Cognitive Bias, the Axiological Question and the Epistemic Probability of Theistic Belief

In Mirosław Szatkowski (ed.), Ontology of Theistic Beliefs: Meta-Ontological Perspectives. De Gruyter. pp. 77-92 (2018)
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Some recent work in philosophy of religion addresses what can be called the “axiological question,” i.e., regardless of whether God exists, would it be good or bad if God exists? Would the existence of God make the world a better or a worse place? Call the view that the existence of God would make the world a better place “Pro-Theism.” We argue that Pro-Theism is not implausible, and moreover, many Theists, at least, (often implicitly) think that it is true. That is, many Theists think that various good outcomes would arise if Theism is true. We then discuss work in cognitive science concerning human cognitive bias, before discussing two noteworthy attempts to show that at least some religious beliefs arise because of cognitive bias: Hume’s, and Draper’s and Nichols’s. We then argue that, as a result of certain cognitive biases that result when good outcomes might be at stake, Pro-Theism causes many Theists to inflate the epistemic probability that God exists, and as a result, Theists should lower the probability they assign to God’s existence. Finally, based our arguments, we develop a novel objection to Pascal’s wager.



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Dan Linford
Purdue University
Jason Megill
Bentley College

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On the psychology of prediction.Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky - 1973 - Psychological Review 80 (4):237-251.
The Last Word.Thomas Nagel - 1997 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The Last Word.Thomas Nagel - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (197):529-536.
Should We Want God to Exist?Guy Kahane - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (3):674-696.

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