Pascal Wager and Our Collections About the Afterlife

Pascal’s wager is an argument in philosophy presented by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, theologian, mathematician and physicistBlaise Pascal (1623–1662).[1] It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).[2]

Pascal’s Wager was based on the idea of the Christian God, though similar arguments have occurred in other religious traditions. The original wager was set out in Pascal’s posthumously published Pensées (“Thoughts”), an assembly of previously unpublished notes.[3]

Historically, Pascal’s wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory,[4] marked the first formal use of decision theoryexistentialismpragmatism, and voluntarism.[5]


Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

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2 replies

  1. “Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single section of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’—it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several important strands of thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.

    We will begin with some brief stage-setting: some historical background, some of the basics of decision theory, and some of the exegetical problems that the Pensées pose. Then we will follow the text to extract three main arguments. The bulk of the literature addresses the third of these arguments, as will the bulk of our discussion here.

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