Philosophy Paper - Need some Help.
I'm taking Philosophy 101 online from a near by university and one of my assignments is to construct a pragmatic justification for the belief in God, and then answer the question of "If pragmatic considerations show it is irrational not to believe in the principle of induction, does it also show that it is irrational not to believe in God?"
This is my response, and I would love to get some feedback; criticism is more then welcome. I know my grammar is quite poor so pointing that out would be of great help. Thanks.
Pascal’s Wager is by far the most famous pragmatic justification for the belief in God. It follows like this: if we assume that the existence of God can neither be proven nor disproven, and we go on to assume that those who believe in God will receive eternal life in paradise, while those who disbelieve in God will receive eternal punishment in hell, four possible options will arise.
1) God exists; you choose to believe in God; you will receive eternal life in paradise.
2) God exists; and you choose to not believe in God; you will receive eternal punishment in Hell.
3) God doesn’t exist; and you choose to believe in God; you will receive nothing after death.
4) God doesn’t exist; and you choose not to believe in God; you will receive nothing after death.
It is clear that option one would be the best outcome, and option two would be the worst outcome; therefore it would be rational to behave as if there is a God. For if you believe in God and God exists you get eternal life; if God doesn’t exist nothing happens. However if God exists and you don’t believe in God and God does exist you get eternal punishment; if God doesn’t exist nothing happens. The believer’s worst outcome is the non-believers best outcome. It would then be logical to behave as if God does exist.
One can see through pragmatic considerations that it would be irrational not to believe in the principle of induction. If we accept that the future will either resemble the past or it will not. And we will either expect the future to resemble the past or we won’t expect it too. From this, one of these four possibilities will obtain:
1) The future will resemble the past, and you will expect it too.
2) The future will resemble the past, but you won’t expect it too.
3) The future will not resemble the past, but you will expect it too.
4) The future will not resemble the past, and you expect it not too.
We can conclude that it would be quite chaotic to hold any belief except for option one. To hold beliefs two, three, or four would be to lead a life of complete disorder. To live successfully we need the world to remain as it is, and we need to expect the world will remain as it is. Without behaving in this way, what could one possibly get accomplished? Because we need to behave in this way, holding option one as your belief or expectation is the most rational choice. We have no way of knowing with certainty that the world will remain as it has been, but to behave otherwise would be an irrational option. This leaves us with the conclusion that it would be irrational to not believe, or at least not behave as if the principle of induction is valid.
Based on these two pragmatic arguments we can conclude that we are justified in believing in both the principle of induction and God. We even went one step further and concluded that it would be irrational not to believe in the principle of induction; can the same be said about the belief in God? The answer is quite simply no. The pragmatic justification for God makes us assume two things (1) God’s existence can neither be proven nor disproven and (2) Those who believe in God get a reward, those who disbelieve receive a punishment. Assumption (1) is a valid one. We have no evidence that sufficiently proves God’s existence. However assumption (2) is completely invalid, especially when it follows assumption (1). Why is it necessary or in any way rational of us to first assume that God does in fact exist, and second God will reward those who believe? Where are our reasons for accepting the existence of God, which we’ve already accepted as a belief that cannot be proven, and why do we accept, or expect God to punish the disbelievers and reward the believers?
If we compare the pragmatic justification for God to the pragmatic justification for the principle of induction we can see that the God belief doesn’t match up. The assumption one must make when exercising the principle of induction is that the future will resemble the past. We have good reason, perhaps even excellent reason to assume that the future will in fact resemble the past. The sun rises everyday, the laws of nature have been in effect to this date, the motion of the earth hasn’t changed, etc. We of course cannot know with absolute certainty that the future will resemble the past, but when we accept the principle of induction it allows to behave with certainty. I would even argue that we have no good reason to behave as if the future won’t resemble the past. When do has some woke up and not felt a floor under their feet? When has a man jumped out a window and fallen upwards? These things just don’t happen, so what reason do we have to expect they will? Therefore it would be irrational not to accept the principle of induction.
If we now follow the same line of reasoning, and expect the same amount of verification out of the pragmatic justification for the belief in God, we find that it cannot offer the same validity. Assumption (1) God cannot be proven nor disproved is valid, because we have no reason to assume otherwise. There is no sufficient evidence for either side. Assumption (2) God hands out rewards and punishments is where we run into trouble. This is an invalid assumption. Unlike the principle of induction there aren’t good reasons to believe in God, yet with assumption (2) we immediately take the leap to believe in God. Why is this? What reasons are there to believe in a God that can’t be proven? The typical response is faith. Faith is our reason to believe. Faith by definition is to believe without evidence, or reason. If we cannot be certain about the sun rising, which we have seen happen each day, why are we even considering behaving as if there is a God? What justifies our belief in God? Another problem which arises even once you accept the existence of God is why do we assume that God will reward the believers and punish the non-believers? All one would have to do is switch it around and say God will reward the non-believers and punish the believers, and now we find that it is far more “rational” to not believe in God. The invalid assumption of (2) is what makes the pragmatic justification for God, a weak argument, and proves that it is in no way irrational not to believe in God.