Pascal’s Wager

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info.gif Wager Argument: "An argument developed by Blaise Pascal that urges an unbeliever to attempt to develop faith in God even if the evidence for God's existence is not decisive. Pascal compared belief and unbelief in God to a wager and pointed out the potential gains and losses each bet holds. If some bet on God and are wrong, they will lose only the paltry pleasure from some sins in this life that they might have enjoyed. If others bet on God and are right, however, they stand to gain eternal bliss. The potential gains and losses are thus staggeringly disproportionate, and Pascal urged the unbeliever to pray, attend Mass and do whatever else may be necessary to develop faith."
Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

In his Pensées, Pascal wrote: "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."

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    Clark, Kelly James

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    Review: Gambling on God ed. by Jeff Jordan

    "Pascalian wagering, however much it has factored into the actual production of belief in God, has been held in deep suspicion among philosophers. Gambling on God, however, is an attempt by a powerful coterie of professional philosophers to revive prudential analyses of rationality and their application to belief in God. Important, acute and careful thinkers such as Philip L. Quinn, Thomas Morris and George Schlesinger marshall their intellects in support of Pascalian wagering. It is beyond the scope of this review to treat each essay thoroughly. I will, however, raise the critical issues involved as well as the crucial responses by the defenders of Pascal’s wager."
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    Davis, Stephen T.

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    Pascal On Self-Caused Belief

    Davis examines Pascal’s suggestion that one can bring oneself to believe that Christianity is true by acting as if it were so. He concludes that "It is possible in some cases for us to cause ourselves to come to believe. In some cases it might be perfectly rational for us to do so. And to do so might well be a religiously appropriate thing for us to do."
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    Franklin, James

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    Two Caricatures, I: Pascal's Wager

    "Pascal’s wager and Leibniz’s theory that this is the best of all possible worlds are latecomers in the Faith-and-Reason tradition. They have remained interlopers; they have never been taken as seriously as the older arguments for the existence of God and other themes related to faith and reason. They have, indeed, aroused a common reaction in the hearts of all rightthinking non-believers: indignation... Still, indignation is beside the point when it comes to evaluating any argument. Pascal and Leibniz discovered certain chains of reasoning. If they have any logical force, that force is not taken away by the fact that the arguments are inconvenient for someone’s moral views."
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    Kreeft, Peter

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    The Argument from Pascal's Wager

    "Most philosophers think Pascal's Wager is the weakest of all arguments for believing in the existence of God. Pascal thought it was the strongest. After finishing the argument in his Pensées, he wrote, 'This is conclusive, and if men are capable of any truth, this is it.' That is the only time Pascal ever wrote a sentence like that, for he was one of the most sceptical philosophers who ever wrote."
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    Morris, Thomas V.

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    Wagering a Life

    "In his attempt to recommend a Christian worldview to his unbelieving contemporaries, Pascal hit upon a rare form of argument, an argument meant to help them move themselves into a better position to have the sort of experience of the reality of God that they lacked and to experience as well the truth of the Christian message about right relations with God...His argument attempts to show that, in light of the ultimate questions, we ought to adopt a certain kind of strategy for living, with the aim in view of coming to know, and attaining the proper relation to, the highest Truth."
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    Peterson, Robert

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    Pascal’s Wager: Logical Consistency and Usefulness as an Argument for the Existence of God

    "Pascal’s Wager as an argument for God’s existence does have a logical consistency to it if (and this is a large if) the Wager is somewhat narrowly defined and the audience to which it is addressed is very narrowly defined...Is the Wager a definitive argument for God? The answer would be no. Yet, perhaps it could be given a rightful place in a cumulative group of arguments for God’s existence..."