IV. Abysmal Similarities
What do Pascal’s and Gödel’s Wager have in common? The argument always has the clause, “... but if not-X, then in the resulting chaos it doesn’t matter what you bet, so you lose nothing.” An argument skirting the edge of the abyss! For Pascal’s wager, the chaotic not-X is no-God; for Gödel’s Wager (really mine, but I give it to him) the chaotic not-X is unreason; for Smith’s wager, not-X equals unjust God; for the Dissenter’s Wager, not-X equals tyranny. In each case, not-X is so bad that all bets are off; therefore bet on X!
As long as the Wager’s breakdown case is dire enough, then bet against breakdown, ‘cause if you lose then the bet’s off. A neat cheat; it reminds me of Edward Teller, on the eve of the first H-bomb test, wagering with other physicists that the bomb won’t ignite a runaway reaction in the atmosphere. No way to lose Teller’s Wager! I fault Teller’s ethics, but not his logic.
One can argue against Pascal’s Wager, because of its hidden assumptions; Smith’s Wager also turns out to have hidden assumptions. (e.g. that any unjust god has already gone completely mad). Does Gödel’s Wager still hold? For arithmetic to be inconsistent; shall we regard that as the end of rationality and accountability? Or at least bettability? If 1+1=1 then are all bets off? (I bet that Pope Russell would say so. “I am one, and the Pope is one; together we are one, and I am the Pope.”)
So are Smith and Dissenter Wagers flawed, and Pascal’s too, but Teller’s and Gödel’s are valid? If so, then the difference is that the first three involved personalities (gods and governments) who, by virtue of which, are necessarily limited and crafty enough to be negotiated with; whereas the last two involve mathematical and physical law, which apply without limit.
Impersonality empowers the Abyss Wager!