Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aurelius' wager

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
-- Marcus Aurelius (121-180)
Well, it's better than Pascal's wager, because it is based on values and virtues, not belief, but it is still somehow unsatisfactory. I do not exercise virtue for any hope of reward (whether in the form of being welcomed by gods, or being remembered by loved ones) but because it is the right thing to do. OK so I gain some satisfaction from doing the right thing, so perhaps it's not entirely altruistic, but I'm still uncomfortable with Aurelius' wager.

I thoroughly approve of "If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them" — quite right.

Addendum: Richard Carrier wipes the floor with Pascal's Wager (and by extension, Aurelius' wager).


Anonymous said...

Eh, I'm not so sure that taking personal satisfaction from doing the right thing and altruism are all that incompatible, anyway.

And I'm definitely with both you and Aurelius on the whole issue of not wanting to worship unjust gods.

-- Jarred.

Yewtree said...

Ah, according to this blogpost, the quote is not actually from Marcus Aurelius, or is very loosely translated: