Pascal's wager  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Pascal's Wager)
Jump to: navigation, search

"This singularly modern idea—which resurges periodically in later philosophy, for example in Kant's conception of the 'ideas' of reason, in Kierkegaard's notion of the 'leap' of faith, in the neo-Marxist theory of praxis and in the existentialist concept of commitment—possesses less philosophical merit than rhetorical impact." --A Short History of Modern Philosophy (1982) by Roger Scruton

Related e



Pascal's Wager (or Pascal's Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should "wager" as though God exists, because so living has potentially everything to gain, and certainly nothing to lose. It was set out in note 233 of his Pensées, a posthumously published collection of notes made by Pascal in his last years as he worked on a treatise on Christian apologetics.

Historically, Pascal's Wager, groundbreaking as it had charted new territory in probability theory, was one of the first attempts to make use of the concept of infinity, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated the future philosophies of pragmatism and voluntarism.


"Vous êtes embarqué" passage


— Examinons donc ce point, et disons : « Dieu est, ou il n'est pas. » Mais de quel côté pencherons-nous ? La raison n'y peut rien déterminer : il y a un chaos infini qui nous sépare. Il se joue un jeu, à l'extrémité de cette distance infinie, où il arrivera croix ou pile. Que gagerez-vous ? Par raison, vous ne pouvez faire ni l'un ni l'autre; par raison, vous ne pouvez défaire nul des deux.

Ne blâmez donc pas de fausseté ceux qui ont pris un choix ; car vous n'en savez rien.

— Non ; mais je les blâmerai d'avoir fait, non ce choix, mais un choix; car, encore que celui qui prend croix et l'autre soient en pareille faute, ils sont tous deux en faute : le juste est de ne point parier.

— Oui, mais il faut parier ; cela n'est pas volontaire, vous êtes embarqué. Lequel prendrez-vous donc ? Voyons. Puisqu'il faut choisir, voyons ce qui vous intéresse le moins. (...). Votre raison n'est pas plus blessée, en choisissant l'un que l'autre, puisqu'il faut nécessairement choisir. Voilà un point vidé. Mais votre béatitude ? Pesons le gain et la perte, en prenant croix que Dieu est. Estimons ces deux cas : si vous gagnez, vous gagnez tout; si vous perdez, vous ne perdez rien. Gagez donc qu'il est, sans hésiter.

English ("you are embarked")

Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

Do not then reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it.

"No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. [...] Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? 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.

See also

conversion, deathbed

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pascal's wager" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools