PHIL 111 .001
Chapter 10, Decision under Uncertainty
a. Why does Hacking include Pascal’s wager in his introductory textbook on inductive logic?
b. Does Pascal think that we can
the existence of God? The following is the relevant
passage from Pascal’s
If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no
affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is. This being so, who
will dare to undertake the decision of the question? Not we, who have no affinity to Him. Who
then will blame Christians for not being able to give a reason for their belief, since they profess
a religion for which they cannot give a reason? …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.
c. Describe and explain Hacking’s description of Pascal’s first wager. Pascal continues:
“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.
.. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must
choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and
two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your
nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one
rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose.
.. But your happiness? 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.
d. Is it possible for one to ignore Pascal and not wager?
e. What problems did Pascal perceive with his first wager?
f. How do the problems in e. change your decision matrix?
Does believing in God still dominate?
g. Describe and explain Hacking’s description of Pascal’s second wager.
Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only 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.