Taking Stock of Infinite Value: Pascal’s Wager and Relative Utilities

Synthese 154 (1):5-52 (2007)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Among recent objections to Pascal's Wager, two are especially compelling. The first is that decision theory, and specifically the requirement of maximizing expected utility, is incompatible with infinite utility values. The second is that even if infinite utility values are admitted, the argument of the Wager is invalid provided that we allow mixed strategies. Furthermore, Hájek has shown that reformulations of Pascal's Wager that address these criticisms inevitably lead to arguments that are philosophically unsatisfying and historically unfaithful. Both the objections and Hájek's philosophical worries disappear, however, if we represent our preferences using relative utilities rather than a one-place utility function. Relative utilities provide a conservative way to make sense of infinite value that preserves the familiar equation of rationality with the maximization of expected utility. They also provide a means of investigating a broader class of problems related to the Wager.

Similar books and articles

Pascalian Expectations and Explorations.Alan Hajek & Elizabeth Jackson - forthcoming - In Roger Ariew & Yuval Avnur (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Pascal. Wiley-Blackwell.
Surreal Decisions.Eddy Keming Chen & Daniel Rubio - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):54-74.
A Better Version of Pascal’s Wager.Michael Rota - 2016 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 90 (3):415-439.
Infinity in Pascal's Wager.Graham Oppy - 2018 - In Paul F. A. Bartha & Lawrence Pasternack (eds.), Pascal’s Wager. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 260-77.
Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s Wager.Jeff Jordan (ed.) - 1994 - Rowman & Littlefield.
Pascal's wager.Michael Rota - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (4):e12404.
Pascal's Wager ed. by Paul Bartha and Lawrence Pasternack. [REVIEW]Daniel Collette - 2019 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 57 (4):755-756.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
1,576 (#6,895)

6 months
216 (#12,727)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Paul Bartha
University of British Columbia

Citations of this work

Surreal Decisions.Eddy Keming Chen & Daniel Rubio - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):54-74.
Infinite Prospects.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & Yoaav Isaacs - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1):178-198.
Salvaging Pascal’s Wager.Elizabeth Jackson & Andrew Rogers - 2019 - Philosophia Christi 21 (1):59-84.
Difference Minimizing Theory.Christopher J. G. Meacham - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6.

View all 21 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

The Logic of Decision.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1965 - New York, NY, USA: University of Chicago Press.
Waging War on Pascal’s Wager.Alan Hájek - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (1):27-56.
Waging War on Pascal's Wager.Alan Hájek - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (1):27-56.

View all 15 references / Add more references