Pascal’s Wager

An argument set out by Blaise Pascal in his Pensées (1670). If God exists, and one commits oneself to a life of faith, the rewards in Heaven will be infinitely greater than any benefit one would get in life by not committing oneself to a life of faith (perhaps a bit of extra time for gardening on a Sunday morning?). Therefore, assuming that he does exist and committing oneself to a life of faith is a good bet. It would only be a bad bet if we knew for certain that God does not exist, which we don’t.P14

The Wager is a version of the Precautionary Principle, but it is less vague, and it is a reasonable approach to risk in a constructive argument with (say) sceptics on climate change. If a breakdown of the present climate equilibrium—an event of infinitely high cost—were no more than a minor possibility, it would still be rational to take action, even expensive action, to try to prevent it. You do not at all have to be certain that climate change is real to justify doing something about it.


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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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