Philosopher Blaise

September 4, 2010 by Post Team 

Philosopher Blaise, Almost all rational decisions we make in life is one based on what I assume is the expected result. We make our choices to maximize our gains and minimize our losses, while trying to push our expected value of each specific outcome. To better understand this process, it could be useful to examine the decision-making process of a hypothetical example.

Suppose you just finished eating his favorite treat, a chocolate brownie, when you realize you have nothing to drink. I’ve realized the situation and graciously offered a glass of milk, but caution that I had put arsenic in drinking. Although we are known only you know the following information about me: I’m psychotic, I have access to arsenic, and tell me the truth 67 percent of the time. While you are very thirsty, and the temptation to drink milk, you are not ready to die yet. What should you do?

To determine the most rational, you have to determine the expected value for each outcome. The expected value (EV) is the probability of an outcome multiplied by the payment less the costs of that choice: EV = (probability x Payment) – Cost.

Based on my propensity to make honest declarations, you assume the probability of poisoned milk by 67 percent. The reward-to the benefit of drinking milk is a little harder to determine. Suppose you earn no pleasure in life than eating brownies and washing down with milk. We can measure this pleasure in units of brownies and milk (BM) and use that as our base for a reward. The glass of milk consumption will be given a BM of pleasure while the cost would result if the milk were poisoned.

For this example we will pretend that you are a man of 50 who enjoys this snack once a day. On the basis of a life expectancy of 72 years, can expect to have 8030 evacuation of pleasure in life (22 years x 365 days x 1 MB). Connected to this formula we obtain the following two results:

Assuming that the milk is poisoned “(67 percent x 1BM) – 8030 = BM – 8029.33

Assuming that the milk is not poisoned (33 percent x 1BM) – 0BM = 33

Since the cost of drinking the milk is much greater than any pleasure you can receive, the rational choice would be to avoid milk (and to stay as far away from me as possible).

There is, however, a 33 percent chance that the milk is not poisoned. In the short term you may get lucky and beat the odds and received a BM from the pleasure of drinking. But if the example is repeated you would, more often than not end up with severe stomach pain before falling dead. A rational player, therefore, always refuse the milk.

The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal claimed that we are making a similar bet when it comes to God. By the way we live our lives that are either betting that there is a God or there is not. Since there are no third options, we either take the decision, either by omission or ignorance of the rational choice.

However, Pascal also believes that there is overwhelming evidence that can eliminate any doubt about which option we choose. Practical reason may help us determine which is more probable, but ultimately may decide the matter one way or another. What we can do, according to Pascal, is making a rational bet.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume (as Pascal does) that the evidence leads us to choose between Christian theism and atheism. * Each choice will lead to different expected values based on single payments and costs.

In order to determine the costs, let’s make the distinction as clear as possible for our rational player to bring a cruel dictator to force him to make his choice. The tyrant not only forces the player to bet but vows that if you select will be immediately martyred Christianity. If bets on atheism, however, will have a life of comfort and pleasure, a daily ration of milk and brownies.

To quantify this election, we will assume that a unit of pleasure (again BM) is obtained for each day of the life lived. If the sound player 50 years old, chooses Christianity, which lost 8030 units of pleasure. By contrast, choosing atheism, incur any cost. The cost part of the equation can be framed as C = 8030 evacuations and A BM = 0.

But what about the reward? What rational player wins if his bet on Christianity turns out to be correct? While we cannot know all the details, we know that belief entails the promise of eternal life and eternal joy. However we choose to quantify this benefit, the benefit would be infinite. Payment atheist finite limit to the benefits you would receive in the rest of his life, a figure estimated in 8030 evacuations.

Now let’s plug these numbers into our formula for determining the expected value of each option.

Christianity (50 percent x Infinite) – BM 8030 = Infinite evacuations
Atheism (50 percent x 8030 MB) – 0 = 4015 BM BM

Obviously, the rational player would be prudent to count on Christianity. In fact, even if we were to reduce the probability of Christian theism being true to 0.000001 percent, he would still finish with a better expected value than you would betting on atheism.

Pascal’s argument differs from my example in many respects, but the point remains the same: practical reason should lead us to act as if Christian theism is true. But we cannot act as if something were true that do not really believe, right? Pascal objector responded to his rhetoric:

“Yes, but I have my hands tied and his mouth shut, I am compelled to bet, and I am not free. I am not free, and I am so I cannot believe. So what can I do? ”

True. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet not be believed. Endeavour, then, to convince, not the increased testing of God, but by reducing their passions. Would you like to achieve the faith and do not know the way, you want to be cured of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. Learn from those who have been bound like you, and who now wager all their belongings. These are people who know the way I should follow, and that was cured of a disease is cured. Follow the road where they started, by acting as if they believed, taking holy water, with masses, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness. “But this is what scares me.” Why? What have you got to lose?

This argument is unlikely to convince someone who is already convinced that atheism is true. For those who have rejected or refused to objectively examine the evidence for Christian theism, living as if the belief were true simply to test its accuracy is not an attractive option. Pascal, who believed, like me, that the passions rather than reason were the root of all negation of God, most likely is aware of this when he proposed the bet. The strength of the argument, however, lies in its ability to convince, but when it is removed. Pascal’s wager essentially removes any appeal to the practical reason that the agnostic or atheist hedonist would have been tempted to fall back and shows that when forced to make bets rational discourse about God, they can choose who is doing the irrational choice.

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