Pragmatic Arguments for Theism

In John Greco, Tyler Dalton McNabb & Jonathan Fuqua (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Religious Epistemology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 70–82 (2023)
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Traditional theistic arguments conclude that God exists. Pragmatic theistic arguments, by contrast, conclude that you ought to believe in God. The two most famous pragmatic theistic arguments are put forth by Blaise Pascal (1662) and William James (1896). Pragmatic arguments for theism can be summarized as follows: believing in God has significant benefits, and these benefits aren’t available for the unbeliever. Thus, you should believe in, or ‘wager on’, God. This article distinguishes between various kinds of theistic wagers, including finite vs. infinite wagers, premortem vs. postmortem wagers, and doxastic vs. acceptance wagers. Then, we’ll turn to the epistemic-pragmatic distinction, and discusses the nuances of James’ argument, and how views like epistemic permissivism and epistemic consequentialism provide unique “hybrid” wagers. Finally, we’ll cover outstanding objections and responses.

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Elizabeth Jackson
Toronto Metropolitan University


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