According to recent news reports, the Federal Oncology Commission, headed by the Earle Warren Orchestra and Dr. Earle Warren on saxophone, will issue a report this morning that the immediate cause of Sen. Kennedy’s death was a lone cancer cell, acting alone, without the assistance of other cancer cells, and that any hint that the cancer cell acted in conspiracy or with the assistance of other cancer cells is silly and ridiculous.

Also, there were no cancer cells in the grassy knoll.

Sen. Kennedy’s three older brothers were great men–joe jr. gave his life for his country in wwII, JFK was a great president, a princeton man who transferred to Harvard and graduated from there, and was known to have romanced the actresses gene tierney, marilyn monroe as well as his gorgeous wife jackie o, all in one spectacular lifetime, not to mention saying “ich bin ein Berliner.”

There were a lot of bad things that happened to Sen. Ted Kennedy along the road in life.  But we forgave them all, and in the end, he was a Great Man.

All in all, the great outweighed the bad in Ted Kennedy, and he was in fact, a Great Man, and a Great Senator.

He was a lot like nolan ryan, about half wins, half losses, and his fastball was great, but his wild pitches and walks would cost you ballgames, but when he was great, he was really, truly great.

Abraham Martin & John by DION

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John

NEW LAST VERSE FOR TEDDY:

Has anybody here seen my old friend Teddy,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin, Bobby & John….
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good they die young
But I just looked around and he was gone.

http://www.uulyrics.com/music/dion/song-abraham-martin-john/

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

This was an interesting move. Seldom in baseball do you see one Hall of Fame bound pitcher replace another in the starting rotation. Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer, between them, have won about 400 or 500 games in the major leagues; Moyer had already won 260 plus and was still pitching reasonably well this season at age 47 while Pedro Martinez had won nearly 200 games in a brilliant span of about fifteen years when he was nearly unhittable for the Expos and Red Sox during the late 90s and early 2000s.

Martinez in recent years has not been the same unhittable pitcher. His first year for the Mets went well, but after that he began to be injured, and showed signs of weakness on the mound for the first time, and the last three or four years have not been kind to the once invincible Martinez. But this past year he pitched well in the World Baseball Classic, and he seems ready once again to throw in the big leagues.

It’s an interesting move, since Moyer has been pretty much guaranteed money both in the regular season and in the post season for the phils since they obtained him three years ago. He won sixteen games last year and was very effective in 2007; more importantly, Moyer has been like a second pitching coach, teaching his crafty off speed stuff and wily changeups to the staff, like the late great Johnny Podres used to do with older Phillies staffs before him. Its true he’s slowed down a bit in the heat of August, but of course, with 47 year old pitchers, you’re sort of in unchartered territory. After all, last year, when he was 46, he pitched very well in the heat of August.

Brett Myers is also about ready to come back to the bigs in a couple of weeks, and starting September 1, the major league rosters expand to 40, so we might even see the likes of Kyle Drabek get a start or two. The Phillies, weak at starting pitcher all year, suddenly have an embarrassment of riches—Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez are all MVPs or Cy Young winners or big game pitchers who know how to win late in the season or in the post-season, and Joe Blanton and JA Happ have outstanding numbers this season, great strikeout to walk ratios, good WHIP numbers, and neither is allowing too many homers. Hamels’ numbers are also very good, even though fans and the media are complaining, Hamels is on track to strike out 150 batters, and his WHIP and homers allowed are pretty good. They’re just not what they were last year, but compared to an average starter, they’re excellent. And Lee has been phenomenal since arrival. So Lee, Happ, Hamels & Blanton all have great numbers. This move is all about the FIFTH starter. That’s kind of neat—having to fix your fifth starter. I bet the Mets wish they had that problem.

Happ is on pace to allow the fewest homers of any of the starters, and garner the most strikeouts per innings pitched. As I stated in a blog before the season started arguing for Happ to be named to the starting rotation, based on his minor league numbers (he struck out 125 and 150 batters in two seasons starting in AA and AAA), six foot six lefthanders don’t grow on trees. Happ may well be the rookie of the year and win ten games for the Phils. He may win fifteen next year.

Next year the Phils may have the luxury of a rotation with Happ, Blanton, Hamels, Lee Drabek or Myers, which would be a young and very good rotation. Moyer could continue out of the pen as a lefthanded specialist or move to pitching coach. Who knows? The Phils may even have Pedro back for another year.

One additional remark and that is on the Cliff Lee deal. This is GM Ruben Amaro’s first really big trade, and it was a brilliant one. First, because Amaro did not trade for Roy Halladay, who is 35 and his best years behind him, and the Blue Jays asking way too much. Second, because the Indians were asking a fair price for Lee, and the Phillies gave a fair amount for Lee. Third, because Lee is much younger than Halladay, and still in his prime; he won the Cy Young last year, not back in 2003, like Halladay.

If you examine Lee’s numbers, each year he’s been in the league, he’s allowed fewer home runs and fewer walks every year, culminating in his Cy Young year last year. Lee is an accurate thrower who simply throws strike after strike, low in the zone, without allowing homers. Last year he allowed only 10 or 12 homers all year, an impossibly low total in modern five run per game baseball, and very low for an American League pitcher. Halladay by constrast gives up 20 a year. Lee only walked approximately 30 or 35 batters last year while striking out 150 or more. That’s an amazing set of statistics for a starting pitcher.

Lee’s pinpoint control was abundantly on display his first two starts as a Phillie. His first start, a complete game shutout of the Giants, and his second start, in which he allowed only one run (not on a homer), demonstrated that he strikes out a lot of batters, walks few or none, and gives up no homers when he pitches. He also pitches deep into the game, the 7th, 8th or complete game.

Lee is, in short, the ideal starting pitcher. As if that is not enough, he can hit the ball and run the bases, and he’s modest, self-effacing, and farms and hunts in the off-season in his native Kentucky.

If this all sounds like Lee emerged full grown from a Damon Runyon story, I agree. He is too good to be true, but then again, the Phillies have always been blessed with characters who could play—like Aaron Rowand, Pete Rose, Lenny Dykstra, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Cole Hamels—and Cliff Lee seems as if he was born to be a Phillie.

Pedro Martinez will look odd in a Phillies uniform, I’ll admit. But then again, Curt Schilling looked odd in a Red Sox uniform. And from what’s been printed in the various columns in the local news, Pedro’s been eating out at the local restaurants in Philly, so he seems to be enjoying himself here in town.

The Phillies are going to have a tough time in the playoffs this year when and if they clinch the division title. They’re looking at playing the Cubs or Cardinals, or the Giants in the first round, and the Dodgers Cubs or Cardinals in the second round, and all of those teams are loaded up with pitching and hitting. They will have to beat good pitchers like they did in 2008, when they beat CC Sabathia in the playoffs. They will need all of the arms they have acquired to win in the playoffs, and Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer, whether starting or in the bullpen, will be of great value in the playoffs come October.

–art kyriazis, Philly/South Jersey
home of the world champion phillies

George Russell, one of the Jazz Legends, died last week in New York City, a death that went all but unnoticed except in the New York Times, which had a fitting obit to the jazz legend.

Russell’s album “The Jazz Workshop” from 1956 is a legendary work, and for years commanded very high collectors’ prices in mint first edition, usually more than a hundred dollars. It was an amazing work.

Russell, as the NYT obit noted, invented modal dissonant jazz—dense harmonic dissonant chord changes which he described in his “bible of modal jazz”, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization for Improvisation, published in 1953 and again in 1959. (thanks to the New York times 7/30/09 for this).

The effect on the jazz world was dramatic. Miles Davis and John Coletrane immediately picked up on modal jazz, starting with the album “Milestones” in 1958 (they were still in the same band) and then Davis struck gold with his all time classic “Kind of Blue” a year later in 1959 (the fifty year legacy edition was recently released by Columbia in a two cd edition).

From here to the wild modal jazz explorations of miles and coletrane of the 50s and 60s, and to the free jazz of ornette coleman, and the fusion jazz of the 60s and 70s, was but a short step. Dissonance and freedom from tonality was all the rage for the next 25 years.

The movement raged on into rock and blues. Ray Manzarek explained “Light My Fire” as a “modal chromatic inversion” of Coletrane’s “My Favorite Things”; the Grateful Dead and other groups began to improvise and jam along modal jazz lines each and every night, as did more blues-based groups like Eric Clapton and Cream. By the 1970s, modal jazz and jazz-rock fused into jazz-fusion and groups like Mahavishnu Orchestra led by John McLaughlin produced stupendous works like “The Inner Mounting Flame,” while more mainstream artists like Al DiMeola, Jean Luc-Ponty and Weather Report experimented with jazz fusion and modality throughout the decade.

Perhaps my favorite modal work was 1967’s “Nefertiti”, by the legendary Miles Davis lineup which included Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter & Tony Williams. Sublime and spectacular.

George Russell was completely forgotten by then, but he was the father of it all. No one remembered that Russell was the composer of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Cubano Bop” and “Cubano Be Cubano Bop” in the late 1940s, or that Russell continued to teach and play in the new york area for years, or that Russell received a McArthur Fellowship in 1988.

George Russell was one of my favorite jazz figures precisely because he was obscure but influential and brilliant. He never sought out the spotlight, fame, money, fast cars or the attention of pop stardom. He was, to the end, a musician’s musician. He will be missed.

–art kyriazis, Philadelphia, PA
the birthplace of dizzy gillespie & john coletrane

The legendary Aaron Rowand, who went through the wall in 2007, in a game I personally attended in the spring of that momentous year with my two young sons, departed this great sports city after leading our Phils to our first division title in 2007.

Rowand signed a huge free agent deal with the Gianhts. In 2008, that looked bad, as the Phils won the world series, Victorino took Rowand’s place in the place of the hearts of phils fans, and the Giants limped to a very poor finish.

But 2009 is a different year. Rowand has led the Giants back from the grave. With Lincecum and other fine starters, and adding the agile Freddy Sanchez at 2b from the Pirates at the trading deadline, Rowand led his ballclub over the weekend to take 3 of 4 from the Phillies at SF.

The Giants have almost the same record as the Phils. The LA Dodgers are way ahead, but the Giants are in the wild card hunt, and may play the Phils in the playoffs. All weekend, Rowand was in the action, catching balls, scoring runs, hustling,and leading from the dugout.

This was the Aaron Rowand I remember, who won a world series in Chicago with the White Sox, and who led the Phils to overtake the Mets from 7 1/2 games down in September with 15 to play in fall 2007 to win the division.

He is a great leader. Aaron Rowand. Remember the name.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

So I guess we know now why Manny Ramirez was so irritated all the time at his teammates, why he was having anger management problems, why he wanted to leave Boston despite winning two world titles, and why he was depressed, moody and suicidally despondent at times despite being the best ballplayer in the AL at times—it was all because of the steroids.

And why he grew the longest dreadlocks this side of Jamaica-mon.

LA made him no happier and now we know why. There’s nothing really to say, except that when a right handed slugger defies statistical norms, fails to decline in age-related fashion the way every other player has for decades, and fails to regress to the mean the way every other player does, it’s either because a) he has the talent of a hank aaron or babe ruth, b) the laws of statistics and probability have failed us or c) he’s taking steroids to beat the odds.

In the cases of Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriquez and now Manny Ramirez, we know the answer to the statistical riddle of how it is they could do what no other ballplayers could do. The answer is, they took performance enhancing drugs. They cheated, and they cheated badly. They wanted to beat the house odds and beat father time.

I still think the pitchers who threw spitballs and scuffballs and vaseline balls should be treated the same; it’s the same sort of deal. But as all of this gets worse and worse, we are left with fewer and fewer heroes. Even Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker gambled on baseball, but somehow they were set free.

And a voice in the distance, ever so faint, cries out more loudly;

FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!

And what the heck, Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox as well…

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Well, no matter that Boston won in 7 incredible games, this has turned into a pleasant surprise, and a rivalry at that.

I remember well the old Michael Jordan-Larry Bird Chicago-Boston series of the 1980s, which were insane, with Jordan scoring infinity points, but Boston having a better team and winning anyway, and these games have been a lot like that.

Without Garnett, Boston has come down to earth, and Chicago has great young players, especially DERRICK ROSE the SUPER ROOKIE who’s really come to play. He only dropped 36 on Boston his first playoff game—Iverson-like intensity in the playoff cauldron. Watching Rose square off against Paul Pierce and Ray Allen was really something.

Chicago has at least six championship banners from the Jordan years, and a lot of titles, and Boston has at least thirteen from the Russell year, another five from the Bird years, and one from last year, so between them these two franchises have about half of the all the NBA championships of the last fifty years. It’s a lot of history and pride on the line.

I know Philly-Boston used to be something, and Boston-LA is always something, but Chicago-Boston is surely something too, and this year’s playoff series between the two was SOMETHING.

Chicago was assisted by at least three ex-Sixers this year—Larry Hughes, Tim Thomas and John Salmons—for different portions of the year. Hughes helped Chicago in the first half of the season, before he was moved to the NY Knicks, while Salmons was a late season acquisition from the Sacramento Kings. Thomas was over the hill, but helped them all year, including during the playoffs.

Everyone will remember the awful trade of Salmons, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson a couple of years back for an over the hill, injured and not so productive Chris Webber—well, to be fair, in 2005-06, Webber’s only full season with the Sixers, he did average 20 ppg, balancing scoring duties with Iverson, and the Sixers won 38 games—and missed the last playoff spot in the east by 2 games. Such is the difference between success and failure in the NBA. Everyone thought that pairing would last forever.

That is until the two of them missed fan appreciation day the next to last day of the season. All the old fat white guys on sports radio suddenly went nuts and demanded they both be traded. Are you kidding me?

By the very next season, Webber played only 18 games, Iverson was back to scoring 30 plus ppg, but the Sixers panicked and traded Iverson after only 15 games, regressed to 35 wins, again missing the playoffs by five wins. Webber’s contract was bought out and I’m not even sure he ever played again.

In the meantime, John Salmons by this past season had developed into a very fine player with Sacramento—at 6 foot seven he was a good defensive player, and he finally had learned the offensive game, pouring in twenty points a game for the lowly Kings.

Chicago, in need of a scoring guard, took notice and picked Salmons up for a song during midseason (where was Eddie Stefanski during all this?) and Salmons helped drive Chicago into the playoffs and the final seed during a late season run.

Watching a guy like Salmons who played his high school ball at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, and who spent his first four years in a Sixers uniform, help drive the Chicago Bulls to a playoff spot, was kind of annoying to me this year. It only got worse during the legendary Game Six of this years Chicago-Boston series, the triple-overtime game in which Salmons dropped 35 points on the Celtics. Now that was showing off.

Does anyone doubt that Salmons could have been helpful at the two guard position this year for the Sixers? I think the case is closed on that one. Salmons is tall, he plays good defense and he can score.

This past year Salmons earned 5.7 win shares, one of those defensive, and averaged close to 19 ppg. His field goal average was .473, very efficient, and his three point average was .415, also excellent, and he averaged 2 assists and only 1.7 turnovers a game. That goes along with 4.3 rebounds a game. Throw in a steal a game and a block a game, and you’ve got a really good player who can do a lot of good things. It’s true Salmons is now thirty years old, but so what? He might be a late bloomer, but if he’s learned to play the game, he’s learned to play the game. And he can play.

Ray Allen is what, a hundred? He was playing for Milwaukee back when the amphibians and the reptiles first walked on dry land. He’s so old that some of the cave paintings in France are attributed to him. I’m not saying Ray Allen is old, but he has grandchildren playing ball in college right now. It’s not that Ray Allen is old, but he’s the only NBA player I know who get’s Social Security checks delivered next to his NBA paychecks.

Seriously, though, Ray Allen is the ageless wonder, a beautiful player who can still play the game beautifully, and for those who think Allen Iverson is washed up or too old, I offer as exhibit one, Ray Allen. Small shooting guards who are pure shooters can play a long time in the NBA—I think here of the wondrous Hal Greer of the Sixers—a Hall of Famer—who played of course with Wilt on the 1967 team that won 68 teams and dethroned the Celtics for the title—and we should be mindful of this fact.

In short, Boston-Chicago was a wonderful, marvelous series, a beautiful thing to witness, pure basketball at its best, overtime game upon overtime game, each with its own storyline. Neither time yielded or gave quarter. It’s nice to see pro athletes play that hard and that long and give effort on that scale. Again, it’s reminiscent of the days of Jordan and Bird and when they first met in the late 1980s—those playoff series were wars between Chicago and Boston. This latest series was no less.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion philadelphia phillies

I wanted to wish a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover to all.

There’s an old joke, that goes something like this. A liberal is arguing with a conservative about the death penalty. Finally, exasperated, the conservative says to the liberal, “of course I’m in favor of the death penalty–without the death penalty, there’d be no Easter and no Easter Bunny!”

While this is an awful joke, it does remain true that in the two major capital punishment trials that we know about in history, Socrates and Jesus, as best we know, both were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. I won’t even get to the OJ trial, although as we all know, the glove didn’t fit and they had to acquit.

Obviously Socrates and Jesus could have used Johnny Cochran as their lawyer.

Socrates on dying, was reputed to have said something like, I die, you live, god knows who is going to the better place. Those of us who are religious of course believe that death brings us closer to a better place indeed, but Socrates provides a flash of insight that this short life is not the only one, that there is a spiritual and inner life that transcends death. Religion ministers to the soul, or at least to our conception of the soul, and consequently it is a vital part of our lives.

The Passover story about Moses leading the chosen people out of bondage and out of Egypt is a great story, as well as being an integral part of the old testament. “Exodus” is actually ancient greek for “Exothos” or “Exit” or “Leaving”. It’s the title of the book from the Ancient Greek Septuagint. The entire point of Exodus is the story of the Chosen People Leaving, “Exothos”, from Egypt and their bondage. God frees them from slavery and bondage through Moses and a series of miracles, each one greater than the last, which are celebrated each and every Passover.

It is such an important story because it gives hope to every oppressed peoples that God will redeem every one in bondage, free them and lead them to their own Promised Land. When Martin Luther King spoke of reaching the Promised Land, it was the Passover Story he was referring to. He didn’t need to explain that to his listeners, many of whom were careful Bible readers. The African-Americans of this country understood about bondage, redemption, and being led out of bondage and to the Promised Land.

On this Passover, we should think about these matters in considering President Obama, a man who has the potential to unite many different elements of society, and perhaps finally lead a people to the Promised Land. All oppressed peoples the world over hearken to the story of Exodus.

I’ve always had a strong faith in God and I don’t doubt God’s existence. Recently there’s been a spate of books and articles by respected scholars advocating atheism and the non-existence of God. I find this to be an awful waste of scholarly time, and especially of taxpayer and endowment money. Isn’t there something important these guys should be doing on our nickel?

Richard Dawkins, who once wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene,” is one of these. He used to teach at Harvard, now teaches in England, and appears to enjoy bashing God and religion in his books. Dawkins used to be a capable biologist. In his old age, he’s turned into a menacing crank who hates old ladies who go to church and pray to the saints and God for the memories of their dead husbands.

How mean can you possible get?

You might call him “The Selfish Dean” because he really seems only to care about himself. Is this what tenure breeds? Idiotic books about atheism? Pushed on us by editors and publishing houses?

Belief in God is a personal matter, but it also means a commitment to others, and to doing things for others, without considering the personal benefit to yourself. Sitting around the table at Easter, at Seder, at any family gathering, we give thanks to our creator and Lord for family, for health, for happiness. I can’t imagine a life without God or without prayer, a life without church or without friends from church or the church community.

I’ve looked at Dawkins’ books on atheism. They are poorly written, poorly argued, and basically are rants.

It’s not a careful argument.

A careful argument, for example, would be Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, or Martin Luther’s 95 Theses against the Catholic Church, or John Calvin’s immense work of theology criticizing the Roman Catholic Church and setting forth the tenets of Calvinism.

Those are careful and thoughtful books, which make their cases carefully, point by point.

Dawkins’ books by contrast are awful and poorly researched and poorly written. It’s embarassing to see a professor publish such awful work. Especially when he was able while younger to write such a good book on biology as “The Selfish Gene.” It’s readily apparent Dawkins’ writing and intellectual skills have sharply declined with age.

But assuming that Dawkins (and any of these other atheists) has/have any rational or reasonable points to make, I’d like to refute them with Pascal’s Wager, for one. I think Dawkins is already refuted by the Transcendental a priori arguments of Kant for God’s existence, but Blaise Pascal made a classic probability argument which is, in fact, irrefutable on mathematical and utility grounds, for God’s existence.

Pascal said you should believe in God, because if you did, even if there was only a 1 in a million chance of his existence, the benefits would be eternal salvation, whereas if you denied Him, the possible harm would be eternal damnation.

Consequently, it’s a lot like the nuclear calculus–the benefits are so great, that even if there’s only a slight chance of God existing, it’s worth going all in on God. If you win, you get eternal salvation forever. (the nukes argument goes like, if there’s a one in a million chance of starting World War III, the harm is so great, you have to avoid it, because it’s nuclear winter and the death of mankind, so the policy can’t be adopted).

If you lose the wager, you burn in hell forever. I kind of envision Dawkins burning in a really hot part of hell, by the way. The part where they keep Bernie Madoff, child molesters, child molesting catholic priests and every single convicted defendant whose story was the real basis for the plot line of a LAW AND ORDER:SVU episode. Those stories are really pretty awful. This is a digression, but it’s hard to believe that’s Jayne Mansfield’s daughter in that show, by the way. Mariska Hargitay, emmy winning actress, now approximately in her mid-40s, and still very beautiful, is the daughter of Mickey Hargitay (a former Mr. Universe) and Jayne Mansfield, the 1950s starlet/sex bomb. I think you’d have to say that Mariska Hargitay has really had a solid acting career.

As for all of those who doubt God’s existence or lack faith in God, I give you an extended discusion of Pascal’s Wager from the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy.

Pascal’s Wager
By Alan Hajek, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’ — it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several strands in intellectual thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.

We will begin with some brief stage-setting: some historical background, some of the basics of decision theory, and some of the exegetical problems that the Pensées pose. Then we will follow the text to extract three main arguments. The bulk of the literature addresses the third of these arguments, as will the bulk of our discussion here. Some of the more technical and scholarly aspects of our discussion will be relegated to lengthy footnotes, to which there are links for the interested reader. All quotations are from §233 of Pensées (1910, Trotter translation), the ‘thought’ whose heading is “Infinite—nothing”.
• 1. Background
• 2. The Argument from Superdominance
• 3. The Argument from Expectation
• 4. The Argument from Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
• 5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
• Bibliography
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

1. Background
It is important to contrast Pascal’s argument with various putative ‘proofs’ of the existence of God that had come before it. Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’ ‘five ways’, Descartes’ ontological and cosmological arguments, and so on, purport to give a priori demonstrations that God exists. Pascal is apparently unimpressed by such attempted justifications of theism: “Endeavour … to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God…” Indeed, he concedes that “we do not know if He is …”. Pascal’s project, then, is radically different: he seeks to provide prudential reasons for believing in God. To put it crudely, we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. Ryan 1994 finds precursors to this line of reasoning in the writings of Plato, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others; we might add Ghazali to his list — see Palacios 1920. But what is distinctive is Pascal’s explicitly decision theoretic formulation of the reasoning. In fact, Hacking 1975 describes the Wager as “the first well-understood contribution to decision theory” (viii). Thus, we should pause briefly to review some of the basics of that theory.

In any decision problem, the way the world is, and what an agent does, together determine an outcome for the agent. We may assign utilities to such outcomes, numbers that represent the degree to which the agent values them. It is typical to present these numbers in a decision matrix, with the columns corresponding to the various relevant states of the world, and the rows corresponding to the various possible actions that the agent can perform.

In decisions under uncertainty, nothing more is given — in particular, the agent does not assign subjective probabilities to the states of the world. Still, sometimes rationality dictates a unique decision nonetheless. Consider, for example, a case that will be particularly relevant here. Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1’s outcome is strictly better than A2’s. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality surely requires you to perform A1.

In decisions under risk, the agent assigns subjective probabilities to the various states of the world. Assume that the states of the world are independent of what the agent does. A figure of merit called the expected utility, or the expectation of a given action can be calculated by a simple formula: for each state, multiply the utility that the action produces in that state by the state’s probability; then, add these numbers. According to decision theory, rationality requires you to perform the action of maximum expected utility (if there is one).

Example. Suppose that the utility of money is linear in number of dollars: you value money at exactly its face value. Suppose that you have the option of paying a dollar to play a game in which there is an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning three dollars. The expectation of the game itself is

0*(1/2) + 3*(1/2) = 1.5,

so the expectation of paying a dollar for certain, then playing, is

-1 + 1.5 = 0.5.

This exceeds the expectation of not playing (namely 0), so you should play. On the other hand, if the game gave an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning two dollars, then its expectation would be:

0*(1/2) + 2*(1/2) = 1.

Then consistent with decision theory, you could either pay the dollar to play, or refuse to

play, for either way your overall expectation would be 0.

Considerations such as these will play a crucial role in Pascal’s arguments. It should be admitted that there are certain exegetical problems in presenting these arguments. Pascal never finished the Pensées, but rather left them in the form of notes of various sizes pinned together. Hacking 1972 describes the “Infinite—nothing” as consisting of “two pieces of paper covered on both sides by handwriting going in all directions, full of erasures, corrections, insertions, and afterthoughts” (24).[1] This may explain why certain passages are notoriously difficult to interpret, as we will see. Furthermore, our formulation of the arguments in the parlance of modern Bayesian decision theory might appear somewhat anachronistic. For example, Pascal did not distinguish between what we would now call objective and subjective probability, although it is clear that it is the latter that is relevant to his arguments. To some extent, “Pascal’s Wager” now has a life of its own, and our presentation of it here is perfectly standard. Still, we will closely follow Pascal’s text, supporting our reading of his arguments as much as possible.

There is the further problem of dividing the Infinite-nothing into separate arguments. We will locate three arguments that each conclude that rationality requires you to wager for God, although they interleave in the text.[2] Finally, there is some disagreement over just what “wagering for God” involves — is it believing in God, or merely trying to? We will conclude with a discussion of what Pascal meant by this.

2. The Argument from Superdominance
Pascal maintains that we are incapable of knowing whether God exists or not, yet we must “wager” one way or the other. Reason cannot settle which way we should incline, but a consideration of the relevant outcomes supposedly can. Here is the first key passage:

“God is, or He is not.”

But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, you knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

There are exegetical problems already here, partly because Pascal appears to contradict himself. He speaks of “the true” as something that you can “lose”, and “error” as something “to shun”. Yet he goes on to claim that if you lose the wager that God is, then “you lose nothing”. Surely in that case you “lose the true”, which is just to say that you have made an error. Pascal believes, of course, that the existence of God is “the true” — but that is not something that he can appeal to in this argument. Moreover, it is not because “you must of necessity choose” that “your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other”. Rather, by Pascal’s own account, it is because “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (If it could, then it might well be shocked — namely, if you chose in a way contrary to it.)

Following McClennen 1994, Pascal’s argument seems to be best captured as presenting the following decision matrix:
God exists God does not exist
Wager for God Gain all Status quo
Wager against God Misery Status quo

Wagering for God superdominates wagering against God: the worst outcome associated with wagering for God (status quo) is at least as good as the best outcome associated with wagering against God (status quo); and if God exists, the result of wagering for God is strictly better that the result of wagering against God.

(The fact that the result is much better does not matter yet.) Pascal draws the conclusion at this point that rationality requires you to wager for God.

Without any assumption about your probability assignment to God’s existence, the argument is invalid. Rationality does not require you to wager for God if you assign probability 0 to God existing. And Pascal does not explicitly rule this possibility out until a later passage, when he assumes that you assign positive probability to God’s existence; yet this argument is presented as if it is self-contained. His claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here” may suggest that Pascal regards this as a decision under uncertainty, which is to assume that you do not assign probability at all to God’s existence. If that is a further premise, then the argument is valid; but that premise contradicts his subsequent assumption that you assign positive probability. See McClennen for a reading of this argument as a decision under uncertainty.

Pascal appears to be aware of a further objection to this argument, for he immediately imagines an opponent replying:

“That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.”

The thought seems to be that if I wager for God, and God does not exist, then I really do lose something. In fact, Pascal himself speaks of staking something when one wagers for God, which presumably one loses if God does not exist. (We have already mentioned ‘the true’ as one such thing; Pascal also seems to regard one’s worldly life as another.) In other words, the matrix is mistaken in presenting the two outcomes under ‘God does not exist’ as if they were the same, and we do not have a case of superdominance after all.
Pascal addresses this at once in his second argument, which we will discuss only briefly, as it can be thought of as just a prelude to the main argument.

3. The Argument From Expectation
He continues:

Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness.

His hypothetically speaking of “two lives” and “three lives” may strike one as odd. It is helpful to bear in mind Pascal’s interest in gambling (which after all provided the initial motivation for his study of probability) and to take the gambling model quite seriously here. Recall our calculation of the expectations of the two dollar and three dollar gambles. Pascal apparently assumes now that utility is linear in number of lives, that wagering for God costs “one life”, and then reasons analogously to the way we did! This is, as it were, a warm-up. Since wagering for God is rationally required even in the hypothetical case in which one of the prizes is three lives, then all the more it is rationally required in the actual case, in which one of the prizes is eternal life (salvation).

So Pascal has now made two striking assumptions:

(1) The probability of God’s existence is 1/2.

(2) Wagering for God brings infinite reward if God exists.

Morris 1994 is sympathetic to (1), while Hacking 1972 finds it “a monstrous premiss”. It apparently derives from the classical interpretation of probability, according to which all possibilities are given equal weight. Of course, unless more is said, the interpretation yields implausible, and even contradictory results. (You have a one-in-a-million chance of winning the lottery; but either you win the lottery or you don’t, so each of these possibilities has probability 1/2?!) Pascal’s best argument for (1) is presumably that “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (In the lottery ticket case, reason can decide something.) But it is not clear that complete ignorance should be modeled as sharp indifference. In any case, it is clear that there are people in Pascal’s audience who do not assign probability 1/2 to God’s existence. This argument, then, does not speak to them.
However, Pascal realizes that the value of 1/2 actually plays no real role in the argument, thanks to (2). This brings us to the third, and by far the most important, of his arguments.

4. The Argument From Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
We continue the quotation.

But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all…

Again this passage is difficult to understand completely. Pascal’s talk of winning two, or three, lives is at best misleading. By his own decision theoretic lights, you would not act stupidly “by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you”—in fact, you should not stake more than an infinitesimal amount in that case (an amount that is bigger than 0, but smaller than every positive real number). The point, rather, is that the prospective prize is “an infinity of an infinitely happy life”.

In short, if God exists, then wagering for God results in infinite utility.

What about the utilities for the other possible outcomes? There is some dispute over the utility of “misery”. Hacking interprets this as “damnation”, and Pascal does later speak of “hell” as the outcome in this case. Martin 1983 among others assigns this a value of negative infinity. Sobel 1996, on the other hand, is one author who takes this value to be finite. There is some textual support for this reading: “The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the outcast is less vast … than mercy towards the elect”.

As for the utilities of the outcomes associated with God’s non-existence, Pascal tells us that “what you stake is finite”. This suggests that whatever these values are, they are finite.
Pascal’s guiding insight is that the argument from expectation goes through equally well whatever your probability for God’s existence is, provided that it is non-zero and finite (non-infinitesimal) — “a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss”.[3]

With Pascal’s assumptions about utilities and probabilities in place, he is now in a position to calculate the relevant expectations. He explains how the calculations should proceed:
… the uncertainty of the gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the chances of gain and loss… [4]

Let us now gather together all of these points into a single argument. We can think of Pascal’s Wager as having three premises: the first concerns the decision matrix of rewards, the second concerns the probability that you should give to God’s existence, and the third is a maxim about rational decision-making. Specifically:
1. Either God exists or God does not exist, and you can either wager for God or wager against God. The utilities of the relevant possible outcomes are as follows, where f1, f2, and f3 are numbers whose values are not specified beyond the requirement that they be finite:

God exists God does not exist
Wager for God ∞ f1
Wager against God f2 f3

2. Rationality requires the probability that you assign to God existing to be positive, and not infinitesimal.

3. Rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one).

4. Conclusion 1. Rationality requires you to wager for God.

5. Conclusion 2. You should wager for God.

We have a decision under risk, with probabilities assigned to the relevant ways the world could be, and utilities assigned to the relevant outcomes. The conclusion seems straightforwardly to follow from the usual calculations of expected utility (where p is your positive, non-infinitesimal probability for God’s existence):

E(wager for God) = ∞*p + f1*(1 − p) = ∞

That is, your expected utility of belief in God is infinite — as Pascal puts it, “our proposition is of infinite force”. On the other hand, your expected utility of wagering against God is

E(wager against God) = f2*p + f3*(1 − p)

This is finite.[5] By premise 3, rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility.

Therefore, rationality requires you to wager for God.

We now survey some of the main objections to the argument.

5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
Premise 1: The Decision Matrix
Here the objections are manifold. Most of them can be stated quickly, but we will give special attention to what has generally been regarded as the most important of them, ‘the many Gods objection’ (see also the link to footnote 7).

1. Different matrices for different people.
The argument assumes that the same decision matrix applies to everybody. However, perhaps the relevant rewards are different for different people. Perhaps, for example, there is a predestined infinite reward for the Chosen, whatever they do, and finite utility for the rest, as Mackie 1982 suggests. Or maybe the prospect of salvation appeals more to some people than to others, as Swinburne 1969 has noted.
Even granting that a single 2 x 2 matrix applies to everybody, one might dispute the values that enter into it. This brings us to the next two objections.

2. The utility of salvation could not be infinite.
One might argue that the very notion of infinite utility is suspect — see for example Jeffrey 1983 and McClennen 1994.[6] Hence, the objection continues, whatever the utility of salvation might be, it must be finite. Strict finitists, who are chary of the notion of infinity in general, will agree — see Dummett 1978 and Wright 1987. Or perhaps the notion of infinite utility makes sense, but an infinite reward could only be finitely appreciated by a human being.

3. There should be more than one infinity in the matrix.
There are also critics of the Wager who, far from objecting to infinite utilities, want to see more of them in the matrix. For example, it might be thought that a forgiving God would bestow infinite utility upon wagerers-for and wagerers-against alike — Rescher 1985 is one author who entertains this possibility. Or it might be thought that, on the contrary, wagering against an existent God results in negative infinite utility. (As we have noted, some authors read Pascal himself as saying as much.) Either way, f2 is not really finite at all, but ∞ or -∞ as the case may be. And perhaps f1 and f3 could be ∞ or -∞. Suppose, for instance, that God does not exist, but that we are reincarnated ad infinitum, and that the total utility we receive is an infinite sum that does not converge.

4. The matrix should have more rows.
Perhaps there is more than one way to wager for God, and the rewards that God bestows vary accordingly. For instance, God might not reward infinitely those who strive to believe in Him only for the very mercenary reasons that Pascal gives, as James 1956 has observed. One could also imagine distinguishing belief based on faith from belief based on evidential reasons, and posit different rewards in each case.

6. The matrix should have more columns: the many Gods objection.
If Pascal is really right that reason can decide nothing here, then it would seem that various other theistic hypotheses are also live options. Pascal presumably had in mind the Catholic conception of God — let us suppose that this is the God who either ‘exists’ or ‘does not exist’. By excluded middle, this is a partition. The objection, then, is that the partition is not sufficiently fine-grained, and the ‘(Catholic) God does not exist’ column really subdivides into various other theistic hypotheses. The objection could equally run that Pascal’s argument ‘proves too much’: by parallel reasoning we can ‘show’ that rationality requires believing in various incompatible theistic hypotheses. As Diderot 1875-77 puts the point: “An Imam could reason just as well this way”.[7]

Since then, the point has been represented and refined in various ways. Mackie 1982 writes, “the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshippers of Kali or of Odin” (203). Cargile 1966 shows just how easy it is to multiply theistic hypotheses: for each real number x, consider the God who prefers contemplating x more than any other activity. It seems, then, that such ‘alternative gods’ are a dime a dozen — or aleph one, for that matter.

Premise 2: The Probability Assigned to God’s Existence
There are four sorts of problem for this premise. The first two are straightforward; the second two are more technical, and can be found by following the link to footnote 8.
1. Undefined probability for God’s existence. Premise 1 presupposes that you should have a probability for God’s existence in the first place. However, perhaps you could rationally fail to assign it a probability — your probability that God exists could remain undefined. We cannot enter here into the thorny issues concerning the attribution of probabilities to agents. But there is some support for this response even in Pascal’s own text, again at the pivotal claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up…” The thought could be that any probability assignment is inconsistent with a state of “epistemic nullity” (in Morris’ 1986 phrase): to assign a probability at all — even 1/2 — to God’s existence is to feign having evidence that one in fact totally lacks. For unlike a coin that we know to be fair, this metaphorical ‘coin’ is ‘infinitely far’ from us, hence apparently completely unknown to us. Perhaps, then, rationality actually requires us to refrain from assigning a probability to God’s existence (in which case at least the Argument from Superdominance would be valid). Or perhaps rationality does not require it, but at least permits it. Either way, the Wager would not even get off the ground.

2. Zero probability for God’s existence. Strict atheists may insist on the rationality of a probability assignment of 0, as Oppy 1990 among others points out. For example, they may contend that reason alone can settle that God does not exist, perhaps by arguing that the very notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is contradictory. Or a Bayesian might hold that rationality places no constraint on probabilistic judgments beyond coherence (or conformity to the probability calculus). Then as long as the strict atheist assigns probability 1 to God’s non-existence alongside his or her assignment of 0 to God’s existence, no norm of rationality has been violated.
Furthermore, an assignment of p = 0 would clearly block the route to Pascal’s conclusion. For then the expectation calculations become:

E(wager for God) = ∞*0 + f1*(1 − 0) = f1

E(wager against God) = f2*0 + f3*(1 − 0) = f3

And nothing in the argument implies that f1 > f3. (Indeed, this inequality is questionable, as even Pascal seems to allow.) In short, Pascal’s wager has no pull on strict atheists.[8]

Premise 3: Rationality Requires Maximizing Expected Etility
Finally, one could question Pascal’s decision theoretic assumption that rationality requires one to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one). Now perhaps this is an analytic truth, in which case we could grant it to Pascal without further discussion — perhaps it is constitutive of rationality to maximize expectation, as some might say. But this premise has met serious objections. The Allais 1953 and Ellsberg 1961 paradoxes, for example, are said to show that maximizing expectation can lead one to perform intuitively sub-optimal actions. So too the St. Petersburg paradox, in which it is supposedly absurd that one should be prepared to pay any finite amount to play a game with infinite expectation. (That paradox is particularly apposite here.)[9]

Finally, one might distinguish between practical rationality and theoretical rationality. One could then concede that practical rationality requires you to maximize expected utility, while insisting that theoretical rationality might require something else of you — say, proportioning belief to the amount of evidence available. This objection is especially relevant, since Pascal admits that perhaps you “must renounce reason” in order to follow his advice. But when these two sides of rationality pull in opposite directions, as they apparently can here, it is not obvious that practical rationality should take precedence. (For a discussion of pragmatic, as opposed to theoretical, reasons for belief, see Foley 1994.)

Is the Argument Valid?

A number of authors who have been otherwise critical of the Wager have explicitly conceded that the Wager is valid — e.g. Mackie 1982, Rescher 1985, Mougin and Sober 1994, and most emphatically, Hacking 1972. That is, these authors agree with Pascal that wagering for God really is rationally mandated by Pascal’s decision matrix in tandem with positive probability for God’s existence, and the decision theoretic account of rational action.

However, Duff 1986 and Hájek 2001 argue that the argument is in fact invalid. Their point is that there are strategies besides wagering for God that also have infinite expectation — namely, mixed strategies, whereby you do not wager for or against God outright, but rather choose which of these actions to perform on the basis of the outcome of some chance device. Consider the mixed strategy: “Toss a fair coin: heads, you wager for God; tails, you wager against God”. By Pascal’s lights, with probability 1/2 your expectation will be infinite, and with probability 1/2 it will be finite. The expectation of the entire strategy is:

1/2*∞ + 1/2[f2*p + f3*(1 − p)] = ∞

That is, the ‘coin toss’ strategy has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. But the probability 1/2 was incidental to the result. Any mixed strategy that gives positive and finite probability to wagering for God will likewise have infinite expectation: “wager for God iff a fair die lands 6”, “wager for God iff your lottery ticket wins”, “wager for God iff a meteor quantum tunnels its way through the side of your house”, and so on.

The problem is still worse than this, though, for there is a sense in which anything that you do might be regarded as a mixed strategy between wagering for God, and wagering against God, with suitable probability weights given to each. Suppose that you choose to ignore the Wager, and to go and have a hamburger instead. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your winding up wagering for God nonetheless; and this probability multiplied by infinity again gives infinity. So ignoring the Wager and having a hamburger has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. Even worse, suppose that you focus all your energy into avoiding belief in God. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your efforts failing, with the result that you wager for God nonetheless. In that case again, your expectation is infinite again. So even if rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility when there is one, here there isn’t one. Rather, there is a many-way tie for first place, as it were.[10]

Moral Objections to Wagering for God

Let us grant Pascal’s conclusion for the sake of the argument: rationality requires you to wager for God. It still does not obviously follow that you should wager for God. All that we have granted is that one norm — the norm of rationality — prescribes wagering for God. For all that has been said, some other norm might prescribe wagering against God. And unless we can show that the rationality norm trumps the others, we have not settled what we should actually do.

There are several arguments to the effect that morality requires you to wager against God. Pascal himself appears to be aware of one such argument. He admits that if you do not believe in God, his recommended course of action will “deaden your acuteness.” One way of putting the argument is that wagering for God may require you to corrupt yourself, thus violating a Kantian duty to yourself. Clifford 1986 argues that an individual’s believing something on insufficient evidence harms society by promoting credulity. Penelhum 1971 contends that the putative divine plan is itself immoral, condemning as it does honest non-believers to loss of eternal happiness, when such unbelief is in no way culpable; and that to adopt the relevant belief is to be complicit to this immoral plan. See Quinn 1994 for replies to these arguments. For example, against Penelhum he argues that as long as God treats non-believers justly, there is nothing immoral about him bestowing special favor on believers, more perhaps than they deserve. (Note, however, that Pascal leaves open in the Wager whether the payoff for non-believers is just, even though as far as his argument goes, it may be extremely poor.)

Finally, Voltaire protests that there is something unseemly about the whole Wager. He suggests that Pascal’s calculations, and his appeal to self-interest, are unworthy of the gravity of the subject of theistic belief. This does not so much support wagering against God, as dismissing all talk of ‘wagerings’ altogether.

What Does It Mean to “Wager for God”?

Let us now grant Pascal that, all things considered (rationality and morality included), you should wager for God. What exactly does this involve?

A number of authors read Pascal as arguing that you should believe in God — see e.g. Quinn 1994, and Jordan 1994a. But perhaps one cannot simply believe in God at will; and rationality cannot require the impossible. Pascal is well aware of this objection: “[I] am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”, says his imaginary interlocutor. However, he contends that one can take steps to cultivate such belief:

You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc…

But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

We find two main pieces of advice to the non-believer here: act like a believer, and suppress those passions that are obstacles to becoming a believer. And these are actions that one can perform at will.
Believing in God is presumably one way to wager for God. This passage suggests that even the non-believer can wager for God, by striving to become a believer. Critics may question the psychology of belief formation that Pascal presupposes, pointing out that one could strive to believe (perhaps by following exactly Pascal’s prescription), yet fail. To this, a follower of Pascal might reply that the act of genuine striving already displays a pureness of heart that God would fully reward; or even that genuine striving in this case is itself a form of believing.

Pascal’s Wager vies with Anselm’s Ontological Argument for being the most famous argument in the philosophy of religion. As we have seen, it is also a great deal more besides.

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• Vallentyne, Peter. 1993. “Utilitarianism and Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71: 212-217.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1995. “Infinite Utility: Anonymity and Person-Centredness”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73: 413-420.
• Vallentyne, Peter and Shelly Kagan. 1997. “Infinite Value and Finitely Additive Value Theory”, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XCIV, 1: 5-27
• Van Liedekerke, Luc. 1995. “Should Utilitarians Be Cautious About an Infinite Future?”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 3, 405-407.
• Weirich, Paul. 1984. “The St. Petersburg Gamble and Risk”, Theory and Decision 17: 193-202.
• Wright, Crispin. 1987. “Strict Finitism”, in Realism, Meaning and Truth, Blackwell.

Copyright © 1998, 2001
Alan Hájek
ahajek@hss.caltech.edu

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

See also, Stephen R. Welch’s page on Pascal’s Wager
old

The Phillies begin their World Championship Title Defense tonite, hosting the Atlanta Braves.

First, I have to get ride of one of my pet peeves, and this is the often quoted statistic that the Braves won 14 division titles in a row from 1991 through 2005.

A plain look at the statistics laid out on baseball-reference dot com shows that this isn’t so.

First of all, from 1991-1993, the Braves were IN A DIFFERENT DIVISION, the N.L. West, and the league was split into two divisions, not three. The Braves did win the N.L. West in 1991 and 1992, but they tied in 1993, and were forced to a one game playoff with the San Francisco Giants (incredibly, both the Giants and the Braves won 103 games in the regular season that year); it was only by winning the one game playoff that they earned the NL West Division title. That has to have an asterisk, right?

Next, in 1994, the strike year, Atlanta was switched to the NL East–where they finished SECOND to the Montreal Expos. The Expos won the NL East in 1994, no one else did.

That would mean, by all reckoning, that Atlanta would have to have started a new streak in 1995–and from 1995-2005, they did, in fact, win eleven straight NL East Division titles–a prodigious accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination–but not the fourteen straight titles that sports commentators often ascribe to them.

That dog won’t hunt.

Incidentally, last year, Atlanta lost 90 games and finished twenty games behind the NL East champion Phillies. Hopefully they will prove once again this year to be cannon fodder for the Phils powerful bats and potent pitching arms.

Some random notes on the Phillies as they start their season:

1) Chan Ho Park was named the fifth starter ahead of J.A. Happ. I’ve already reviewed this in a prior blog and stated that Happ should be starting. Happ is a 26 year old 6 foot six lefty who strikes out a lot of ballplayers, while Park is a righty with age-related decline issues whose ERA outside of Dodger Stadium is more than 5.00 career. Happ’s minor league stats are impressive, and his starts last year for the Phils were good, as were his spring numbers. This is just a mistake by the Phils, much like when they blocked Ryan Howard with Jim Thome.

2) I predict that Happ will eventually replace Park in the starting rotation, and that Happ will develop into a superior starting pitcher in this league.

3) Having said that, either Park or Happ is CLEARLY an upgrade from Adam Eaton or Kyle Kendrick.

4) Cole Hamels might be on the shelf for a while. I’d rest Hamels and start Park AND Happ during April. It’s April, why risk injuring your meal ticket in Hamels? Let the man have a month off. He pitched an extra month last year, and might have to do it again this year. It’s not like you need him in April, is it?

5) The Phils released Geoff Jenkins, in a puzzling move, since they still owe him $8 million salary. But they also kept Matt Stairs, who is 41 and can only play first base, and Miguel Cairo, who is about a thousand years old, and can only play second base, and can’t hit anymore. Why keep those two old fuddy-duddies, and release Jenkins, who is a legit ballplayer? This is a truly imponderable move.

6) The Phils should have kept Jenkins, and released Stairs. Jenkins can play left or right fields, he can pinch run, and he can pinch hit, plus he’s already on the payroll, and he’s a power hitter. Stairs can’t field, and Cairo can’t hit, so Jenkins is a more useful bench player than either of them. Jenkins had key hits in the postseason off the bench. He’s shown he can be useful off the bench.

7) Jayson Werth is injury prone, and the Phils will need a corner outfielder to spell him. That guy had to have been Jenkins.

8) Eric Bruntlett can spell anyone in the infield, and Dobbs can spell anyone in the outfield or third base or second base. Why keep Cairo? Cairo hasn’t had a hot hitting streak since the pyramids were built, and his fielding range is about as narrow as the Nile at that point where you can step across it. I don’t think Cairo has hit a home run since Moses led the chosen people out of Egypt right after the Passover miracle and the slaughter of the first born of Egypt. The last time Cairo took an extra base, they were filming the Ten Commandments. I’m not saying Miguel Cairo is old, but I’m pretty sure he and Edward G. Robinson used to make gangster films together in the 1930s. Miguel Cairo is so old, he has a card in my oldest Strat-O-Matic baseball game that was just cards and dice from back in the 1970s. Miguel Cairo is so old, that even his wife has forgotten how many years he shaves off his real age whenever he crosses the border and lies about his birthday to immigration officials. I’m not saying the man is old, but Miguel Cairo is the guy who recruited Roberto Clemente to play baseball. It’s not that Miguel Cairo is old, but Cairo once played minor league ball with Fidel Castro in 1950s pre-Communist Cuba. I’m not calling the man old, but Julio Franco, who retired last year at age 50, calls Miguel Cairo “Uncle Mike” out of respect for his elders.

9) Jenkins, Bruntlett and Cairo were the obvious ones to keep. Cairo’s career stats are mind-numbingly awful. Jenkins by contrast is a career power hitter. Bruntlett can field and has good sped while Dobbs is a good hitter. Stairs can’t field, he’s a dh basically and should go to the AL where he belongs.

10) The Phils made no effort to sign Garry Sheffield, but on the bright side, he signed with the Mets. I’m about 90% sure at this stage of his career, stuck on 499 homers, Sheffield only wants to get into the Hall of Fame, and is only about Sheffield, not the team, so I think the Mets have bought into a problem there. Sheffield will demand playing time to pad his stats, and even if he’s hitting .220, which is what he hit last year with Detroit, he will demand more playing time. Plus he’s another over the hill superstar, which the Mets seem to collect boatloads of.

11) Having said all this, I still think the Phils will make a good run and repeat as NL East champs and go on to win the world series yet again, for all the reasons I set forth in my earlier blog on this.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

1) Tom “Odysseus the Wise” Izzo is Italian, which means that he’s practically greek, which means he’s practically Spartan. On the way to the final four, in round two, the Spartans of Michigan State defeated the Trojans of USC. The Spartans defeated the Trojans. Funny how that battle always comes out the same, millennium after millennium. Michigan State baffled USC throughout with their famed “Trojan Horse” defense, with Raymar “Achilles” Morgan’s ally-oop, the Kalin “Ajax” Lucas’ give and go, the “Nestor” low post kickout and the “Odysseus” trick ball play. Magic “Homer Hercules Son of Zeus” Johnson sat on the coach’s side on the bench, singing their tale of triumph in fifteen syllable heroic poetic rap to all that would listen. Plus, their fans hectored the USC Trojans during the entire match, telling them to go back to Paris when they were from. Plus there was this blind guy Ty Reesias on the sideline predicting that USC would lose. Bottom Line: the Spartans could play the Trojans a thousand times, and the Spartans would always win. History is history. It’s not true that Brad Pitt was at the game doing research for his sequel to Troy, the movie. Besides which, Tom “Socrates Plato Aristotle” Izzo is one of the smartest and greatest coaches ever in NCAA history. Plus he probably has actual Spartan blood in him and he has the wisdom of a thousand greek philosophers, and can coach some ball.

2) East Lansing is a rocking college town. And Michigan State coeds are the most beautiful in all the land.

3) What in the world is a “Tar Heel”?

4) Most schools ban smoking in all buildings. At the University of North Carolina, smoking is required in all buildings. After all, tobacco pays for everything in North Carolina. In fact, babies are given their first cigarettes at age one in North Carolina per state custom. Also, cigarettes are given away at all UNC home games to undergrads.

5) “WE ARE SPARTANS!!!!”

6) Anyone who doesn’t believe the Spartans will win, is condemned to be thrown into the bottomless pit of King Leonidas.

7) Three hundred Spartans are worth two million Persians, and four millions UNC players.

8) Thermopylae save the Western World from Freedom, along with the Three Hundred Spartans, who obedient to their country’s laws, lie dead there. The Spartans of Michigan State will save the US from another Southern NCAA champion and give us a Big Ten Champion.

9) All Spartans are superior genetically, because the defective ones are thrown off the mountain at birth. This includes Michigan States hoops players.

10) The Spartans have a detailed conditioning program that starts from age four. You should see what the Michigan State Hoops players do.

11) The Spartans never lose a battle. This is well known. Michigan State hardly ever loses a ballgame that matters.

12) Michigan State is playing a home game. The Final Four and Championshiop Game are in Detroit.

13) Detroit has an immense Greek population, and many of them are Spartans. And they have a rocking Greektown. Spartans love to party after they kill their opponents.

14) East Lansing, Michigan is the coolest place on earth, and home of the Spartans of Michigan State.

15) Michigan is a sensible place full of sensible people.

16) Michigan gave us Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, and all of Motown.

17) North Carolina has given us nothing culturally, unless you want to count segregation as a cultural institution.

18) Izzo is very nearly Rizzo, Philly’s most beloved mayor ever. Frank Rizzo was cool. Tom Izzo is cool.

19) The Big Ten actually go to class and get degrees, unlike their brethren in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

20) Michigan State has beaten a series of excellent, higher ranked teams to get to the finals, including UConn, all of which are better than UNC.

21) Michigan State has a number of experienced seniors on its roster who have played together for a while. Again, this is a big advantage in this era of players leaving after a year or two for the pros.

22) This one is for King Leonidas, and also for the auto industry and the unemployed auto workers of Michigan.

23) Gov. Granholm of Michigan told the boys, come home victorious with your shields, or dead upon them.

24) The best reason the Spartans will win—they are unfraid to lose, unafraid of death, unafraid of anything, and totally playing with house money at this point.

25) Because this is America, and we root for the UNDERDOG. So what if the TAR HEELS have amassed an army of two million and the Spartans are but three hundred? What does this matter to the SPARTANS????? Did they not fight and win the moral battle at Thermopylae? Don’t they still make movies about those guys 3,000 years later?

My money’s on the SPARTANS!!!!!

P.S. What IS a Tar Heel?

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

A very unusual thing happened the other night–something that hasn’t happened in a long time–the Sixers beat the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant playing, in LA, 94-93 on a three point buzzer beater by Andre Iguodala. I’m pretty sure some of the many celebrities that watch Laker basketball were stunned and sullen as they filed out of the building into their ferraris and maseratis and hybrids. This win capped off a four game win streak for the sixers, who have looked very fine indeed without Elton Brand weighing them down.

Coach Tony DiLeo has finally woken up to the fact that he has a three point shooter on his bench named Donyell Marshall, and has been deploying Marshall in key situations in games lately to, uh, shoot the three ball, something I’ve been lobbying for all year long. Notably, this strategy has been working quite well. When Marshall and Royal Ivey hit the three, Young and Iguodala and Speights can go to work inside without drawing double teams, or else Marshal and Ivey get free looks from the three line.

Even thought the Sixers lost in Phoenix last nite 125-116 and have three more games on the road this western trip, the Sixers are now 34-32, hold the 6th seed in the NBA east, and project to a 98% chance of making the playoffs. They are five games ahead of the Bucks who are 9th in the NBA east with 16 games to play, and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls who are in the 8th seed, and 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit, which continues to struggle without Iverson, who is hurt and out.

Speaking of the Bulls, ex-Sixer John Salmons dropped 38 points on the Celtics the other night in beating the Celtics. Even though he only scored 14 as the Sixers beat the Bulls in Philly, Salmons has become quite a much better player, and the Sean Webber trade is beginning to look worse and worse in hindsight. Salmons has become a great player and Webber was just a bust. Salmons could have been the two guard the sixers are now needing, and all we had to do was do nothing but hold onto him and let him develop. The Sixers have let a lot guys like Larry Hughes and John Salmons get away from them over the years, and after a while, you have to wonder, who is evaluating the talent around here? Would you keep Willie Green and Lou Williams and trade away John Salmons and Larry Hughes and Kyle Korver????

i don’t think so….but yet that’s the way this franchise has gone the past few years. They’ve let some explosive scorers leave for very little in return.

In addition, Eddie Stefanski, the GM, does not seem anxious to re-sign andre miller the point guard, who right now based on win shares and everything else, is the most valuable sixer on the team other than Iguodala.

If you take miller away from the sixers, the team cannot run the floor as well or as effectively, and they will need an entire season to adjust to a new point guard. It would be wiser to just re-sign Miller and let him play here until he can’t play anymore, and then work a new guy into the mix. Miller deserves it.

Also, Miller is durable. He has played something like 530 consecutive NBA games, the longest such streak in the NBA. Right now, he is more durable than Allen Iverson, or at least as durable as AI was when AI was in his prime. Miller is the youngest 32 year old I’ve ever seen play, he’s fast, he’s durable, he doesn’t get hurt, and he plays about five years younger than his age, and his game is beautiful to watch.

This signing is a no brainer. Dump elton brand, re-sign andre miller. please. please please.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies