Blaise Pascal is a well-known French mathematician and philosopher who lived between 1623-1662. During Pascal’s short 39 years of life on this blue marble created many timeless arguments and works that are still discussed to this very day. One of these is the collection of writings published shortly after his death titled the Pensees. In this collection of writings one of his more famous arguments is framed out. This argument is normally labeled as “Pascal’s Wager”. During this argument he explains why any rational being should believe in God, even though said rational being does not have sufficient evidence. Pascal argues that due to the available choices and following consequences the rational being is forced logically to believe in God. The following is an explanation and critical evaluation of this philosophically important argument.
One of the first issues that Pascal wants to make sure is covered is that his argument is not for the existence of God, but instead it is intended to argue that it is more logically sound to believe in the God, than to deny his existence. This is shown by Pascal’s statement; “But to which side shall we incline. Reason can decide nothing here (104).” This shows as previously stated Pascal is not trying to argue for God’s existence, but continues to argue for why it is more logically sound to believe than to not believe. Pascal gives reasons that it is impossible for any finite being to truly comprehend a being such as God, and that we as finite beings can never truly give a conclusive answer to if God exists.
Another issue that Pascal takes time to address is the difference between the choices of does God exist and believing in God. The argument for if God exists allows for three choices. The first is the theistic view to believe in the existence of God. The second is the atheistic view that dictates that God does not exist and thus the atheist does not believe in God. The last and increasingly popular view during Pascal’s time is the agnostic view, which was to suspend belief until sufficient evidence is found to make a true decision. This follows a more skeptical approach as many during Pascal’s time believed that it was a fatal flaw to make any choice or judgment without first having the proper evidence. This leads to Pascal’s proposition that believing in God only truly allows for two choices. To Pascal the agnostic and atheistic views are in the end equally the same, both in the end are denying their belief in God and thus wagering on the probability that God does not exist. He makes this clear by stating “ Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional (104).” This again shows that Pascal believes there are only two choices, to believe or not believe, and that suspending belief is still making a decision to not believe.
The next step in Pascal’s argument is to argue as to why it is more logically sound or rational to believe in God than to deny his existence. This is mainly in Pascal’s view due to the end...