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Old 25th December 2020, 06:46 AM   #41
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by suren View Post
Hmm, but that also means that if you kill an unrepentant person you send him to hell in some sense.
Yes, that thought did occur to, say, the inquisition too. That's why they went on about purifying someone's soul when they were burning them at the stake for being unrepentant. Also, why you're allowed to give someone absolution when their death is imminent (e.g., because you're about to execute them) whether they repent or not.

So essentially, if you're ordained by the RCC, you could be a pretty righteous serial killer.
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Old 25th December 2020, 06:48 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Err, they're different fallacies.


Appeal to consequences is basically, X must be true true, because if X then Y, and we really really want to believe Y. So X must be true.

Or conversely, X must be false, because if X then Y, and we really really don't want Y. So X is false.

Example: "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Cor 15:17) Continued in the next paragraph, with the positive alternative, a long winded version of then you too can get eternal life. And you surely want to. Therefore he did rise.

But really, the fallacy is pretty much "X must be true, because we really like the consequences of X".


Argumentum ad baculum is not about the consequence of X per se, but about the consequences of your disagreeing about X. E.g., if you disagree that communism is the best system, well, the NKVD knows where you live, comrade.

More mild examples are basically various attempts at browbeating that you can see dumbasses do on the web when they can't support their case. Typically some form of "if you disagree, here's what bad things 'we' will think about you." (And imagine the 'we' in conspicuous air quotes, because usually it's only in the mind of that idiot trying to do that browbeating.)


Anyway, in the context of Pascal's Wager, it doesn't work as an appeal to consequences. In the context of religion, the proposition X would be "God is real". And an appeal to consequences must appeal to a consequence of X. So basically an appeal to consequences would be something like "if there is a God, then <insert good stuff>" or conversely "if there's no God, then insert <bad stuff>".

But when the consequence is going to heaven or hell, well, that doesn't really work on an atheist, does it? I mean, if God and eternal life are false, the consequence is that then you're obviously not going to hell, so that's not much of a consequence to dislike. You already knew you're not making any post-mortem travel plans, right?

What it does work as is an argumentum ad baculum. There the threat is not as a consequence of X, but of your disagreeing about X. Which is to say, not believing that God is real.

What does Pascal basically say? "If you disagree that God is real, then you might go to hell". Yep, that's a threat for disagreeing all right.


Ah, riight! Thanks for the correction, and the detailed explanation!



What I'd done is fired up google, and simply glanced through the Wiki article that happened to pop out on top -- this one -- that says, in so many words, that: "One participates in argumentum ad baculum when one points out the negative consequences of holding the contrary position (ex. believe what I say, or I will hit you). It is a specific case of the negative form of an argument to the consequences."

But of course, a slightly more detailed look-up -- here, for instance, and here, and here as well -- bear out perfectly what you've said in your post.

Which makes sense, given that baculum is the latin for stick. (I had to look it up. --- And, as an aside, while that is what baculum meant/means in Latin, that word (baculum) has a very different, and surprising, meaning in English today!)

So anyway, getting back to Argumentum ad Baculum. Clearly Pascal's Wager is exactly that. And, what's more, the Wager appears flawed on not one but two counts! First, the conflation of truth value of the proposition with what we may think of as policy. But also, that baculum, that stick, is itself illusory, is itself fallacious, in as much as it disappears into nothingness when you question the proposition itself (a kind of elaborate, roundabout begging-the-question).

Cool. So that's two new fallacies discussed and learnt about, for the price of one!
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Old 25th December 2020, 07:33 AM   #43
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Oh, it's flawed six ways to Sunday. As someone else said already, when even The Simpsons can poke a hole in your argument, you know it doesn't really hold any water.
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Old 25th December 2020, 07:44 AM   #44
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As an unrelated tangent, the few LITERAL, if implied, cases of "believe what I say or I'll literally hit you with a stick" were involved on the Japanese side in WW2, among other places before Midway and even Pear Harbour. A few officers insisted on wargaming the worst case scenario too, e.g., what if the element of surprise is lost. (Which didn't happen at Pearl even after the Americans both discovered the midget subs AND saw the incoming planes on radar for ages, but you can see how they COULD have reacted differently. I.e., it was a valid concern and reason for those officers to be wargaming that scenario too.) Yamamoto invariably ORDERED them to only wargame the best case scenario. And in addition to stuff like being demoted, in the Japanese army or navy you could literally get beaten with a stick if you disobeyed orders.
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Old 25th December 2020, 08:17 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Oh, it's flawed six ways to Sunday. As someone else said already, when even The Simpsons can poke a hole in your argument, you know it doesn't really hold any water.

Sure it's flawed every which way, like you said, but what I'd meant was this: As those articles on argumentum ad baculum that I'd linked to make clear, that stick thing, the ad baculum part, is a logical fallacy only if there's an argumentum tagged on to it. Seen simply as policy, it may or may not be fallacious (at either end of the stick), but logical fallacy it isn't. For example, when the terrorist -- to hark back to Joe Morgue's example upthread -- says, "Pay me, or turn this aircraft around, or I'll blow you up", then at either end of the stick, from either the terrorist's POV or the victim's POV, doing that may or may not be fallacious as policy, but there's no argumentum ad baculum involved, right? Because there's no argumentum at all?

Like I was saying in my first post on this thread, the only reasonable formulation of Pascal Wager's would read "Is it reasonable to pretend to believe, is it reasonable as if you believe, in God?"

But hey, even as policy impetus, even as gun held to head or bomb held aloft, this one's a dud! Not only is Pascal's Wager a fallacious argumentum ad baculum, even if you see it simply as an ad baculum thing, with no argumentum involved at all, even then it has no leg to stand on!
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Old 25th December 2020, 09:54 AM   #46
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It's been pointed out in here already that the fact that many religionists resort to Pascal's Wager in a debate does not mean that's really what it boils down to for them; they could think it's what it might boil down to for us, or they could be out of better ideas when everything else they tried first got shot down, et cetera.

But the really interesting, and indirectly revealing, thing about Pascal's Wager is who its target audience is, who it's really meant for and expected to work on. It might seem at first that it can't be for people who don't believe in the gods because they wouldn't believe in the threat... and that it also can't be for people who do because they wouldn't need to be convinced, by threats or any other means... and that would eliminate everybody. In other words, it can really only be meant for somebody who believes the threat but not the gods, which seems like a contradiction.

But, when one has had a change in beliefs, or is currently in a state of doubt and possible thus eventual change of beliefs, it is possible for strong feelings associated with the old beliefs to linger even after the stimulus of those feelings is no longer believed. For example, a child-abuse victim can escape from his/her abusive parents and understand perfectly well that his/her parents are not a danger anymore, but still experience fear whenever reminded of them. Or a person who was raised to be racist and later decided that that's wrong can still experience unwelcome disdain for a moment when they see a member of the target race behaving in a stereotypical manner that would have previously been taken as a sign of what's wrong with them. Or someone who fell in love can come to realize some dire problems with the other person that mean (s)he really should get away, but still feel compelled to stay and come up with excuses about how that person is really better than (s)he seems. Or an addict (including to food) can understand the harm that's being caused by the addiction but still want more of what (s)he's addicted to anyway.

Once the unwelcome feelings that don't represent your actual beliefs bubble up again, you might be able to mentally tamp them down, or at least choose not to act on them, by reminding yourself that they don't make sense and aren't what you really think, but that doesn't equal being able to make them stop bubbling up at all in the first place.

So the kind of person whom Pascal's Wager depends on can exist: somebody who believed in the gods and their threats before, but isn't convinced anymore (or is convinced the other way), but hasn't managed to get the automatic fear response to quit coming back.

So, why does religion keep teaching its followers to use an argument that's narrowly designed to address such a specific state of mind, which the person they use it on might not be in? The answer is: it's not meant to bring outsiders in; it's meant to block insiders from straying out. The latter is something they routinely but secretly either experience themselves or see in others around them in their religious communities, and are frequently reminded by their fellow religionists to always be watching out for, so they might not even have any concept that the former (people who not only don't believe in the gods but also don't buy the threats either) can be a real thing.
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Old 25th December 2020, 10:38 AM   #47
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
To a first approximation, death could come at any time, from any direction, and the matter of his repentance and final destination is a matter of his own choices. You're not the guardian of his soul; he is.
Yeah some deaths are unexpected, but some deaths are are more predictable, like some progressive disease in old age. However, most deaths seems not to be selective with respect to the person's repentance status. But theoretically a person might be intentionally killed by someone who knows that this person is evil in his heart (most likely) at that stage of his life. So there is still a problem of someone's free will affecting other people's eternal destiny.

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Old 25th December 2020, 10:48 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by suren View Post
Yeah some deaths are unexpected, but some deaths are are more predictable, like some progressive disease in old age. However, most deaths seems not to be selective with respect to the person's repentance status. But theoretically a person might be intentionally killed by someone who knows that this person is evil in his heart (most likely) at that stage of his life. So there is still a problem of someone's free will affecting other people's eternal destiny.
Only if you believe in "free will" and/or "destiny".
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Old 25th December 2020, 10:52 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Only if you believe in "free will" and/or "destiny".
Reductio ad absurdum
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Old 25th December 2020, 12:28 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
So, why does religion keep teaching its followers to use an argument that's narrowly designed to address such a specific state of mind, which the person they use it on might not be in? The answer is: it's not meant to bring outsiders in; it's meant to block insiders from straying out.
Hmm, true, that does make a hell of a lot more sense.
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Old 25th December 2020, 01:40 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by JM85 View Post
It really all comes down to this, doesn't it? They do know they could be wrong it seems, but they never say it, and are just hedging their bets. It can never be about an actual experience they had, or some groundbreaking historical evidence that what the bible said is "The Truth."
But Pascal's Wager is a powerful motivator. It even hooks me in sometimes, and my agnostic mind goes "oh, well..they have got a point there. there's a possibility they're right, even though it's a very slim one."
(Full disclosure: I'm a theist.) There is Pascal's Wager, and then there is Pascal's "Pascal's Wager". Most people who argue for and against the Wager are using a very simplified and strawmannish version. I strongly recommend reading Pascal's "Pensees" where he lays out his wager, which spans over pages. ("Pensees" is actually a collection of his writings, many of them being fragments that are akin to Tweets.) You can read it in full here:
http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Book...%20Pensees.pdf

Pascal points out that the Wager is about more than just belief, but happiness:
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. (Page 39)
Pascal concludes that the Wager is more than just about getting a reward in the afterlife, but has real-world implications also:
Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognise that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing. (Page 40)
I find that brilliant and convincing. If you have options A and B and there is nothing to decide between them, and option A will make you happy and option B won't, and you lose nothing by not choosing option B, then the practical decision is for option A.

Last edited by GDon; 25th December 2020 at 01:56 PM.
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Old 25th December 2020, 01:57 PM   #52
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You've read this longer version, right? So how's it different? That excerpt seems the same, except for the details.

1) Even if all of those virtues were to follow, that still doesn't make this true. That consequence-fallacy thing still holds, whether the consequence be otherworldly or this-worldly.

2) So in the longer version, is Pascal presenting it not as a reason to believe, but merely to act as if you believe?

Even if the latter, and even if based on all those virtues you enumerate, you still need to show that (a) Belief, or pretense thereof, results in those things; and also, (b) Non-belief (as well as non/pretense, that is full-on atheism) makes those virtues impossible, or at least difficult.

Does he show that? If not, I don't see how it is "brilliant", as opposed to cock-eyed.

3) Finally, which God? Will belief in Allah do? In Baal? In Indra? Are you saying Pascal was merely advocating theism, without specifying which specific theos?
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Old 25th December 2020, 01:59 PM   #53
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It would be, if it weren't demonstrably a bunch of falsehoods strung up together.

Just adding more BS to it doesn't make it better. It's not the mechanics, where BS is cancelled by equal and opposite BS. Just adding more BS to it just makes it a bigger pile of BS.

And sad to say, that's what Pascal does there.
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Old 25th December 2020, 02:46 PM   #54
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The big and obvious flaw in the Pascal wager, and indeed in Christian belief, is the need to not only believe in God but to love him also. Strange that nobody seems to give this much thought.

Can you force yourself to love somebody or some deity. Being uncertain about the existence of said deity, would make it even harder to generate love surely. I wonder about the certainty felt by the faithful in their salvation.
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Old 25th December 2020, 06:44 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
(Full disclosure: I'm a theist.) There is Pascal's Wager, and then there is Pascal's "Pascal's Wager". Most people who argue for and against the Wager are using a very simplified and strawmannish version. I strongly recommend reading Pascal's "Pensees" where he lays out his wager, which spans over pages. ("Pensees" is actually a collection of his writings, many of them being fragments that are akin to Tweets.) You can read it in full here:
http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Book...%20Pensees.pdf

Pascal points out that the Wager is about more than just belief, but happiness:
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. (Page 39)
Pascal concludes that the Wager is more than just about getting a reward in the afterlife, but has real-world implications also:
Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognise that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing. (Page 40)
I find that brilliant and convincing. If you have options A and B and there is nothing to decide between them, and option A will make you happy and option B won't, and you lose nothing by not choosing option B, then the practical decision is for option A.
And exactly how does this differ from Pascal's Wager Light Version? I just checked my sig to see if it was still on. Yup.
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Old 25th December 2020, 07:35 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
You've read this longer version, right? So how's it different? That excerpt seems the same, except for the details.
Depends on what is being argued. If the argument against Pascal's Wager is "Which God? Allah? Baal?" then that goes towards the strawman version, since the Wager isn't about that.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
1) Even if all of those virtues were to follow, that still doesn't make this true. That consequence-fallacy thing still holds, whether the consequence be otherworldly or this-worldly.
You're right, if you mean the Wager is about "therefore God exists". It has nothing to do with showing that God exists.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
2) So in the longer version, is Pascal presenting it not as a reason to believe, but merely to act as if you believe?
More like: "act as if God exists".

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Even if the latter, and even if based on all those virtues you enumerate, you still need to show that (a) Belief, or pretense thereof, results in those things; and also, (b) Non-belief (as well as non/pretense, that is full-on atheism) makes those virtues impossible, or at least difficult.
I agree. But that's something we could collect data on. For me personally: I was an atheist for the first 30 years of my life, and I've been a theist for the second 30 years of my life. I can compare the two: I was a good person as an atheist, and I'm not a better person as a theist. But acting as though "God exists" has helped to ground my life better. So I can appreciate Pascal's argument.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
3) Finally, which God? Will belief in Allah do? In Baal? In Indra? Are you saying Pascal was merely advocating theism, without specifying which specific theos?
He was proposing acting as though God exists in a general sense, though the God has the characteristics of the philosopher's Christian God. (Elsewhere in his writings he goes through the various religions of his time, and determines that Christianity is the best of them. Still, the Wager works for any of the gods sharing the characteristics of the god used in Pascal's Wager.)

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Old 25th December 2020, 07:41 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Quote:
If you have options A and B and there is nothing to decide between them, and option A will make you happy and option B won't, and you lose nothing by not choosing option B, then the practical decision is for option A.
And exactly how does this differ from Pascal's Wager Light Version?
The strawman version proponent will argue: "Well, what if there is an option C? Therefore your argument about A and B is wrong."
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Old 25th December 2020, 09:08 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
The big and obvious flaw in the Pascal wager, and indeed in Christian belief, is the need to not only believe in God but to love him also. Strange that nobody seems to give this much thought.
Define 'love'.

Quote:
Can you force yourself to love somebody or some deity.
Yes. For proof, just look at all the Republicans who forced themselves to love Trump.

Quote:
Being uncertain about the existence of said deity, would make it even harder to generate love surely.
Existence is not required. It is easier to love a fantasy than reality.

Quote:
I wonder about the certainty felt by the faithful in their salvation.
That's where organized religion comes in. It's easier to be certain about something when everybody else is too (or appears to be).
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Old 26th December 2020, 02:45 AM   #59
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Well, OK, let's dive into the pile of festering BS that supposedly saves Pascal's Wager... except not really.

Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. (Page 39)
OK-ish so far. The problem is the non-sequiturs that follow (sequentially, not logically) in this dumb rationalizing exercise.

Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side?
How about the very things that he just handwaved in the previous quote? Because it seems like that was just handwaving by now, and he forgets about losing those. Let's see:

- "the true", "your reason", "your knowledge". Those are not my counter-arguments, those are the things HE just listed as things important and which you don't want to lose. And yet basically he advocates losing just those: just believe a fairy tale instead of caring about truth, knowledge or reason.

Why? Just because the fairy tale is useful, but I'm getting ahead. We'll get there.

- "your will". Again, it's not mine, it's one of the things HE listed as important and which you don't want to lose. Yet he's basically advocating letting some priest from a backwater ancient province tell you how to live your life? I'd take that as a loss of your own will.

- "your happiness". But pretending to be something you're not, and trying to force yourself to believe what your reason says it's false, is not a recipe for happiness. It's a recipe for perpetual cognitive dissonance, which is uncomfortable at the very least. And that's before even getting to the part where you must force yourself to rationalize as moral some things in there that your own code says are wrong.

But anyway, as one last piece of evidence, actual statistics by country shows the least religious places to have the happiest people.

Originally Posted by GDon View Post
You will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful.
Evidence, please. The above is just the "faith in faith" argument, which never was actually supported.

In fact, even the most superficial awareness of your environment will provide plenty of counter-examples: people who just use religion as an excuse to not be any of those. And I don't mean being the opposite of those virtues in spite of their religious nature telling them not to. I mean using religion to rationalize why it's ok to be the polar opposite of all those.

Even the most basic knowledge of history, doubly so.

And it's not even very surprising, when you have a religion which tells you that no matter what you do, Jesus will forgive you if you ask really nicely and really believe in him.

Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury;
Even skipping over the main falsehood (just look at the kind of luxury some popes and cardinals lived in, and the kind of glory hounds they were), it's just postulated that they are poisonous. Well, I'd like to see some support, please.

Originally Posted by GDon View Post
but will you not have others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognise that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing. (Page 40)
Notice how he never actually gives an answer to "but will you not have others?" He doesn't actually show what you will get to counter-balance all that.

Notice how he just glossed over losing everything he listed as things you don't want to lose, as "for which you have given nothing"? Really? Those things that were important in the previous paragraph, now are "NOTHING"?

But here's the best bit, actually: "wagered for something certain and infinite". Oh, it's CERTAIN now? Did he just forget the whole thing about probabilities and being on the safe side from HIS OWN WAGER? Yeah, by now he forgot all about that. That was just handwaving towards now presenting it as CERTAIN.


TL;DR version: yeah, you know actually why even most religious people stick to the wager and don't get into this part? Maybe because it's idiotic handwaving that doesn't actually work, and actually subverts the whole wager argument?
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Old 26th December 2020, 02:53 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
3) On the other hand, the whole "who created everything" thing DOES show up. A lot. Based on what I hear there, if there any one argument that underlies the majority of Christian belief, it's that there must be a creator. Hence, Jesus, somehow.
Brian Cox did a programme for BBC Radio 3 just before Christmas which consisted of music interspersed with his musings on life, the universe and everything. He's always had a gift for explaining complex ideas understandably and he really outdoes himself here, especially when talking about what the latest cosmological theories and observations imply about whether the universe had a beginning.

I believe it's possible to listen to BBC radio shows anywhere in the world. It's here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000qkl5

The timings are:

1.45 - 2.00 Cox: Brief introduction
2.00 - 11.15 Sibelius, Symphony no. 5 in E flat major Op.82 - 3rd Movement
11.15 - 24:40 Cox: What does it mean to live a small, fragile life in an infinite, possibly eternal universe?
24:40 - 31.00 Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question
31:00 - 47:50 Cox: The origin of the universe and complexity, the inflationary multiverse
47:50 - 1.13.00 Gustav Mahler, Symphony No.10 - 1st Movement

Note that the 5 photographs to which Cox refers are available on the programme's website.
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Old 26th December 2020, 04:57 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
The strawman version proponent will argue: "Well, what if there is an option C? Therefore your argument about A and B is wrong."
I have never seen a proponent say something like that. In fact, bringing up any kind of "option C" at all sounds like an opponent, not a proponent. And it's equally applicable to both "versions" anyway, so this isn't a difference between the two in any case.
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Old 26th December 2020, 05:03 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by Olmstead View Post
The probability of a God who will reward me for believing is exactly the same as the probability of a God who will punish me for believing.
...unless one takes the fact that they all seem to be hiding from us instead of revealing themselves as a sign that they don't want us to know about them, which makes the latter kind of god more likely than the former.
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Old 26th December 2020, 06:07 AM   #63
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Depends on what is being argued. If the argument against Pascal's Wager is "Which God? Allah? Baal?" then that goes towards the strawman version, since the Wager isn't about that.

As far as the strawman bit, I agree, I’ve never actually read Pascal himself on his Wager. What I knew of his (in)famous Wager is only the version commonly thrown around (so that I’d actually imagined, and said as much upthread, that the whole thing may well have been apocryphal). Thanks for correcting me/us on this.

(I downloaded your link, but TBF it’s kind of long and I haven’t gone through it, so I’ll just take it that what you’ve said about this, in your previous post, is indeed what Pascal’s Wager is all about.)

This is a great place and all, this forum, but I guess sometimes it can get to be something of an echo chamber. An exceptionally well-informed and well-reasoned echo chamber, but still. Great to have you present these authentic and considered counter-arguments from the “other side” as it were!


Quote:
You're right, if you mean the Wager is about "therefore God exists". It has nothing to do with showing that God exists.


More like: "act as if God exists".

Fair enough. So this isn’t about whether God exists, then, only about acting as if He does. That does remove one of my/our objections to what (I/we imagined) Pascal’s Wager is about.


Quote:
I agree. But that's something we could collect data on.

Agreed, we can. But isn’t that kind of putting the cart before the horse? As far as I can see, Pascal’s Wager, as you re-formulate it here, is all about those virtues, those qualities. They are what the entire thing is predicated on. Without first establishing that causality, how do you even start with assessing the Wager?

There’s a clear claim here. The claim is, that a belief in God (or at least, acting as though one believes in God) engenders in one all of those virtues that you listed in your earlier post; and further, that those virtues lead to happiness. Why would you (that is to say, Pascal) not be required to back up that claim?

For Pascal’s Wager to make any sense at all, it is imperative, it seems to me, for it to be clearly shown that (acting as though one had) belief in God does give rise to those virtues, significantly more often than in the case of not acting as though one had belief in God.

(If I may use a somewhat ridiculous analogy, that nevertheless seems apt: I can state that acting as though one believes that life originated in the planet Mars and was propagated to Earth by Martians who left soon after and left no trace, and that other Martians will visit us eventually and rid our civilization of all the ills that beset it, makes a man rich and successful and long-lived and healthy, and a chick magnet as well, and therefore it makes sense to lead one’s life on that basis. Call that C.’s Wager, if you will. I don’t see how this is any different from Pascal’s Wager! Both are nonsensical, it seems to me, unless the claim that is the underlying premise -- the claim not about the truth value, since as you clarify that is not the issue here, but the claim that this kind of belief does engender those qualities, those virtues, which then lead to happiness -- is clearly evidenced, unless that causality is clearly established.)


Quote:
For me personally: I was an atheist for the first 30 years of my life, and I've been a theist for the second 30 years of my life. I can compare the two: I was a good person as an atheist, and I'm not a better person as a theist. But acting as though "God exists" has helped to ground my life better. So I can appreciate Pascal's argument.

Fair enough. When it comes to your own subjective experiences, there is no better expert than you yourself. No arguments from me, as far as that.

It is when you -- or Pascal -- try to generalize that principle, that one must disagree. Had Pascal simply said, like you do now, that this is the reasoning that led me personally to (greater) peace and happiness, and had he stopped at that, then I don’t think anyone would have disagreed. I know I wouldn’t. What is troublesome is that he seems to make a general prescription of this.


Quote:
He was proposing acting as though God exists in a general sense, though the God has the characteristics of the philosopher's Christian God. (Elsewhere in his writings he goes through the various religions of his time, and determines that Christianity is the best of them. Still, the Wager works for any of the gods sharing the characteristics of the god used in Pascal's Wager.)

So you’re saying Pascal was advocating for general theism, and not for the Christian God per se. Fair enough.

But still, in “acting as though you believe that God exists”, how exactly will you “act”? This “general sense”, what is it, exactly, in practice? If you believe in Prophet Muhammad’s God, you’d act very differently than if you believe in the Catholic God, or the Judaic God. (Yes, same God, I know, but still, the observance, the “acting” is still very different, depending on which God.)

And those beliefs get even more all-over-the-place if you believe in the Shinto Gods, or the legions of Hindu Gods, or the abstract Advaitic God, or the (Tantric) Buddhist Gods, or any or the rest, and therefore your “actions” even more diverse in each case, and even more removed (from the Christian God, or any one other specific God), depending on which specific God.

So again, what, then? Which God/s? And on what basis?


-----


Like I said, I’m glad you’ve corrected us on the actual form of Pascal’s Wager, given that we seem to have been battling a strawman. But the essential problems with the Wager still remain.

Instead of the promise of eternal bliss (and escape from eternal agony), one is now promised happiness in this life, if only one acts as though one believes. But just as in the version that you say is a strawman the consequences claimed hadn’t been shown/evidenced, likewise, that such a belief does lead to those virtues you mentioned and therefore to happiness -- as well as the lack of such in the absence of such belief -- is still not shown/evidenced in your version of the Wager.

To put that in baculum-speak (see the exchanges between Hans and me upthread on this), given that you’re removing the argumentum, sure, this is no longer an argument ad baculum, agreed. But still, the carrotum you’re offering us now is equally as illusory as the baculum that the strawman version threatened us with, given that neither is backed by evidence.

The only part of what you say that makes sense, is when you offer your own subjective experience. That part is valid, and that I respect. But then that kind of subjective testimony would have remained valid, even if you’d happened to have had the same experience (of greater happiness, greater peace) with what you say is the strawman version of the Wager -- or for that matter some even more outlandish and unsupported random proposition, as long as it worked for you personally.


-----


Sorry, long post! But I don’t see how the differences you’ve introduced -- although they’re very welcome, in terms of setting the record straight as far as the Wager -- make any difference at all, to whether the Wager appears at all reasonable.

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Old 26th December 2020, 06:58 AM   #64
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Agreed, we can. But isn’t that kind of putting the cart before the horse? As far as I can see, Pascal’s Wager, as you re-formulate it here, is all about those virtues, those qualities. They are what the entire thing is predicated on. Without first establishing that causality, how do you even start with assessing the Wager?

There’s a clear claim here. The claim is, that a belief in God (or at least, acting as though one believes in God) engenders in one all of those virtues that you listed in your earlier post; and further, that those virtues lead to happiness. Why would you (that is to say, Pascal) not be required to back up that claim?
That's not Pascal's Wager, though. That's the "faith in faith" fallacy, or as I've called it before, the "but look at how much of a better/happier/whatever person I am since I found Jesus" argument.

And there's a reason that the argument is called "faith in faith", and not "the proven benefits of faith." It's not just God that you have to take on faith, it's also those supposed benefits of faith that you ALSO have to just take on faith. Because there's no actual evidence offered for that one either. Ever.

It's not something new, and frankly it wasn't new in Pascal's time either. And as I said before it is pretty much THE invariable fallback of apologists, when their other arguments don't work. Really, keep poking holes in someone's trying to claim X="God is real", and I could bet real money that they'll fall back to faith-in-faith, namely "yeah, but if you BELIEVED X is real, look how much better and happier you could be."

(Also note the running with the goalposts from claiming X is true, to arguing just why it's useful to BELIEVE X to be true, which is an entirely different proposition.)

Usually it tends to come before falling back to Pascal's Wager, but Pascal himself did it the other way around. Pretty much as if even Pascal himself knew that his OWN Wager doesn't actually work as an argument. Because he doesn't just write the Wager argument, end it there, and expect it to stand on its own. Nope, he then just proceeds to argue faith-in-faith instead as a way to try to salvage the Wager.

As I was saying, as if even for Pascal himself the Wager didn't sound all that convincing
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Old 26th December 2020, 07:26 AM   #65
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
That's not Pascal's Wager, though. That's the "faith in faith" fallacy, or as I've called it before, the "but look at how much of a better/happier/whatever person I am since I found Jesus" argument.

But that's exactly what Pascal's Wager is, according to GDon. Apparently we'd been mistaken in how we viewed the Wager. Do you think GDon's interpretation/reformulation is incorrect?

(GDon has supplied us the link to Pascal's original work itself. We could go through it and ascertain for ourselves I suppose. TBH given the length of the thing I didn't attempt it -- lazy of me, I know! And for the present I'm accepting what GDon is saying, as far as what Pascal's Wager is. I guess I could be wrong, that is, I guess it is possible that GDon is mistaken in how he paraphrases the Wager, and I'm wrong in believing that he's right, but for now I'm going with what he's saying. ---I guess I could try speed-reading through the PDF, but don't really feel like putting in some heavy reading at this time! )


Quote:
And there's a reason that the argument is called "faith in faith", and not "the proven benefits of faith." It's not just God that you have to take on faith, it's also those supposed benefits of faith that you ALSO have to just take on faith. Because there's no actual evidence offered for that one either. Ever.

It's not something new, and frankly it wasn't new in Pascal's time either. And as I said before it is pretty much THE invariable fallback of apologists, when their other arguments don't work. Really, keep poking holes in someone's trying to claim X="God is real", and I could bet real money that they'll fall back to faith-in-faith, namely "yeah, but if you BELIEVED X is real, look how much better and happier you could be."

(Also note the running with the goalposts from claiming X is true, to arguing just why it's useful to BELIEVE X to be true, which is an entirely different proposition.)

Usually it tends to come before falling back to Pascal's Wager, but Pascal himself did it the other way around. Pretty much as if even Pascal himself knew that his OWN Wager doesn't actually work as an argument. Because he doesn't just write the Wager argument, end it there, and expect it to stand on its own. Nope, he then just proceeds to argue faith-in-faith instead as a way to try to salvage the Wager.

As I was saying, as if even for Pascal himself the Wager didn't sound all that convincing

As GDon re-formulates Pascal's Wager, as he corrects what he says is our strawmanning of Pascal's Wager, we needn't take God on faith at all. We only need to act, to live our lives, as if we did believe, that's all.

As he presents it, it isn't shifting goalposts, apparently we'd been shooting at the wrong goal to begin with! Why it's useful to act as if God were real, is what the Wager actually is, apparently.
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Old 26th December 2020, 08:55 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
But that's exactly what Pascal's Wager is, according to GDon. Apparently we'd been mistaken in how we viewed the Wager. Do you think GDon's interpretation/reformulation is incorrect?
No, I think you just misunderstood both Pascal and GDon.

As I was saying, the "faith in faith" fallacy is NOT Pascal's Wager. Really, it's not even part of it. It's just some supplemental handwaving, in case the Wager by itself didn't convince you.

It's really like saying
A) try my casino, you'll win big at my special roulette table, and
B) besides, what do you have to lose? Come in, you'll have a good time anyway.

Really, the wager itself is A, the addition that GDon felt like dragging in, is B.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
As GDon re-formulates Pascal's Wager, as he corrects what he says is our strawmanning of Pascal's Wager, we needn't take God on faith at all. We only need to act, to live our lives, as if we did believe, that's all.

As he presents it, it isn't shifting goalposts, apparently we'd been shooting at the wrong goal to begin with! Why it's useful to act as if God were real, is what the Wager actually is, apparently.
Well, technically both the Wager and the "faith in faith" arguments are about 'just act as if X is true', rather than showing X to be actually true. That much they do have in common. But that's ALL they have in common. Other than that, they're fundamentally different arguments.
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Old 26th December 2020, 10:04 AM   #67
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In fact, if you want to lump the whole of Pascal's argument under just one name, try this one: Kettle Logic. Because the statements are at least partially contradicting each other.


The name "kettle logic" coming from the story of a man who was accused by his neighbour of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition, to which he offers the following three arguments:

1. That he had returned the kettle undamaged
2. That it was already damaged when he borrowed it
3. That he had never borrowed it in the first place

Or to use another example, by a lawyer no less, "Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you. Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn't bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don't believe you really got bit. And fourth, I don't have a dog."


As a side note, please do distinguish between actual kettle logic and alternatives. It's kettle logic and a fallacy when they're all supposed to be true at the same time. Otherwise it's just alternatives.

And there is an actual point in offering alternatives, even if they can't all be true at the same time. That's why they're alternatives.

E.g., if we were in a court of law, there is a valid point in pointing out that there is reasonable doubt that one or more alternatives might have happened instead. E.g., that the data presented by the prosecutor doesn't really disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

1. That the kettle was returned undamaged. (E.g., the damage shown to the court happened at a later time.)

2. That the kettle may have been damaged in the first place, so it's not the defendant's fault.

3. That the defendant may have never borrowed or otherwise come into contact with the kettle at all.

At least in a criminal case, you're innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. You don't need to prove yourself innocent, e.g., by proving which of the 3 alternatives is what really happened. The prosecution has to prove that you're guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So merely pointing out that 3 alternatives exist that haven't been satisfactorily excluded, may be all that's needed to establish reasonable doubt.
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Old 26th December 2020, 12:44 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
Define 'love'.
Huh????

Quote:

Yes. For proof, just look at all the Republicans who forced themselves to love Trump.

Existence is not required. It is easier to love a fantasy than reality.

That's where organized religion comes in. It's easier to be certain about something when everybody else is too (or appears to be).

Is there some really heavy thinking behind this or are we looking at random brain farts?
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Old 26th December 2020, 12:59 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
(I downloaded your link, but TBF it’s kind of long and I haven’t gone through it, so I’ll just take it that what you’ve said about this, in your previous post, is indeed what Pascal’s Wager is all about.)
The actual Wager section is from around pages 39 to 42, though it is based on conceptions of God that Pascal explains throughout the work.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
So this isn’t about whether God exists, then, only about acting as if He does. That does remove one of my/our objections to what (I/we imagined) Pascal’s Wager is about.
That's right. The Wager doesn't conclude with "Therefore God exists". One of the premises of his Wager is that we don't know and can't know through reason whether God exists: "Reason can decide nothing here":
Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions. (Page 39)
Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
There’s a clear claim here. The claim is, that a belief in God (or at least, acting as though one believes in God) engenders in one all of those virtues that you listed in your earlier post; and further, that those virtues lead to happiness. Why would you (that is to say, Pascal) not be required to back up that claim?
I agree, you'd have to, at least for claims of benefits in this life. Since I can see those benefits within my own life, I think he's right. That's just anecdotal data of course, but to me it points towards the truth of his conclusion. "Enlightened self-delusion", if you like.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Fair enough. When it comes to your own subjective experiences, there is no better expert than you yourself. No arguments from me, as far as that.

It is when you -- or Pascal -- try to generalize that principle, that one must disagree. Had Pascal simply said, like you do now, that this is the reasoning that led me personally to (greater) peace and happiness, and had he stopped at that, then I don’t think anyone would have disagreed. I know I wouldn’t. What is troublesome is that he seems to make a general prescription of this.
True, he does. That's a fair criticism.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
But still, in “acting as though you believe that God exists”, how exactly will you “act”? This “general sense”, what is it, exactly, in practice? If you believe in Prophet Muhammad’s God, you’d act very differently than if you believe in the Catholic God, or the Judaic God. (Yes, same God, I know, but still, the observance, the “acting” is still very different, depending on which God.)
True, but it isn't about religious practice. Lots of pious Christians who went around killing and torturing people for their own good would be agreeing with Pascal about how believing in God made them better people. But the Wager isn't about "therefore God exists" or "therefore this particular religious practice is correct."

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
And those beliefs get even more all-over-the-place if you believe in the Shinto Gods, or the legions of Hindu Gods, or the abstract Advaitic God, or the (Tantric) Buddhist Gods, or any or the rest, and therefore your “actions” even more diverse in each case, and even more removed (from the Christian God, or any one other specific God), depending on which specific God.

So again, what, then? Which God/s? And on what basis?
The Wager only applies to those gods where:
(1) Reason can't decide one way or the other
(2) "Win everything if right, lose nothing if wrong"

If you believe that there are gods to whom reason can determine whether that god exists or not (you might think that the Christian God falls into that category) then Pascal's Wager is not applicable. It's not wrong, just not applicable.

If you propose a God who gives you nothing in the afterlife if you are right, but everything if you are wrong, then Pascal's Wager is not applicable. For example: proposing that there is a God who loves atheists doesn't defeat Pascal's Wager, it just doesn't fit into its premises.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Instead of the promise of eternal bliss (and escape from eternal agony), one is now promised happiness in this life, if only one acts as though one believes. But just as in the version that you say is a strawman the consequences claimed hadn’t been shown/evidenced, likewise, that such a belief does lead to those virtues you mentioned and therefore to happiness -- as well as the lack of such in the absence of such belief -- is still not shown/evidenced in your version of the Wager.
To clarify: Pascal's Wager is still about what happens in the after-life. But Pascal 'sweetens the deal' by claiming benefits in this life as well.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
The only part of what you say that makes sense, is when you offer your own subjective experience. That part is valid, and that I respect. But then that kind of subjective testimony would have remained valid, even if you’d happened to have had the same experience (of greater happiness, greater peace) with what you say is the strawman version of the Wager -- or for that matter some even more outlandish and unsupported random proposition, as long as it worked for you personally.
True enough. Fair point.

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Old 26th December 2020, 03:10 PM   #70
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Regardless of whether Pascal intended it this way or not, the only context in which anybody ever expresses the wager (whether knowing its name or not) is always in a debate about God's existence anyway. So, when we're being given "Pascal's Wager, therefore God", it is not strawmanning to counter "Pascal's Wager, therefore God", because that is literally the argument as we're always given it.

And that's part of what makes it an especially ironic argument for God, because that whole thing put together is something that the Christians who use it definitely don't believe themselves. It relies on a god who can be fooled which theirs supposedly can't be, and it wouldn't matter to Pascal, but when they bring it up in a debate on God's existence, they're trying to talk us into fooling him anyway.
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Old 26th December 2020, 04:13 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
Regardless of whether Pascal intended it this way or not, the only context in which anybody ever expresses the wager (whether knowing its name or not) is always in a debate about God's existence anyway. So, when we're being given "Pascal's Wager, therefore God", it is not strawmanning to counter "Pascal's Wager, therefore God", because that is literally the argument as we're always given it.
Sort of. But only sort of.

As I was saying, it's more of a goalpost shift, really. Apologist arguments do tend to start as being about God -- and specifically one particular God at that -- being the real article. But then they start running all over the field and beyond with the goalposts, and hope you don't even notice that it's really no longer the same X="my God is real" proposition.

Usually the first part to go is it being about one particular God, as it turns into the Motte And Bailey Fallacy. Basically, "the universe must have SOME cause, therefore don't be gay." Well, that's if they go Kalam, which seems to be the most popular, but other forms of going Motte And Bailey exist too.

And somewhere along the lines, it turns into not even being about A god at all, but some form of "well, it would be useful if you BELIEVED X anyway." Pascal's Wager is one way, faith in faith is another.

So, yes, technically you are correct, they try to at least pretend it's still about God being real. But also technically at some point along the line it the goalposts have been moved not just away, but somewhere where you don't even see the original spot any more.

With the perverse effect that if you point out the disconnect, they can technically accuse you of strawmanning it. Since, yeah, technically at that point they weren't even talking about God actually being real any more.
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Old 26th December 2020, 06:04 PM   #72
Roger Ramjets
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Huh????
No, really. Christians say that God is Love. If that is so then does worshiping Him mean you must love Him?

Definition of Love

4b : a person's adoration of God

Definition of adoration

1 : the act of paying honor, as to a divine being; worship.

You may say people only worship God out of fear, but if God is Love then that fear is adoration - and therefore love. This is is why asking what definition of love we should use is relevant.

Quote:
Is there some really heavy thinking behind this or are we looking at random brain farts?
You seem to be a very shallow thinker who rarely examines their own preconceptions, even when prompted.

A common claim made by atheists is "you can't force yourself to believe something you know isn't true", but that's not true. People do it all the time.

When Trump was an outsider Republicans ridiculed him. Then he gained a following and they feared him. Finally he became the presidential candidate and they had no choice but to love him. So they did. And while he continued to give them what they wanted, they loved him even more. Now some adore him so much that they would be lost without him.

I said "It is easier to love a fantasy than reality", and this is also very true. A fantasy is usually something you like - even love - even when you know it is only a fantasy. Reality is much harder to love. Most people who 'love' God believe in a fantasy version of Him that is lovable - not the narcissistic genocidal 'real' one described in the Bible.

We see the same thing with Trump. Many of his 'believers' have a fantasy version of him in their minds that is everything they want him to be - not the actual Trump we have to deal with in real life. The fantasy Trump is much easier to love than the real one.

Finally I said that organized religion makes it easier to be certain about something, because everybody else is too. Deep down we all know this is true too, even though we like to think that we are independent thinkers who are not influenced by others. Organized religion is very much about people reinforcing each other's beliefs.
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Old 26th December 2020, 06:11 PM   #73
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Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
Regardless of whether Pascal intended it this way or not, the only context in which anybody ever expresses the wager (whether knowing its name or not) is always in a debate about God's existence anyway. So, when we're being given "Pascal's Wager, therefore God", it is not strawmanning to counter "Pascal's Wager, therefore God", because that is literally the argument as we're always given it.
Sure, and that's fair enough. You can only react to the argument being presented.

But when the claim is that Pascal might have been a "moron" and it's based on someone else's view of what he meant, then it is best to ensure that he is being quoted accurately. It's a good rule-of-thumb: if someone with a reputation for intelligence is claimed to have said something moronic, and that something is not the actual words of that person, then the person is probably not being represented accurately. I've found that a lot(!), on all sides of an argument. Dawkins and Harris get the same treatment.

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Old 26th December 2020, 07:13 PM   #74
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
No, really. Christians say that God is Love. If that is so then does worshiping Him mean you must love Him?

Definition of Love

4b : a person's adoration of God

Definition of adoration

1 : the act of paying honor, as to a divine being; worship.

You may say people only worship God out of fear, but if God is Love then that fear is adoration - and therefore love. This is is why asking what definition of love we should use is relevant.
Given that I am an atheist, and most here seem to be aware of this, I am unlikely to bring God into some definition of love.

Quote:
You seem to be a very shallow thinker who rarely examines their own preconceptions, even when prompted.

A common claim made by atheists is "you can't force yourself to believe something you know isn't true", but that's not true. People do it all the time.

Well I must be a shallow thinker because I cannot come to terms with the concept of people forcing themselves to believe something they know isn't true. My failing I suppose.

Quote:
When Trump was an outsider Republicans ridiculed him. Then he gained a following and they feared him. Finally he became the presidential candidate and they had no choice but to love him. So they did. And while he continued to give them what they wanted, they loved him even more. Now some adore him so much that they would be lost without him.

Interesting summation of Trump's ascendancy. Is this an example of your own powers of deduction or did you gather heaps of evidence to arrive at this? The Republican ridiculers endorsed his candidature whilst simultaneously ridiculing him then?

Quote:
I said "It is easier to love a fantasy than reality", and this is also very true. A fantasy is usually something you like - even love - even when you know it is only a fantasy. Reality is much harder to love. Most people who 'love' God believe in a fantasy version of Him that is lovable - not the narcissistic genocidal 'real' one described in the Bible.

Really letting our head go here aren't we?

Quote:
We see the same thing with Trump. Many of his 'believers' have a fantasy version of him in their minds that is everything they want him to be - not the actual Trump we have to deal with in real life. The fantasy Trump is much easier to love than the real one.

Well there we go. Having proved our point in the previous paragraph we can elaborate with this example.

Quote:
Finally I said that organized religion makes it easier to be certain about something, because everybody else is too. Deep down we all know this is true too, even though we like to think that we are independent thinkers who are not influenced by others. Organized religion is very much about people reinforcing each other's beliefs.

Finally something I can agree with.
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Old 27th December 2020, 03:33 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Sure, and that's fair enough. You can only react to the argument being presented.

But when the claim is that Pascal might have been a "moron" and it's based on someone else's view of what he meant, then it is best to ensure that he is being quoted accurately. It's a good rule-of-thumb: if someone with a reputation for intelligence is claimed to have said something moronic, and that something is not the actual words of that person, then the person is probably not being represented accurately. I've found that a lot(!), on all sides of an argument. Dawkins and Harris get the same treatment.
So, essentially what you do here is try to argue that the Argument from authority, and more specifically the appeal to FALSE authority, don't exist? As in, if someone was a smart cookie, they never ever EVER said something horribly wrong? Really?

In fact, if anything, what Pascal here illustrates is my PROBLEM with religion (and really most other forms of woo): that it makes even otherwise intelligent people turn to wilful idiocy when it comes to justifying it. (Plus, in the case of religion, teach some people to pretend they're schizophrenic.)

Because of all people, yes, Pascal should have been more than aware of what's wrong with the Wager. And seemingly he was, since he wrote the additional handwaving you quoted, to try to handwave it it.

And he should have also been aware of what's wrong with those additional paragraphs of non-sequiturs and self-contradicting nonsense. I mean, all the logic that he needed was there since Aristotle and even before, and he knew about it.

But when it comes to justifying woowoo, he doesn't seem capable of even noticing it. Ending up just as an example of how wanting to believe nonsense makes even otherwise intelligent people revert to being wilfully stupid.


And for that matter, to be blunt, you just exemplify the same thing.

I mean, we've been making fun of the faith-in-faith idiocy and discussed how it's never unsupported -- and for that matter why self-evaluations with a sample size of 1 are not data -- for at least a flippin DECADE at this point even on this board. You couldn't have missed it even if you wanted to.

But lo and behold, that's exactly what you drag in, and apparently it's "brilliant and convincing" when it supports your woowoo. So yeah...
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Old 27th December 2020, 05:07 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
No, I think you just misunderstood both Pascal and GDon.

As I was saying, the "faith in faith" fallacy is NOT Pascal's Wager. Really, it's not even part of it. It's just some supplemental handwaving, in case the Wager by itself didn't convince you.

It's really like saying
A) try my casino, you'll win big at my special roulette table, and
B) besides, what do you have to lose? Come in, you'll have a good time anyway.

Really, the wager itself is A, the addition that GDon felt like dragging in, is B.



Well, technically both the Wager and the "faith in faith" arguments are about 'just act as if X is true', rather than showing X to be actually true. That much they do have in common. But that's ALL they have in common. Other than that, they're fundamentally different arguments.

The issue is straightforward. You’re right, there are two different arguments. One argument says, it makes sense to believe, because then we end up winning eternity if we win, and losing nothing if we lose. The second argument says, it makes sense to believe, because in so doing we end up attaining to these virtues, and those virtues lead to happiness, while by not believing we do not attain to those virtues, and do not attain to the happiness that is the believer’s lot.

What GDon is done is two things: First, he has introduced the second argument here. And two, he says that when Pascal says “it makes sense to believe”, what he actually means is “it makes to sense to act as if one believes”.

So far as the latter point introduced by GDon, we clearly agree, you and I (agree that that is what GDon is saying). As far as the first, we seem to disagree, you and I (on what we think GDon means to say).

I was under the impression that GDon has introduced the latter argument in lieu of the former; that is, it is that second argument is (in GDon's view) the crux of Pascal’s Wager. You, on the other hand, clearly think that what GDon is saying is that Pascal’s Wager includes both arguments, so that he seems to be playing with multiple goalposts to shoot his ball into (or shifting goalposts in the course of his discourse).



And, having now read GDon’s subsequent post addressed to me (that I haven’t yet responded to, but will, just now), as well as portions of Pascal’s original work, I think I’m inclined to agree with your assessment. This does seem to be an additional …add-on, over and above what we all generally understand Pascal’s Wager to be. So that your criticism, as far as shifting goalposts as well as kettle logic — that I had disagreed with in my earlier post — seem entirely apt.



Interesting side note on kettle logic, by the way, in that subsequent post of yours. Agreed, this is more like “kettle logic”, as you say, than shifting goalposts, at least if you think of Pascal’s work as one single piece rather than a series of arguments. (Seen as a series of arguments, it would rightly be shifting goalposts. As it is, it is playing with multiple goalposts to shoot through, as it were, or, as you say, kettle logic.)
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Old 27th December 2020, 05:25 AM   #77
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
The actual Wager section is from around pages 39 to 42, though it is based on conceptions of God that Pascal explains throughout the work.

Thanks for pointing to that portion. I’ve gone through it, and yes, it does say, more or less, what you’d said in your earlier post.


Quote:
That's right. The Wager doesn't conclude with "Therefore God exists". One of the premises of his Wager is that we don't know and can't know through reason whether God exists: "Reason can decide nothing here":
Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions. (Page 39)


I agree, you'd have to, at least for claims of benefits in this life. Since I can see those benefits within my own life, I think he's right. That's just anecdotal data of course, but to me it points towards the truth of his conclusion. "Enlightened self-delusion", if you like.


True, he does. That's a fair criticism.

I’m glad we agree on that.


Quote:
True, but it isn't about religious practice. Lots of pious Christians who went around killing and torturing people for their own good would be agreeing with Pascal about how believing in God made them better people. But the Wager isn't about "therefore God exists" or "therefore this particular religious practice is correct."


The Wager only applies to those gods where:
(1) Reason can't decide one way or the other
(2) "Win everything if right, lose nothing if wrong"

If you believe that there are gods to whom reason can determine whether that god exists or not (you might think that the Christian God falls into that category) then Pascal's Wager is not applicable. It's not wrong, just not applicable.

If you propose a God who gives you nothing in the afterlife if you are right, but everything if you are wrong, then Pascal's Wager is not applicable. For example: proposing that there is a God who loves atheists doesn't defeat Pascal's Wager, it just doesn't fit into its premises.

I don’t think you understand the point of my objection. I agree, this Wager would apply to such Gods that “give you everything in the afterlife”, and disbelief in whom gives you nothing. But my point is, the key part of what I’d said earlier is, that it isn’t as if we’re assessing each God on a stand-alone basis. The fact is that each of these Gods simultaneously exist (exist as ideas, I mean to say), and need to be simultaneously assessed.

So that, when you end up with a hundred Gods, each of whom offers you infinite rewards through eternity (should it turn out that they exist), then which of these hundred (or more) will you choose to (act as if you) believe? Especially considering that belief in one God quite often means going entirely opposite to what belief in another God entails?

You see what I’m saying? If I’m this very powerful tyrant, that holds power to unleash immense rewards as well as immense punishment, then I think you’ll agree that actively courting my ire by befriending one of my rivals is likely to be far worse for you than merely staying indifferent and neutral towards me. If there were a hundred such tyrants all around you, each of them arrayed against one another, then probably the wisest option is to stay neutral (provided that the possibility of each of these tyrants prevailing remains the same — in real life one would probably end up aligning with the one that one believes is most likely to win out over the others, or the one that one is in closest proximaty to, in terms of influence).


Quote:
To clarify: Pascal's Wager is still about what happens in the after-life. But Pascal 'sweetens the deal' by claiming benefits in this life as well.

Ah. In that case I misunderstood your earlier post. I thought you’re saying that Pascal’s Wager is only about this, and that we were mistaken in imagining that it is about an eternal after-life. In fact you’ve been saying, all along, that Pascal’s put forward both arguments. As you say, a sweetener.

I’m sorry, in that case I have to agree with Hans Mustermann’s assessment about shifting goalposts (or kettle logic).

In any case, I don’t see that either argument holds the slightest merit. Sorry!


Quote:
True enough. Fair point.

And that, as I see it, is one of the things that’s fatally wrong with the Wager!

I can say that I’ve consumed homeopathic medication, and that in so doing I have found myself cured of some ailment. Unless there were physical evidence that contradicts even that subjective assessment of mine (as there well might be, but let's ignore that possibility for now), I don’t think there’s anything to disagree with there. For all I know there could be some strong placebo effect kicking in there or something. But if I were to try to generalize this principle, and to claim that homeopathy can cure that ailment, then no reasonable person would take me seriously unless I could provide objective evidence, would they? Likewise with this claim of Pascal’s (that acting as if one believes in God engenders those virtues, and that in turn leads to happiness — as opposed to atheism, that presumably does not engender those virtues, and does not lead to happiness) does not in shape or form pass the test of reasonableness.

Sorry, but no: other than in a strictly subjective sense, as it applies to you and you only, I cannot agree with a word you’ve said here.
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Old 27th December 2020, 05:34 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Sure, and that's fair enough. You can only react to the argument being presented.

But when the claim is that Pascal might have been a "moron" and it's based on someone else's view of what he meant, then it is best to ensure that he is being quoted accurately. It's a good rule-of-thumb: if someone with a reputation for intelligence is claimed to have said something moronic, and that something is not the actual words of that person, then the person is probably not being represented accurately. I've found that a lot(!), on all sides of an argument. Dawkins and Harris get the same treatment.

That was me, I’m afraid. I’m the one who, in this thread, tagged on the “moron” description to Pascal (as far as his Wager). And you’re absolutely right, I had indeed done that without having read Pascal in the original, or knowing fully well what it was he’d said, and based only on a superficial understanding of the terms of the Wager.

On the other hand, the fuller explanation does not really make the Wager look any more reasonable. The original argument, that I’d argued against in my initial post in this thread, is apparently very much part of the Wager, and my objections to it stand.

The additional argument that you’ve introduced — and again, I thank you for that factual addition to the discussion here, that no one here seems to have known about, or at least spoken of before this — also fails the test of reasonableness. Quite apart from what Hans rightly describes as the kettle logic, the shifting/multiple goalposts, the fact is that the two legs that the (second argument for the) Wager stands on — the virtues engendered (via which the happiness), as well as the acting as if one believes in God — don’t even begin to hold up. The former, because that very premise is unevidenced; and the latter, because given the multiplicities of Gods that abound, the very act of believing in (or acting as if one believes in) some God, without specifying which God, is …nonsensical (and it is even more nonsensical if you do specify some particular God, unless you are able to defend this choice of yours, over the other Gods on offer, with reason and evidence).

The objections to the Wager are so entirely obvious, that I have to say that the Wager sounds …well, let me substitute “moronic” with “nonsensical”. I have difficulty imagining how any reasonable person can for a minute consider it seriously.

(Which is not, at all, a comment on your personal situation, let me emphasize. You’ve found fulfillment and happiness in theism, and that’s great! That's not something I’d dream of arguing against. But the leap from your own personal, individual happiness in theism, to a defense of Pascal’s Wager, is far too wide I’m afraid, and entirely without any kind of support.)
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Old 27th December 2020, 08:55 AM   #79
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
And two, he says that when Pascal says “it makes sense to believe”, what he actually means is “it makes to sense to act as if one believes”.
It's more... problematic.

For Pascal's Wager itself, sure, assuming that God is too stupid to know you're only faking it, yeah, just faking it might seem like a way to qualify.

For the faith-in-faith part -- you know, those virtues -- ehh, not really. Even assuming that actual faith would make you virtuous (which was never supported, it's just postulated,) faking it has no reason to.

And I'll even give you a simple recipe to even get most apologists to say so: bring up Dennis Rader, aka, the BTK killer. You know, the sadistic serial killer who not only showed no remorse, but sent taunting letters to the police, BRAGGING about his murders. On the surface, Rader was a devout Christian, actively attending church for 30 years. Incidentally, apparently he started going to church around the same time he started serial killing. By the end of it, he was even elected president of the church council. He was seemingly just about as devout as the pastor, really, as far as the community could tell.

Edit: oh yeah, and he actually took the corpse of at least one victim to the church he was attending, and took pictures of her in BDSM poses. In the church.

So was he a good Christian? Was he even a "real" Christian? (After all, as per the bible, if you've really accepted Christ you can't sin any more.) If yes, how come being one didn't produce all those virtues and all?

But they'll pretty much invariably say, no, he wasn't a "real" Christian. Or at least not a good one. He was just faking it, that's why he could go on with his sadistic murders.

Well, there we go then: faking it doesn't really cut it for the faith-in-faith argument.
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Old 27th December 2020, 10:00 AM   #80
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
this Wager would apply to such Gods that “give you everything in the afterlife”, and disbelief in whom gives you nothing. But... it isn’t as if we’re assessing each God on a stand-alone basis. The fact is that each of these Gods simultaneously exist (exist as ideas, I mean to say), and need to be simultaneously assessed.
And the Wager naturally tells us to pick the evillest one we can find, the one that makes the most horrifyingly cruel threats for us to try to escape from. And I admit, the Christian god is certainly a solid contender for that title, but Christians mostly claim otherwise. It's another way in which how the Wager really works is just not at all how they really think about these things or how they want an atheist target for conversion to think about these things. Even when it does point toward Christianity, it does so in a way that they don't want it to.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
the two legs that the (second argument for the) Wager stands on — the virtues engendered (via which the happiness), as well as the acting as if one believes in God — don’t even begin to hold up. The former, because that very premise is unevidenced...
It's worse than that: it's pretty thoroughly counter-evidenced. Religiosity is actually correlated with the most crime, most violent crime, least education, most teenaged pregnancy & out-of-marriage childbirth, most divorce if it's legal, most drug abuse, most spousal abuse, most child abuse, least empathy for their fellow humans or other animals, and a few others I'm forgetting at the moment. It holds consistently on every scale, from comparing different countries on the same planet, to comparing different states or counties in the same country or state, to comparing more-religious and less-religious areas within the same county, to comparing more-religious and less-religious families in the same city/town. It holds chronologically, comparing the same culture at different times as its religiosity increases or decreases. It holds across all ways that a sociologist might try to define and either measure or categorize religiosity for the purposes of one study after another. There's no other trend in sociology as solid or as ubiquitous as the wide-ranging universal societal harm associated with religion. It's been claimed that the religious at least donate more, but that's only if you count a church as a charity, and they're less likely to support government policies to do similar things to charities. It's been claimed that they're at least happier, but that's only if you don't account for either the harm that the religious deliberately cause for some of the non-religious or their incentive to merely claim greater happiness regardless of their actual experience.

The last bastion that the religious sometimes retreat to from this is an extension/corollary of Pascal's Wager, that at least the religious can, when they're dying, face death with confidence & happiness. But no, it turns out that the terminally ill patients with the most peaceful acceptance of their fate are the non-religious, and the most religious terminally ill patients are the ones with the most terror and desperation, exactly as it would be if religious claims of certainty about what happens next were bluffs all along. So not only is a major premise of Pascal's Wager exactly the opposite of reality, but its falsehood works in a particular way that also shows that Christians in general don't even really buy it themselves.

Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
The objections to the Wager are so entirely obvious, that I have to say that the Wager sounds …well, let me substitute "moronic" with "nonsensical". I have difficulty imagining how any reasonable person can for a minute consider it seriously.
That takes me back to my earlier post about who it's really meant for. It's not meant for people who are thinking about it. It's meant for people who are stuck with a lingering feeling regardless of what they think, possibly even in contradiction of what they think: the lingering fear of Christianity's ultimate threat.
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