Clarifying Pascal’s Wager: Charity as Decided
Most of Blaise Pascal’s commentators see his famous wager as an argument on the practicability of faith, according to which, given the absence of certainty about the existence of God, one must believe in God because it is the most beneficial action. However, this interpretation of the wager fails to see it as a part of Pascal’s philosophical thought, which is centered on the primacy of charity through which the human being can find the happiness and fulfillment he seeks. This essay, in contrast, presents an interpretation of the wager that sees it as the culminating point of Pascal’s philosophical thought, arguing that the wager shows that the decision to believe is ultimately a free movement of the will. It further claims that the wager is in fact an apologetic in its strict and true sense, for it concerns and convinces not the mind but the will to believe and live a life of charity. Ultimately, this work shows that the final word for Pascal is not that faith is a rational choice that can be justified through a series of arguments, but that it is a movement of the will by which one responds to a reality that is greater than oneself.