Pascal’s Wager vs. the Ontological Argument
Pascal’s Wager was a groundbreaking theory posed by the French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal. Pascal, who is said to be the father of modern probability, felt that that religion should be approached as a gamble. It was one of the first efforts to incorporate the concept of infinity. The wager stated that, even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, one should wager as though God exists, because living accordingly, has essentially nothing to lose and experiences can only be beneficial. Pascal’s Wager consists of three arguments. The first is the argument from super dominance. Pascal wrote: “God is, or He is not. But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.” In this quote, Pascal is implying that there is a possibility God exists, if one assumes God exists and he indeed does, then one has gained everything, perhaps heaven. However, if God does not exist then one has lost nothing. The Bible would merely be a mistake and He would not exist, along with Heaven or the like. Regardless, it is best to take the gamble because there is nothing to lose, according to Pascal. Pascal’s next argument was the argument from expectation. He supported this argument when he wrote: “Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you only had to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness.” From this quote, Pascal seems to be implying that the chance that God exists, and the chance that God does not exist are pretty much fifty-fifty. However, this belief may be a difficult one for people to accept because those of Christian and Jewish faiths and the like are most likely certain that there is a God. Atheists are certain that there is no God, and those who consider themselves to be Agnostic are not entirely sure but most likely believe that the likelihood of there being a God is not a great one. On the other hand, it is still up to the individuals to determine whether or not, for themselves, that God exists or does not exist. The wager is purely a win-win scenario even in a different context, because if what was at stake was extra lifetimes of living then it would still be wise to wager in the hope that He did exist and then one would be rewarded accordingly and if not, then nothing is lost and the regular lifetime is lived. However, what is actually at stake is more of an infinite reward, Heaven if you will, as opposed to a specific amount of lifetimes. This makes the gamble even a more wise choice. However, it is clearly proven that no matter the given circumstances—Pascal’s Wager is a good investment. The third argument is the argument from generalized expectations. Perhaps considered one of the more prominent passages in Pascal’s writing, he claims "But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided;...
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