the wager book review

the wager book review

The Wager Book Review

1. Introduction

Pascal’s first thought about a wager was so simple: “I should be no nearer the truth whether I bet that God exists, since I should not know, if I won, whether his existence were essential, if I bet He does not exist it is the same.” Now this statement, although its simplicity is conspicuous, contains the germ of the argument which has exercised so vast an influence on later philosophy. The wager is scarcely a proper division of a discussion, but Pascal soon attains to a more methodical statement of the case. God, he holds, is or He does not exist. But to examine this last thesis. We are entirely ignorant of the nature of God, and the nature of the soul. Now as none have seen God and none the soul, the actions of God and the nature of the soul have been incomparably more concealed than anything else; we have never had as much evidence for them as that person who writes news of the court has for news of the city which is hidden from him. Now there were always two ways of looking at our own existence—the way of the wise or philosophical man, and the common way of mankind. And just as it is said that the reflection of the most determined atheist may change to the conversion of the most righteous, in like manner when the rough and ordinary soul has considered the rarity of this notion, he may say “if there is a God I shall be damned if I do not serve Him, if I serve Him I shall be damned for I shall be vexed at the things which He will make me give up.” So we have in the souls of the wise and of the common man entirely different principle motives, and we should not have so many disputes about the occurrences of our actions had they not a cause different from their being bad or good; for the same action which offends a duke would please a peasant. Now the soul is of necessity always infinitely grieved at what cause it to give up the quality of life in anything. Now if it could have a firm conviction, the soul which has a conviction to be a king—now more or less there are such people—would wish with no further consideration to be so, if there were no perils. This state is that of some few persons who will only be saved but it is more certain of all who wish for this state to be eternal. Now in order to arrive at this, there is nothing that a man will not give up, even the likes of St. Paul or St. Augustine. Now if we had no further affirmations than the ones which were said to be medicinal and renewing in the matters of our past beliefs, which are by no means universal. This bet is the most effective, and it would appear that there is no absurdity that is not a result of this change, in so much as the Church declaims and the poor in its discourse say a word for it.

2. Plot Summary

The Wager is a novel by James Clavell, the author of Shogun and King Rat. It is based on the true story of an English army captain stripped of his rank, imprisoned and then deported to Australia in 1856. In this book, Clavell portrays the man, who became his old friend and school chum, The Honourable Charles Adair (Clavell changes his name in the book to the main character’s eventual name, Meredith), who is falling apart after the death of his only child and the imprisonment of his adulterous wife. One night he gets drunk and goes into a casino where he gets impulsive and bets that he can walk around the world in 42 million paces (which equals to £100,000). Everyone present agrees that he was drunk and it was a foolish wager. On top of that, his wife’s family make it so that they transfer ownership of the child into their hands if Charles were to leave England to go to the new convict settlement in Western Australia. And if he were to take his child with him and travel away from England, the ownership of the child would be transferred as well. A probable revenge on the death of their daughter’s honor via Charles’ wife and the death of her unborn children. Thus giving the wager’s true meaning for Charles, a bet that he could forget his sad past and start a new life.

3. Analysis and Critique

The specific endorsements from the wager is one of the experiences we encounter in the writings of the mathematician. These is not to be found in The Thoughts. Numbers of providential episodes were assembled from Plutarch and various other sources as raw material for a powerful probabilistic proof. It is clear Jeremy was highly fearful of people will be seen to give insufficient assent to so very substantial a conclusion for a proof founded on a mere 3 to 1 wager. This would demote the whole status of the wager and the infinite expected value conclusion to the provisional, grey area where things are deemed probable, but the probable is not sufficient to commend assent from the learned and wise. It would reduce the strength of the conclusion that it is a smart bet for both unbeliever and theist to take a wager in Pascal’s religion, yet it is a very damaging bet for the unbeliever. As for the comparison of risk in avoiding decision, and in making it toward mathematical expectation, this can allude to no incident better than his own. This is very significant to the 17th century French culture, of which Pascal was a part. Pascal all his life was a great gambler at heart; he simply occasionally employed it in the incorrect sense. In assembling the stories, Pascal actually used more than the unstable proofs designed to demonstrate that it is a losing game to bet on infinity. Steps, such as when “The Persian” disregards a bribe of an apple in order to keep a predecessor appointment with the king. This one was compared to Pascal’s own spirit in abandoning rakes of worldly laurels and honours. This use of comparison will resurface in the letter to a friend in order to “make you cry”, which will be discussed further down. At the time of Pascal’s parlous health in 1657-8, it is known that he planned a recast of the Apology; the forlorn Epistle to the Reverend Fathers of the Jesuits shows that it was to be a complete retraction in view of the probability of death. In fact it was never redone, on his death in 1662 it was in great tangle and disorder, and the past years have left us with the famous Pensées, from which it derived its raw material.

4. Themes Explored

Themes of nature, themes of evil, theme of free will, theme of redemption. The themes of The Wager are all hinted at by the author almost from the start of the narrative. The first one is the theme of evil. The recurring element in this work is the philosophic question “How can evil exist in a world overseen by a benevolent deity?” to which it is believed Montaigne did not have an answer. Pascal’s characters discuss only the nature of evil in humanity and come to the conclusion that it is born of pride. Diabolos states that it is the seeking to be self-sufficient, to be without God that was the beginning of evil in our beings; but it was an attack by nature on your behalf, a movement to resemble God in our dependence, which was the original sin. A complicated issue well surmised, but the author having not answered the first question instead answers what he believes to be man’s own solution giving rise to a greater evil, the will to eradicate our own nature of evil. This is seen through various statements throughout the work such as “Misery is in seeking things, not in possessing them” and in Theopharastus’ pact with Dioscurides stating that in agreeing an end date the cure should be effected within the duration. The final part of the narrative reflects on this idea with a short story concerning a successful businessman whose attempts to rid his life of past regrets prove futile and end in suicide. This is in essence a rhetorical allusion to the tonne of despair and the conversion, the autoradios to Christianity in his view, quoting the same conclusion “it was better in the end to have kept the old curing disease.” The narrative as a whole is either intended to be viewed a lesson in Christian apologetics, or a critique of the dissolute life and he quests of various forms of intellectualism, either way this is the most well-developed theme.

5. Conclusion

The content in the wager book by Richard E Armstrong is presented in a very simple and crisp manner. The book is enlightening and thought provoking. The use of simple language throughout the book makes it very interesting and easy to understand. The content is rich with good analytical points. The writer has presented various aspects and theories on decision making and best options suited for effective decision making. Throughout the book, the writer has given a good account of the reward matrix to understand the implications in decision making. Most of the theories are accompanied by case studies that are evidence of the theories and implications. But at some places, there are lengthy explanations in theory that may sometimes become uninteresting to the reader. But the theories are again very interesting once the reader may go through it. The concepts of expected value, expected utility, and the symmetrical nature of savoring and disappointment construe are very well explained. The use of the prospect theory in explaining the decision making has added a very good essence to the content. Overall, the content in the book is really thought provoking and inquisitive. The writer has presented right from the basics of decision making to complex strategic decision making in a very interesting manner.

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