Believing without Evidence: Pragmatic Arguments for Religious Belief in Martel’s Life of Pi

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The aim of this essay is to show that Yann Martel’s Life of Pi can be read as illustrating what philosophers usually name as pragmatic arguments for religious belief. Ultimately, this seems to be the reason why, in the short prologue that accompanies the novel, Martel claims Life of Pi to be “a story to make you believe in God”. To put it briefly, these arguments claim that even conceding that the question of whether to believe that God exists or that He does not exist cannot be decided upon the evidence we have, we are still justified to decide to believe in God because of the practical beneficial consequences this belief will bring to us. In Martel’s Life of Pi it is this kind of pragmatic reasoning that originates and what makes the “story with animals” preferable over the “story without animals.” I also point out that these arguments appear more convincing if they are not understood as referring to belief in the ordinary and common usage of the term, as the acceptance as being true the factual claim that the world is such that God does actually exist, but as referring to a subjective, non-truth-dependent way of understanding the world and of relating to it. I show that this is precisely the kind of conception of religious faith that is illustrated by the character of Pi through the novel.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Insights
Subtitle of host publicationLife of Pi
EditorsÁdám T. Bogár, Rebeka Sára Szigethy
Place of PublicationHackensack
PublisherSalem Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)978–1–64265–667–1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Yann Martel
  • Life of Pi
  • Pragmatic Arguments
  • Religious Faith
  • Religious Belief


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