• Carolyn Young
    4
    My concept, in basic terms, is that you should combine reason and moral thinking when you make decisions and live your life. Pascal's Wager is relevant because you have to decide to believe something because if you don't, you're screwed. It's a very interesting concept to think about if you're a reasoning person. Personally, I cannot force my reasoning mind to believe something, no matter what might happen. My brain (even if given to me by God...?) will not do it. Piaget's hierarchy of moral thinking says that at the highest level, your decisions are based on what's right and wrong for humanity. I would say that most people listen to all the "outside noise" rather than thinking in those terms. How different would the world be if pure reason and morality were the basis of all thought and decisions? Of course, there are grey areas, but in basic terms, would things not be vastly different?
  • creativesoul
    8.4k


    Well different people have starkly differing views regarding morality and pure reason.

    I find that it is already the case that all people act according to their own morality and reasoning...
  • creativesoul
    8.4k
    Pascal's Wager is convincing for those who already have some hint of belief concerning the God in the Bible. If you believe and it ends up being the case that there is no such God and/or afterlife, then you've lost nothing. Whereas if you do not believe and it ends up being that there is such an afterlife, then you've lost everything... or words to that effect/affect.

    However...

    That calculus does not work if it is the case that there is no such God and/or afterlife. For if one refrains from doing all sorts of things that are not immoral(aside from the Bible teachings saying otherwise), say there is no harm done, and it turns out that there is no such God or afterlife, well then...

    They've gained nothing and lost every opportunity to otherwise have all sorts of good fun.
  • Carolyn Young
    4
    Oh, I don't subscribe to the Pascal's Wager theory at all. I just find it to be an interesting philosophical concept. I think it makes for interesting discussion.
  • creativesoul
    8.4k


    It is interesting and very convincing to those with a Judeo-Christian background.
  • Carolyn Young
    4
    I feel like it should be interesting to any thinking person. I think it stimulates a lot of thought and talk for reasoning people. I'm an atheist, and I think the reasoning discussion that comes from Pascal's wager allows you to make the point that you can't force yourself to believe something if you actually think.
  • creativesoul
    8.4k
    Pascal's Wager has been around for quite some time. There are many who've long since considered and been convinced, as well as many who've long since considered and not been. If one is interested in such topics as God and the afterlife, then it could stoke interesting conversation.

    I don't see how it can be used to make the point that we cannot force ourselves to believe something if we actually think. It convinces some who actually think. Not so much others.

    Our thought and belief can be parsed out without Pascal's wager. We cannot believe two different things that are contradictory to each other. That is not to say that we cannot hold conflicting belief. We can. I mean only that when faced with it... when we look at both at the same time... and we realize that only one can be true... then, we see the problem.

    If one holds some belief or other which contradicts Pascal's Wager, such as being an atheist, then no amount of valid/good reasoning will likely sway them. For if one does not believe in God, then Pascal's wager finds no purchase.
  • Carolyn Young
    4
    It just provokes thought. It's incorrect, but it provokes thought.
  • creativesoul
    8.4k


    Sure. Hence, I offered my own...
  • Wayfarer
    9.9k
    Welcome. I thnk part of the problem is that 'god' has been turned into a concept, a word with a set of historical associations. And as it's mostly associated with cultural tropes and metaphors so remote from today's world the name is increasingly meaningless to a lot of people. But consider instead the notion of a 'true good', a real good, knowledge of which is inherently salvific (i.e. healing). That might be equally accurate in regards to non-theistic philosophies like Buddhism. But I think that is what at least some ideas of 'god' were originally like.

    So 'what's right and wrong for humanity' is likewise pretty abstract. I mean, probably we all should give up meat, single-use plastics and air-con, but we might do that and still be miserable. I would like to think that there is a reason for existing (and you'd be surprised how many don't). So, how to frame that question in a way which is organically meaningful and 'real' and not simply abstract theory. So, yes, if we could live in the light of something like that, then things would indeed be different.
  • hachit
    237
    not to me. I'm Christian and I always hated the argument because it miss the over points.

    The biggest one is that it makes us greedy which is one of the things were not supposed to be
  • hachit
    237
    How different would the world be if pure reason and morality were the basis of all thought and decisions?

    Your talking about the concept of epistemic responsiblity which is good I think more people need to talk about it.

    However when you say pure reason your forgetting or did not that we have an antonymic paradoxs. Which leads to the conclusion there is sometimes 2 right answers, which can violate the law of noncontradiction.

    Also when you say reason are you talking about human reason or some other. I sometime argue in the transcendent reason which leaves to some interesting discussions to those that understand it rules and leave those that don't confuse. I think your talking about the main stream scientific reason(I may be wrong on that) but I think that is always missing a part of the whole.

    Then there is morality. Specifically what makes something morale. What is the goal of morality. Myself morality is to love everyone(i don't really want to go over the definition of love right now) to a level that is humanly unattainable. Others try to make morality attainable with there theorys.

    What I'm trying to say is even if pure reason and morality were the basis of all thought and decisions, there actual be little change. In fact maby non at all, because though criticized emotional reson is a thing and has it own set of rules.
  • Monitor
    172
    Personally, I cannot force my reasoning mind to believe something, no matter what might happen.Carolyn Young

    Doxastic Voluntarism is a philosophical view that people elect their own beliefs.[1] That is, that subjects have a certain amount of control over what they believe, such that a subject may choose whether or not to believe a certain thing.

    (From Wiki)
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    pure reason and moralityCarolyn Young

    Piaget's claim: at the highest level we do what's good for humanity. There seems adequate room for immorality there, in at the lowest level. Since there seems to be hierarchy I suppose Piaget has left ample space for thugs and ruffians to maneuver in. What does Piaget mean when he speaks of highest level? Is it universally present as in does everyone operate in accord to it or is it exclusive to a few who have a moral bent to their character?

    Pascal's wager: it's better to believe in god than not for if he exists and you're an atheist, hell is waiting for you. On the other hand if you're a theist and he doesn't exist, religion is, according to the great Pascal, a "minor" inconvenience.

    One might think, as you have, that one can't force my reasoning to believe something and there seems to be an issue with Pascal's wager that is somewhat odd. The usual process of belief formation is to prove a proposition but in Pascal's wager, instead of proving a proposition on god's existence, it attempts to prove that belief in god is a wiser choice than to be an atheist. It's like a mathematician who proves it's wiser to believe in a theorem on pain or death without actually proving the theorem itself. I guess one could say Pacal's wager is a veiled threat, an argument ad baculum.

    Should we yield to threats? Is it wise to defy an omnipotent being? The choice boils down to these two I'm afraid and answering "no" to both questions is wise, don't you think? If we let threats guide our decisions then bad consequences surely follow and if we reject someone, here god, who threatens eternal torture for not believing, then it would be most unwise.

    Anyway, crucially, if one were to use any criterion other than actual proof of a proposition to invest belief in it, something Pascal's wager suggests, then it won't be long before inconsistencies start popping up everywhere in your belief system. In the mathematician example I gave above, if a theorem is taken as true without actually proving it but just because it's dangerous to deny it, contradictions will almost certainly follow because the only method by which we could've avoided contradictions, proof of the theorem, has been bypassed.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    Personally, I cannot force my reasoning mind to believe something, no matter what might happen.Carolyn Young
    Agreed. On another forum, I've pointed out that this is simply not the way beliefs are formed. I'll share the best rebuttal I received.

    This depends on having a benign view of some religion, despite not believing it. The benign view entails seeing that this religion encourages moral behavior (ideally, consistent with Piaget). Keep your true beliefs to yourself and join them; become an active member - participate in doing good works for the community. Engage socially with the best among them.

    This might result in your coming around to to their way of thinking. This actually IS consistent with the belief formation process - we humans have a tendency to think in ways consistent with those around us. We become influenced by the context: everyone around us is doing good things, motivated religious beliefs, and we're hearing their reasoning - which can be quite rational, even if the ultimate intellectual foundation of their religious belief is shaky. After all, how many of our beliefs about the world are truly a consequence of pure reason, rather than largely just accepting the worldview of those around us?

    In terms of Pascal's wager, it means choosing a course (which is feasible) - not directly choosing to believe something (which doesn't work). This seems fairly reasonable. I really doubt this would work for me (an agnostic-deist), but it could potentially work for some.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    because if you don't, you're screwed.Carolyn Young

    I believe in materialism, and determinism, and no spiritualism of any kind. But I don't feel screwed.

    Piaget's hierarchy of moral thinking says that at the highest level, your decisions are based on what's right and wrong for humanity. How different would the world be if pure reason and morality were the basis of all thought and decisions?Carolyn Young

    For one thing, we would have already solved the overpopulation crisis, with all its acoutrements. Just hold back on having babies.

    Most religious societies -- these days, that means the Submitted -- place god though on the top of 1. oriented goals and 2. moral compass. So the Submitted, much like the Christians for thousands of years, are producing babies head-over-heel, (literally), because that's what the scriptures dicktate.
  • Valentinus
    792

    The terms of the wager are more of an invitation than an ultimatum.
    Pascal is proposing one could start living as if certain things were the case before embracing the "belief" at the center of the activity.
    In that sense, casting the die relates to how one's decisions relate to what results from them. But the measure is not something that can only happen if one accepts a particular metric before getting started.
    While that is a country mile from Piaget's idea of moral order as a biological development, it is much closer to it than expressions from the Christian tradition before it.
  • Danek21
    4
    With all due respect to Piaget, who is obviously right about lots of things, I've always had trouble with the idea that doing good 'for humanity' is somehow a 'higher' good. To my mind, 'humanity' is an abstraction - and it's been noticeable in my experience how often people who talk about doing good for humanity in the abstract, are not actually that pleasant to the actual flesh and blood humans they encounter. There also seems to be a slightly simplistic inflationary principle here - loving one human is good, therefore loving 9 billion humans is 9 billion times better. Is it not possible that 'the love of humanity' is actually just a self-aggrandizing delusion ?
  • Frank Apisa
    2k
    One of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make is:

    Is Pascal's Wager or Occum's Razor the most useless philosophical concept of all times.

    Fact is, I cannot resolve it. They both qualify in spades.

    I hope I get some insights into the issue here that can help me.

    You?
  • Francesca
    5
    morality is subjective. THe real reason people make descisions is through instinctive responses and experiencial memory.

    Very provocotive subject. Needs more discussion.
  • fishfry
    1.6k
    Pascal's Wager is relevant because you have to decide to believe something because if you don't, you're screwed.Carolyn Young

    I think there's a bit of a logic flaw in Pascal's wager. You have to not only believe in God, you have to believe in a God that condemns you to eternal hell or promotes you to eternal heaven, based on whether you've been bad or good. In effect, God is conflated with Santa Claus. "He knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake" is an expression of Pascal's wager!
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    With all due respect to Piaget, who is obviously right about lots of things, I've always had trouble with the idea that doing good 'for humanity' is somehow a 'higher' good. To my mind, 'humanity' is an abstraction - and it's been noticeable in my experience how often people who talk about doing good for humanity in the abstract, are not actually that pleasant to the actual flesh and blood humans they encounter. There also seems to be a slightly simplistic inflationary principle here - loving one human is good, therefore loving 9 billion humans is 9 billion times better. Is it not possible that 'the love of humanity' is actually just a self-aggrandizing delusion ?Danek21

    I don't think that love for/of humanity is a delusion as such but anyone who professes it must in some ways ignore basic truths that make humanity not all that lovable: torture, cruelty, murder, rape are still applicable as descriptors of human behavior. However, there have been recorded cases of some who've done great acts of goodness. If we're cynical these people too inevitably fall into the category of the selfish and cynicism is validated by many stories of supposedly great people falling from grace; the media has been in the forefront of this effort to expose the hidden rot in society represented as good through the few that are in the limelight. Ergo, it seems that humanity is incapable and unworthy of love. To think otherwise is clearly, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, delusional.

    That being said, in what way is love of/for humanity a delusion? It is delusional only because it ignores the fact the people seem incapable and unworthy of love. However, notice that we have the notion of love and what deserves love. It's as if, to use a religious example, the devil himself, both incapable and unworthy of love in our reckoning, came to know of love and realized that it, love, excludes him. Yet, the devil having thus realized what love is, is greater than his previous self, ignorant of love. Likewise, humanity, having a notion of selfless love, being neither capable of it nor worthy of it, is "greater" than humanity without such a notion, at least in my eyes. There is profound tragedy in this, isn't there? To realize the greatness of love and to know one is incapable of it and unworthy of it. Perhaps in this pitiful state of humanity some can find a reason to love us as a whole. We love not because of our abilities but despite our inabilities. To ignore this fact would also be a delusion.

    As for question of humanity being an abstraction, I think it's irrelevant at this point because love of humanity doesn't commit the fallacy of composition and the word "humanity" doesn't dilute or ignore the fact that individuals who constitute it are our main concern.
  • Danek21
    4
    As for question of humanity being an abstraction, I think it's irrelevant at this point because love of humanity doesn't commit the fallacy of composition and the word "humanity" doesn't dilute or ignore the fact that individuals who constitute it are our main concern.TheMadFool

    Thanks for the interesting and detailed reply, but at risk of being overly pedantic (which I guess is probably not such a problem on a philosophy forum !) I'd like to take issue with your assertion that the fact that humanity is an abstraction is irrelevant.

    I do take your point that 'love of humanity' doesn't necessarily commit the fallacy of composition, but I think there is a deeper and more intractable problem with the abstract nature of the word 'humanity' - which is that I don't think it's a term that actually points to anything concrete or meaningful in the world, and instead serves as a kind of placeholder concept for people to displace emotions that would be socially unacceptable if acted out on real, existing human beings (emotions such as disgust, hatred, envy, despair, contempt etc). Hence the general tendency for people to talk about the state of humanity in such tragic terms as in your response above. My assertion is that while there are self-evidently negative aspects to real human nature, in reality the picture is nothing like as grim as it appears once we drop the philosopher's temptation to sit in judgement of real human beings, on the basis of an abstraction we've created ourselves, informed by the most lurid extremes of human behaviour.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    Thanks for the interesting and detailed reply, but at risk of being overly pedantic (which I guess is probably not such a problem on a philosophy forum !) I'd like to take issue with your assertion that the fact that humanity is an abstraction is irrelevant.

    I do take your point that 'love of humanity' doesn't necessarily commit the fallacy of composition, but I think there is a deeper and more intractable problem with the abstract nature of the word 'humanity' - which is that I don't think it's a term that actually points to anything concrete or meaningful in the world, and instead serves as a kind of placeholder concept for people to displace emotions that would be socially unacceptable if acted out on real, existing human beings (emotions such as disgust, hatred, envy, despair, contempt etc). Hence the general tendency for people to talk about the state of humanity in such tragic terms as in your response above. My assertion is that while there are self-evidently negative aspects to real human nature, in reality the picture is nothing like as grim as it appears once we drop the philosopher's temptation to sit in judgement of real human beings, on the basis of an abstraction we've created ourselves, informed by the most lurid extremes of human behaviour.
    Danek21

    Quite right. I wouldn't want to present a lop-sided view of humanity but if I've tried to do anything it's to present the facts as they are. We have deep flaws in our nature; nevertheless there is a sense in which they're compensated for by what you might refer to as goodness. It seems we have to hark back to Heraclitus and his doctrine of opposites - the good vs the bad, not as something occuring between people but rather as an internal conflict within each person. This is hard as I myself have discoverd the hard way and I'm sure you know more about it than me.

    So, yeah, I agree that picking out a few individuals as representatives of humanity as a whole is a hasty generalization. Yet, it also seems rationally necessary not to overcorrect our impressions by which I mean that just because a few bad apples don't imply the whole batch of apples is bad, it also means, by the same token, that a few good people are not enough to change our views in the other direction. Also, you seem to have switched beliefs between the first and the second posts you made - first you were complaining about humanity and then you changed your tune.

    As for the question of abstraction, humanity, it does seem odd that the entire population be blamed for some fiasco but here a great disappointment awaits people who have hope in our species for when its an occasion to assign credit for a job well done, people prefer to say humanity achieved this or that. This reflects poorly on our character does it not? When it's smooth sailing everyone joins in the celebration of humanity's success but at the first sight of danger everyone jumps ship leaving the poor captain to take all the blame.
  • Danek21
    4
    Also, you seem to have switched beliefs between the first and the second posts you made - first you were complaining about humanity and then you changed your tune.TheMadFool

    That's interesting - I clearly need to work on expressing myself, as it was certainly not my intention to complain about 'humanity' in the first post, (assuming you're referring to actual humans). The point I was ham-fistedly trying to make is essentially a very pro-human one, namely that actual extant human beings get an unfairly hard time of it from philosophers and intellectuals, who use the abstraction 'humanity' as a kind of straw man repository for negative emotional reactions. I guess I should probably point out here that I have a slightly nihilistic tendency when it comes to abstractions - generally speaking my sense is that one of the 'flaws' of human nature is that we invest our abstractions with more ontological weight, and more meaning/value than they necessarily deserve. As a lifelong 'overthinker' it's definitely something I'm aware of in myself - and always seeking to correct where I can.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    That's interesting - I clearly need to work on expressing myself, as it was certainly not my intention to complain about 'humanity' in the first post, (assuming you're referring to actual humans).Danek21

    people who talk about doing good for humanity in the abstract, are not actually that pleasant to the actual flesh and blood humans they encounterDanek21

    The above, to me at least, indicates a dim view of humans/humanity which you reversed in later posts and below

    point I was ham-fistedly trying to make is essentially a very pro-human one, namely that actual extant human beings get an unfairly hard time of it from philosophers and intellectuals, who use the abstraction 'humanity' as a kind of straw man repository for negative emotional reactions.Danek21

    To begin with, you're not ham-fisted. Secondly, I think we should cut people some slack; you know that, no matter how many hierarchies or divisions we create among humans, we're all in the same boat and all bleed the same red blood when cut. Personally speaking, from the little I've tasted of life, philosophers do a pretty fine job and their work should be made accessible because, despite their reputation as being obstruse and impractical, they actually tackle the most difficult problems, problems which other disciplines won't touch with a ten-foot pole.

    In the first few pages of most introductory philosophy book you will always encounter the founding father, Socrates saying, "the unexamined life is not worth living". What does Socrates mean by that? An answer that has relevance to your issue with humanity is that we need to know what the good life means and how to live it. Socrates' gem is then a call to all humans, humanity, to put their shoulders to the wheel to discover the good life; after all if all of us live the good life, it would benefit everyone, right?

    I agree that, to the extent that I'm aware, modern philosophy is quite different. They seem almost nauseated by their failure to bring closure to almost everything that has become part of philosophy. Each attempt at a solution seems like cutting off the head of Hydra; two more problems replace it. Nevertheless, the true spirit of philosophy was/is/will be aligned more or less to the idea of the good life. In this search for answers, philosophers may ruffle a few feathers here and there but these, in my opinion, are minor inconveniences we must bear as we must for everything else.
  • Danek21
    4
    Ok, I’ll grant that I am being a little hard on philosophers and intellectuals (who of course aren’t actually interchangeable) - but I do completely agree with your characterisation of ‘good’ philosophy as being aligned with the search for the good life - and I share what appears to be your sincere respect and appreciation for philosophers and philosophy in general. I guess my concern is that the coat of philosophy is often worn by individuals with less virtuous motives, and to return to my original point, that’s why I think the abstraction ‘humanity’ is often used as a punching bag, rather than as it should be used - namely, as a guide for actual individuals to get a balanced understanding of themselves and other people, so they can act in the world.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    I think there's a bit of a logic flaw in Pascal's wager. You have to not only believe in God, you have to believe in a God that condemns you to eternal hell or promotes you to eternal heaven, based on whether you've been bad or good. In effect, God is conflated with Santa Claus. "He knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake" is an expression of Pascal's wager!fishfry
    The wager isn't a logic flaw. If one could form a belief by flipping a switch, it would make sense for anyone who thinks there's at least a small chance of a god who rewards us after death for believing in him. Switching to believer costs you nothing, and it at least has that small chance of benefitting you. So the problem is that beliefs don't work that way.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    If one could form a belief by flipping a switch, it would make sense for anyone who thinks there's at least a small chance of a god who rewards us after death for believing in him. Switching to believer costs you nothing, and it at least has that small chance of benefitting you. So the problem is that beliefs don't work that way.Relativist
    There is a huge switch. Switching to a belief may be a switch to a bad belief.
    1. God may not be straight with us; maybe the life he promises to reward is the life he punishes. There is no guarantee this way or the other.
    2. God may not be the god we imagine, but a different god, who punishes people for behaviour prescribed in the bible.

    Thus, the original Pascal's wager is a wager on a sure bet; you cannot lose, you can only break even or you can win. The REAL wager is a win-lose situation, with the odds being equal on both sides.

    Why are the odds equal on both sides? Because nobody has come back to tell us how it really plays out in the afterlife.We have no information on what happens on the other side.Therefore the best approximation is a hundred percent margin of error.

    We are blindly placing wagers, and there are no guarantees.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    There is a huge switch. Switching to a belief may be a switch to a bad belief.god must be atheist
    Ok, that's a good point that negates the bet. But we do not switch on beliefs.
  • fishfry
    1.6k
    The wager isn't a logic flaw. If one could form a belief by flipping a switch, it would make sense for anyone who thinks there's at least a small chance of a god who rewards us after death for believing in him. Switching to believer costs you nothing, and it at least has that small chance of benefitting you. So the problem is that beliefs don't work that way.Relativist

    What I'm saying is that the wager depends on a god who hands out eternal reward for believing, and eternal damnation otherwise. That's a vindictive god, a petty god. A god unworthy of the name. If you decided you didn't believe in me, would I smite you? Of course not. I wouldn't care one way or another. But if the Christian God finds out you don't believe in him? Eternal damnation. How childish!

    In order for Pascal's wager to make sense you have to believe in such a god. And that's not a plausible idea. The creator of the universe is not that petty. The creator of the universe accepts my belief or disbelief in him with equanimity either way.

    The God I believe in is not a God that gives a shit whether I believe in him. Thus I refute Pascal's wager.
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