Amanda Askell on “Pascal’s Wager and other low risks with high stakes” | Rationally Speaking

You’ve probably heard of Pascal’s Wager: That it’s rational to believe in God, because if you’re wrong it’s no big deal, but if you’re right then the payoff is huge. This episode features philosopher Amanda Askell, who (though not religious herself) argues that it’s much trickier to rebut Pascal’s Wager than most people think. Amanda and Julia also discuss how to handle other decisions where a risk has very low probability but would matter a lot if it came true — should you round them down to zero? Does it matter how measurable the risk is? And should you take into account the chance you’re being scammed?

Amanda Askell on “Pascal’s Wager and other low risks with high stakes” | Rationally Speaking

Pascal’s Wager – Wikipedia

Pascal’s Wager is an argument in philosophy devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62). It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

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Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).

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 section 233 of Pascal’s posthumously published Pensées (“Thoughts”). These previously unpublished notes were assembled to form an incomplete treatise on Christian apologetics.

Historically, Pascal’s Wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated future philosophies such as existentialism, pragmatism and voluntarism.

Pascal’s Wager – Wikipedia