About this topic
Summary Traditional theistic arguments conclude that God exists. Practical arguments for theism, by contrast, conclude that we have practical reason(s) to believe in God. Pascal's wager is one of the most famous, but this category includes all papers examining the practical reasons to be a theist. Further, while 'being a theist' is traditional taken to be a matter of belief, this category also includes practical reasons for certain religious practices.
Key works Historical figures that play an influential role in this debate include Blaise Pascal, who makes arguably the most famous pragmatic argument for theism in his Pensées, (fragments 233-241) and Al-Ghazālī (The Alchemy of Happiness) who provides a pragmatic argument for theism that actually predates Pascal's. See also W.K. Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief" for a famous evidentialist objection to pragmatic arguments for theism, and William James (The Will to Believe) for an alternative pragmatic argument for theism.  While there is much contemporary literature about Pascal's wager in particular (see the PhilPapers subcategory on Pascal's wager for an overview), Susan Rinard's work on practical reasons for belief (e.g. Rinard 2017 and Rinard 2019) deserves a read from anyone interested in pragmatic arguments for theism. 
Introductions For an introduction to pragmatic arguments for theism, see Duncan 2013. For an introduction to Pascal's wager in particular, see Rota 2017
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215 found
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Pascal's Wager
  1. Decyzje w sytuacjach niepewności normatywnej.Tomasz Żuradzki - forthcoming - Przeglad Filozoficzny - Nowa Seria.
    Etycy nie poświęcali dotąd wiele uwagi niepewności, koncentrując się często na skrajnie wyidealizowanych hipotetycznych sytuacjach, w których zarówno kwestie empiryczne (np. stan świata, spektrum możliwych decyzji oraz ich konsekwencje, związki przyczynowe między zdarzeniami), jak i normatywne (np. treść norm, skale wartości) były jasno określone i znane podmiotowi. W poniższym artykule – który jest rezultatem projektu dotyczącego różnych typów decyzji w sytuacjach niepewności związanej z postępem w naukach i technologiach biomedycznych – przedstawię analizę sytuacji niepewności normatywnej, czyli takich, w których podmiot (...)
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  2. Infinite Prospects.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & Yoaav Isaacs - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    People with the kind of preferences that give rise to the St. Petersburg paradox are problematic---but not because there is anything wrong with infinite utilities. Rather, such people cannot assign the St. Petersburg gamble any value that any kind of outcome could possibly have. Their preferences also violate an infinitary generalization of Savage's Sure Thing Principle, which we call the *Countable Sure Thing Principle*, as well as an infinitary generalization of von Neumann and Morgenstern's Independence axiom, which we call *Countable (...)
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  3. Non-Archimedean Preferences Over Countable Lotteries.Jeffrey Sanford Russell - 2020 - Journal of Mathematical Economics 88 (May 2020):180-186.
    We prove a representation theorem for preference relations over countably infinite lotteries that satisfy a generalized form of the Independence axiom, without assuming Continuity. The representing space consists of lexicographically ordered transfinite sequences of bounded real numbers. This result is generalized to preference orders on abstract superconvex spaces.
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  4. Pascal, Pascalberg, and Friends.Samuel Lebens - 2020 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 87 (1):109-130.
    Pascal’s wager has to face the many gods objection. The wager goes wrong when it asks us to chose between Christianity and atheism, as if there are no other options. Some have argued that we’re entitled to dismiss exotic, bizarre, or subjectively unappealing religions from the scope of the wager. But they have provided no satisfying justification for such a radical wager-saving dispensation. This paper fills that dialectical gap. It argues that some agents are blameless or even praiseworthy for ignoring (...)
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  5. Salvaging Pascal’s Wager.Elizabeth Jackson & Andrew Rogers - 2019 - Philosophia Christi 21 (1):59-84.
    Many think that Pascal’s Wager is a hopeless failure. A primary reason for this is because a number of challenging objections have been raised to the wager, including the “many gods” objection and the “mixed strategy” objection. We argue that both objections are formal, but not substantive, problems for the wager, and that they both fail for the same reason. We then respond to additional objections to the wager. We show how a version of Pascalian reasoning succeeds, giving us a (...)
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  6. Pascal’s Wager and the Origins of Decision Theory: Decision-Making by Real Decision-Makers.James Franklin - 2018 - In Paul Bartha & Lawrence Pasternack (eds.), Pascal's Wager. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 27-44.
    Pascal’s Wager does not exist in a Platonic world of possible gods, abstract probabilities and arbitrary payoffs. Real decision-makers, such as Pascal’s “man of the world” of 1660, face a range of religious options they take to be serious, with fixed probabilities grounded in their evidence, and with utilities that are fixed quantities in actual minds. The many ingenious objections to the Wager dreamed up by philosophers do not apply in such a real decision matrix. In the situation Pascal addresses, (...)
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  7. Surreal Decisions.Eddy Keming Chen & Daniel Rubio - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):54-74.
    Although expected utility theory has proven a fruitful and elegant theory in the finite realm, attempts to generalize it to infinite values have resulted in many paradoxes. In this paper, we argue that the use of John Conway's surreal numbers shall provide a firm mathematical foundation for transfinite decision theory. To that end, we prove a surreal representation theorem and show that our surreal decision theory respects dominance reasoning even in the case of infinite values. We then bring our theory (...)
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  8. Pascal’s Wager.Paul Bartha & Lawrence Pasternack (eds.) - 2018 - Cambridge University Press.
    In his famous Wager, Blaise Pascal offers the reader an argument that it is rational to strive to believe in God. Philosophical debates about this classic argument have continued until our own times. This volume provides a comprehensive examination of Pascal's Wager, including its theological framework, its place in the history of philosophy, and its importance to contemporary decision theory. The volume starts with a valuable primer on infinity and decision theory for students and non-specialists. A sequence of chapters then (...)
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  9. Wagering with and Without Pascal.Daniel Collette & Joseph Anderson - 2018 - Res Philosophica 95 (1):95-110.
    Pascal’s wager has received the attention of philosophers for centuries. Most of its criticisms arise from how the wager is often framed. We present Pascal’s wager three ways: in isolation from any further apologetic arguments, as leading toward a regimen intended to produce belief, and finally embedded in a larger apology that includes evidence for Christianity. We find that none of the common objections apply when the wager is presented as part of Pascal’s larger project. Pascal’s wager is a successful (...)
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  10. Michael Rota, Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence, and the Abundant Life. [REVIEW]Michael T. McFall - 2017 - Teaching Philosophy 40 (1):116-119.
  11. Pascal's Wager.Michael Rota - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (4):e12404.
    Pascal's wager is an argument in support of religious belief taking its name from the seventeenth century polymath Blaise Pascal. Unlike more traditional arguments for the existence of God, Pascal's wager is a pragmatic argument, concluding not that God exists but that one should wager for God; that is, one should live as if God exists. After an introduction to the elements of decision theory needed to understand the wager, I discuss the interpretation of Pascal's reasoning in the Infini rien (...)
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  12. A Thoroughly Modern Wager.Michael J. Shaffer - 2017 - Logos and Episteme 8 (2):207-231.
    This paper presents a corrected version of Pascal's wager that makes it consonant with modern decision theory. The corrected wager shows that not committing to God's existence is the rational choice.
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  13. Wagering Against Divine Hiddenness.Elizabeth Jackson - 2016 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8 (4):85-108.
    J.L. Schellenberg argues that divine hiddenness provides an argument for the conclusion that God does not exist, for if God existed he would not allow non-resistant non-belief to occur, but non-resistant non-belief does occur, so God does not exist. In this paper, I argue that the stakes involved in theistic considerations put pressure on Schellenberg’s premise that non-resistant non-belief occurs. First, I specify conditions for someone’s being a resistant non-believer. Then, I argue that many people fulfill these conditions because, given (...)
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  14. Pascal's Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God - By Jeff Jordan.Robert Anderson - 2008 - Philosophical Books 49 (1):94-96.
  15. The Epistemology of Pragmatic Beliefs.Nicholas Rescher - 1984 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 58:173.
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  16. God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism. [REVIEW]James Wetzel - 1997 - Religious Studies 33 (1):121-130.
  17. The Gambler's Argument: Blaise Pascal: Warburton The Gambler's Argument.Nigel Warburton - 2004 - Think 3 (7):17-20.
    Nigel Warburton is not betting that God exists….
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  18. Writing and Sentiment: Blaise Pascal, the Vacuum, and the Pensées.Matthew L. Jones - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 32 (1):139-181.
  19. The Many-Gods Objection and Pascal’s Wager.Jeff Jordan - 1991 - International Philosophical Quarterly 31 (3):309-317.
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  20. Pascal’s First Wager Reconsidered: A Virtue Theoretic View.Patrick Toner & Christopher Toner - 2006 - International Philosophical Quarterly 46 (1):75-90.
    There are at least two versions of the famous Wager argument to be found in Pascal’s Pensées. In contemporary work on the Wager, attention is almost always focused on the second. In this paper, we take a look at the first, which is often quickly dismissed as a failure. Indeed, it seems to be generally believed that Pascal himself quickly dismissed it as a failure. We fi rst argue that Pascal himself accepted the argument. Then we argue that those who (...)
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  21. The Insufficiency of the Many Gods Objection to Pascal’s Wager.Virgil Martin Nemoianu - 2010 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 84 (3):513-530.
    Perhaps the best known criticism of Pascal’s wager is the many Gods objection. As so often with anglophone criticisms of Pascal, the many Gods objectiontypically treats the wager in isolation from the rest of Pascal’s thought. In this case, the truncated reading has issued in the view that Pascal was indifferent toor ignorant of the possibility that Gods other than the one described by Catholic theology might exist. This view is false. Even a cursory glance beyond the wagerfragment reveals that (...)
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  22. Pascal's Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God. [REVIEW]Jack MacIntosh - 2008 - Dialogue 47 (3-4):708-710.
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  23. A Better Version of Pascal’s Wager.Michael Rota - 2016 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 90 (3):415-439.
    The standard version of Pascal’s Wager suffers from serious problems. In this paper I present a modified version of a Wager-style argument that avoids several of the most serious objections to the standard version, viz., the objections of Duff and Hájek relating to infinite utilities, moral objections concerning the use of pragmatic considerations, and the many-gods objection. I argue that a serious commitment to living a Christian life is rational if one is rational in assigning a credence to Christianity of (...)
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  24. Pragmatic Decisions About God From Different Points of View: The Costs of Apostasy.Cei Maslen - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80 (2):103-113.
    Pascal, with his famous wager, argued in favour of religious practice and faith by appeal to expected payoffs. Here I discuss an asymmetry in similar pragmatic arguments for decisions about God. I begin with the observation that apostates pay costs not shared by those who never adopt a religion in the first place. Noticing this asymmetry shows these arguments from a new perspective and may also contribute to an explanation of the endurance of religion.
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  25. Pascal's Wager Today: Belief and the Gift of Existence.Joel Hodge - 2014 - New Blackfriars 95 (1060):698-710.
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  26. Pragmatic Encroachment and Theistic Knowledge.Matthew A. Benton - 2018 - In Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne & Dani Rabinowitz (eds.), Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 267-287.
    If knowledge is sensitive to practical stakes, then whether one knows depends in part on the practical costs of being wrong. When considering religious belief, the practical costs of being wrong about theism may differ dramatically between the theist (if there is no God) and the atheist (if there is a God). This paper explores the prospects, on pragmatic encroachment, for knowledge of theism (even if true) and of atheism (even if true), given two types of practical costs: namely, by (...)
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  27. Pascal’s Wagers and James’s Will to Believe.Jeff Jordan - 2005 - In William J. Wainwright (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 168-187.
    Pragmatic arguments seek to justify the performance of an action by appealing to the benefits that may follow from that action. Pascal’s wager, for instance, argues that one should inculcate belief in God because there is everything to gain and little to lose by doing do. In this chapter I critically examine Pascal’s wager and William James’s famous “Will-to-Believe” argument by first explaining the logic of each argument and then by surveying the objections commonly arrayed against them. Finally, I suggest (...)
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  28. Pascal's Wager Revisited.Robert P. Amico - 1994 - International Studies in Philosophy 26 (2):1-11.
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  29. Pascal's Wager.Alfred W. Benn - 1904 - Ethics 15 (3):305.
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  30. Taking Stock of Infinite Value: Pascal’s Wager and Relative Utilities.Paul Bartha - 2007 - Synthese 154 (1):5-52.
    Among recent objections to Pascal's Wager, two are especially compelling. The first is that decision theory, and specifically the requirement of maximizing expected utility, is incompatible with infinite utility values. The second is that even if infinite utility values are admitted, the argument of the Wager is invalid provided that we allow mixed strategies. Furthermore, Hájek has shown that reformulations of Pascal's Wager that address these criticisms inevitably lead to arguments that are philosophically unsatisfying and historically unfaithful. Both the objections (...)
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  31. Il Faut Parier : Locke Ou Pascal?Martine Pécharman - 2010 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 95 (4):479.
    Pascal’s wager was sometimes viewed in the eighteenth-century as an argument conquering its whole demonstrative force not in the Pensées but in a passage of Locke’s Essay Concerning the Human Understanding (II, XXI, § 70) dealing with the preference to be given to a virtuous life when considering the possibility of another eternal life. In this paper, I intend to show that this interpretation is ill-founded. The argument of the wager highlights the discrepancy between the requirements of alethic reason on (...)
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  32. The Will to Come Out All Right.Herb Yarvin - 1976 - Religious Studies 12 (3):303.
    William James presents Pascal's wager in this manner: if you believe in God and God exists, then your gain is infinite; if you believe in God and God doesn't exist, then your loss is finite. Therefore, since a finite loss is reasonable where there is the possibility of infinite gain, you ought to believe in God. ‘What have you to lose?’ James asks . 1.
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  33. A Defence of Pascal's Wager.Geoffrey Brown - 1984 - Religious Studies 20 (3):465-479.
    Pascal's Wager, and the issues raised by it, have, despite a few notable exceptions, been an object of some neglect in recent Philosophy of Religion. Whether this neglect is from an assumption that the argument requires no comment, or from a feeling that there is something not quite academically respectable about it, I have come to believe that it is undeserved. One reason why the argument is deserving of attention from the theologian is that Pascal has managed to put his (...)
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  34. Betting on God: Why Considerations of Simplicity Won't Help.Bradley Armour-Garb - 1999 - Religious Studies 35 (2):119-138.
    In his famous Wager, Blaise Pascal attempted to adduce prudential grounds on which to base a belief in God. His argument founders, however, on the notorious 'Many Gods Problem', the problem of selecting among the many equiprobable gods on offer. Lycan and Schlesinger try to treat the Many Gods Problem as a problem of empirical over-determination, attempting to overcome it using methodologies familiar from empirical science. I argue that their strategy fails, but that the Many Gods Problem can be solved (...)
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  35. Pascal's Wager Revisited.Jeff Jordan - 1998 - Religious Studies 34 (4):419-431.
    Pascal's wager attempts to provide a prudential reason in support of the rationality of believing that God exists. The wager employs the idea that the utility of theistic belief, if true, is infinite, and in this way, the expected utility of theism swamps that of any of its rivals. Not surprisingly the wager generates more than a good share of philosophical criticism. In this essay I examine two recent objections levelled against the wager and I argue that each fails. Following (...)
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  36. Pascal's Wager and the Many Gods Objection.Paul Saka - 2001 - Religious Studies 37 (3):321-341.
    Pascal's Wager is finding ever more defenders who aim to undermine the old Many Gods Objection. It is my thesis that they are mistaken. After describing the Wager and the objection, I report on Jeff Jordan's repeated attempt to limit legitimate religious hypotheses to those that are traditional. In separate sections I criticize Jordan, first coming from epistemology and second from anthropology. Then I describe George Schlesinger's repeated appeal to the ‘simplest’ religious hypothesis, and argue that it fails for similar (...)
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  37. Arguing About Gods.Graham Oppy - 2006 - Cambridge University Press.
    In this book, Graham Oppy examines arguments for and against the existence of God. He shows that none of these arguments is powerful enough to change the minds of reasonable participants in debates on the question of the existence of God. His conclusion is supported by detailed analyses of the arguments as well as by the development of a theory about the purpose of arguments and the criteria that should be used in judging whether or not arguments are successful. Oppy (...)
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  38. Napad na Pascala.Nick Bostrom - 2015 - Analiza I Egzystencja 31:135-138.
    Gdzieś w ciemnej uliczce... Bandyta: Ej ty, dawaj portfel! Pascal: A niby dlaczego miałbym to zrobić? Bandyta: Bo w przeciwnym razie cię zastrzelę. Pascal: Ale przecież nie masz broni. Bandyta: A niech to! Wiedziałem, że zapomniałem o czymś. Pascal: No to zapomnij też o moim portfelu. Miłego wieczoru. Bandyta: Stój! Pascal: Co znowu? Bandyta: Jest interes do zrobienia... Co ty na to, żebyś jednak oddał mi portfel? W zamian obiecuję przyjść do ciebie jutro i dać ci dwukrotność kwoty, którą w (...)
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  39. No Exception for Belief.Susanna Rinard - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (1):121-143.
    This paper defends a principle I call Equal Treatment, according to which the rationality of a belief is determined in precisely the same way as the rationality of any other state. For example, if wearing a raincoat is rational just in case doing so maximizes expected value, then believing some proposition P is rational just in case doing so maximizes expected value. This contrasts with the popular view that the rationality of belief is determined by evidential support. It also contrasts (...)
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  40. A Modern Pascal's Wager for Mass Electronic Surveillance.D. Danks - 2014 - Télos 2014 (169):155-161.
    Debates about the moral permissibility of mass electronic surveillance often turn on whether consequentialist considerations legitimately trump relevant deontological rights and principles. In order to establish such overriding consequences, many proponents of mass surveillance employ a modern analogue of Pascal’s wager: they contend that the consequences of no surveillance are so severe that any probability of such outcomes legitimates the abrogation of the relevant rights. In this paper, I briefly review Pascal’s original wager about whether to live a pious life, (...)
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  41. William Wood Blaise Pascal on Duplicity, Sin, and the Fall: The Secret Instinct. . Pp. Viii + 243. £65.00 . ISBN 978 0 19 965636 3. [REVIEW]Kate Kirkpatrick - 2015 - Religious Studies 51 (2):271-275.
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  42. Cognitive Bias, the Axiological Question and the Epistemic Probability of Theistic Belief.Dan Linford & Jason Megill - 2018 - In Mirosław Szatkowski (ed.), Ontology of Theistic Beliefs. De Gruyter. pp. 77-92.
    Some recent work in philosophy of religion addresses what can be called the “axiological question,” i.e., regardless of whether God exists, would it be good or bad if God exists? Would the existence of God make the world a better or a worse place? Call the view that the existence of God would make the world a better place “Pro-Theism.” We argue that Pro-Theism is not implausible, and moreover, many Theists, at least, (often implicitly) think that it is true. That (...)
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  43. Blaise Pascal on Duplicity, Sin and the Fall: The Secret Instinct by William Wood , Vi + 243 Pp.Klaas Bom - 2015 - Modern Theology 31 (2):362-363.
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  44. Wagering on Pragmatic Encroachment.Daniel M. Eaton & Timothy Pickavance - 2017 - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 8:96-117.
    Lately, there has been an explosion of literature exploring the the relationship between one’s practical situation and one’s knowledge. Some involved in this discussion have suggested that facts about a person’s practical situation might affect whether or not a person knows in that situation, holding fixed all the things standardly associated with knowledge (like evidence, the reliability of one’s cognitive faculties, and so on). According to these “pragmatic encroachment” views, then, one’s practical situation encroaches on one’s knowledge. Though we won’t (...)
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  45. Epilogue. The Humanist Wager.Tzvetan Todorov - 2009 - In Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism. Princeton University Press. pp. 226-238.
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  46. The Wager Renewed: Believing in God is Good for You. [REVIEW]Justin P. McBrayer - 2014 - Science, Religion and Culture 1 (3):130.
    Not all of our reasons for belief are epistemic in nature. Some of our reasons for belief are prudential in the sense that believing a certain thing advances our personal goals. When it comes to belief in God, the most famous formulation of a prudential reason for belief is Pascal’s Wager. And although Pascal’s Wager fails, its failure is instructive. Pascal’s Wager fails because it relies on unjustified assumptions about what happens in the afterlife to those who believe in God (...)
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  47. The Law of the Wager.William Allen Whitworth - 1907
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  48. To Prove or Not to Prove: Pascal on Natural Theology.Douglas Richard Groothuis - 1993 - Dissertation, University of Oregon
    In this dissertation I argue that Pascal's reasons for rejecting the enterprise of natural theology are inadequate to negate the discipline's possible value for Christian theism. ;I begin by explaining the nature, function, and scope of natural theology or the attempt to argue for God's existence apart from revelation. ;Pascal argues that the Bible itself precludes the activity of natural theology. I dispute this claim by giving reasons why the omission of natural in the Bible does not mean that the (...)
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  49. Blaise Pascal.Roger Hazelton - 1977 - Religious Studies 13 (1):111-112.
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  50. Wagering Belief: Examining Two Objections to Pascal's Wager.D. Groothuis - 1994 - Religious Studies 30 (4):479-486.
    This paper concerns two objections to Pascal's wager. The first claims that Pascal's recommendation to habituate oneself to believe in God is tantamount to religious brainwashing. I argue that this construal misses important aspects of what Pascal had in mind, which may render the habituation process a legitimate means to acquire new understanding. The second objection is based on the idea that a key assumption of the wager – that theistic belief is required for eternal felicity – is morally absurd. (...)
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