Monday, October 07, 2019

The Adventurer

Graeme Hunter in Pascal the Philosopher argues that we should avoid taking the wager in Pascal's Wager too literally, and this set me thinking about whether something like its argument could could be formulated using a different metaphor. The following is a crude experiment along these lines, paraphrasing the argument of part of the Infini rien fragment using a different metaphor.

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A: God exists or does not. In which realm will you choose to go on your adventure? Reason, you say, does not advise you for or against either. But then you should also say: I cannot condemn the adventurers, because I personally do not know what adventure is worth choosing.

B: I will still condemn Christians for their adventuring -- not for picking their adventure in particular, but for picking any adventure at all. The right thing is not to go on an adventure.

A: You have already set out; it is not a voluntary thing. In dealing with the future, with the uncertain, we do set out, and we ought to do so. Which will you take, then, at the fork in the road? Since we have to choose, let's see what adventure is least in your own interest. You are, after all, seeking not merely truth but also goodness; you are seeking to avoid not merely error but also misery. Like any adventurer, you have two most fundamental resources, your reason and your will. Since an adventure must be chosen, there is no loss to reason in the bare fact of choosing one. But what of will? Suppose the realm in which you take your adventure is that of God existing. If your adventure succeeds, you get the good; if you lose, you did not lose anything. Then give your all to that adventure.

B: Admirable, but even granting that I must take an adventure, perhaps there is in fact much to lose.

A: Let's consider this. You say reason cannot assign greater likeliness to success or failure in this adventure. It is as if, should you have a life for adventuring on each side, it would be evenly balanced. But if success in using your life to adventure led to another life of successful adventure, and failure guaranteed only one life of failed adventure, that seems still to be an adventure worth having. And what if it led to two more lives of successful adventure? Setting out on one adventure must be done, and thus it would be foolish not to prefer to risk one life of failure if, given equal likeliness of failure or success, three lives of success were given if you succeeded. But in reality, successful adventure in the realm of God existing puts eternal life into play. What you risk in your adventure is finite failure; but success in this adventure would be infinite successful adventure. There is nothing to dither about; you must adventure, so so set out on that adventure for which there can be infinite success, and do so with everything you have. You'd be crazy not to do so. Everybody is known to be risking the possibility of failure in an adventure, when the end of that adventure is uncertain. Nor does it violate reason to risk finitely for uncertain success; a limited life of adventure is risked, and success may be supposed equally likely, but success is endless success.

B: Fair enough, but do we have no way of knowing how the adventure will end?

A: Of course, for, contrary to your original idea of lacking reasons that may guide our choice, we really have them: Scripture and the like direct us one way.

B: But this does not help. I cannot move. I must adventure, you say, but I cannot. I set out, but I cannot believe. What do you expect me to do.

A: It is true that you are frozen, but at least be honest and recognize that your feelings, not pure reason, drive this indecision. Reason draws you toward the adventure; since you cannot move, perhaps you should focus less on whether you feel convinced by arguments for God's existence and more on weakening the passions that have immobilized you. You want to adventure but you don't know the way. Then learn from those who have been in your place but now adventure with everything in them. They got there by setting out on the adventure as if they believed: joined in the devotions, practiced in the life, holy water, Mass, and all. This will bring you to believe naturally, and will make you stupid.

B: But that's exactly what I am afraid of!

A: Of course. But why? What will you be losing if you stop trying to feel clever? Your obstacle is your feeling, your desire to be clever and things like that. To overcome your obstacle, weaken what is contributing to it. Let's sum it up. What harm is there in picking this as your adventure? You will learn faithfulness, honesty, humility, gratitude, beneficence, friendship, and the like on an adventure like this. You will shed toxic pleasures, but other joys are available. Going on this adventure, you will do well in life, for those on this adventure do, and you will come to see that your success is in fact certain, and your risk is in fact nothing; you will come to see that you have gone on an adventure whose success was always certain, an adventure of endless success, and that it costs nothing that matters.

B: The idea of an adventure like that is a delightful one.

A: If it pleases you, know that the one who put it forward as part of his own adventure prayed to the one to whom he submits at all, that for your good and his glory, he might take you under his wing.

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