Re: Infinite utility (was: Re: Pascal's Wager)

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 09 Dec 1998 09:26:48 -0800

Nick Bostrom wrote:
>I wonder if anybody here could help me with the following
>philosophical problem, relating to the discussion of Pascal's
>If one doesn't time discount future benefits, then it would seem that
>the expected utility of *any* human action is infinite, since there
>is always a finite probablility that it will lead to eternal
>Under these circumstances it could seem reasonable to choose the
>action that has the highest probability of giving eternal bliss, even
>though it would not affect expected utility. At least I would, if the
>choice were between a 1% chance in heaven and a 50% chance in heaven,
>definitely prefer the latter.

Flipping the argument around, anyone who doesn't choose their actions soley on how it influences the chance for eternal bliss *does* discount future benefits. Thus the vast majority of people do discount the future.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884