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P100 Final - Pascal's Wager

P100 Final - Pascal's Wager - Sammy Shapiro Phillip...

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Sammy Shapiro Phillip Woodward/ Professor Schmitt Philosophy P-100 December 12, 2007 What Will You Wager? There you are, sitting at a poker table in Las Vegas, your life savings on the table, sweat pouring down your face as the man to your right has just placed a bet that will force you either to put all of your money in the pot, or fold your hand. You have two options, play or don’t play, bet or don’t bet. Should you fold and watch the rest of the hand progress, there are two scenarios: you will either be satisfied with your decision (because you will have found out that you would have lost) or you will be unsatisfied (because you will have found out that you would have won had you decided to play). Should you play, however, one of two things may occur: you will either win or you will lose. Winning, at the very least, doubles your life savings. You’ll be rich, or at least twice as rich as you were. On the other hand, losing brings about your downfall. You are broke, potentially homeless, and everything you have worked for in your life has been taken away because of one little (or perhaps not so little) bet. What if instead of a poker hand, you were betting on whether or not God exists? What will you wager? What are you going to throw into the pot? How much are you willing to bet on God’s existence? In one of his most famous works, Pensees , 17 th - century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal asks just that question: “What will you wager?”
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To provide background information, Blaise Pascal grew up in France, raised by his father after his mother’s death. He was the middle child of three, all of whom were exceptionally intelligent, but Blaise stood out the most. From a very early age, he made significant contributions to mathematics; however, upon suddenly becoming a religious man, he sort of abandoned math. He grew to become a Catholic priest of the congregation of Port-Royal in Paris. He lived a short life, dying at the age of 39 due to all kinds of sicknesses, including (as Professor Schmitt said) one in which his skull continued to grow until it crushed his brain. Yet, during the last years of his life, as illness left him in constant agony, he managed to have some of his most genius ideas. Pascal is probably most famous for the argument discussed here, attempting to prove the existence of God using pragmatic evidence for support. He does so in an excerpt from Pensees known as Pascal’s Wager. The Wager is as such: we have no idea whether or not God exists, so we therefore assign equal probability to His existence. Similar to the aforementioned poker hand, there is no way to tell the outcome until the cards have been flipped, or in this case until we find out whether or not God exists. In both poker and in the God hypothesis, you can play or fold, believe in God or not believe in God. And, just as with the poker hand, the God hypothesis has two outcomes for each decision. Playing the card hand and winning
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P100 Final - Pascal's Wager - Sammy Shapiro Phillip...

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