Wise Acre's Wager

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by wise acre, May 8, 2009.

  1. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    Pascal's wager always struck me as odd. Nothing to lose in believing in God, danger if one doesn't, so why not believe. Well 1) I have trouble simply choosing beliefs logically 2) this might, I say might, work on some versions of God. Fairly shallow ones, sort of like hockey refs. But perhaps God is not like the Christians think, but rather abhors any even slightly tainted worship, let's nice atheists live in Heaven and the only people He casts into Hell are people who try to scam their way into Heaven.

    Wise Acre's Wager is a misnomer. It should be Wise Acre's Foray.

    Let's set aside the issue of God's existence.

    In regard to any belief X in forms of....

    _______________ is possible.

    _______________ exists.

    For any belief A....

    If A is false, then the potential believer thinks/feels that everything else is pointless/meaningless and loses interest in life.

    To me it makes sense to explore (foray into) X. This can begin with active suspension of disbelief. It could be via engaging in practices said to strengthen belief in X. It could be literal, physical explorations of objects or places associated with X. It could be trying to find intellectual ways of supporting X. It could be via increasing social connections with people who believe X. As some examples.

    I think this is rational REGARDLESS of what X is.
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    "Wise Acre's Foray"... hmmm.

    I don't agree with the conclusion.
    You assume that foraying into something is only beneficial in terms of strengthening one's belief, but it can do the exact opposite, and result in the person finding out that X is false... and the result being a loss of interest in life.

    Surely the risk of finding out X is false in such a situation as you describe would make not-foraying the most rational choice... e.g. why risk losing interest in life when you are happy in ignorance and belief.

    You have to pick box A or B.
    If you open the correct box you get confirmation that this was the right box to choose, if you open the wrong box you die.
    You make your pick.
    Now you are asked if you want to actually open the box or not.

    Do you want your choice opened?
    What is the rational choice?

    This is the dilemma you are providing with your "foray".
    The foray is the opening of the box... or at least the foray you propose could lead to the opening of the box.

    How far is one willing to really foray/investigage while not risking finding out they have picked wrong, and all the negative impacts that has?

    Unless by "foray" you mean merely to encircle yourself with a barrier to strengthen your ignorance without actually analysing the position - thus securing you from ever finding out the truth one way or another?

    Perhaps the more rational action in this case would be to understand why the falsity of the belief would have the impact it would on the individual, and to address the potential problems there.
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  5. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    But others would ask, where are the FACTS to support such claims. If all there are is a belief, speculation and philosophical viewpoints then there are few actual facts to bolster anyones thinking of what is real and what is only made up crap.
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  7. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    Good point. Not believing is also not bearable in this scenario. It is not that they believe in something that makes them happy. They aren't sure, or even believe whatever the consensus - most people - believes. But in believing this there is not point in life for them. Think Calvinist radical determinism or if everyone around them was blabbing on an on about self qualia and did not seem to mind not existing. So despite deep skepticism that free will exists or selves exist - I tried to pick a couple of unpleasant scenarios, one of which at least should be unpleasant to most readers - the person explores the belief via whatever methods are at hand. Unfortunately my two examples are very, very mental - having come out of the West's very refined, mental verbal processes - but still.

    I must say I find it almost ironic the kind of intellectual conservatism you are advocating. My proviso above is still my main response to this point. But Sarkus, this is the risk we are in, are we not, when we explore?

    No, I would use another metaphor for that. I am assuming that exploration would absolutely include new experiences - may sound like a redundant term, so assume I mean this term in a useful way.

    we don't know what beliefs are false or true - as you have implied elsewhere. In the situation this person finds him or herself in there is a dominant belief that seems justified.
  8. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    Facts?! You mean like the photos Colin Powell held up? Stuff like that?
  9. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    Well the photos were real but they weren't any weapons of mass destruction in them as he said there was. He LIED as did President Bush. We all were taken for a ride with those two lying bastards. There wasn't any way to verify if those photos were actually what they said they were either.

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  10. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Pascal's wager was always poorly defined, but very few people notice. It assumes that there is only one kind of god.

    What if there is another god who if you don't believe in him, punishes you, but for people who worship other gods his punishment is MORE?

    This way the downside of choosing the wrong god can be worse than just not believing, and that's how the wager should be set up.So the wgaer should have a 3 X 2 grid, the best option being choosing the correct god and the worse being worshiping the wrong god. Atheism would be in the middle, and a mathematican should play it safe choosing atheism....
  11. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    But they were treated as facts. Once we look closely at facts they become philosophical issues. (glad we agree about the specific example

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  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I can not think of a single real-life example where the risk of falsification of a belief is of such magnitude that we deem life worthless as a result.
    If that is the case then, as I suggested, there is most likely something more deep-seated at the root of the unhappiness than just the falsity of the previously held belief.

    So I would say that my "intellectual conservatism" is merely a rational conclusion to the artificial problem you propose - with the conclusion being as related to real life as the problem. I.e. not related.

    Can you really come up with an example that would have such an outcome unless there is some other issue(s) at play?

    It is true that some get a "kick" out of the very act of risking everything, and this adrenalin high is justification enough to take the risk.
    But all they're actually getting as a reward (other than the kick) is confirmation that they were correct in their belief that they could do it.
    However, the only examples I can find are where we take physical risks.
    Intellectual exploration as you propose?... I can't think of an example.

    Okay - so if the question is regarding belief X such that the foray can not reveal X to be false (i.e. an unfalsifiable belief) then this removes the risk, and the matter changes entirely, and I am not sure there is any more of a rational reason to make a foray into matters concerning belief X than there would be for foraying into ANY line of enquiry.

    But perhaps if you can posit a real-life example, I might better understand the points.
  13. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    The persistance of the self through time.
    Intimate loving relationships are possible.
    One's child died young and one is thinking about possible afterlife.

    As a few examples....

    And remember. These may not work for you, but you can probably accept that others might find life worthless if they could not believe in such things.

    Given what we can admit might be an accurate self-evaluation - iow they are correct, they would find life meaningless- pursuit is rational.

    this seems a not so conservative assumption about other minds.

    Well, it seemed like you were advocating an almost anti-scientific viewpoint. Admitedly their motives are different than scientists, but it ends up very similar in practice.
    I think my three examples above are very strong. I think humans present a much wider range of examples, which you and I might have more trouble sympathizing with, but would be forced to admit they are correct in their self-evaluation. Or at least find we must be agnostic in relation to it.
    they would by definition NOT be risking everything. Everything feels lost to them already. They would be seeking to rescue something or everything. To see if it might be, after all, true that things are OK.

    I am not sure if you understood the situation.

    The Calvinist who hangs out with Catholics to see if in fact he can have some control over his upcoming afterlife.

    A Calvinist is in fact risking nothing - I mean the strict determinist kind - since God has already determined his eternal fate.

    In the Calvinist example

    X = there is free will.

    In the persistant self example

    x = the self does persist through time

    In the person brought up in a community of rather extreme neuroscientist supervenientists

    x= the self is not a mere qualia but has some essence

  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Sure, a classical example are Romeo and Juliet - we can surmise they believed life made no sense without the loved one, so they killed themselves.

    People live like that every day too, some of them fully convinced that if their lover died / their business failed / they would get old or sick / this would mean the end of life for them.
    And some do commit suicide when the dreaded event happens.

    Some, however, do not - and wonder how come they didn't die when he/she died, how come they are still here even though their business failed or they got sick - when they were so sure they couldn't handle the business failing or getting sick.

    But this would mean that any X is possible or worth living for.
    And this is not true. The options in this Universe are not infinite.

    On a wider note, if the foray results in the re-evaluation of X, then of course any foray into X is rational.
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    What is it that matters:

    A. The person's own explanation of a situation.
    E.g.: 'I, Juliet, will die if I can't live with Romeo.'


    B. A third party's explanation of the situation.
    E.g.: 'Juliet was exaggerating the importance of romantic love in her life. The actual reason why she would die if she were to be without Romeo is that she couldn't pay the bills.'

  16. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    And in the West we can often judge such people as being irrational, seeing them as monads that could get new loved ones. Plenty of fish in the sea is an implicit philosophical position - relations are not internal to identity, they are external.

    I don't want to defend Juliet or attack her in this thread, but I am glad to have the example.

    Then X could only be one of those beliefs, regardless of which one.

    And can be if it doesn't, since my focus is on the choice to foray.

    I mean if I am locked in my bathroom and some killer is outside the room I will search for an ( or try to create an) escape/weapon even where I consider it unbelievably unlikely I will find one. Perhaps there is something I can do with a bar of soap even though he has a gun. I will certainly throw it at his face, whatever the odds.
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    It's not just about people like Juliet; some businessmen have committed suicide when their business failed - we can surmise they couldn't live without their business, and they also had no hope of building another business or get on with their lives in some other way.

    But to refer to objective reality:
    There is the principle that there are some things that we really can not live without, and if they disappear, we cannot live anymore, or find life worthless.
    People of course interpret this principle in various ways - and so there are Romeos and Juliets, the failed businessmen etc.
    But if there is such a thing as objective reality, a 'how things really are', then indeed there eventually are objective things that we cannot live without.
    One of such things (' ') being objective reality and absolute truth: if we would really find (or believe) that there is no such thing as objective reality and absolute truth, we would see no point to life anymore.

    The way I understand this, is that it implies Panic and fear (and the resulting irrationality and paralysis) are not the best ways to act, there are better ways.

    What bothers me the most with Pascal's Wager is the implied fideism, the implied Panic and fear (and the resulting irrationality and paralysis) are the best ways to act, there are no better ways.

    Accepting Pascal's Wager makes you live in fear, and perpetuates it, actually. Because Pascal's Wager is a gamble, and humans can never be really happy when they gamble.

    Moreover, Pascal's Wager implies that there is no way to rationally know God, and that one either blindly accepts the doctrine and worship as presented by a version of Christianity, or nothing. So basically if you accept Pascal's Wager, you actually believe you are stupid and that God is stupid. Which is not a healthy position to be in. Kierkegaardian dignification has no dignity in it.

    A foray, on the other hand, suggests that things can be known, including that God can be known, and that neither we, nor God are stupid.
  18. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Some of these proposals assume continuing life is best which is subjective opinion not objective fact.

    People are stupid & inept. Humans are stumbling about in the dark.
    It's great to have discussions & to attempt to figure what the heck is going on & why but all anyone can do is their best. Any god would be stupid and/or insane to hold humans eternally responsible any more than I'd hold a retarded 6 yo responsible after putting him at the wheel of a car & giving him a gun.
  19. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Perhaps the main problem with Pascal's wager is that it presupposes an evil god.

    A good god will not punish you just because you guessed wrong.
  20. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Christianity proposes an evil god. What god religion doesn't?
  21. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    I agree. And a savvy one would hardly be impressed by gamblers. Imagine someone making romantic overtures to you along such wager lines.
  22. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    I was not using the example as a overriding metaphor for the rationality, but as an example of how it can be rational to look where the answer might be. It does not have to be carried out in fear and panic.

    However unlikely it is that the crow might have taken my keys to her nest, I may as well look there if the option is spending a lot of money to get my locks changed, and the little walk to the grove will be pleasant.

    a foray implies that experiences can possibly be different. Also I am broadening the topic. My wager is not at all necessarily about God. In fact it is not a wager, but I wanted to bridge from Pascal.

    I could have called it Wise Acre's Rational Option.
  23. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    Dear Posters: I notice people gravitating to the God issue, understandibly given my reworking Pascal's Wager, but that is not my focus.

    Any belief that seems distant or unlikely given one's background and cultural assumptions, etc.

    is on the table.

    It could seem foolish to try accupuncture but if one has tried all allopathic modalities to relieve the agony of rheumatism to no avail..........or they all make you drowsy and you feel life is not worth living.....

    You could sit around explaining to yourself that chinese medicine is riddled with metaphysical mumbo jumbo

    or you could explore

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