Religious conversion, self-deception, and Pascal's Wager

Journal of the History of Philosophy 36 (2):167-188 (1998)
Abstract
Religious Conversion, Serf- Deception, and Pascal's Wager WARD E.JONES BLAISE PASCAL'S Pens~es is a sustained attempt to convert, to lead its reader to form the belief in the articles of faith. Pascal does not hope to convert by a direct presentation of evidence or argument, but rather attempts to induce in the reader a desire for belief in the articles of faith. He hopes that this desire will lead the reader to put herself in a situation in which she will form the belief. Pascal, in other words, wants the reader to take control over her belief, to form it because she wants to do so. We commonly put ourselves in a situation for the purpose of forming beliefs. This is what happens when we choose to go, say, to university; choos- ing to learn is choosing to form beliefs in a given field. Pascal urges something more paradoxical. ~ He wants to induce us to form a particular belief . His dual aim is to induce the unbeliever to want a belief, and then to induce her to do what she can to gain that belief. Now if I want a particular belief, I might place myself in a situation in which nonrational or pragmatic determinants would bring about the belief. I might, that is, visit a hypnotist or a brainwasher, choosing some process which will either directly bring about the desired belief without involving my epistemic capabilities, or one which will diminish my epistemic capabilities. Alternatively, I might search for evidence for the..
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