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...If we bet on the existence of God and win, then we gain eternal life. However, if we choose to bet on the option that God doesn’t exist, and we win, then we live a life without illusion (at least in this respect), and feel free to indulge in the pleasures of this life without fear of divine punishment. But if we bet on this option and lose, then we at least miss the chance of eternal life, and may even run the risk of eternal damnation. Pascal argued that, as gamblers faced with these options, the most rational course of action for us is to believe that God does exist. Source

What does "as" mean in the context? I think it means "like". Is it correct?

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  • As means: like gamblers, yes. This is probably en tant que in French....
    – Lambie
    Feb 16, 2021 at 15:31
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    @Lambie I don't think it's exactly "like" - "like gamblers" implies you're not a gambler, "as gamblers" implies that you are, which I'm pretty sure is Pascal's intended meaning here. Feb 16, 2021 at 15:45
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    This is translated from the French. Pascal said belief was a gamble. So, I guess the as is since: since we are gamblers faced with this choice. It would be great to see the French original.
    – Lambie
    Feb 16, 2021 at 15:54
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    @Lambie I disagree with your first comment - 'as' here means "since we are all". He is not making a simile, but stating a fact: we are all gamblers.
    – MikeB
    Feb 16, 2021 at 15:57
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    @Lambie - Of course Pascal has described this in French, but that does not mean that the English clause "as gamblers faced with these options" in the OP's text was directly translated from any of Pascal's French writing. That phrase was composed by the British author of the textbook in order to express Pascal's ideas. Feb 16, 2021 at 19:04

2 Answers 2

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There's a distinction between as and like - like is used to equate the subject's characteristics with something, while as is used to denote that the subject is that something. Compare the following two sentences:

As a tiger, Mittens had bright orange fur.

Like a tiger, Mittens had bright orange fur.

The first sentence clearly indicates Mittens is a tiger, and posits that tigers generally have bright orange fur. The second one, on the other hand, indicates that Mittens is not a tiger - he might be a regular house cat - he's just similar to a tiger with regard to his fur.

The distinction in your sentence is more subtle, but it's there. The author wants us to think that we're not merely behaving like gamblers, but we are all gamblers faced with Pascal's wager. A better way to rephrase the sentence would be:

Pascal argued that we are gamblers faced with those options, and that the most rational course of action for us is to believe that God does exist.

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You might expand

as gamblers faced with these options

to read

reasoning as gamblers do when considering a bet with some chance for an infinitely valuable win - their gambler's mathematics tells them to bet -

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  • I don't think this is right. You're saying as in the cited context means in the same way as (i.e. - we're not actually "gamblers"; we're just like them). But I think the intended sense is as = because, since (because we really are the gamblers being referred to). Feb 16, 2021 at 19:07
  • @FumbleFingers That wording would be OK with me too. Add a parenthesitical "because we are the gamblers in this situation". We are each expanding a little French into a lot of English. Feb 16, 2021 at 19:42
  • We're only really concerned here with the meaning of the English text - so I don't think it makes any difference what Pascal thought or wrote. For me, the killer argument is ...faced with these options. If we assume as = like that doesn't make sense, because such "generic" gamblers wouldn't be facing these specific options (except insofar as gamblers are human beings, so they're included in us as mentioned later). If it truly was a "simile", it would have to be ...faced with such options (options like the ones we are facing, not the actual same ones). Feb 17, 2021 at 11:55

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