††††††† †††† †††††† †††††B††† |

††††††††††† 4††††††††††††††††††††† +††††††††††††††††††††† 6

†††† C††† |

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 7††††††††††††††††††††† +††††††††††††††††††††† 8 L

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††† D†††††† |

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1

 

Pascal addresses our criticism of premise 8 by endorsing a type of indirect voluntarism according to which, if we behave as though we believe in God, we will eventually acquire this belief. The fact that this acquisition may be at the expense of ďdeadening our acutenessĒ is of no concern to Pascal. His Wager, he thinks, has shown the importance of believing in God for whatever reason and at whatever cost.

 

If you want, we can consider how our study of the philosophy of religion raises the same questions that we saw in our study of epistemology.