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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion$
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William J. Wainwright

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138092

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195138090.001.0001

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Pascal's Wagers and James's Will to Believe

Pascal's Wagers and James's Will to Believe

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion

Jeffrey J. Jordan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Pragmatic arguments seek to justify the performance of an action by appealing to the benefits that may follow from that action. Pascal’s wager, for instance, argues that one should inculcate belief in God because there is everything to gain and little to lose by doing do. In this chapter I critically examine Pascal’s wager and William James’s famous “Will-to-Believe” argument by first explaining the logic of each argument and then by surveying the objections commonly arrayed against them. Finally, I suggest that among the various versions of the wager found in Pascal’s Pensées is a neglected version that anticipates the Jamesian argument and that avoids the many-gods objection.

Keywords:   William James, many gods objection, Pascal, Pascal’s wager, Pensées, pragmatic arguments, will to believe

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