Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, March 14, 2016

Quiz Mar15

Happy Pi Day (3.14)!
Pascal, Spinoza (LH); LISTEN: Susan James on Spinoza on the Passions (PB)... Podcast

1. Pascal thought if you gamble on god and lose, "you lose ______." 

2. (T/F) By limiting his "wager" to a choice between either Christian theism or atheism, says Nigel, Pascal excludes too many other possible bets. 


Image result for spinoza quotes on god

3. Spinoza's view, that God and nature (or the universe) are the same thing, is called _______.

4. Spinoza was a determinist, holding that _____ is an illusion. 

5. If god is _____, there cannot be anything that is not god; if _____, god is indifferent to human beings.

6. Susan James says Spinoza's "main claim" is that we're always striving to make ourselves more ____. 


BONUS: Who said "the eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me" and “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone"?

BONUS: Who said “the sources of art in human experience will be learned by him who sees how the tense grace of the ball-player infects the onlooking crowd"?

Image result for spinoza quotes

DQ:
1. Do you agree that, contrary to Pascal, most nonreligious people would consider it a huge sacrifice to devote their lives to religion? Why?

2. Is the choice between God and no-god 50/50, like a coin toss? How would you calculate the odds? At what point in the calculation do you think it becomes prudent to bet on God? Or do you reject this entire approach? Why?


3. Can we freely choose to renounce free will? Or freely choose to affirm it? Or seek new desires? (Schopenhauer: "We can do what we want, but not want what we want.")

4. Can a rationalist pantheist endorse delusional sources of happiness? Or cheer meaningfully for the home team? (See my dawn post...)

5. Was Einstein being disingenous or misleading, when he affirmed "Spinoza's God"?

6. Comment: "There isn't an inch of earth where God is not."

Old posts-

Thursday, March 19, 2015
Pascal & the mind

Somewhere in Walden Thoreau says something about needing a little water in his world, to provide a reflective glimpse of eternity. He also has things to say to today's headliner Pascal, about not being cowed by the scale of the cosmos. Pascal famously confessed: "the eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." (No wonder he was frightened, say J & M.) Henry said, in reply to neighbors who wondered if he wasn't lonely out there by the lake in the woods:"Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way?" Unlike his French predecessor, our transcendentalist was at home in the universe. He was less so, sadly, in the society of his peers.

Trivial pop-culture factoid: last night on "Madam Secretary," the husband (a teacher)mentioned Pascal.

Less trivially, Voltaire (we'll soon see him skewering Leibniz) intervened in the Pascal-Montaigne conflict. He called Pascal a "sublime misanthropist" whose vision of humanity as imprisoned and terrorized by the immensity and uncertainty of the cosmos was "fanatic."

Bertrand Russell mostly felt sorry for him, approvingly citing Nietzsche's critique of Pascal's "self-contempt and self-immolation." He meant Pascal's intellectual suicide, driven by fear.

Fortunately there’s much more to Blaise Pascal than his famous Wager [SEP], which we've already encountered in CoPhi.

Besides his mathematics and "Pascaline," his proto-computer, there are all those thoughts ("Pensees"-you can listen for free, here) and there’s also his antipathy for his fellow philosophe Francais, Montaigne. I usually compare-&-contrast Montaigne and Descartes, so this makes for a nice new menage a trois. Blaise is hostile to both Rene and Michel but is a cautious gambler, finding Descartes’ God too antiseptic and too, well, philosophical. And he finds Montaigne a self-absorbed, trivia-mongering potty-mouth.

But Montaigne would not at all disagree that “the heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” And isn’t it funny to think of Descartes philosophizing in his hypothetical armchair, asking if his fire and his body (etc.) are real, pretending to speculate that all the world and its philosophical problems might be figments of his solipsistic or dreamy or demon-instigated imagination? And then funnier still to come across this quote from Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” But look what happens when a philosopher sits quietly in a room alone: you get the Meditations!

Pascal also said
“Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” And “It is man’s natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”
And
“There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason.”
And
“The nature of man is wholly natural, omne animal. There is nothing he may not make natural; there is nothing natural he may not lose.”*

And
“The weather and my mood have little connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me…” [Or as Jimmy Buffett says, carry the weather with you.]

And all military veterans especially should appreciate this one:
“Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?”

And this will be an epigraph for my Philosophy Walks (or its sequel Philosophy Rides):
“Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.”
Reminds me of what Montaigne said about needing to kickstart his mind with his legs.

But Pascal does finally blow the big game of life, for betting too heavily on self-interest. He’s obsessed with “saving [his] own soul at all costs.” That’s a losing proposition.

[*That statement about us being "omne animal" sounded flattering, to me, being a philosophical naturalist and a friend to animals. But later epigraphs indicate Pascal's platonist perfectionism and his derogatory attitude towards humanity and its natural condition. Without God's grace, he writes, we are "like unto the brute beasts." He doesn't seem pleased about that, but I'm with Walt Whitman: "I think I could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self contain'd... They do not sweat and whine about their condition... They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God..."]

Julia Sweeney, donning her no-god glasses, gets to the nub of what’s wrong with Pascal’s Wager:
So how can I come up against this biggest question, the ultimate question, “Do I really believe in a personal God,” and then turn away from the evidence? How can I believe, just because I want to? How will I have any respect for myself if I did that?

I thought of Pascal’s Wager. Pascal argued that it’s better to bet there is a God, because if you’re wrong there’s nothing to lose, but if there is, you win an eternity in heaven. But I can’t force myself to believe, just in case it turns out to be true. The God I’ve been praying to knows what I think, he doesn’t just make sure I show up for church. How could I possibly pretend to believe? I might convince other people, but surely not God.
And probably not Richard Rorty, for whom philosophy is not about nailing down the unequivocal Truth but rather continuing the never-concluding Conversation of humankind.

Rorty was the most controversial philosopher on the scene back when I began grad school, having just published his brilliantly and infuriatingly iconoclastic Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.

Everybody had to have a view on it, and on his view that philosophy's long quest to represent "external reality" accurately was a waste of time we were free to give up. We could ditch our "comic" efforts "to guarantee this and clarify that."

Philosophers get attention only when they appear to be doing something sinister--corrupting the youth, undermining the foundations of civilization, sneering at all we hold dear. The rest of the time everybody assumes that they are hard at work somewhere down in the sub-basement, keeping those foundations in good repair. Nobody much cares what brand of intellectual duct tape is being used.My current position, after several oscillations, has settled at last into the earnest wish that more philosophers wrote as wittily and as well as he did. Almost none do. Did he get pragmatism and truth right? I guess that's what he'd call a duct tape question.

Rorty, with his metaphor of mind as (cloudy) mirror, is a good segue to the discussion of philosophy of mind, also on tap today.

Dualism gets us ghosts and spirits and other non-physical entities. Scary! But not for most students, I've found, so deeply have most of them drunk from the holy communion trough. It's not a question of evidence but of familiarity and fear, in many cases - fear of the alternative. A student expressed that just the other day, asking with incredulity and contempt how anyone could possibly ponder facing the end of mortal existence without an immortal safety net firmly in place (in mind).

Why do they think the evolution of mind so closely parallels that of the brain? They don't think about it, mostly.

Nor do most think much about the possibility of mind and body being on parallel but never-converging tracks, pre-arranged to keep a synchronous schedule and never throw up a discordant discrepant "occasion." And forget too about epiphenomenalism (which Sam Harris seems to be trying hard to revive).

If neuroscientists ever succeed in mapping the brain (TED) and modeling the causal neurological events correlated with thinking, will that solve the mystery of consciousness? [John Searle's view...] Is there a gap between the explanation and the experience of pain, pleasure, happiness, etc.? I say no and yes, respectively. But let's try and draw that map, it may take us to interesting places none of us have thought about.
==
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Spinoza & art

Today in CoPhi: Baruch (nee Benedict) Spinoza (and Susan James on his concept of thepassions).

Spinoza ("Spinozer," my old teacher from Brooklyn called him) believed in Einstein’s God (or would have), and vice versa. Gambling with your soul? Einstein famously said God does not play dice with the universe. God doesn’t play at anything, or listen to anyone, or save or punish or forgive or do anything intentional and deliberate. No more than nature does, anyway. God just is. Paul Davies:

Sometimes (Einstein) was really using God as just a sort of convenient metaphor. But he did have, I think, a genuine cosmic religious feeling, a sense of admiration at the intellectual ingenuity of the universe. Not just its majesty, but its extraordinary subtlety and beauty and mathematical elegance.
You could say the very same of Spinoza.

In HAP 101 last year we tried to make sense of the Buddhist-inspired statement that we're not part of nature but all of it. Spinoza offers another take on that disorienting notion.
In so far as the mind sees things in their eternal aspect, it participates in eternity.
I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.
I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.
Nothing in nature is by chance... Something appears to be chance only because of our lack of knowledge.
The passions of hatred, anger, envy, and so on, considered in themselves, follow from the necessity and efficacy of nature... I shall, therefore, treat the nature and strength of the emotion in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids.

They were pantheists, Spinoza and Einstein, a lot less tormented by the vast and starry universe than Pascal (“the eternal silence of these infinite spaces" etc.) with his personal and possibly punitive God. As we note Jennifer Hecht noting, there’s a howling statistical error at the heart of Pascal’s specious reasoning: “We may be struck by lightning or not, but that doesn’t make it a fifty-fifty proposition.” Pascal's fright contrasts sharply with Spinoza's cosmic bliss. "What Pascal decried as the misery of man without the Biblical God, was for Spinoza the liberation of the human spirit from the bonds of fear and superstition."

[Descartes to Deism... Tlumak on free will...Descartes before the horse (& Spinoza/Einstein slides)... Spinoza @dawn...Pantheism SEP... FAQs... He's back (Goldstein)... The Curse]

Spinoza, says Susan James, was interested in our capacity to maintain ourselves as ourselves, which he called our conatus. How do we do that? By breathing, sleeping, fighting, friending,... but ultimately he thought our best bet was to resign ourselves to an acceptance of rational necessity.

"Spinoza thinks that, in so far as you're passionate," subject to external influence, "you're in bondage and unfree." How to free yourself? Become mentally active, get "a better understanding of yourself and the world," and experience his version of cosmic bliss or supreme happiness. And what does this maximal understanding come to, in a word? Pantheism.

In Spinoza's vision, there is no ultimate distinction between different individuals. We are all part of the same single substance, which is also God. This means that our sense of isolation from and opposition to one another is an illusion, and it also means that our sense of distance from God is mistaken... Given that the universe is God, we can therefore be confident that whatever happens to us happens for a reason. Passion for Wisdom

And still they called him heretic and atheist, and excommunicated him despite his "intellectual love of God," which he said was "the highest felicity." God only knew why.

He's still a good guy to follow on Twitter, btw.

Spinoza Quotes ‏@BenedictSpinoza6 Oct
"[True #happiness & blessedness does not consist in enjoying wellbeing not shared by others or in being more fortunate than others]." (TTP)


Spinoza Quotes ‏@BenedictSpinoza5 Oct
"It is the #nature of reason to conceive things under a form of eternity." (E5p29pr) @philosophyideasBut, there are difficulties involved in trying to internalize a "Spinozism of freedom"...
Spinoza is led to a complete and undiluted pantheism. Everything, according to Spinoza, is ruled by an absolute logical necessity. There is no such thing as free will in the mental sphere or chance in the physical world. Everything that happens is a manifestation of God's inscrutable nature, and it is logically impossible that events should be other than they are. This leads to difficulties... Bertrand Russell
= = = = = = = = = =
Also today: art. We'll try to discern the artfulness of Duchamp's Fountain, Dewey's ballplayer, maybe even Mapplethorpe's transgressive iconoclastic work. We'll introduce Wittgenstein's family resemblance, the Institutional Theory, and more.

And then we'll be done with Philosophy: The Basics.

Arthur Danto, premier aesthetician of his generation (and former MTSU Lyceum speaker), had interesting thoughts on what makes Andy Warhol's Brillo cartons and Marcel Duchamp's urinal (click, then scroll to the bottom to see his "Fountain") works of art. In a word: interpretation. Or in another word: philosophy. "Things which look the same are really different" is Danto's "whole philosophy of art in a nutshell." Thus spake the "weightiest critic in the Manhattan art world" of his generation. [The end of art]

I don’t claim to know what art is, or if Marcel Duchamp’s “fountain” should count. But like most of us, I know what I like: I like John Dewey’s approach in Art as Experience.
Dewey’s antipathy for spectator theories of knowledge did not block his acute perception of “the sources of art in human experience [that] will be learned by him who sees how the tense grace of the ball-player infects the onlooking crowd.”

The crowd at the fountain had best be careful not to be infected by something less delightful.

32 comments:

  1. Since there is thousands of different gods, and concepts of what god is and what he/she/they/it does; I don't see Pascal's wager as a reasonable way to base your life on. The way he phrases it implies that his version of Christianity is the "right" religion, and that you either choose to believe that or not, making it 50/50. If someone were to do the math with all religions accounted for, and all the ways those gods would react, more likely than not, the odds wouldn't be all that favorable. I'm sure there is a formula for that but I'm not mathematically inclined enough to figure it out.

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  2. I think it's worth noting that there are other religions that don't necessarily require what they call a "believer" to follow that religion's specific version of god. I'm thinking of Hinduism specifically. In the Baghavad Gita Shiva states more than once that he doesn't really care if people follow him specifically or not, just as long as they believe in something and follow it wholeheartedly. Why is the Christian god the only one threatened when faced by a human who doesn't believe in him? It seems that Christianity is very reactionary. That's the feeling I get from Pascal; that he was being very defensive and reactionary when he created his wager. I could be off base with my thinking, but that's what comes to mind whenever I'm confronted with this wager.

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  3. Mariem Farag #12
    -Is the choice between God and no-god 50/50, like a coin toss? How would you calculate the odds? At what point in the calculation do you think it becomes prudent to bet on God? Or do you reject this entire approach? Why?
    I reject this entire approach. It's not a game! One should only believe in God if he/she truly feels/knows that he is real. Once there is a belief, one can follow God, rather than just be a fan with a just in case God is real mindset. A follower of God is NOT someone that just follows a whole bunch of rules and commandments to reach heaven. A follower is someone that develops a relationship with God, and from there he/she will naturally want to follow God. If one does not believe in an existence of a God, then forcing his/her self to a belief with a just in case mindset, is absolutely ridiculous and unnatural. It can make people feel miserable, and result in people hating God or the idea of God completely.

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  4. Sierra Cox #11
    QQ- Since pascal thought everyone was wretched, then did he think of himself as wrenched?

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  5. Fatima Rizvi #12. Do you agree that, contrary to Pascal, most nonreligious people would consider it a huge sacrifice to devote their lives to religion? Why?

    No. I don't think devoting to a certain religion is a huge sacrifice. Sacrifice seems like a harsh way to put it. We are simply just following rules to the faith that we believe in and not sacrificing ourselves.

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  6. Or do you reject this entire approach? Why?

    I feel like depending on your religious views the choice will always change ratios, losing faith and gaining more faith are a part of human nature so sticking to a 50/50 or 100/0 or 0/100 ratio is unfair to limit such a complicated thing to something as simple as calculating odds. I'm not religious so I don't believe I would ever bet on God simply because I don't think about a need for God in any situation. I have always had a hard time believing in God so I don't think betting on God is smart and never have felt any better when I have heard things like "God knows what is best so you have no need to worry", I have always thought that was so absurd that people could ignore facts and science and not just accept that if the odds are stacked against you all you can do is hope for the best and no matter what the outcome it just further strengthens why a statistic for a situation exists.

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  7. (Zachary Cavaness #12)

    I wanted to talk about the DQ that said, "Do you agree that, contrary to Pascal, most nonreligious people would consider it a huge sacrifice to devote their lives to religion? Why?"

    I definitely think that devoting your life to a religion can consume a lot of your time. For most religions you have services to attend, you should probably spend sometime studying your religious text, and maybe even more time on some self reflection/prayers/tribute. The point I wanted to make about this though is that I do not think that you have to 'devote' your life to a religion to necessarily be a part of it. I know a lot of people who would consider themselves "Christians" but they never go to church or say a blessing before they eat. I believe this is ok though! Not everyone needs to fully devote their life to a religion to experience some of the benefits(in a lack of better words).

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  8. (8) Janet Peoples
    Comment: "There isn't an inch of earth where God is not."
    I believe God is everywhere because if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have anything and we wouldn't even be alive.

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  9. (8) Janet Peoples
    Is the choice between God and no-god 50/50, like a coin toss? How would you calculate the odds? At what point in the calculation do you think it becomes prudent to bet on God? Or do you reject this entire approach? Why?
    Believing in God is not a game, its a life style you choose to take. Thinking of it as a game wouldn't be the right thing to do believe you wouldn't have much of a faith, you would take it as a joke.

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  10. (#8) In response to DQ2, I would say that choosing between God and not-god is not a 50/50 choice. I believe that a person makes an all in or all out decision to believe in God or not. Therefore by that logic it is either 0/100 or 100/0 decision as opposed to 50/50 toss up. It becomes wise to "bet" on God, I think, when you are sure in your faith and fully believe God's teachings. All in all, I think the "50/50 or Gambling" method is not the correct way to perceive this because, as Nigel Warburton explained, this would cause you to follow a certain religion for the wrong reasons.

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  11. (8) I agree almost entirely with Spinoza, with exceptions for his views on democracy and prayer. If we are all part of God, shouldn't we all have a voice in our order? And any prayer is a form of meditation, the act of sending loving energy out into our world IS beneficial. And though it is narcissistic to expect love in return, receiving love in return IS a natural outcome. If you greet a stranger with love in your heart, you typically receive a loving response. A prayer acts similarly, in a moment of meditation processing the day in a loving manner, clearing the mind of noise and setting an intention of love in your day. This powerful practice will show itself in one's actions throughout the day. Spinoza understood the concept of God correctly, but misunderstood our role as humans as a part of God.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Couldn't attend class today, still did quiz:
    1) nothing
    2) True
    3) pantheism
    4)free will
    5) infinite
    6) ? I listened twice but still didn't catch this
    Bonus: pascal said this about sitting silently

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  14. (#8) Is the choice between God and no-god 50/50, like a coin toss? How would you calculate the odds? At what point in the calculation do you think it becomes prudent to bet on God? Or do you reject this entire approach? Why?

    I believe there is not a choice between god and no-god, and it is not based on a 50/50 chance. When people choose their religion or faith that they are devoted to that purpose and God or not at all. There is not a belief in that you can half-heartedly believe in the purpose of God. I absolutely reject this process of thinking because the idea of being 50/50 on something means that you are questionable of what you believe. I think people have their own opinions and beliefs that they do not question their purposes and choices in a decision.

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  15. Exam 2 extra credit
    1) I do believe that people who are not religious find it a sacrifice to believe in a religion. Most people that I have talked to on the subject find it a burden to follow the "rules", traditions, and or expectations that are placed upon them and feel that they are giving up some of their freedoms to believe in whatever religion they are choosing to believe in. I've also heard that some think that believing in God is a limitation in knowledge and that believing in a higher power is sacrificing your own personal education.

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  16. Sterling Smith (#6)7:14 PM CDT

    DQ: Do your ideas fall more alog the lines of Pascal, Spinoza, or neither? Why?

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  17. Sterling Smith (#6)7:17 PM CDT

    Quiz Question: (T/F) Spinoza lived lavishly and spent lots of money?

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    Replies
    1. Sect 6
      False, He lived simply

      Delete
  18. Ian Law section 4

    The fact that Pascal's Wager ignores non-Christian religions has bothered me ever since I was a child in Parochial school. Learning about other faiths was a major factor in eventually turning away from religion in general. How can I sort out which belief is correct when the world can't even agree with itself?

    On another subject - apparently Bowser has strong opinions on the determinism debate:

    http://www.awkwardzombie.com/index.php?page=0&comic=022916

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  19. Danielle Bonner Section 4
    Quiz questions
    1. How does Pascal suggest that non-believers convince themselves to believe in God?
    2. (T/F) One of the main issues with Pascal's argument about gambling is that God, if he did exist, might not look to favorably on people who believe in him, because it was their best bet to save themselves from eternal damnation.
    3. What did Spinoza feel that humans had control over, despite his belief in determinism?
    4. What is the term for projecting human qualities onto non-human beings?

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  20. Courtney Manns Section 6
    Quiz Question: What does Baruch's first name mean in Hebrew?

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  21. Sean Byars Section 6
    Quiz Question: What is Pascal's best known book?

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  22. Sean Byars Section 6
    DQ #1: I do believe that for most nonreligious people devoting their lives to religion would be a sacrifice. I believe in general that dedication to a religion often entails little sacrifices to become a better person, which is at the roots of many religions.

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  23. Amy Young (4)
    DQ 1: I believe they would think it was a huge waste of time to practice something that you do not truly believe in.

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  24. Amy Young (4)
    I do not believe that god is everything and nature is god. I believe there are all kinds of different beings on the earth.

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  25. I thought this was really funny and has been a fun way to remember Descartes.

    http://imgur.com/QzcrniH

    Quiz Question:

    Spinoza would end sections of his writings with 'QED'. What does 'QED' stand for and what does it mean?

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  26. Sect. 6
    What is Anthropomorphism?

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  27. Lucas Futrell (6)
    Additional questions:
    1.(T/F) Pascal did not finish Pensees before he died.
    2. What did Pascal invent to help his father?
    3. What approach to philosophy emphasizes reason rather than experiment and observation?

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  28. 6 Brock Francis
    1. Do you agree that, contrary to Pascal, most nonreligious people would consider it a huge sacrifice to devote their lives to religion? Why?

    I believe that nonreligious people would consider it a major sacrifice to devote their lives to religion. There a lot of physically pleasurable aspects of life that they will give up. Unreligious people could possibly view it as giving there entire life away if they are wrong.

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  29. Sterling Smith (#6)12:57 PM CDT

    Discussion Question: Do you think Pascal's ideas apply today?

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  30. Frank Dremel - Section 6 - Essay for Absence
    Blaise Pascal began his career as an incredibly significant and influential scientist and mathematician, contributing work to probability and pressure, as well as inventing the syringe and building a calculating computer. A near death experience shifted his focus from the reason-based world of science to the world of faith. After the horses pulling his carriage fell off a cliff, almost pulling the carriage with them, Pascal escaped with a vision of “"Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars..." After this life changing episode, Pascal delved into more philosophical work, writing his “Provincial Letters” and the unfinished, posthumously published Pensées.
    Though most of his work is overshadowed by a portion of Pensées known as Pascal’s Wager, an almost cynically pragmatic approach to why one should have faith in God, much of Pascal’s work shows his strong opposition to the reasoning and rationalism of philosophers such as Descartes, with a preference for faith. To Pascal, faith was something of a higher reasoning; “Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.” To be able to be able to simply rationalize God was an impossible task; God is above any human understanding; “It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.” Pascal also stated, “Faith is different from proof. The latter is human, the former a gift from God.” Faith then, is a divinely given gift which reasons to men what they themselves would never comprehend, but, through human reasoning, would erroneously reject; “the heart has its reasons whereof reason knows nothing.”
    Pascal’s Wager is perhaps an attempt to view faith in God from the position of a rationalist, a thing which he believed dangerous to do; “Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree.” Trying to rationalize God’s existence leads many to disbelief, as an existence (or a lack of existence) of God is not humanly rational. In his wager, one may choose to believe or not to believe. One is making a wager, and “If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then, without hesitation, that He exists…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.” One may as well choose to believe, for, rationally, what has he to lose if he is wrong? Far less than he has to lose if God is real and he does not believe. However, if one has faith, then one’s heart, which understands far more deeply than worldly logic, has reason to believe beyond what the mind can explain away in such a wager. Putting aside at least a portion of reason and rationality, one is able to see deeper into the issue of faith and of truth. It is interesting to see how Pascal’s leap of faith (to borrow from Kierkegaard’s term for a moment) is echoed centuries later, when Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly…What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

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  31. Frank Dremel - Section 6 - Essay for Absence
    Blaise Pascal began his career as an incredibly significant and influential scientist and mathematician, contributing work to probability and pressure, as well as inventing the syringe and building a calculating computer. A near death experience shifted his focus from the reason-based world of science to the world of faith. After the horses pulling his carriage fell off a cliff, almost pulling the carriage with them, Pascal escaped with a vision of “"Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars..." After this life changing episode, Pascal delved into more philosophical work, writing his “Provincial Letters” and the unfinished, posthumously published Pensées.
    Though most of his work is overshadowed by a portion of Pensées known as Pascal’s Wager, an almost cynically pragmatic approach to why one should have faith in God, much of Pascal’s work shows his strong opposition to the reasoning and rationalism of philosophers such as Descartes, with a preference for faith. To Pascal, faith was something of a higher reasoning; “Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.” To be able to be able to simply rationalize God was an impossible task; God is above any human understanding; “It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.” Pascal also stated, “Faith is different from proof. The latter is human, the former a gift from God.” Faith then, is a divinely given gift which reasons to men what they themselves would never comprehend, but, through human reasoning, would erroneously reject; “the heart has its reasons whereof reason knows nothing.”
    Pascal’s Wager is perhaps an attempt to view faith in God from the position of a rationalist, a thing which he believed dangerous to do; “Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree.” Trying to rationalize God’s existence leads many to disbelief, as an existence (or a lack of existence) of God is not humanly rational. In his wager, one may choose to believe or not to believe. One is making a wager, and “If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then, without hesitation, that He exists…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.” One may as well choose to believe, for, rationally, what has he to lose if he is wrong? Far less than he has to lose if God is real and he does not believe. However, if one has faith, then one’s heart, which understands far more deeply than worldly logic, has reason to believe beyond what the mind can explain away in such a wager. Putting aside at least a portion of reason and rationality, one is able to see deeper into the issue of faith and of truth. It is interesting to see how Pascal’s leap of faith (to borrow from Kierkegaard’s term for a moment) is echoed centuries later, when Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly…What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

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