There are many topics in philosophy that require people to have positions on, with arguably even a "no position" mentality being a form of position. But because we are all emotional beings, it can't possibly be the case that we can reason through these positions free of bias.

For example, a person who has an extreme level of love for his mother may be more likely to entertain a moral philosophy where if he had to choose between saving her and two kids, he would choose his mother. A person brought up under religion may put more time or be more likely to entertain the idea that God exists, and find the arguments for God more convincing.

Thus, is imagining a level of consequence attached to a bet for each position a proper strategy for perhaps removing bias and ensuring that your position has a greater chance of being correct? For example, say you are not sure about whether or not a particular God exists. Now, imagine betting on His existence, where if you are wrong either way, you go to hell for eternity. Would this kind of bet bring out your true position?

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    The involved theory of emotional influences on reasoning seems pseudoscientific to some extent, and to convert this theory into an argument for conflating philosophical judgment/motivation with gambling sounds even worse. Kant did bring up this analogy at least one time, though. Jan 9, 2023 at 3:43
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    You may already be a trained philosopher. I don't know. Good post.
    – Gordon
    Jan 9, 2023 at 3:44
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    This strikes me as a psychology question, not a philosophy question. Jan 9, 2023 at 5:05
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    For heavens sake F Bacon talks about exactly such bias with his Idols. I would read Bacon, Pascal, and Sartre as indicated. Perhaps OP has already read these things.
    – Gordon
    Jan 9, 2023 at 5:33
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    There is the quote by De Sousa who likens the act of assent to a “bet on truth alone, solely determined by epistemic desirabilities” (quoted in Dennett 1978, p. 304). Of course, it leaves 'desirability' in the equation... Hmm
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 9, 2023 at 11:03

4 Answers 4


Philosophy is opposite of betting.

A bet is a bet if you are not sure of outcome - information available to you is not conclusive.

If you do know that machine is rigged in your favor then your bet is not as much a bet as the other players'. If you are sure of the output of machine (say it always output "777" after 4 inputs) then you are not betting at all, you are frauding.

How Can You Be Sure Of Anything

Just look at data. Observe. Look at nothing but facts.

Once you have data, analyze it. See what happen all the time. That way you get sure.

Ofcourse if you see something happening some of the time then you cannot be sure. You can be sure only in some percentage term but never fully sure.

Faith Is Knowing (Not Betting)

Remember the matrix line "Don't think you are, know you are"?

Unless the character Neo saw his strengths, saw what he is capable of doing, he wasn't sure of himself.

To be sure of God's existence search for First Cause, Non-existence of Infinite Regression / You cannot Get Out Of An Infinite Well etc.

  • We always have those "known unknowns" to grapple with. But the "unknown unknowns" are tough!
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 9, 2023 at 11:06
  • There is no such thing as unknown unknown. If the thing's existence is not known (thats what the first unknown is for) then we cannot tell that the thing is known or unknown. A person you never met at airport while you wait for your flight can as much be your high school friend as a stranger.
    – Atif
    Jan 10, 2023 at 11:41
  • A superb question and an excellent answer - philosophical positions are not bets (contra Pascal and his magnificent wager) but of course we can, perhaps (someone) should, found a branch of philosophy, philosophy of betting/gambling. That would be interesting, oui? It might be worth noting the question is a reflection of free will.
    – Hudjefa
    Jan 10, 2023 at 12:01

About your bet

Presumably, if you are right either way, you go to heaven – or at least not to hell?

If your true position is that you are not sure, then the bet would not bring out your true position, but hide it.

This is a version of Pascal’s wager, and one of the objections to that is that one cannot believe something because of this kind of consequence which is not relevant to the truth of the belief in God. The best we could do is to pretend to believe. So the answer to your question in this case is No.

However, Pascal also argues that if one acts as if one believes, one will end up believing. Whether that’s a process that God would find acceptable, I do not presume to say. On this, see Pascal’s Pensées Section III note 233, or Pascal’s Wager (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

For myself, I’m not sure that I can imagine heaven or hell, any more than I can imagine God, so such a bet would be meaningless for me. Other people may have more flexible imaginations.

Turning a decision under uncertainty into a bet

It is comparatively seldom that philosophical argument is conclusive and then we have to weigh arguments against each other in order to come to a conclusion. But this process should not take account of irrelevant factors, and, normally, a bet will be irrelevant to the truth or plausibility of a philosophical position.

In some cases, a consequence may be entirely relevant. For example, it is often urged that denying free will undermines the concept of moral responsibility and that this is unthinkable. Even here, one might decide that the consequence is not relevant to the correctness of the denial.

Bias caused by emotions

You are right that none of us is an unemotional calculating machine, although even those are not exempt from bias – but that’s another issue.

However, not all emotions are bias. Enthusiasm for the pursuit of truth, for example, is not a bias in philosophy but a requirement. Indeed, without the emotion that is aroused by the values that inform philosophy, the reflection and debate that it requires is most unlikely to take place.

Working out a position on philosophical questions

That is indeed what it’s all about.

And, of course, your strategy here is also a position, and therefore liable to the same forms of bias that you are trying to escape.

All we can do is to be aware of the problem and our own individual emotional biases and try to compensate for them. I recommend dialogue with other people as a good way of doing this.


Well you have come to many of the same conclusions as Francis Bacon did. You may want to read the article on him Francis Bacon at SEP. Especially his topic of the Idols.

As to your question, I would say Pascal's Wager. This indicates you possess philosophical insight.

The example you give regarding the mother, see Sartre's famous essay "Existentialism is a Humanism". It's good you cross paths with great thinkers when You think. I hope you continue in the field of philosophy.


Both Plato and Aristotle cannot be right about forms. They were both successful philosophers, and while deciding who to believe - about e.g. forms - does have a role to play, their arguments and what they added to philosophy may weigh more heavily on us than the respective merits of their conclusions. This is why they are still read.

If philosophy is just about who to believe then who is a philosopher? I suppose we could think that a philosopher is a philosopher until philosophers stop believing them. But Aristotle remains a great, and our disbelief doesn't change that: there is more to it that choosing (rather than defending, elaborating etc.) a position.

  • Sorry, I am leaving, but I didn't enjoy my answer being deleted without explanation.
    – user64190
    Jan 10, 2023 at 15:34

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