Total Posts:32|Showing Posts:1-30|Last Page
Jump to topic:

A defense of Pascal

Wnope
Posts: 6,924
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
A lot of people think of "Pascal's Wager" as simplistic, obviously wrong, and generally stupid. I would like to argue that while the argument may not be valid, the Wager is in fact an important and in some ways ingenuous argument.

The argument is geared specifically towards a population that is deciding between either Christianity or atheism/heathenism because they believe the evidence against Christianity is too low. Particularly, the secularists who were experimenting with meta-ethics that don't involve invoking the divine. This was not geared at converting Muslims, Hindus, Jews, whatever.

Expected utility, at the time the most innovative form of decision theory, takes the general form of (probability that x is the right decision times the utility of choosing x).

In the same way atheists today are into Evolution, atheists back then were into decision-theory and all sorts of secular means of establishing philosophical grounding.

If no afterlife exists, the utility of believing in no afterlife will be finite (so you might gain utility in this life by being an atheist, but not infinite utility since it stops when you die.)

If utility can increase with time, then getting into heaven means infinite utility since you would be there for an infinite period of time.

Say you follow decision theory and believe there is a 99.99999999999% chance the Christian God doesn't exist.

Expected utility = probability x utility

Believing in atheism = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Believing in afterlife = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/13/2013 3:58:24 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
A lot of people think of "Pascal's Wager" as simplistic, obviously wrong, and generally stupid. I would like to argue that while the argument may not be valid, the Wager is in fact an important and in some ways ingenuous argument.

The argument is geared specifically towards a population that is deciding between either Christianity or atheism/heathenism because they believe the evidence against Christianity is too low. Particularly, the secularists who were experimenting with meta-ethics that don't involve invoking the divine. This was not geared at converting Muslims, Hindus, Jews, whatever.

Expected utility, at the time the most innovative form of decision theory, takes the general form of (probability that x is the right decision times the utility of choosing x).

In the same way atheists today are into Evolution, atheists back then were into decision-theory and all sorts of secular means of establishing philosophical grounding.

If no afterlife exists, the utility of believing in no afterlife will be finite (so you might gain utility in this life by being an atheist, but not infinite utility since it stops when you die.)

If utility can increase with time, then getting into heaven means infinite utility since you would be there for an infinite period of time.

Say you follow decision theory and believe there is a 99.99999999999% chance the Christian God doesn't exist.

Expected utility = probability x utility

Believing in atheism = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Believing in afterlife = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

Your equations only prove that the utility of there being an afterlife is greater than the utility of their not being an afterlife. What does that have to do with our beliefs? It seems you are presuming that you can only access the afterlife if you believe in it, which is an unsupported presumption.
Magic8000
Posts: 975
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/13/2013 4:19:53 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
A lot of people think of "Pascal's Wager" as simplistic, obviously wrong, and generally stupid. I would like to argue that while the argument may not be valid, the Wager is in fact an important and in some ways ingenuous argument.

The argument is geared specifically towards a population that is deciding between either Christianity or atheism/heathenism because they believe the evidence against Christianity is too low. Particularly, the secularists who were experimenting with meta-ethics that don't involve invoking the divine. This was not geared at converting Muslims, Hindus, Jews, whatever.

Expected utility, at the time the most innovative form of decision theory, takes the general form of (probability that x is the right decision times the utility of choosing x).

In the same way atheists today are into Evolution, atheists back then were into decision-theory and all sorts of secular means of establishing philosophical grounding.

If no afterlife exists, the utility of believing in no afterlife will be finite (so you might gain utility in this life by being an atheist, but not infinite utility since it stops when you die.)

If utility can increase with time, then getting into heaven means infinite utility since you would be there for an infinite period of time.

Say you follow decision theory and believe there is a 99.99999999999% chance the Christian God doesn't exist.

Expected utility = probability x utility

Believing in atheism = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Believing in afterlife = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

We can't just ignore every other religion out there.

Let's say you must visit my DDO profile once a day to get into heaven

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to visit magic8000's DDO profile once a day just in case an afterlife exist, regardless of apparent evidence.

The whole wager is based on the argumentum ad baculum.
404 coherent debate topic not found. Please restart the debate with clear resolution.

"So Magic8000 believes Einstein was a proctologist who was persuaded by the Government and Hitler to fabricate the Theory of Relativity"- GWL-CPA
philochristos
Posts: 2,614
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/13/2013 6:22:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think the usual problem persists. Even though it may be more practical to believe in God than not to believe in God, our beliefs are not under the control of the will. We can't just decide to think it's true that God exists and actually believe it by an act of the will. So even if we admit that it's more practical to believe in God than not, there's not much we can do about it.

From what I understand, Pascal was making this argument for the sake of those who are sitting on the fence and have no reason to lean one way or another. In that case, I think you can give the benefit of the doubt to belief in God and live as if he existed. Maybe in the process you will become convinced. After all, Jesus said, "Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17).

While I think other religions are relevant, I don't think it does much damage to Pascal's wager to consider them because the stakes aren't very high in most other religions. Perhaps Islam should be considered because the stakes ARE high in Islam. But the stakes aren't very high in Taoism, Buddhism, Wicca, or most other religions. They can safely be ignored when doing a cost/benefit analysis of religions, including non-belief.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/14/2013 5:50:09 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/13/2013 6:22:27 PM, philochristos wrote:
I think the usual problem persists. Even though it may be more practical to believe in God than not to believe in God, our beliefs are not under the control of the will. We can't just decide to think it's true that God exists and actually believe it by an act of the will. So even if we admit that it's more practical to believe in God than not, there's not much we can do about it.

From what I understand, Pascal was making this argument for the sake of those who are sitting on the fence and have no reason to lean one way or another. In that case, I think you can give the benefit of the doubt to belief in God and live as if he existed. Maybe in the process you will become convinced. After all, Jesus said, "Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17).

While I think other religions are relevant, I don't think it does much damage to Pascal's wager to consider them because the stakes aren't very high in most other religions. Perhaps Islam should be considered because the stakes ARE high in Islam. But the stakes aren't very high in Taoism, Buddhism, Wicca, or most other religions. They can safely be ignored when doing a cost/benefit analysis of religions, including non-belief.

In general most arguments are going to be intended for the undecided. However you are correct that one cannot simply decide to believe, minds must be persuaded, otherwise it's merely feigned belief.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/14/2013 6:33:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
A lot of people think of "Pascal's Wager" as simplistic, obviously wrong, and generally stupid.

Well said.

Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

1 and 2 are true, but it is ridiculous (simplistic, obviously wrong, and generally stupid) to think 3 follows from 1 and 2. What you get from 1 and 2 is something like, "3: Expected utility increases as expected time increases."
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/14/2013 8:07:49 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure, but that doesn't make them true.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/15/2013 2:09:12 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/14/2013 8:07:49 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure ...

No way. Even if you accept utilitarianism, there's no way to get from those premises to that conclusion.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/15/2013 5:19:35 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/15/2013 2:09:12 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/14/2013 8:07:49 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure ...

No way. Even if you accept utilitarianism, there's no way to get from those premises to that conclusion.

Utility isn't a strictly Utilitarian concept, that being said utilitarianism (philosophical ethic) isn't pertinent to the discussion.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/15/2013 6:02:54 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/15/2013 5:19:35 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/15/2013 2:09:12 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/14/2013 8:07:49 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure ...

No way. Even if you accept utilitarianism, there's no way to get from those premises to that conclusion.

Utility isn't a strictly Utilitarian concept, that being said utilitarianism (philosophical ethic) isn't pertinent to the discussion.

That still won't get you from those premises to that conclusion.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/16/2013 12:59:32 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/15/2013 6:02:54 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/15/2013 5:19:35 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/15/2013 2:09:12 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/14/2013 8:07:49 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.

1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure ...

No way. Even if you accept utilitarianism, there's no way to get from those premises to that conclusion.

Utility isn't a strictly Utilitarian concept, that being said utilitarianism (philosophical ethic) isn't pertinent to the discussion.

That still won't get you from those premises to that conclusion.

What do you suppose my premises and conclusion are?
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/16/2013 1:23:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/16/2013 12:59:32 PM, Polaris wrote:
What do you suppose my premises and conclusion are?

Premise 1: Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
Premise 2: Utility can increase with time.
Conclusion: It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

I'm surprised you have to ask.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/16/2013 1:42:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/16/2013 1:23:20 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/16/2013 12:59:32 PM, Polaris wrote:
What do you suppose my premises and conclusion are?

Premise 1: Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
Premise 2: Utility can increase with time.
Conclusion: It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

I'm surprised you have to ask.

That was Wnope's argument, not mine. I was disputing Wnope. Perhaps you should read more carefully who is saying what.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 11:19:16 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/16/2013 1:42:10 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/16/2013 1:23:20 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/16/2013 12:59:32 PM, Polaris wrote:
What do you suppose my premises and conclusion are?

Premise 1: Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
Premise 2: Utility can increase with time.
Conclusion: It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.

I'm surprised you have to ask.

That was Wnope's argument, not mine. I was disputing Wnope. Perhaps you should read more carefully who is saying what.

I'm refuting Wnope. You seem to be arguing with me. Here's the post again:

At 2/15/2013 5:19:35 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/15/2013 2:09:12 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/14/2013 8:07:49 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/13/2013 3:52:23 PM, Wnope wrote:
Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true.
1. Expected utility is useful in gauging what you should do.
2. Utility can increase with time.
3. It is better to believe in an afterlife than not believe, regardless of apparent evidence.


Wnope giving a conclusion unrelated to his premises.

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure ...

You, seeming to say that given an assumption about utility, the premises do lead to the conclusion.

No way. Even if you accept utilitarianism, there's no way to get from those premises to that conclusion.

Me, saying that, even given that assumption, the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises.

Utility isn't a strictly Utilitarian concept, that being said utilitarianism (philosophical ethic) isn't pertinent to the discussion.

You, either being irrelevant or insisting that the conclusion follows from the premises.

That still won't get you from those premises to that conclusion.

Me pointing out that you still can't get to that conclusion from those premises regardless of how you define utility.
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 11:39:47 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
The argument still fails. Consider a deity that rewards people on not believing in them. Moreover, consider a deity that rewards people on adhering to reason regardless of self-interest. Moreover, consider a deity that rewards based on boredom, amount of bacon eaten, or rewards those who are white. In such case, belief becomes negligible and irrelevant as a factor.

The assumption is that believing in God gives you infinite reward, while not believing gives you none/finite. This is a false assumption.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 11:53:18 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/17/2013 11:19:16 AM, wiploc wrote:

Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure ...

You, seeming to say that given an assumption about utility, the premises do lead to the conclusion.

With your ellipsis you left out "Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure, but that doesn't make them true"

So don't see how this can be construed as being a support of his argument, unless you've misunderstood what I was saying.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 1:35:08 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/17/2013 11:53:18 AM, Polaris wrote:
With your ellipsis you left out "Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure, but that doesn't make them true"

Without the underlined part, it seems to say that his argument is valid, which is what I was arguing against.

With the underlined part, it seems to say that the form is valid but the premises are false or unjustified. I'm still disagreeing with the bit about the argument's form being valid.

So don't see how this can be construed as being a support of his argument, unless you've misunderstood what I was saying.

It reads to me like it says the argument is valid but not sound. It is not valid.

But maybe I am misunderstanding.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 2:03:38 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/17/2013 1:35:08 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 2/17/2013 11:53:18 AM, Polaris wrote:
With your ellipsis you left out "Utility is a measurement of satisfaction or happiness. If you're basing your beliefs purely upon what makes you happy, then sure, but that doesn't make them true"

Without the underlined part, it seems to say that his argument is valid, which is what I was arguing against.

With the underlined part, it seems to say that the form is valid but the premises are false or unjustified. I'm still disagreeing with the bit about the argument's form being valid.

So don't see how this can be construed as being a support of his argument, unless you've misunderstood what I was saying.

It reads to me like it says the argument is valid but not sound. It is not valid.

But maybe I am misunderstanding.

Wnope's argument as presented above is not in a proper syllogistic form, and thus some interpretation is required to put it in proper argument form. From my understanding, the argument as is being made above should read, in proper argument form:

p1. That which grants us greatest utility, is that which we should believe.
p2. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which grants us the greatest utility.
c1. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which we should believe.

or alternatively:

All U are B
All A are U
thus,
All A are B


Strictly speaking this is an entirely valid argument, although I would not consider it a sound argument.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 6:31:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
We are agreed, then, that Wnope's argument is not valid.

When Wnope wrote, "Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true," he was patently wrong. When I said we can't get from his premises to his conclusion, I was unambiguously right.

You were able to make up an argument for him, in which Wnope's implicit unstated assumptions take the form of indefensible premises rather than invalid form, but that in no way undermines my point that Wnope's argument is not valid.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 7:14:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/17/2013 6:31:07 PM, wiploc wrote:
We are agreed, then, that Wnope's argument is not valid.

When Wnope wrote, "Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true," he was patently wrong. When I said we can't get from his premises to his conclusion, I was unambiguously right.

You were able to make up an argument for him, in which Wnope's implicit unstated assumptions take the form of indefensible premises rather than invalid form, but that in no way undermines my point that Wnope's argument is not valid.

I concisely outlined my understanding of what his argument was, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt in presenting the most logical argument he could have possibly been making. If he was making some other argument, then I am wholly unaware of what it was.
DeFool
Posts: 626
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/17/2013 7:47:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Pascal's Wager.

There are calculations, which have been discussed. These calculations (very often) do not calculate into their equations the many thousands of gods and goddesses that have been earnestly followed and killed for over the years. Frankly, the riddle only works if we figure in one god or goddess. It immediately begins to break apart when we include the rest of them. Adding other potential extra dimensional space aliens (such as Darth Vader) show it to be the nonsense that it is.

P1: If Pazuzu exists, but Jesus does not, we will anger our lord and savior Pazuzu.
P2: If Thor exists but Pazuzu does not, we may anger Enki
P3: If Enki does not mind our worship of Enlil, Marduk may begin a war with Frost Giants....

Pascal's Nonsense.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/18/2013 12:02:30 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/17/2013 7:14:13 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/17/2013 6:31:07 PM, wiploc wrote:
We are agreed, then, that Wnope's argument is not valid.

When Wnope wrote, "Therefore, an atheist cannot accept the following two statements without the third being true," he was patently wrong. When I said we can't get from his premises to his conclusion, I was unambiguously right.

You were able to make up an argument for him, in which Wnope's implicit unstated assumptions take the form of indefensible premises rather than invalid form, but that in no way undermines my point that Wnope's argument is not valid.

I concisely outlined my understanding of what his argument was, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt in presenting the most logical argument he could have possibly been making. If he was making some other argument, then I am wholly unaware of what it was.

Pascal and Wnope assume, in order to make their argument work, that if a god exists, then he will infinitely reward believers, and infinitely punish nonbelievers. And they assume that if no gods exist, then there is no reward or punishment either way. But, Pascal and Wnope do not establish why we should accept those unspoken premises. Why couldn't god punish believers and reward nonbelievers? Or ignore both? Or provide reasonable, finite, rewards and punishments rather than infinite? Any of those would destroy Pascal's wager.

The wager is probably best viewed as an excuse rather than a reason. That is, theists who want to feel reasonable, who want to believe that their religions are justified, reach for any pseudo-logical support. Pascal's wager is the means by which they fool themselves into thinking their religion makes sense.

In Wnope's version, the missing premises make the argument invalid. In your version, the missing bits must be construed as missing support for the premises. But they remain both necessary and missing, so I don't see that your interpretation is any more charitable than mine.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/18/2013 12:03:10 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/17/2013 7:47:20 PM, DeFool wrote:
Pascal's Wager.

There are calculations, which have been discussed. These calculations (very often) do not calculate into their equations the many thousands of gods and goddesses that have been earnestly followed and killed for over the years. Frankly, the riddle only works if we figure in one god or goddess. It immediately begins to break apart when we include the rest of them. Adding other potential extra dimensional space aliens (such as Darth Vader) show it to be the nonsense that it is.

P1: If Pazuzu exists, but Jesus does not, we will anger our lord and savior Pazuzu.
P2: If Thor exists but Pazuzu does not, we may anger Enki
P3: If Enki does not mind our worship of Enlil, Marduk may begin a war with Frost Giants....

Pascal's Nonsense.

Well put.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/18/2013 3:35:50 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 12:02:30 AM, wiploc wrote:
Pascal and Wnope assume, in order to make their argument work, that if a god exists, then he will infinitely reward believers, and infinitely punish nonbelievers. And they assume that if no gods exist, then there is no reward or punishment either way. But, Pascal and Wnope do not establish why we should accept those unspoken premises. Why couldn't god punish believers and reward nonbelievers? Or ignore both? Or provide reasonable, finite, rewards and punishments rather than infinite? Any of those would destroy Pascal's wager.

"a god" could, but unless I am mistaken, Pascal's wager applies specifically to the Christian God.

The wager is probably best viewed as an excuse rather than a reason. That is, theists who want to feel reasonable, who want to believe that their religions are justified, reach for any pseudo-logical support. Pascal's wager is the means by which they fool themselves into thinking their religion makes sense.

The problem with pascal's wager is two-fold. First, the argument itself is an appeal to consequence, which is an informal fallacy. Secondly, the argument presents a false dichotomy (also an informal fallacy); it presents atheism and Christianity side-by-side as if these were the only two possibilities while neglecting a potentially infinite number of Gods and afterlives. The only logical consideration is "How likely is it to be true?" all other considerations are irrelevant. This is because if the Christian God were fictive then so would the consequences of unbelief.

In Wnope's version, the missing premises make the argument invalid.

Missing premises wouldn't make it invalid, missing premises would just make it an enthymeme.

In your version, the missing bits must be construed as missing support for the premises. But they remain both necessary and missing, so I don't see that your interpretation is any more charitable than mine.

If I am to understand you correctly, your interpretation of his argument is that it is both unsound and invalid, and my interpretation of his argument is that it is just unsound.
DeFool
Posts: 626
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/18/2013 3:58:59 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
"The only logical consideration is "How likely is it to be true?" all other considerations are irrelevant. This is because if the Christian God were fictive then so would the consequences of unbelief."

Very clear logic here.

I myself am quite certain that Pascal had only Yahweh, Jesus, etc., in mind when he proposed his fallacy. I don't care, because his oversight is illustrative of the arrogance of religion. (But he only wanted us to consider the one particular deity.)

Another issue, so far undermentioned... which Christian god does one worship at gun-point? Is it the genocidal lunatic of the Noah stories? Is it the cosmic buffoon, so easily duped by snakes and devils? Is it the Andrea-Yates Hell-god of the New Testament? Is it the bumbling Jesus? The Holy Ghost?

I could belabor the point, but I think my thrust is clear: even Pascal's favorite god does not posses qualities that are universally agreed-upon. Further, even the penalties are unclear.

Will Jesus watch the eternal torture of unbaptized babies? Or will he simply give them cancer and watch them die? Does he do this because of the "sins of the father?"

I am obviously feigning confusion. My point, restated, is that the bible offers no solid foundation for any real attempt at logic. Pascal should have known this.
Smithereens
Posts: 5,512
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/19/2013 11:07:52 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/13/2013 6:22:27 PM, philochristos wrote:
I think the usual problem persists. Even though it may be more practical to believe in God than not to believe in God, our beliefs are not under the control of the will. We can't just decide to think it's true that God exists and actually believe it by an act of the will. So even if we admit that it's more practical to believe in God than not, there's not much we can do about it.

Believing in God would be irrelevant, the question is whether its worth believing in God. Actually believing in God would mean a totally new thing. I think its a matter of reason vs reality. And in hindsight now that I have typed this up I feel really silly and stupid, maybe this is a dumb view.

From what I understand, Pascal was making this argument for the sake of those who are sitting on the fence and have no reason to lean one way or another. In that case, I think you can give the benefit of the doubt to belief in God and live as if he existed. Maybe in the process you will become convinced. After all, Jesus said, "Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17).

While I think other religions are relevant, I don't think it does much damage to Pascal's wager to consider them because the stakes aren't very high in most other religions. Perhaps Islam should be considered because the stakes ARE high in Islam. But the stakes aren't very high in Taoism, Buddhism, Wicca, or most other religions. They can safely be ignored when doing a cost/benefit analysis of religions, including non-belief.
Music composition contest: http://www.debate.org...
Wnope
Posts: 6,924
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/20/2013 3:36:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I have done a rather poor job communicating my position, so I'll try again.

The fact that I am an atheist should be the first indicator that I am not arguing Pascal's Wager is valid when considered in modern context. Instead, I am arguing that his philosophical project, when viewed in context, should be seen as an impressive analytical development.

The situation is similar to that of Hobbes. In the modern context, it is easy for us to hate Hobbes because he endorses the most brutal type of fascism.

But this ignores the context. Hobbes project was not to show the best form of government. His project was to convince the world that "divine right" is not the only possible justification for kingship. He had to retrofit secular philosophy so the Kings could say "well, heck, that doesn't challenge my power, it may even be beneficial, I guess I won't publicly execute him."

Hobbes made possible Locke and others who took for granted that the "state of nature" could determine how societies ought to form.

Onto Pascal:

In the modern context, we see the options as "Christianity versus Islam versus Norse versus x" and can choose among moral/teleological theories from categorical imperatives to moral nihilsm. But at the time, religions were basically seen in a western context as "Christianity or heathen savages."

At the time, "naturalistic atheism" was a fairly new concept (in the sense of "no god and no object moral guidance") and in need of some means of justifying "how we ought to act" or "what is a good life" without reference to "God" or innate purpose.

A common answer was expected utility. The assumptions were that you could calculate how you ought to act by considering what you gain or lose (using the standard parameter of "utility") as the result of an action relative to the probability of it occurring. Furthermore, under the Christian conception, at no point during a stay in heaven would utility at any moment drop below zero.

Even assuming every moment as an atheist leads to an increase of utility, the result will be finite. He my also think whether god exists is a toss-up (50 percent chance) or "absolutely note" (99.999% chance god doesn't exist) then the following is true:

Expected utility = probability x utility

Following life of an atheist = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Following life of a Christian = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Thus, Pascal's opponents could no longer appeal to expected utility as an alternative means to religion of providing a "good life" or establishing how we "ought to act."
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/20/2013 4:36:57 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/20/2013 3:36:07 PM, Wnope wrote:
I have done a rather poor job communicating my position, so I'll try again.

The fact that I am an atheist should be the first indicator that I am not arguing Pascal's Wager is valid when considered in modern context. Instead, I am arguing that his philosophical project, when viewed in context, should be seen as an impressive analytical development.

The situation is similar to that of Hobbes. In the modern context, it is easy for us to hate Hobbes because he endorses the most brutal type of fascism.

But this ignores the context. Hobbes project was not to show the best form of government. His project was to convince the world that "divine right" is not the only possible justification for kingship. He had to retrofit secular philosophy so the Kings could say "well, heck, that doesn't challenge my power, it may even be beneficial, I guess I won't publicly execute him."

Hobbes made possible Locke and others who took for granted that the "state of nature" could determine how societies ought to form.

Onto Pascal:

In the modern context, we see the options as "Christianity versus Islam versus Norse versus x" and can choose among moral/teleological theories from categorical imperatives to moral nihilsm. But at the time, religions were basically seen in a western context as "Christianity or heathen savages."

At the time, "naturalistic atheism" was a fairly new concept (in the sense of "no god and no object moral guidance") and in need of some means of justifying "how we ought to act" or "what is a good life" without reference to "God" or innate purpose.

A common answer was expected utility. The assumptions were that you could calculate how you ought to act by considering what you gain or lose (using the standard parameter of "utility") as the result of an action relative to the probability of it occurring. Furthermore, under the Christian conception, at no point during a stay in heaven would utility at any moment drop below zero.

Even assuming every moment as an atheist leads to an increase of utility, the result will be finite. He my also think whether god exists is a toss-up (50 percent chance) or "absolutely note" (99.999% chance god doesn't exist) then the following is true:

Expected utility = probability x utility

Following life of an atheist = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Following life of a Christian = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Thus, Pascal's opponents could no longer appeal to expected utility as an alternative means to religion of providing a "good life" or establishing how we "ought to act."

So is this an accurate portrayal of your argument?

p1. That which grants us greatest utility, is that which we should believe.
p2. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which grants us the greatest utility.
c1. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which we should believe.
Wnope
Posts: 6,924
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/20/2013 5:05:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/20/2013 4:36:57 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/20/2013 3:36:07 PM, Wnope wrote:
I have done a rather poor job communicating my position, so I'll try again.

The fact that I am an atheist should be the first indicator that I am not arguing Pascal's Wager is valid when considered in modern context. Instead, I am arguing that his philosophical project, when viewed in context, should be seen as an impressive analytical development.

The situation is similar to that of Hobbes. In the modern context, it is easy for us to hate Hobbes because he endorses the most brutal type of fascism.

But this ignores the context. Hobbes project was not to show the best form of government. His project was to convince the world that "divine right" is not the only possible justification for kingship. He had to retrofit secular philosophy so the Kings could say "well, heck, that doesn't challenge my power, it may even be beneficial, I guess I won't publicly execute him."

Hobbes made possible Locke and others who took for granted that the "state of nature" could determine how societies ought to form.

Onto Pascal:

In the modern context, we see the options as "Christianity versus Islam versus Norse versus x" and can choose among moral/teleological theories from categorical imperatives to moral nihilsm. But at the time, religions were basically seen in a western context as "Christianity or heathen savages."

At the time, "naturalistic atheism" was a fairly new concept (in the sense of "no god and no object moral guidance") and in need of some means of justifying "how we ought to act" or "what is a good life" without reference to "God" or innate purpose.

A common answer was expected utility. The assumptions were that you could calculate how you ought to act by considering what you gain or lose (using the standard parameter of "utility") as the result of an action relative to the probability of it occurring. Furthermore, under the Christian conception, at no point during a stay in heaven would utility at any moment drop below zero.

Even assuming every moment as an atheist leads to an increase of utility, the result will be finite. He my also think whether god exists is a toss-up (50 percent chance) or "absolutely note" (99.999% chance god doesn't exist) then the following is true:

Expected utility = probability x utility

Following life of an atheist = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Following life of a Christian = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Thus, Pascal's opponents could no longer appeal to expected utility as an alternative means to religion of providing a "good life" or establishing how we "ought to act."

So is this an accurate portrayal of your argument?

p1. That which grants us greatest utility, is that which we should believe.
p2. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which grants us the greatest utility.
c1. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which we should believe.

"Belief" may not be the best word. It is more a matter of how you should make decisions about how to act on future events. Namely, living in accord with Christian principles and morality as dictated by God.
Polaris
Posts: 1,120
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
2/20/2013 5:39:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/20/2013 5:05:46 PM, Wnope wrote:
At 2/20/2013 4:36:57 PM, Polaris wrote:
At 2/20/2013 3:36:07 PM, Wnope wrote:
I have done a rather poor job communicating my position, so I'll try again.

The fact that I am an atheist should be the first indicator that I am not arguing Pascal's Wager is valid when considered in modern context. Instead, I am arguing that his philosophical project, when viewed in context, should be seen as an impressive analytical development.

The situation is similar to that of Hobbes. In the modern context, it is easy for us to hate Hobbes because he endorses the most brutal type of fascism.

But this ignores the context. Hobbes project was not to show the best form of government. His project was to convince the world that "divine right" is not the only possible justification for kingship. He had to retrofit secular philosophy so the Kings could say "well, heck, that doesn't challenge my power, it may even be beneficial, I guess I won't publicly execute him."

Hobbes made possible Locke and others who took for granted that the "state of nature" could determine how societies ought to form.

Onto Pascal:

In the modern context, we see the options as "Christianity versus Islam versus Norse versus x" and can choose among moral/teleological theories from categorical imperatives to moral nihilsm. But at the time, religions were basically seen in a western context as "Christianity or heathen savages."

At the time, "naturalistic atheism" was a fairly new concept (in the sense of "no god and no object moral guidance") and in need of some means of justifying "how we ought to act" or "what is a good life" without reference to "God" or innate purpose.

A common answer was expected utility. The assumptions were that you could calculate how you ought to act by considering what you gain or lose (using the standard parameter of "utility") as the result of an action relative to the probability of it occurring. Furthermore, under the Christian conception, at no point during a stay in heaven would utility at any moment drop below zero.

Even assuming every moment as an atheist leads to an increase of utility, the result will be finite. He my also think whether god exists is a toss-up (50 percent chance) or "absolutely note" (99.999% chance god doesn't exist) then the following is true:

Expected utility = probability x utility

Following life of an atheist = 99.999 x finite number = finite number

Following life of a Christian = 0.0001 x infinite number = infinite number.

Thus, Pascal's opponents could no longer appeal to expected utility as an alternative means to religion of providing a "good life" or establishing how we "ought to act."

So is this an accurate portrayal of your argument?

p1. That which grants us greatest utility, is that which we should believe.
p2. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which grants us the greatest utility.
c1. The belief that there is an afterlife, is that which we should believe.

"Belief" may not be the best word. It is more a matter of how you should make decisions about how to act on future events. Namely, living in accord with Christian principles and morality as dictated by God.

It would have to be, because the benefits of an afterlife, according to pascal's wager, are only enjoyed if we believe.