Pascal’s Wager and Decision-making with Imprecise Probabilities

Philosophia:1-30 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Unlike other classical arguments for the existence of God, Pascal’s Wager provides a pragmatic rationale for theistic belief. Its most popular version says that it is rationally mandatory to choose a way of life that seeks to cultivate belief in God because this is the option of maximum expected utility. Despite its initial attractiveness, this long-standing argument has been subject to various criticisms by many philosophers. What is less discussed, however, is the rationality of this choice in situations where the decision-makers are confronted with greater uncertainty. In this paper, I examine the imprecise version of Pascal’s Wager: those scenarios where an agent’s credence that God exists is imprecise or vague rather than precise. After introducing some technical background on imprecise probabilities, I apply five different principles for decision-making to two cases of state uncertainty. In the final part of the paper, I argue that it is not rationally permitted to include zero as the lower probability of God’s existence. Although the conditions for what makes an act uniquely optimal vary significantly across those principles, I also show how the option of wagering for God can defeat any mixed strategy under two distinct interpretations of salvation.

Author's Profile

André Neiva
Federal University of Alagoas

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