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Religions 2017, 8(8), 136; doi:10.3390/rel8080136

Prudential Versus Probative Arguments for Religious Faith: Descartes and Pascal on Reason and Faith

Howard College of Arts and Sciences, Samford University, Birmingham, AL 35229, USA
Received: 12 May 2017 / Revised: 28 July 2017 / Accepted: 28 July 2017 / Published: 31 July 2017
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Abstract

In this article, I show that Pascal’s prudential agenda, centered on the Wager, more successfully overcomes the restrictions of Pyrrhonic skepticism expressed by Montaigne than Descartes’ probative philosophy, which was based on his “ontological argument” for God’s existence. Descartes’ attempt to base natural science on the metaphysical certainty of a non-deceiving God fails because he cannot prove that a non-deceiving Perfect Being is a “clear and distinct” idea. Pascal’s attempt to base the knowledge of God upon the “reasons of the heart” accepts the epistemological restrictions of skepticism but provides a reason to develop passionate faith, thereby overcoming skepticism. I also show that Descartes and Pascal had different assumptions about the workings of the mind; Descartes relied on a model of the mind as a “theater,” which hindered his agenda, and Pascal upon a “holistic” model, which enabled him to make a prudential argument which was cognitively convincing. View Full-Text
Keywords: Pascal; Descartes; knowledge of God; prudential reasoning Pascal; Descartes; knowledge of God; prudential reasoning
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Sansom, D. Prudential Versus Probative Arguments for Religious Faith: Descartes and Pascal on Reason and Faith. Religions 2017, 8, 136.

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