Pascal's wager

Philosophy Compass 12 (4):e12404 (2017)
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Abstract

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 fragment of the Pensees, in which he presents several versions of a wager-style argument. Recent discussions of the role of the wager within Pascal's overall project of Christian apologetics are also examined. I then review contemporary formulations of, attacks on, and objections to Pascal's wager. Recent authors have pressed moral objections, epistemological objections, objections relating to infinite utilities, the many Gods objection, and objections to the expectation rule, among others. After an examination of this literature, I conclude with a brief discussion of noncanonical versions of the wager, including Jeff Jordan's Jamesian wager.

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Michael W. Rota
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

Citations of this work

Pascalian Expectations and Explorations.Alan Hajek & Elizabeth Jackson - forthcoming - In Roger Ariew & Yuval Avnur (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Pascal. Wiley-Blackwell.

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References found in this work

Pensées.B. Pascal - 1670/1995 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 60:111-112.
The Miracle of Theism.John Leslie Mackie - 1982 - Philosophy 58 (225):414-416.
Waging War on Pascal’s Wager.Alan Hájek - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (1):27-56.
Waging War on Pascal's Wager.Alan Hájek - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (1):27-56.

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