Tatyana Moraczewski Philosophy 101 Paper #3 The Wager Blaise Pascal’s The Wager begins by proving the existence of the infinity in numbers and thereby acknowledging the existence of the possibility of the infinite in all things. He explains through the example of infinite numbers that, although it is impossible to comprehend the nature of the infinite because we are finite beings, one can understand that the infinite exists. He relates this to our knowledge of God and introduces the possibility of the infinity of man: “by faith we know His existence; in glory we shall know His nature” (235). Here, Pascal suggests that man has the possibility to be infinite after death and continues on to rationalize that it is beneficial to believe in God because the potential benefits outweigh the costs. If one is correct to believe in the Christian God, they are rewarded by an infinite heaven, while if one doubts the existence of Him and are wrong, they are punished by an infinite hell. Pascal deduces that “there is here a chance of [infinite] gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite” (236). If God does not exist, Pascal argues that the loss by believing in the God is small in comparison to not believing in Him because that loss can be calculated in finite terms (the duration of a man’s life). Pascal comes to the conclusion that it is wise to wager a finite loss with prospect of an infinite reward. However, I find that Pascal failed to explore fully his concept of the infinite God. I know of many different religions and I understand that each God or Gods of each religion have different properties and require a different way of living to gain the infinite reward.
Through observation, I have found that the simple belief in the basic idea of the infinite cannot be enough. Pascal’s reasoning therefore requires a definite idea of how the finite man must live to gain the infinite reward. But which way of life is correct? Which religion must one wager on? With each potential god, there is different set of rules to live by and punishments for believing in the wrong thing. I argue that assigning a definite conclusion to infinite possibility is impossible and therefore Pascal’s Wager fails. Betting on one definite pleasure opens up the possibility of an infinite number of punishments. From what I understand of Pascal, he is referring to the Christian God when discussing the belief in “Him” and the way of life required by man. Pascal assures the reader that by choosing to believe in God they will live a more fulfilled life: “certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury ... [but] you will at last recognize that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing” (237). Ignoring the falsity of Pascal’s assurances of giving up “poisonous pleasures” as giving up “nothing,” I noticed here that he references certainty. This reasserts that Pascal’s reasoning requires a definite idea of what God requires of man, if not a definite idea of what God is. This is a contradiction as Pascal himself states that it is impossible to comprehend the nature of God. However, going back to the question which religion must one wager on?, one might approach Christianity as the most obvious choice to believe in. As it is currently the largest religion, that must be indicative of its certainty. However, it was not always as widespread. Christianity began as a sect of Judaism forcing those of Jewish faith to reexamine their beliefs. The addition
of another possible choice causes further questioning into which religion is correct. Once one considers the creation of religions in the past, it is logical to expect that more religions, Gods, and required ways of life will be created in the future. In fact, it is wise to acknowledge the possibility of infinite types of Gods with infinite ideas of reward and punishment. The creation of theoretically an infinite number of religions makes it a terrible wager to bet on a sole religion. Although Christianity promises infinite reward in exchange for belief and the following of a set of rules, the concept of infinite possible Gods threatens an infinite number of punishments for believing in a false idea. For example, it may be the case that a future God will offer infinite reward but requires that one must never have believed in another God. Another possibility is the idea of a future God that rewards those who do not believe in false Gods. For example, one that does not believe in any religion or God would be opening themselves up to infinite possibilities of reward. When the possibility of all possible Gods existing is infinite, there is no benefit in choosing one.