Wise Acre's Wager

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

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I think the world is sufficient evidence of which POV works. One is a dead end, the other leads to further questions.

    The ones who proclaim most loudly on behalf of intelligent thought are the ones most likely to work towards extinguishing it.
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Excellent points!
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I suspect there might be a misunderstanding here ...?

    I think accepting Pascal's Wager is an act of fear and panic; a foray isn't.


    The topic becomes most poignant when about God, though - as then, it deals with issues of eternity.

    The one good thing I see about Pascal's Wager is that it formally proposes that accepting something, even without evidence, even in fear, might be a good course of action. Like the willingness to err or the side of caution.
    Perhaps this is your bridging point?
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  7. wise acre Registered Senior Member


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    In a sense I agree. Though frankly I can only imagine a rather emotionless person carrying it off. Or thinking they had, at least. I can see one trying out of fear.

    Only in the sense that at that starting point one does not have evidence or what one thinks is sufficient. Which to me is significantly different. I am not suggesting that one should take on a belief solely because it makes life tenable - primarily because I, at least, have trouble doing that. But I am suggesting that beginning a foray towards a belief that at the start one has no evidence supporting (and away from one that one thinks one does have evidence supporting) can be rational.

    In fact in my earlier example perhaps the Calvinist will 'walk past' a Catholic who is exploring Calvinism since this, due to its determinism, may offer respite from endless guilt. (I am not saying this is what they will find, but it seems rational to explore.)

    So these explorations need not be done out of panic, though I am not ruling that out for some cases. People might begin exploring with a sense of hopelessness and futility. Or perhaps with some hope (based on intuition or something else. Perhaps even a mild curiosity amidst their suffering)
  8. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    My POV, at least in the restricted area of the OP focus, is that moving away, for example from theism - since that is my guess about what you are referring to - AND moving toward theism could both be rational choices for people suffering or displeased with where they currently are.
  9. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    I think the world is sufficient evidence of which POV works. God belief is a dead end, the other leads to further questions.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But on the other hand, Pascal's Wager is from a time when people probably perceived the relationship between emotions and ethics differently than we do today.
    There is an interesting thread here: The end of philosophy.

    Perhaps Pascal's Wager back then didn't fill people with the aversion it does (some of us) today.
    A foray also requires that we keep our emotions in check, don't let ourselves be ruled by them - because if we do let them rule, the foray probably won't be successful.

    Our perception of what makes life tenable can also change, in light of the proposed belief, though.
    'If I believed and did that, then life would be tenable' - and then the person accepts the belief and acts accordingly, and their perception of life may change drastically, to the point that they can not relate to their previous way of life.

    Parents, for example, have no evidence that it is worth to invest in their child; there is no evidence that the child will grow up to be a successful person. Still, some parents do invest in their children.

    Actually, the fear and panic I am referring to: Like when a person, who is in some difficult life situation, accepts a belief system, and then rigidly, mechanically sticks to it, feels obligated to it, does not explore it, only 'endures to the end' - 'There is nothing new to learn about the meaning of life, I know all there is to know, this is it, now I just need to stick with it. There is never going to be any change in the way I view the meaning of my life, there cannot be such a change.'

    Fear and panic say: 'Do this, don't think, there is no better way!'
    And there are belief systems which to a greater or lesser degree also settle for a 'Do this, don't think, there is no better way!' - and this can propagate the fear and the panic.
  11. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    I'd guess you are probably right. I would add time and subculture. The intellectual European classes might have found the wager appealing. I wonder if it would have seemed off to other classes and groups in Europe.

    This seems to assume that if they are not 'in check' then they rule us. This hasn't been my experience. I have also seen the opposite, that when they are 'in check' then they rule from the shadows.


    Yes, a thoroughly empiricist approach to living in untenable.
    Ah, OK. Yes, I know this well from inside and outside. It is so frightening: if that one little piece is wrong then I must go through the whole thing. So one will suddenly have tremendous responsibility - which I would argue one has anyway, though I know it can not feel like it. And it can also feel like being thrown out of the life boat.

    And thanks for wording it that way.

    I just realized something that feels great as an insight - at this moment - :

    People are often in a Pascal's Wager state without realizing it.

    They so desperately need - or think they need - to believe what they, at least officially believe - that they cannot really look at it.

    In this sense their belief is cynical - not in attitude but in justification, though they may have official justifications that seem more moral, logical, etc.

    I find this interesting because I think of pascal's wager as primarily an idea that no one actually lives, but it seems, to me at this moment, that it is in fact common, but not openly. Even the wagerer keeps him or herself in the dark about it.

    And then the set of beliefs about which we relate to ourselves with this violent pedagogy.
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    There is no doubt that emotions run shallow, and deep.
    My point was that when in the midst of anger or deep sadness, the quality of rational thought will likely be handicapped - so it is sometimes best to let the anger or sadness settle before venturing into making important decisions.

    Absolutely. Because if they wouldn't invest, then it would be quite sure that the child wouldn't succeed. There is no guarantee of success even if we invest effort; but there is quite a guranatee of failure if we don't invest. Obviously.
    Btw, this is part of Pascal's Wager as well - no pain no gain.

    As mentioned above, there is the practical no pain no gain aspect to Pascal's Wager.

    Yes, yes. In plain terms, such keeping oneself in the dark can be called 'having faith and taking a risk'. We simply don't know in advance what will happen, we don't know if there are better ways to do what we want to do, we have all sorts of philosophical and practical issues that we cannot resolve. That is all part and parcel of not being omniscient, and it pains us.

    Sure. Not being omniscient is a real problem for us. Probably the sooner we admit it (and I mean really acknowledge it, not just say 'we aren't omniscient because it sounds really absurd to presume we are'), the better our options to avoid mistakes born out of a non-omniscient entity presuming omniscience.
  13. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    Context reactions made into permanent decisions and outlooks...so to speak.

    that seemed like a couple of jumps to me. My main idea is if we waited around to satisfy most philosophies' ideas of justification - and certainly empiricism's - we wouldn't last more than a few months.

    But in the case I meant it is more that the wager prevents pain, perhaps to the detriment of the believer. It might provide a short term gain, but after tremendous maintenance work and a panic based belief defense system.

    To me it seems there is a big difference between

    1) I don't know and in fact it seems rather unlikely, but I am curious and if it worked out to be true it might be great
    2) (unconsciously grabbing) Yes, yes, this is true. It must be true of course. Whew.
  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Sure. People do such things all the time.

    What did I skip?

    Sure. Would you say that Pascal's Wager is a way to avoid satisfying those ideas of justification?

    The Wager is fideist in its outlook. To some people, fideism is impossible to bear; some have no problem with it.

    Do you know anyone who actually makes this distinction?

    I think no. 1 is what we tend to say, how we tend to talk about something to others (to maintain a particular self-image).
    No. 2 is what actually goes on in us.

    Or perhaps there are people who are so much beyond anxiety, who are so creatively free and without worldly concerns that they set on a course of exploring new ideas without a tinge of existential angst. I am not one of those people.
  15. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    Maybe nothing, I just got couldn't see how you arrived where you did.

    I would say Pascal's Wager presumes that ideas do not need to cohere with other ideas in a particular person. As if they were chunks of asteroid floating in space, rather than enzymes (or viruses) inside our cytoplasm.

    Sure, I do. I can also, not all the time, notice when I am doing the latter pattern, but pretending I am not. If I notice, it doesn't 'work'.
    Well, number 1 can also be a rejection. One can say, interesting, but not interesting enough. I even shared some writings with a friend once and she said 'I can tell there is truth to this, but I also feel like it is too much for me now*
    I'll bet it depends on the idea, at least to some degree. But 'without a tinge of existential angst' is different from a full blown panic conversion experience.

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