Talk:Pascal's Wager

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Bunk Removed[edit]

The following makes unjustified assertions.

Nonetheless, as this criticism has surfaced, apologists of the wager have commented that of the rival options, only the ones that award infinite happiness create a problem. Neither Odin's nor Kali's finite, semi-blissful promise could contend with the infinite bliss offered by Jesus Christ, so they drop out of consideration. [1] Also, the infinite bliss the rival god offers has to be mutually exclusive. If Christ's promise of bliss can be attained concurrently with Jehovah's and Allah's (which is a plausible assumption, given that all three are identified as the God of Abraham), there is no conflict in the decision matrix. [2]

And furthermore, ecumenical interpretations of the wager [3] argue (perhaps in conjunction with Romans 1:19-20 and Romans 2:14-15, that it could even be suggested that believing in an anonymous God or a god by the wrong name, is acceptable so long as that God has the same essential characteristics (like the God of Aristotle). Proponents of this line of reasoning suggest that either all of the gods of history truly boil down to just a small set of "genuine options",[4] or that if the wager can simply bring one to believe in "generic theism" it has done its job. [5]

I agree that these two paragraphs are unjustified assertions. Ostensibly Odin's Valhalla was no more "semi-blissful" than the Christian heaven, and the Saka reference doesn't make sense in context and is really just a reference to another reference. These lengthy non-NPOV passages really throw the criticism section out of balance. But sadly, the title "bunk removed" is no longer the case, because someone put these two paragraphs back. They deserve to be pruned. Tom NM (talk) 11:50, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
The line about Kali and Odin seems justified. At the very least a similar statement was made in the notes to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on Pascal's Wager: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/notes.html#6. The SEP is, of course, a reliable source. 129.62.119.81 (talk) 02:00, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

Delete Buddhism from the article[edit]

The section on Buddhism seems completely wrongheaded and I would argue that Buddhism specifically has NOTHING LIKE Pascal's Wager!! The section is uncited, and though there are links, in my research the linked material contradicts what is written rather than supporting it. I will tag it for now but I would really like to see it deleted Cuvtixo (talk) 14:37, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm totally in agreement. I've been suspect of that section from the first time I read it. Thanks for forcing the issue. David Bergan (talk) 16:55, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm afraid I didn't read the original Buddhism reference, but you should know that the Apannaka Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 60) contains an argument which is almost identical to Pascal's Wager, moreover it even uses a similar metaphor (throwing dice):

... A wise man reflects, if there is no other world, these good persons will be well and good after death. If there is another world, after death they would go to decrease, to hell. Let us say there is no, other world, and the words of these good recluses and brahmins are true. Yet they are blamed by the wise, here and now, as un -virtuous ones bearing wrong view, and negative ideas. If there is the other world, these good persons will have unlucky throws on both sides. The wise will blame them here and now, they will decrease in virtues and birth in hell after death. Thus if this pervading teaching is observed, it pervades both sides and neglects the side of demerit.

and the other side, referring to those who do believe in another world (abbreviated):

... If there was another world, these good persons after death will go to increase will be born in heaven. Perhaps there was no other world and the words of these good recluses and brahmins would not be true. Yet they are here and now praised by the wise: These are virtuous persons, with the right view, they think there are results for actions. If there was another world, these persons are lucky both ways...

One of a number of reasons that I think this precursor is important is that it shows the essential core of the Pascal's wager idea is not dependent on a theistic view (i.e. pantheistic, atheistic and monotheistic .. it's not really essential to the argument). If you want to find the full sutta it's available online in many places, e.g. http://www.mahindarama.com/e-tipitaka/Majjhima-Nikaya/mn-60.htm. Note that this is part of the Pali Canon, which are fairly unanimously agreed to be the earliest writings of the Buddha's teaching, and the most authentic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by AdamWGibson (talkcontribs) 01:43, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Plato's Meno[edit]

From the wikipedia article about The Meno:

After witnessing the example with the slave boy, Meno tells Socrates that he thinks that Socrates is correct in his theory of recollection, to which Socrates replies, “I think I am. I shouldn’t like to take my oath on the whole story, but one thing I am ready to fight for as long as I can, in word and act—that is, that we shall be better, braver, and more active men if we believe it right to look for what we don’t know...” (86b).

(The commonality with Pascal's Wager is the idea of believing something solely for the (expected) benefit that the belief itself gives you) Ekoontz (talk) 06:30, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

Point taken, but are you suggesting including this quote in the article? Cuvtixo (talk) 14:56, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

This is a sketchy link at best. David Bergan (talk) 16:57, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

Missing objection: Pascal's wager assumes that a person can just arbitrarily choose what they believe[edit]

This is absurd, a logical person is convinced of truth or falsity by evidence, not by a hypothetical scenario where it is imagined what would be best for you. You may HOPE there is a God and it might be best for you to believe that but that doesnt mean can delude yourself into a belief just because that belief would benefit you. Pascal's wager is so logicaly weak and has been so completely refuted from so many angles that its amazing that we still discuss it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 157.142.60.187 (talk) 17:17, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

Try to understand Pascal... his premise is that achieving certainty on these issues is impossible. Human logic is shadowy, imprecise, and our reason is easily deceived. Given that shaky foundation, we have to assess our situation, that death is inevitable, and our (possible) afterlife depends on the choice we make before dying.
Glad to know that you have figured out everything with regard to truth and falsity. The wager is not for you. But for geniuses like Pascal who realize that truth becomes harder and harder to apprehend, the more earnestly it is sought, his wager is a means of assessing priorities.
Whatever the case, the wager is most certainly encyclopedic. The article is merited. David Bergan (talk) 02:14, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
Ridiculous argument from authority. Certainly Descartes was a genius, but his argument sucks, which is why most geniuses reject it as nonsense and recognize that it fails utterly as "a means of assessing priorities". -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 08:03, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
@ Anonymous: You have just proven that you have not read Pascal. He does not assume that people can arbitrarily choose what they believe; in fact, he explicitly denies that people who have no actual faith in a God will suddenly reach that faith because of this argument. However, he also claims that this argument works perfectly as a rational reason to adopt faith. Thus, the problem with people who lack it (he says), is that their passions are blocking their rationality. To these people, proofs of God will not help: he says they must adopt religious experience, go to Church, act as though they were religious, and thus, they will eventually come to believe in God. There are problems with the wager - significant ones. But what you mention is not a problem. DDSaeger (talk) 19:05, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
You're looking at this the wrong way, DDSaeger. If a person can come to that conclusion after reading the article then perhaps there is something wrong with the it? The people who have "read Pascal" would find this page to be of limited use.--Tyrfing (talk) 21:25, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
Yes it must certainly is a problem. The PW argument serves no purpose other than as a justification for belief in the Christian god, and most people today who employ the argument do so in an attempt to persuade others to believe, but any "belief" so obtained is merely a pretense, since the argument is only a meta-argument that it is beneficial to believe, it doesn't give any actual reasons that justify belief. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 08:03, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree, this belongs in the criticism section. In the "God Delusion" Richard Dawkins makes this very point. He says something along the lines that 'no matter how much someone paid him, he could not believe in a god. He could worship the god, study the god, follow the gods rules, but no matter what in the back of his brain a little voice would be telling him that its not real' . I dont have the exact quote right now, but this is definitely encyclopedic in nature. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.83.23.166 (talk) 19:14, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Missing objection: The cost of living a pious life[edit]

Doesn't Pascal assume that living as if God exists entails no cost. What if living as if God exists entails going to church every Sunday morning instead of going out for coffee with your friends or snuggling up with someone you're really attracted to? What if it means you always have to wear a hat, even if you find it uncomfortable, etc.? It might be worth it, if the probability that God exists is above a certain level, but it would not be worth it as just any infinitesimally small probability above zero.Bostoner (talk) 22:28, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

Except the supposed payoff is infinite, so no matter how small the chance you still end up with infinite benefit, which overrides any finite costs like you talk about. --86.128.12.102 (talk) 23:24, 6 February 2009 (UTC)
There is no such override. It's conceivable that stabbing oneself in the eye might result in living forever in eternal bliss, but merely hypothesizing an infinite payoff does not justify stabbing oneself in the eye. And once one recognizes that, one must, logically, recognize that a hypothesized infinite payoff doesn't justify any loss to obtain it. To justify giving up something, one needs to be able to calculate an actual Bayesian probability of gain. Also, eternal bliss is not actually an infinite payoff -- finite human psychology does not allow for such a thing. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 08:20, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
According to the Gospel of Paul (see: Galatians) churchgoer pious people will go to hell. Because the only way to heaven is through faith in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not by the work of religious laws. Attila —Preceding unsigned comment added by 195.228.20.4 (talk) 11:54, 22 April 2009 (UTC)
Doesn't Pascal assume that living as if God exists entails no cost.
Pascal makes no such assumption... read the "Explication" section of the article. David Bergan (talk) 05:12, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
I did read the explication section, and he most definitely does make such an assumption:
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
There are no two ways to interpret this quotation. This is also consistent with the hypothetical payoff matrices in other sections of the article. Unless someone can show me some other place where Pascal contradicts himself, I'll soon be removing the relevant counter-criticism which vaguely suggests that Pascal "addressed this criticism." Pascal doesn't "address" it at all; he explicitly begins with the assumption that this criticism is wrong, while never actually explaining or justifying this premise. Jake987722 (talk) 03:18, 26 October 2009 (UTC)

Appearances Elsewhere[edit]

Given that it was mentioned earlier already, I deleted the Buddhism subsection due to... utter irrelevance. That argument is entirely different from Pascal's wager by the simple fact that it's not actually a gamble in one's life: happiness follows regardless. That's not the point of the Wager (even if Pascal does acknowledge that the religious man will be happy in his life, the point is to make somebody believe in God, whereas the point of the buddhism paragraph was that doctrine is less important.

I will delete the remnant of this section due to lack of sourcing and seeming lack of relevance in a few days as well, unless someone comes up with a reason for it to stay. DDSaeger (talk) 19:18, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Popular Culture[edit]

Are any of these actually notable? I don't see the mentioning of an argument in a tv series notable unless that tv series (or an episode of it) is really about that argument. For example, mentioning Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in Popular Culture about the Holy Grail is fine, whereas a mention of an argument that takes up a few instants (or even minutes) is not. If any single reference was included, these sections would become meaningless; they would not actually teach us anything. It'd be nothing but trivia, unsuited for encyclopedic articles. DDSaeger (talk) 19:18, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

I agree. Cull the cruft. David Bergan (talk) 04:39, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
I removed everything but Prevert (who is a rather notable artist) and the movie that seems to be completely about the Wager. DDSaeger (talk) 13:32, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Remarks about the newest version of the article[edit]

Given that DBergan seems to have revised the article strongly, I'm going to go through it diagonally and mention a few things that might still be problematic.

Providing a context for the Wager is very nice - the fact that he calls into doubt everything based on reason, and eventually even skepticism, is relevant. However, the inline citations are unnecessary and make the article look unencyclopedic - there's simply too many of them. The point can be made without those citations. Aside from that, there are rather unencyclopedic ways of phrasing the matter such as "bulldozed philosophy" or "torture reason".

I put the quotes in a table which looks a lot cleaner. I think the citations are necessary to establish context, but agree that some of the phrasing ("bulldozed" and "torture") was out of place. David Bergan (talk) 16:37, 12 April 2008 (UTC)


Now for the criticisms section: the numbered remarks don't seem fitting. I'd put it in a single block of text or under subheaders if necessary. They appear to be somewhat apologetic, unfortunately. It appears to be a slight POV problem, using terms such as "doing Pascal justice" etcetera. You'd need citations to use such sentences - and while I agree with the matter, that doesn't make the expression proper in an article.

Cleaned up the heading, took out the numbers and moved the faith part to the James section. David Bergan (talk) 17:29, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
Faith part moved to "Context" since the James section was abbreviated to one sentence and placed in "Cultural references". David Bergan (talk) 06:35, 14 April 2008 (UTC)


The section "Assumes the correct god is worshipped" references original research, to my knowledge, on the interpretation of the Bible. It should be noted that Pascal never conclusively proves the truth of the Christian faith, should any be correct. His arguments are quite... debatable, to say the least.

I'll look for citations for Pascal's thoughts. I'm pretty sure he had reasoning along those lines... just don't remember where off the top of my head. David Bergan (talk) 00:06, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
He has reasonings... they just don't exactly seem very groundbreaking. I haven't read the entirety of the Pensées (I've been specifically checking out Pascal's Wager, along with James' Will to Believe and similarly structured arguments for a philosophy of science class), but from what I've skimmed, his condemnations generally involved incorrect information like "muslims aren't even allowed to read the Quran", or using Bible verses to prove the Bible is superior to the Quran. DDSaeger (talk) 07:47, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Not being able to track down good material from Pascal himself, I instead replaced with reasoning from contemporary apologists. David Bergan (talk) 06:35, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

The section "Does not constitute a true belief" suggests that William James is criticising the Wager, whereas he is not. In fact, he is one of the few philosophers who actually agree that the Wager reaches its effect.

I don't know much at all about William James or The Will to Believe. The comment here in the article seems critical of the wager, but perhaps you can substantiate that it's taken out of context. David Bergan (talk) 00:06, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Immediately after the quoted paragraph, we get "It is evident that unless there be some pre-existing tendency to believe in masses and holy water, the option offered to the will by Pascal is not a living option." A 'living option' refers to James' term for options in which both sides are seen as potentially acceptable - for example, choosing between agnosticism and christianity, for the Western person, as generally opposed to the choice between being a Shia or Sunni muslim. Later on, he further develops his view on how passions influence reason - granting Pascal the validity of the Wager. "Evidently, then, our non-intellectual nature does influence our convictions. There are passional tendencies and volitions which run before and others which come after belief, and it is only the latter that are too late for the fair; and they are not too late when the previous passional work has been already in their own directions. Pascal's argument, instead of being powerless, then seems a regular clincher, and is the last stroke needed to make our faith in masses and holy water complete. The state of things is evidently far from simple; and pure insight and logic, whatever they might do ideally, are not the only things that really do produce our creeds." DDSaeger (talk) 07:47, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Interesting. Maybe then the section on Will to Believe should be taken out of "Criticisms" and broken into its own section?
Or better yet, since this information is more relevant to Will to Believe than to Pascal's Wager... we should put the content in the Will to Believe article, and just have a one-liner like this in this article: "William James uses Pascal's Wager as an example of choosing a 'living option' in his doctrine The Will to Believe."
Your thoughts? David Bergan (talk) 00:21, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
I followed through with my idea of shortening James to one sentence. The text removed from his lengthier section can be found here in case we decide to add it back later or move it to Will to Believe Doctrine. David Bergan (talk) 06:35, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

A nice job of adding context and introductions to sections, though. (Note: not all these criticisms are based on your version, DBergan - many are remnants from earlier versions.) DDSaeger (talk) 13:43, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for your work. I agree with most of your critiques and we'll see what I can do to address them. Kind regards, David Bergan (talk) 16:20, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
Another day of lots of cleanup. Read it again from top to bottom and see if you have some other suggestions for improvement. Kind regards, David Bergan (talk) 06:35, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Assuming God Rewards Belief[edit]

There was a paragraph under the section "Assuming God Rewards Belief" that was not only nonsensical, it used quotes that were falsely attributed to a Stanford philosophy website. Pascals whole point is that no value can rationally be placed on the chance of the existence of god. If "proponents" of his theory are now assigning arbitrary values to the likelihood of any given state of god or gods based on the "backing of traditional religions" simply to discredit an interpretation of the logic that they don't like, they have tossed the baby out with the bathwater. I deleted the quotes (if indeed they were quotes) until such a time as someone can re-add them with proper attribution and a much better defense of them as they apply to pascals wager. As it stands, it looks like someone just came here and added a paragraph beginning with "However..." below all of the criticisms of the wager along with their personal defense. Wronghead (talk) 23:01, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for checking the source... the quote was missing because the link was directing to wrong page. I restored the section and corrected the link. David Bergan (talk) 01:46, 9 May 2008 (UTC)


"If Christ's promise of bliss can be attained concurrently with Jehovah's and Allah's (which is a reasonable assumption, given that all three are identified as the God of Abraham), there is no conflict in the decision matrix. [16]"

It is NOT a reasonable assumption to make, regardless of who you can source as saying that it is reasonable, as the traditional doctrines of these faiths do NOT generally allow for the obtainment of salvation if you happen to believe in one of them, but one of the other derivatives turns out to be true. They all say that you must believe in them in particular, or there is no guarantee. Some of them leave open the possibility, but that isn't something that can be applied to a logical table of the only possibilities. The imagined possibility of infinite happiness at whatever level of probability is just so arbitrarily defined that it holds little relevance among all the other arbitrarily defined possibilities.
I'm not sure what point you are getting at, but in an article that speculates that God could send all believers to Hell and all non-believers to Heaven, the consideration that Christ might reward those for faith in Jehovah seems quite plausible. David Bergan (talk) 17:28, 13 May 2008 (UTC)
Whoosh! -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 08:33, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

"However, Pascal was clear, as explained above, that the application of his wager rests on the premise that an "honest attempted reason" about God's existence is impossible. Nor did Pascal ask readers to trust in "blind or feigned faith"... the wager was intended only to provide the seed that grows into a full believing life."

If his wager rests on the premise that an "honest attempted reason" about God's existence is impossible, then an honest attempted reason about what would happen if you wager for God's existing and He does in fact exist is also impossible. The result of believing in him and Him existing can have any magnitude, negative or positive, of endless imagined results.

"Furthermore, supporters of the wager point out that "these hypotheses lack the backing of tradition that genuine religions have, and thus should be disregarded... More precisely, these other hypotheses should be assigned zero (or perhaps at most infinitesimal) probability, so that they do not upset Pascal's expectation calculations." [22]

Tell us again why something being a tradition just gets more weight, especially when Pascal is assuming no way of proving the very crux of these traditions?

For all of these reasons, this entire section containing these lame counterarguments in support of Pascal's Wager really needs to be cleaned up.Mmortal03 (talk) 09:50, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

Change in Atheist wager[edit]

Please do not delete what I added. If you do, then delete both analysis of the atheist wager as neither contains quoats. If you have any arguments against it then quoat them. You may then delete what I added. But please do not delete may comments if you desire to comment on it do. Else both should be deleted. bw —Preceding unsigned comment added by Goodbryan (talkcontribs) 10:01, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for trying to contribute, but your edits added no substance. I restored the last good version of the article. Kind regards, David Bergan (talk) 23:00, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Atheist's wager quote - source?[edit]

Where is this quote actually from?


The article given as a reference does not contain the given text, and contains additional arguments that make the atheist's wager incompatible with theism, invalidating the paragraph currently following the above quote. Is there a reason for keeping this dubious quotation, rather than simply paraphrasing what is found in the referenced article? Ilkali (talk) 16:58, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Yeah... Thanks for checking into that. I always thought that was a weak section. After reading the referenced work, it really pertains more to the Assumes God rewards belief section (to which it adds nothing new, and there are already very strong references in that section) than the Atheist's Wager section. There really is nothing but the title linking this text to the latter section.
Without any quality references, the Atheist's Wager section should probably be taken down... until someone can produce some material with merit. That's the wikipedia way. Kind regards, David Bergan (talk) 17:57, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apuesta_de_Smith

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith%27s_Wager —Preceding unsigned comment added by 201.51.36.98 (talk) 15:46, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

Criticism NPOV revisions[edit]

As noted by others above, the criticism section contained way more counter-criticism than criticism, by two to one. Further, some of the criticism had been manipulated so that it made no sense, as has been noted. I massaged parts of the criticism section so that it now actually describes the criticism. I reworked two of the sections to that they now neutrally describe some of the major objections to the logic of Pascal's Wager. (That seems fair, since Pascal ostensibly based his Wager on *logic*.) Certainly there are many other credible criticisms of Pascal's rationale, so it seems reasonable that the few that are presented in the article are treated fairly. Tom NM (talk) 11:34, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Relevance of a see also link to faith[edit]

I added a see also link to the article on faith. Another editor deleted it, with the comment "not particularly relevant." I disagree. That article opens with the paragraph

Faith is a belief in the trustworthiness of an idea. Formal usage of the word "faith" is usually reserved for concepts of religion, as in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality (ergo a belief in a spiritual nature and in spiritual immortality), or else in a Supreme Being and said being's role in the order of transcendent, spiritual things.

Pascal's Wager is one attempt to address that question, and Pascal's thinking can't be fully understood unless we also understand the intellectual context he was working in. Religious faith, and the relationship between faith and reason, are integral parts of that context. EastTN (talk) 19:58, 21 August 2008 (UTC)


Reason might be more relevant. Pascal isn't asking readers to trust or believe anything. He subsequently demonstrated that reason is wholly untrustworthy on the question of God's existence, and as such the only logical conclusion is to wager what befits one's happiness. (read the section "Context") Kind regards, David Bergan (talk) 01:47, 22 August 2008 (UTC)
Linking to reason is of course directly relevant. I don't see how that makes a link to faith irrelevant, though. As the "Context" section puts it, "[i]n the same note where the wager is found, Pascal goes on to explain that understanding his conclusion is just the impetus for faith, not faith itself . . ." We're not understanding the full scope of Pascal's intellectual world if we view the wager as a pure exercise in game theory or pragmatism, entirely unrelated to questions of religious belief. It's also an exercise in thinking about the relationship between faith and reason, and how a rational individual might go about making decisions in that realm.
On a practical note, I'm going to suggest that we link to faith the first time the word is used in the sentence I quoted above. So, it would become "[i]n the same note where the wager is found, Pascal goes on to explain that understanding his conclusion is just the impetus for faith, not faith itself . . ." That's parallel to the way reason is handled - it's linked in the first sentence in the lead, and the first time it's used in the "Context" section.
Does that work for you? EastTN (talk) 13:56, 22 August 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, piping a link from the word faith in the article is totally fine. I just don't think the relationship of Pascal's Wager to the subject of faith is to strong that merits its own "see also" heading. Kind regards, David Bergan (talk) 19:39, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

Pratchett's Lady[edit]

On the citation of Terry Pratchett: his fans will note that his demigoddess "The Lady" is also an implicit satire of Pascal's Wager. The Lady, who is (very circumspectly), identified as Lady Luck, only grants favor to those who do not seek it. She regards any efforts to invoke Her assistance as condescending, taking Her for granted, and anyone who tries is going to find their luck running out immediately. People NEVER speak Her full name if they know what's healthy for them.

This is a variation on the Atheist's Wager that might be called the Gambler's Wager: if you try to influence the decision-making of the gods by prayer or faith, they will desert you. It has a certain basis in experience because gamblers of any stripe know perfectly well that to proclaim how lucky they are is to be asking for trouble -- like the extremely successful skirt-chaser who says: "No, man, my luck with women is always bad."

Jade Cat 71.33.225.71 (talk) 16:35, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

They only know that if the Gambler's Fallacy isn't a fallacy after all. But it is a fallacy, so there is no such "basis in experience". -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 08:38, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Shredding the trees of certainty[edit]

Is the phrase "shredded the trees of certainty" a quote from Pascal or someone else? It's a colorful metaphor, but if it's our own phrase, it seems a bit unencyclopedic. It doesn't seem to serve any function other than to suggest that we agree with Pascal's arguments and conclude that he's successfully undermined all certainty in the areas of religion. That may not be the intent, but if that's what we're in effect doing, I'd suggest that it's taking an editorial point of view. It would seem much more neutral to say something along the lines of "[Having] first attacked certainty, he then asks . . ." If it is a quote, we should attribute it so that it's clear to the reader where the conclusion is coming from. EastTN (talk) 14:52, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

A google search for "Shredding the trees of certainty" didn't turn up anything for me.--CyberGhostface (talk) 15:56, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
I did a google search for "shredded the trees of certainty" and all I found was various versions of this article. EastTN (talk) 16:08, 15 October 2008 (UTC)


Analysis with decision theory: wrong conclusion[edit]

Occuring event in Probability Theory can have a chance of zero. More formally, the event in the measure space has Measure zero. Any Lebesgue integral over such event (as a set), as is the case determining the expected value, yields zero too. Therefore even with infinite gain, if the event that God exists has measure zero, the resulting contributed expected value is 0. 80.101.55.174 (talk) 11:55, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

From your comment, it's obvious you don't understand the wager at all. Since there's nothing in the physical world that can either prove or disprove the existance of God with absolute certainty, we must wager as if either is possible. --204.184.214.2 (talk) 16:00, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Your assertions are baseless. It is quite reasonable to believe that the probability that there is a god that can grant infinite reward and will grant it to those who believe in it is zero. And to prove that, consider an eye-god who grants infinite rewards to those who stab themselves in the eye. If you believe that Pascal's logic is valid and you believe that the probability of the existence of such a god isn't zero, then why haven't you grabbed a knife? -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:00, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Correct me if I'm under the wrong impression, but this article appears to analyze the wager using techniques and principles of game theory (both the explications and the criticisms are framed in terms of choice matrices). The section titled Analysis With Decision Theory, to be precise, is not actually an analysis with decision theory, but with game theory. This is inappropriate, unless we assume that God, like the individual, is trying to maximize some utility function that is dependent upon the individual's strategy. Decision theory does, however, provide an effective analysis of the wager, at least given the way Pascal interpreted it. Specifically, his assertion that, since the expected value of believing in God is infinite, belief in God is the only rational choice, is strikingly similar to the reasoning behind the St. Petersburg Paradox. If so, this article is missing an important (if not the most important) criticism of the wager: Just like the proponents of EV decision theory, Pascal ignored the concept of risk aversion. In other words, the theory is "wrong" (some, likely many, would say) because it doesn't weight the EV with a concave utility function. This is a simple and devastating criticism (that is now both relatively old and almost universally accepted) of any line of reasoning that relies solely on EV. Thoughts? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 136.152.150.168 (talk) 22:10, 2 June 2009 (UTC) I think i see what the commenters are trying to say here. In my game thry classes we sometimes looked at games where an outcome with infinite payoff had a probability of zero or an infinitesimal probability. If the probability of say 'god existing' were an infinitesimal, the expected payoff could be finite positive depending on how you defined it, and needless to say, if the probability of 'god existing' were zero, the payoff would be zero. As an analogy, there are some function on an X-Y axis that go for infinity in both directions but have a finite area underneath them. A number approaching infinity times one approaching zero equals a finite number under certain conditions. It is not sufficient for the wager to claim that reason can neither prove nor disprove god, the wager must also assume that in a universe where reason can neither prove nor disprove god, that that universe also implies that the probability of 'god exists' is positive and non-infinitesimal (note that the citation for this section of the page, Stanford, also makes the assumption that "Rationality requires the probability that you assign to God existing to be positive, and not infinitesimal" a requirement). I am going to add the positive non-infinitesimal requirement to this page since it is an important requirement for the theory. Some criticisms on this page seem to realize the 'positive non-infinitesimal' requirement even if sometimes unconsciously. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 65.95.152.148 (talk) 07:45, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

positive probability / game theory[edit]

The OP above is correct in stating that the decision theoretic evaluation of the wager includes an unstated assumption. Namely, that the probability that god exists is not 0. Else, the conclusion is wrong. I am adding that part.

Furthermore, the wiki-link and connection with game theory is wrong. Given the matrix, "Living as if God does not exist" is not dominated according to game theory: If you opponent (nature? universe? god?) plays "god does not exist", your best reply is to play "Living as if God does not exist". Of course, using game theory implies that the human is playing against someone, which might be questionable in the first place. I am removing the wrong link. --Xeeron (talk) 14:40, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

There's a lot of original research here. Editors are not allowed to insert their own analysis into articles, including unsourced claims about assumptions. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:00, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Documentary film - title needed[edit]

Hi. Do you guys know any documentary video in which the Pascal's Wager is used (i.e. written in a 2x2 table)? I remember I've seen one, but I can't recall its title. I believe it was sort of 'proofs that God exists' video. Great thanks in advance. Cheers.--83.12.91.242 (talk) 21:53, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

there must be quotable sources for the following view[edit]

No choice, no wager... plain and simple. If a proposition doesn't correspond to any perceivable reality (as in god or afterlife), there simly is no choice which one has to make, never was and never will be, regardless of infinite possibilities. A similarly ridiculous coin toss may sound like "If I don't believe in it, will the giant Spaghetti Monster eat my testicles, so I won't be able to reproduce... whereas if I believe in it, it may spare them so I may perceive the bliss of having children?"... well at least that would corresond to a real life scenario. 92.225.67.249 (talk) 15:11, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

Replace the word "perceivable" above with "possible," and you've got the makings of a valid objection. To say that "there is simply no choice which one has to make" assumes that the preceding "if" is not actually present. The assumption implicit in the argument is that the probability of God existing is zero. Furthermore, the scenario of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not analogous to Pascal's Wager, as even if we suppose the probability of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's existence and eating/sparing of one's testicles is greater than zero, the reward is not infinite, and thus the relative improbability of the whole scenario allows it to be dominated by other possibilities. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.57.242.63 (talk) 05:54, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

Actually, "perceivable" is more appropriate than "possible", because mere possibilities do not enter into Bayesian probabilistic evaluations. It's funny that you so quickly dismiss the relevance of the FSM when there are an infinity of possible scenarios involving an FSM or other entity and infinite reward. Consider, for example, an eye-god that grants infinite rewards to those who stab themselves in the eye ... if all it takes is for such a thing to be possible, then the PW apologists should all be reaching for knives if they honestly believed their own arguments. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:11, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Relation to the Monty hall problem?[edit]

Wouldn't the better course, to be like pick and switch like they do in the monty hall problem? (Religion usually requires you not to question the faith you choose for the time you are practising it) the solution to the Monty Hall problem dictates that such strategy should be dominating any "fixed" strategies. Ideas? K61824 (talk) 00:22, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

The Monty Hall problem relies on the host opening a door and giving you additional information. If he doesn't open a door (and won't ever open a door), then you have no reason to ever switch. --Gwern (contribs) 14:28 3 April 2009 (GMT)
No, there's no relationship ... but thanks for playing. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:13, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Pascal's Anti Wager POV[edit]

The section on pascal's anti wager is very short and is POV. It quickly dismisses the claims of Richard Dawkins but barely elaborates on said claims. The Anti wager does not just encompass that "you should live your life happy and free because there is no deity". It also, and in many ways more importantly, describes the odds that you are correct. Dawkins describes how there are thousands of gods and hundreds of thousands of ways to worship these gods. The odd that you pick the right god and follow that god's doctrine are against you. On top of this, Dawkins explains that many of the gods in question punish you for beliving in another god, further diminishing your odds. I can get the quotes if necessary, they all can be found in the God Delusion, but if we are going to mention Pascal's Anti Wager at all, IT MUST be properly presented. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.83.23.166 (talk) 19:09, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Contradictory edits[edit]

This whole page seems to be contradictory edits composed of "Sentence showing the proof is wrong. However, contradicting sentence showing the previous sentence is wrong." Could we cut out some of the "Take-thats"? --Ye Olde Luke (talk) 05:57, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Removing GA status[edit]

This article is listed as a GA, but there is no record of how it got that status. The flaws are obvious: excessive use of quotations, insufficient and limited references, one-sentence sections, the disfavoured "In (popular) culture" section, etc. Since the GA promotion has not followed proper procedure, I see no reason to go through a formal reassessment, and will just remove the GA-status forthwith. If anyone has an issue with this, feel free to bring it up at Wikipedia:Good article reassessment. Lampman (talk) 18:47, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Criticisms section should somehow be attributed to Martin[edit]

The Martin text consolidates the criticisms in precisely this form, and I think it should be properly attributed in a footnote somehow. While primary sources (such as Voltaire, etc.) should certainly be presented. (I haven't read the book in about ten years, so my memory could be rusty about the proper attribution, but a redflag went up right away when skimming the article that I had seen this elsewhere.) 71.182.249.158 (talk) 22:46, 6 October 2009 (UTC)

Flip side to this one-sided article?[edit]

I've had a quick read through this article and it appears to be a bit one sided. All counter arguments to the wager are dismissed with what appears to be a cavalier attitude.

Also wondering why infinite reward is assumed for God exists + Living as if God exists? Why is the following less likely and not just as persuasive?

God exists (G) God does not exist (~G)
Living as if God exists (B) -∞ f1
Living as if God does not exist (~B) f2 f3

--Dion Liddell (talk) 10:17, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

This matrix assumes that the god in question will reward the actions of a person without belief, which isn't the case in some christian doctrines. --Adam in MO Talk 17:33, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

What is the case for Christian doctrines is irrelevant, since the logic of the wager is aimed at those who don't currently accept Christian doctrine. The comments below about "no one believes it" are likewise nonsensical, since the wager is all about what is logically compelling; what people currently believe doesn't enter into it. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:21, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Hi - it's almost the same as the second simplified matrix that is in the main article but with the sign of the "God exists + Living as if God exists" cell reversed. No mention of reward for 'non belivers' in this matrix. I know of course, that this isn't within the Christians doctrine of belief, but I am wondering if there is anything wrong with the logic that could be derived from this matrix, and why it would be less persuasive than Pascal's orginal. --Dion Liddell (talk) 19:40, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

It's not persuasive because no one believes it. That may sound like a silly answer, but when you consider that this is a WAGER, it makes perfect sense: you don't wager on things you don't believe.

Suppose we were betting on who would win the Superbowl before the football season started, and everyone wagered on a different team, no teams left out; now suppose someone came in and said "wait you haven't considered what would happen if suddenly half of all the players mysteriously died and the nfl had to combine teams to make up the difference: maybe the eagles and steelers merge into one team again! You haven't accounted for the Steagles!" We would all laugh him out of the room.

Similarly, Pascal could reply, "well, if you've ever lost sleep wondering 'is there a Malicious Being who wants to damn me to hell for believing in him?' then you can make that part of your matrix, but you'll excuse me if I do not."

There are other problems as well: not only don't you wager on this you can't. Suppose you ask a man "why are you an atheist?" Suppose he responds "God would send me to hell for believing in him." I imagine the next question would be "do you really believe that?" Further still, since Pascal's conclusion is not believe but TRY to believe it negates this possibility: if this Evil-god wishes to damn as many people as he can, he will do so regardless of what you believe. On the other hand if he really just doesn't want people to believe in him (perhaps listening to prayers is a hassle) he would likely have arranged the world so that partaking in religious practice does not lead to religious belief, so nothing to worry about. Lastly, this god is not the God of Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other religious perspective which one will be considering, so unless this God punishes across beliefs it won't matter, but if he punishes across beliefs it still won't matter whether one believes or not, so there's no counter to Pascal's argument to be found here.

I'm not defending the argument across the board, but I don't think that the inverted matrix is a good objection.129.62.119.81 (talk) 03:07, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Thanks[edit]

This may be the best article I've ever read on the Wiki. It provides penetrating analysis from multiple perspectives Theriddles (talk) 05:16, 5 December 2009 (UTC)



A Pointless Wager - Faith is a free gift from God


I think I risk a slapped wrist for this contribution, but after reading the article and the discussion here, I am bursting to respond !

Despite his apparent conversion, Pascal had a Roman Catholic background, which greatly hindered his view of God and the true nature of Christian faith. (The Catholic Church has never encouraged its members to read the Bible in prayer, and historically always did its best to prevent them.)

According to the Bible, "Faith" cannot be created within one's self, it has to be received as a free gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8)

So the "Wager" is totally pointless ! The existence of God can be easily discovered and true faith received by simple practical experiment !

Everyone who reads the gospels with prayer for understanding, and puts Jesus' teaching into practice, quickly discovers that God is real, and that He very tangibly answers prayer. And they will receive rock solid true faith as a gift from God. This is a simple demonstrable fact.

No-one ever has, and no-one ever will, either prove or disprove God's existence by sitting around arguing ! Only by carrying out the practical experiment !

Starting from a position of absolute total scepticism, this is how I became a totally convinced faith-filled believer.

Darkman101 (talk) 17:50, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

This page is for improving the article, not for bible thumping. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:23, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Pascal's Wager Debunked[edit]

How about adding a new section 'Pascal's Wager Debunked' from atheist POV. Here is a clip of Matt Dillahunty from his atheist show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9WRG4e6m2s. This basically argus on following points

  1. Pascal's Wager ignores different gods, religions, heaven, hells.
  2. Pascal's Wager assumes that the god can be fooled by pretended belief, worshipping.

--Abhishikt 03:17, 25 August 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Abhishikt (talkcontribs)

Here are few responses by Richard Dawkins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyjUoDFnaBk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWu450rVJO4 -Abhishikt 21:30, 3 September 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Abhishikt (talkcontribs)

Criticism section needs work[edit]

I'm kinda confused about the criticism section of this article. More than half of it seems dedicated to argue against the raised critisism, which gives a wierd vibe while reading the article. When I come down to the critisism section I do not expect for the article to mainly continue arguing for the validity of the wager.

Furthermore, some of the responses to the criticism outright contradicts each other and the premises laid out for the wager, creating a confusing paradox. For instance, it is stated that: But Pascal did not offer the wager as a so called "proof". It merely followed from his arguments that reason can fail to give any answer and that discerning God's actual existence appears to be "a coin toss." If reason can answer the question of God's existence, then the wager simply does not apply.

But at the same time just a paragraph futher down it is stated: Pascal himself didn't address the question of other religions in his section on the wager, presumably because throughout the rest of Pensées (and in his other works) he examined alternatives, like stoicism, paganism, Islam, and Judaism, and concluded that if any faith is correct, it would be the Christian faith.

These two lines are in direct contradiction. How can one reason that one faith is superior to all others, and then state that because reason doesn't apply, this faith is the best bet?

It goes on: Apologists reply that hypotheses such as these lack the backing of tradition that genuine religions have, and thus should be disregarded. Which again doing the exact same thing.

I know original research is a no-no on Wikipedia, so I'm not suggesting what it should be changed to instead, but surely the article isn't supposed to contradict itself so openly?

Best regards Drakim (talk) 13:31, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

I totally agree with Drakim about the criticism section sounding like a continued argument for the wager. Is this really what encyclopedia articles are about? Laying out all the possible arguments against the main subject of the article in a "criticism" section and then putting in all the counter-arguments and counter-counter-arguments as well? I suggest that an encyclopedia article should only document the known facts about the subject. "Pascal's wager is X" and that is it. There ought to be a separate system to document debates. I am getting really sick of these articles becoming a friggin debate platform. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.167.49.116 (talk) 03:32, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

It's what happens when godbots and bible thumpers are about. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:26, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

There is also a Pascal's Wager about Global Warming[edit]

Look here at 03:50 and you'll see the global warming version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF_anaVcCXg He wrote a book about it.

Counteraction taken Counteraction not taken
Global warming is false Economic harm  :)
Global warming is true  :) Massive global disaster

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Bias in outcomes of "God does not exist" column of decision table?[edit]

God exists (G) God does not exist (~G)
Belief (B) +∞ (heaven) +1 (moral benefits)
Disbelief (~B) −∞ (hell) -1 (immoral consequences)

On what basis have we ascribed benefits and negative consequences to the ~G outcomes? Surely in a world without God, B and ~B should objectively both be valued at 0? To ascribe them moral values is to beg the question of the existence of God or the morality of believing in Him... If the +1 and -1 values are ascribed by Pascal, could someone please include a reference to this, or highlight the circular reasoning in it? If these values are not in fact explicitly stated by Pascal, perhaps it would be fairer to him to alter them.

92.22.160.241 (talk) 20:17, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Negative infinity as a consequence of ~B[edit]

In the section titled "Analysis with decision theory," I don't understand the sentence that says:

"Any matrix of the following type (where f1, f2, and f3 are all finite positive or negative numbers) results in (B) as being the only rational decision."

because in the chart that follows, f2 corresponds to −∞ (from the previous chart in this section), thus it would not be "finite positive or negative" as the cited sentence claims. --JohnJSal (talk) 00:38, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

Criticism[edit]

The Criticism section is still in need of work. I think this article should have a direct reference to the False Dichotomy page since this wager suffers from that flaw, in my opinion the article is biased as long as this criticism is not presented because the wager assumes knowledge of god that also cannot be known with certainty I cannot add this perspective to the article at this time because I currently don't know any online sources for this position. 41.132.219.213 (talk) 02:18, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

There are also issues in dealing with infinities and zero probability, as in the final statement: "Or, one could also argue that there is an infinite amount of mutually exclusive religions (...), and that the probability of any one of them being true is zero; therefore the expected value of following a certain religion is zero."
An infinite number of mutually exclusive religions do not imply imply that each must have a zero probably (this is not stated as such but the text does seem to suggest it). Also, even a probability of zero does not imply impossibility and although technically the expected value would be zero, this may not matter for those who are gambling on the conditional expected value (which doesn't have to zero). AlexFekken (talk) 09:24, 8 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree a major criticism of Pascal's Wager should be its false dichotomy. Neither reason nor empirical observation can establish a zero probability for all alternatives other than the two listed in his wager. For example, there may be a non-zero probability for the proposition that God exists and allows only ethical atheists to live forever (perhaps because their ethics do not depend on selfish expectation of posthumous reward). SEppley (talk) 16:40, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

Wrong section of Pascal's 'Pensees'[edit]

As of today, the footnote #"4" and "a" is wrong. It should be "Pensees 233", NOT 272. See Paragraph eight, at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm#p_233 24.190.167.34 (talk) 21:34, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

Criticism section unbalanced[edit]

Added "Unbalanced" tag, reflecting the comments others have made on this talk page. For example, the part about inconsistent revelations ends with ecumenical interpretations, referenced to Saka. Saka specifically argues that these arguments against the many gods objection are invalid. See here. Using critics of the wager merely as a source for arguments against the criticism seems pretty biased to me. Ssscienccce (talk) 20:58, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Status of discussion on this article as of Feb.16, 2013[edit]

I've just tuned in to the article and went back through the edit history and talk history.

Would any regulars be willing to give a summary of where things stand?

My interest was piqued by the late Christopher Hitchens's rather shallow dismissal of the wager. I'm taking a print-out of the article to lunch to mark up.

Thank you. JWorkman 20:18, 16 February 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by James K. Workman (talkcontribs)

Hitchens's dismissal of this grossly fallacious argument was not shallow. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:32, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Final sentence needs citation[edit]

The final sentence needs a citation from Pascal. Especially in view is the first clause, "Unbelievers who persistently endeavor in an honest, rational effort to search for the truth are commended by Pascal...." This claim is made in the context of the "Argument [objection to the wager] from inauthentic belief. I cannot find where Pascal commended those who make a search for truth, but don't authentically accept the existence of God. I think Pascal would have concluded that those who do not finally come to an acceptance of God are "lost". I welcome documentation; otherwise I plan to replace this sentence with the following from from Pensees #236, "...If you die without worshiping the True Cause, you are lost." Thanks. JWorkman 23:33, 17 February 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by James K. Workman (talkcontribs)

This article is not about Pascal or the Pensees, so all these quotes from Pascal are irrelevant unless they bear directly on the Wager. -- 96.247.231.243 (talk) 09:35, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Argument of Assumptions[edit]

This section of the article is a mess and needs a lot of clean up. It appears to be an explanation of why Pascal's Wager is invalid based on the fact that the Wager is a false dichotomy, so I don't know if it's original research or not. I've tried adding as many relevant sources as I could find but I think only 3 are reliable.Jdbtwo (talk) 07:31, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

When I google for "pascal's wager false dilemma" I get 118000 results, so there is a lot of material out there. But, I can't find a specific source that covers all aspects of the section, only sources that partially cover the section. I really need some help in doing research for these sources because I cannot believe that such a fundamental flaw has not been fully covered in some book or other reliable source. If only the author of the section would help.Jdbtwo (talk) 09:28, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
As it stands, this section is OR, SYN or both. ( as well as being flawed ) But, it can be saved :) First "It holds that time spent during life is either precious (and thus can be wasted) or is not, due to an afterlife (though time still can be viewed as wasted)." has to go since that isn't supported by any of the sources. Secondly, "This argument holds that three general assumptions exist." needs to be changed to "This argument takes as an example that two types of gods exist". Thirdly "Worship" and "Abstain" need to be replaced by "Believe" and "Disbelieve" to be consistent with the sources. Fourthly, in the "Malevolent God" table, the "Worship False God" row has got to go to be consistent with the sources. Fifthly, "(Statistically unlikely to choose "correctly")" in the "Worship False God" table has got to go as it's flawed and makes a hidden assumption that a malevolent god would grant belief with infinite gain when the only two types of malevolent gods mentioned in the sources relevant to this section are those who condemn everyone or those that condemn randomly. In other words, it's trying to make a connection with the Argument from inconsistent revelations where no such connection exists. Also, "This criticism is aimed solely toward the logic of worship for the purpose of salvation, which Pascal is not referring to. It does not address worship for the purpose of comfort or peace during life." needs to go since it is superfluous and is not supported by any of the sources. Furthermore, all references to "Time Spent Worshiping" or "Time Wasted" etc. need to be deleted as these are not supported by the sources. Lastly, the explanations/summaries under each table need to be rewritten.
After all this, I think that the section will be a suitable summary of the sources under the trivially deducible fact that the Wager is a False Dilemma without introducing any new non-obvious conclusions ( NOR ).Jdbtwo (talk) 09:19, 6 February 2014 (UTC)