Wayne’s Wager

Pascal’s wager famously states that one might as well believe in God because if he exists the possible reward is far greater than the minor inconvenience of belief. That might come as a surprise to all the faithful who have adapted odd moral codes and dietary habits to please their particular deity, or to the martyrs who have died in defense of their ideals. Yet this wager remains very much alive in social discussions.

My wager is a little different. In contrast to Descartes “I think therefore I am,” and all the current floundering about “is anything really real,” I propose a new formulation: “Everything is exactly what it seems to be.”

You might as well believe that reality is as our senses and science indicate, and that other people are just like us, because doing so costs you nothing and will help you in daily life. And it will not harm you at all if everything outside your own mind is truly an illusion. 

This is not easy. Much more comfortable to believe I am special, that there are hidden levers controlling external things. There are – just as you sense them. Making “sense is the core of reality” an absolute guide to life is a difficult concept. It implies that mind hardly counts as powerful in the “real” world. And that is frightening.

But, again, it is simply a bet. If all is illusion then no big deal to treat it as reality. But if all is really real, treating it as illusion will get you in big trouble.

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