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.