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Pascal the Ignored Philosopher by Herb Spencer

3 months 10 minutes ago #790 by dorina
Ironically, mathematics (especially Geometry) was originally thought to be the best exemplar of ideal
philosophy, especially Plato’s unchanging (timeless) ‘Forms’. Pascal annoyed both the philosophers and
many mathematicians by turning his powerful intellect on mathematics itself with his preface to his textbook
on geometry that while acknowledging that the axiomatic method used in Euclid’s geometry might be as
perfect as possible but there was no way to confirm that the axioms themselves were true. He claimed that
the definitions that rely on everyone’s intuition (like the perfect circle) again had no natural examples so
could only be used ‘by agreement’ (i.e. abstract Cartesian formalisms), so that those people who wished for
certainty in mathematics will have to turn to God for their eradication of uncertainty.

PASCAL’s WAGER
Since Pascal realized he could not construct a logical proof of God’s existence, he turned to his recent study
of probability; the result is known as Pascal’s Wager (or bet). A prudent gambler, seeing the odds, should
place their bet on the religious possibility because of the size of the Win. If God does exist then living an
unbeliever’s life could be eternally damnable but if God does not exist, then it really does not matter what
one does. Not to bet on God’s existence is itself a bet on God’s non-existence but it stops one from really
benefitting if there is a God. Pascal was well aware that betting on the option with the best expected reward
does not make one a religious person. Since God should be aware of one’s private motivations then making
such a bet would be unconvincing, like the traditional argument for faith, not good deeds. Even the religious
option is confused when one is faced picking one: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or one of thousand Christian
sects.

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