Being a Christian philosopher: Pascal´s wager – a logical fallacy.

Being a philosopher and a mathematician at the same time is – using the example of Bertrand Russell – very often a quite interesting combination. The French Blaise Pascal worked not only as a mathematician, physicist, and writer but also as a Christian philosopher. Certainly, being a deist and therefore arguing very subjectively led to some fundamental mistakes in his argument.

In the middle of the 17th century, Pascal introduced an argument for the belief in God. He tried to make the reader of this paper believe in the existence of God. His purpose was not to convince the readers of the existence of God. Blaise Pascal states that it is always a better wager to believe in God’s existence than to do not so – because, he says, the estimated value of believing in God is always higher than not believing in God.

Pascal presents four cases:

One believes in God, and God exists. One gets the reward, gets into heaven and wins.

One believes in God, and God does not exist. One does not get the reward, however, does not lose anything.

One does not believe in God, and God does not exist. One does not get the reward, however, does not lose anything.

One does not believe in God, and God does exist. One gets the punishment, gets into hell, and loses.

Blaise Pascal concludes that one should have an implicit belief in God.

However, the reader can find easily a false dichotomy, also known as a false dilemma, in his argumentation. He creates a situation where the reader comes into an Either/Or situation. One has only the two possibilities: to believe in God or to do otherwise, namely to not believe in God.

This is a false dilemma because there are so many other additional options. However, Pascal argues only from the point of view of Christianity. He does not consider all the other religions, not even the world religions. He ignores the fact that there are variations of belief, other concepts of afterlives or eternal justice and mercy.

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Red pill, blue pill and Morpheus

Μορφεύς (Morpheus, means stature or shape) is in the ancient mythology a son of Ὕπνος (Hypnos, sleep) and the god of the Ὄνειροι (dreams (of men)).

Morpheus lives together with his father and his two brothers, Ἴκελος (Icelus, means similarity; god of the dreams of animals) and Φάντασος (Phantasus, means fantasy; god of the dreams of inanimate creatures) in the land of the Κιμμέριοι (Cimmerian, people who lived 2700 years ago in the north of the Caucasus).

This land is cut by two rivers: Λήϑω (Lethe) and Μνημοσύνη (Mnemosyne). Lethe stands for oblivion and the river Mnemosyne is the symbol for omniscience and memory. This is the first time that this duality appears. In the Greco-Roman narratives, the dead person must choose whether the drink from the river Lethe or from the river Mnemosyne before the enter the Hades. They choose forgetfulness or omniscience.

The character of Morpheus became known to the broad when he appeared as a figure in the movie ´The Matrix`. There he offers the character Neo a blue pill and a red pill. The blue pill would take him to his pre-existence and his life full of imagination and falsehood. The red pill would affect a life marked by actual reality and comprehensive truth.

I personally would choose the red pill. Even though I would have security and for sure an easier life, I had to live in falsehood and in ignorance of the truth. However, I want to have the full knowledge and the truth of the world. Even if this truth is unsightly and cruel.

How do we know that this reality which Morpheus offers is the full and actual reality? It could be that there is another and truer world behind the world which Morpheus offers and possibly there is a world where creatures live with more illusion and in a greater falsehood.

We will never have the chance to choose between the red pill or the blue pill. Morpheus will never come to us and he will never ask whether we would like to live in freedom and truth or to live in a secure environment and illusion, but we can search for knowledge in our illusionary lives. We should try to become a knower, we should question our reality and shouldn´t accept a life in ignorance.

Because we can´t change our view on the world from one day to the other, we should try to see the world in new ways. Even though it´s painful or we might feel like Plato´s released prisoner. It´s better to go outside of the cave and to explore the truth and actual reality than to stay in our secure and well-known habitat.

Zadok the Priest

I have chosen this song, not because of its importance as majestic English coronation anthem since the reign of George II, nor because George Frideric Handel is originally German.

It is not the musical significance that makes this piece of music relevant for Theory of Knowledge.

It is the lyrics. It is Zadok the Priest. It is King Solomon.

Obtained from the King James Bible, the lyrics are about the coronation of Solomon.

He succeeds his father, King David, after his revolting brother Absalom died during the Battle of Ephraim Wood. Zadok, a grandson of Aaron and grandnephew of Moses played a prominent role in bringing Solomon to the throne, he anointed him and blessed him as the new king of Israel. Solomon erected the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and Zadok served as the first priest.

So far, so good. However, I forgot to say: Zadok is legendary. Here starts my problem.

How do we know that Zadok the Priest lived, that he aided Solomon to become king and that he was the paragon for the Sadducees (a sect which was active during the Second Temple Period, after the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar II)?

If we analyse Zadok´s family, we´ll have Moses and Aaron. Both exist only in religious texts. Thus, we do not have even some reliable sources for the existing of these persons. For instance, the story that Moses and the Israelites needed about 40 years to travel from Egypt to Israel seems not very real – even if they made a long break at Mount Sinai.

How can we think that someone whose siblings aren´t real, self a real person is? It can´t be true and he can´t be real. It´s as simple as that. If you´re not religious and don´t have a Christian or Jewish faith.

However, knowledge is the ´justified true belief´. That makes knowledge very subjective – and knowledge is subjective. Because I see religious sources as reliable sources – reliable as you see an article from a current newspaper. The Ten Commandments are for me justified and true and I believe in them as I believe in the books Exodus and Deuteronomy, where their proclamation is written.

The existence of Moses, Aaron and Zadok is for me true and justified as the existence of George Frederic Handel or George II. The latter is the 5th great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

Is there still some doubt?