Pascals Propositionwager

French mathematician, philosopher, and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) proposed the rational argument/wager concerning the belief in a deity that it is in one's self- or best-interest to assume that God exists because no matter how small the probability is that God does not exist (provided that the probability is not zero), the infinite gain from belief (and the infinite punishment from disbelief) outweighs any advantage of disbelief if God does not exist. Essentially, Pascal's proposition/wager purports to show - in more modern decision-making, or rational-choice, terms - that the expected utility of assuming that God exists must be greater than the expected utility of believing that God does not exist. Formally, expected utility is the average utility (i.e., measure of the subjective desirability of an outcome/event, corresponding to the person's preference for it) calculated by multiplying each of the possible outcomes of the decision by its probability and then summing the resulting products. A major rational criticism of Pascal's proposition/wager, and one that serves to undermine the argument, is that there are more than two possibilities concerning the issue of the existence of the Christian God: God exists, God does not exist, and an infinite number of other possibilities. See also DECISION-MAKING THEORIES; EXPECTED UTILITY THEORY; UTILITY THEORY. REFERENCES

Pascal, B. (1670/1961). Pensees. Paris: De-sprez/Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Benn, A. W. (1905). Pascal's wager. International Journal of Ethics, 15, 305323.

Rosenthal, R. (1967). Psychology of the scientist: XXIII. Experimenter expectancy, experimenter experience, and Pascal's wager. Psychological Reports, 20, 619-622.

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