Simple Foreknowledge vs. Open Theism on Providence, Round 1
May 18, 2006 — 11:38

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: Concept of God Divine Foreknowledge Divine Providence  Comments: 58

I’ve been thinking lately about God’s foreknowledge as it relates to His providence. More specifically, I’ve been thinking of an argument made by a number of philosophers (Hasker, Flint, Basinger–but most forcefully I think in Sanders’ “Why Simple Foreknowledge Offers No More Providential Control than the Openness of God,” Faith and Philosophy 1997) that God’s having simple foreknowledge (as opposed to middle knowledge) would not aid God in His providential control of the world. The basic idea is that if God has foreknowledge, then what He knows is true, and it’s thus ‘too late’ for Him to do anything to providentially control whether or not what He foreknows will happen. I think a helpful way to think of it is in terms of the following (more below the fold).


This is already shaping up to be a long post, so I’m not going to spell out everything. We can do that in the comments if we want to, but I hope that what I say here is good enough to get the discussion rolling. So here goes.
CONDITION—Simple foreknowledge will be providentially useful to God only if there is the case in which a God with simple foreknowledge could exercise a higher degree of providential control then a God with only probabilistic knowledge of the future.
According to Sanders et al., there are no cases where the antecedent of CONDITION is met (i.e., there is no case in which a God with simple foreknowledge could exercise a higher degree of providential control then a God with only probabilistic knowledge of the future). To show that the argument fails, then, all one would need to do is to describe at least one situation in which a God with simple foreknowledge could exercise any higher a degree of providence than could a God with only the kind of probabilistic knowledge that the Open Theist thinks God has. So in what follows let ‘Jove’ refer to God as the Open Theist sees him, and let ‘Zeus’ refer to God with simple foreknowledge. It seems to me that in both of these cases, Zeus is better able to exercise providence because he has more knowledge in the very same situation than does Jove. If this is true in either case, than the antecedent to CONDITION is fulfilled and Sanders’ argument fails. (Now, in these cases Zeus might not have much more providential control than would Jove, but that’s not the issue here.)

Comments:
  • But Zeus and Jove are co-refering terms, so they must know all and only the same things. 😛
    Clarificatory question: are you thinking of the simple foreknowledge theorist as considering God in time or timeless?

    May 18, 2006 — 15:18
  • Kevin Timpe

    Trent,
    I was tended to think of simple foreknowledge as involving God being in time–this was just primarily to have only 1 significant difference between Jove and Zeus. But I don’t think that anything hangs on this assumption, as I think that everything I said about Zeus could be stated in a way that is consistent with eternalism–it would just lead to awkward locations (e.g., “it is true at t1 that Zeus timelessly knows that X does in fact occur at t2”). And while that wouldn’t technically be foreknowledge, I don’t think that God’s relationship to time is the key issue here.

    May 18, 2006 — 15:38
  • Christian

    Dear Kevin,
    This issue is a bit foreign to me, so sorry. As I understand things you aim to contrast two views of foreknowledge and then want to contrast the entailments of these views.
    I’m not sure I understand the views. Open Theism seems to be a view where God, at some time t, does not know what will happen at t. This is to say that if there is an event at t’ after t, then it is false that at t, God knows that event will happen at t’. One motivation for this view seems to be that there are not facts, at t, about what will happen after t. If it is a fact, then the probability, at t that this event will occurs at t’ is 1, but indetermism is true and that entails that the probability cannot be 1.
    Anyway, do I have Open Theism correct? I understand Simple Foreknowledge to deny the view about indeterminism and to accept that there are fact, now, about what will happen at a later time, and these facts now have a probability of 1. Is that Simple Foreknowledge?

    May 18, 2006 — 17:20
  • Kevin Timpe

    Christian,
    There are a number of different permutations of Open Theism, but the central idea is that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of undetermined future events (either because there are no truths about the future in this way, or if they are they are in principle unkowable). God can have exhaustive foreknowledge of what will happen if it is already determined to happen, and can have knowledge of what is likely to happen in the future. But He can’t know whether or not E will happen in the future if E is indeterminate.
    The proponent of simple foreknowledge thinks that God can, in fact, have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future in its entirety, including undetermined events and (if there are any) free actions.

    May 18, 2006 — 18:09
  • Patrick Todd

    Hi Kevin,

    Interesting post.

    As far as I know, those who advocate the simple foreknowledge view think that God has *exhaustive* foreknowledge of the future. Maybe I’m wrong about this though; David Hunt is the only person I’ve read on the view. But you do seem to indicate that this is what the simple foreknowledge position amounts to in your response to Christian; “The proponent of simple foreknowledge thinks that God can, in fact, have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future in its entirety…��?

    However, you say, “At t1, if Zeus extends his foreknowledge to include the fact that X does in fact occur at t2, then He can know that the probability of Y occurring at t3 is .97.��?

    I’m a bit confused, because it seems like Zeus doesn’t have exhaustive foreknowledge in your example. The cases you describe rely on Zeus’ being able to “extend��? his foreknowledge to cover certain future contingents, but not others. That is, Zeus extends his foreknowledge to include X’s happening at T2, but *not* Y’s happening at T3. Zeus leaves Y’s happening at T3 epistemically open, and assigns it only a probability of happening, and thus plans accordingly (in better way than Jove).

    But if Zeus has *exhaustive* foreknowledge, then this foreknowledge includes whether or not, as a matter of fact, Y does or does not occur at T3. Either he foreknows that it will take place or he foreknows that it will not take place, but in neither case can he do anything to change this fact. In other words, he doesn’t know it as a probability (97% likely) – he knows it simply as a matter of fact: Y will occur at T3 (or won’t). And so on for all of the future.

    Anyhow, perhaps exhaustive foreknowledge isn’t essential to the simple foreknowledge view. But if we are thinking in terms of exhaustive foreknowledge, then as far as I can see, this eliminates the crucial component of your examples, namely, Zeus’ extending his foreknowledge just so far (to include X’s occurrence at T2) and no farther (leaving out Y’s occurrence at T3).

    (Perhaps incidentally, this sounds like the voluntary nescience view that Alan described in his Four Versions of Open Theism post; presumably, Zeus *could* extend his foreknowledge to cover all future events but doesn’t. Thus, I wonder if what you’ve described here isn’t more properly called a version of open theism. The future is, after all, epistemically open to Zeus: he doesn’t know that Y will or will not occur at T3.)

    May 18, 2006 — 21:06
  • Kevin Timpe

    Patrick,
    You’re supposed to be able to read my mind!
    Sorry about being less than clear. Zeus, in the example above, is able to have exhaustive foreknowledge, as I indicated in my response to Christian. But if Zeus already knows that X will happen, then it is true that X will happen, and thus Zeus can’t (won’t?) be able to prevent it. You’re correct here–and I don’t see anyway to get around this.
    So, yes, I was thinking along the same lines as Hunt, and that while Zeus canexhaustively foreknow the future, he brackets part of what he could know in order to exercise providence.
    But I don’t think that such a view is best described as a version of Open Theism, but maybe this will just come to semantics and how we define Open Theism. This view certainly is different than Open Theism as open portrayed, such that God can’t have exhaustive foreknowledge of future indeterminate events and actions.

    May 18, 2006 — 22:24
  • Christian

    Kevin, you want a case in which if one knows what will happen rather than what will likely happen, then that individual will have some ability we take to be important. In some sense, probabilistic knowledge will not help as much, with respect to trying to achieve some outcome, as determinate knowledge.
    But what I don’t understand is that “if” this knowledge is in principle impossible because, as you say, “either because there are no truths about the future in this way, or if they are they are in principle unknowable,” then how exactly can you describe a possible case?
    I’m sorry, I’m a little confused.

    May 18, 2006 — 22:47
  • Kevin Timpe

    Christian,
    Like Patrick, you’re supposed to be able to read my mind as well!
    Here’s a bit more of the dialectic between proponents of simple foreknowledge (SF) and Open Theism (OT). Proponents of OT say that God can’t, in principle, have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future (namely He can’t know indeterminate future events) because(i) there are no truths about the future to be known, or (ii) if there were, they are unknowable even for an omniscient God. Proponents of SF, obviously, reject (i) and (ii).
    But proponents of OT often also make a further claim: (iii) even if God could have foreknowledge of future indeterminate events, such knowledge would be providentially useless (for the reasons laid out above). In addition to proponents of OT, a number of Molinists (Flint, etc…) also agree with (iii) and thus think that middle knowledge is needed to get one a strong view of providence. In this posting, I’m granting OT and SF their own views about (i) and (ii), and am just trying to address (iii).

    May 19, 2006 — 9:48
  • Christian

    I see. I’m understanding the debate better now. I’m still having a hard time making sense of the following two claim though:
    1. “Proponents of OT say that God can’t, in principle, have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future.”
    2. “Proponents of OT often also make a further claim: (iii) even if God could have foreknowledge of future indeterminate events, such knowledge would be providentially useless.”
    (2) is a claim about what God could do, per impossible. According to OT, there are no possible worlds in which God has foreknowledge of indeterminate future events. It is really hard for me see how the cases you describe are consistent with this fact. Let me explain.
    A premise in Case 1: At t1, Jove could only know that there is an overall probability of .497 that Y will occur at t3.
    The idea is that , if OT is true, then God must multiply objective probabilities to figure out what the probability is that Y will occur at t3.
    Another premise in Case 1: At t1, if Zeus extends his foreknowledge to include the fact that X does in fact occur at t2, then He can know that the probability of Y occurring at t3 is .97.
    It seems to me, and this is where I get confused, the idea is that, if SF is true, then God need not multiply objective probabilities to figure out what the probability is that Y will occur at t3. God can instead “extend his foreknowledge” to include the claim that “X does occur at t2” and then just infer that it’s .97 likely that Y will occur at t3.
    But, a premise in this argument is that “At t1, there is only a .17 probability that X will occur at t2.” This means that we are evaluating the argument under the assumption that indeterminism is true, we are considering the premises as true in some world in which the probabilities are as described. Then we are considering two beings, in this same world, and what they could know.
    First, God could know, if he extended is foreknowledge, that Y will will occur at t3, just like he knew that “X does occur at t2” by extending his foreknowledge.
    Second, more importantly, this world is “not” one in which 1 above is true. God can have foreknowledge of the future because, by hypothesis, Zeus does. If this world is possible, then (OT) is false. If that is right, then (OT) will not accept that you have provided a counterexample to (OT).
    In a different way, in order to evaluate the argument we need to consider its premises under two hypotheses, that (OT) is true, and that (SF) is true, but then we are not considering a possible world and Case 1 cannot function as a counterexample to (iii).
    Again, I don’t know the literature on this stuff, but (iii) strikes me as a very odd claim for one to make, not because it is false, but because it isn’t clear how it can possibly be evaluated.

    May 19, 2006 — 14:10
  • Justin Capes

    Kevin,
    I think case-2 might smuggle in middleknowledge. Zeus knows that
    (1)If reason Y occurs to Black at t2, then he will share argument X with Smith at lunch.
    But this already presumes Smith is going to be at lunch which in turn assumes that God has already prevented the car from starting. Presumably, Black will not share the argument with Smith at lunch if Smith is not at lunch even if reason Y does occur to him at t2. In order to have the requisite knowledge to violate POLICY, Zeus would have to know that the counterfactual:
    (2) If reason Y occurs to Black at t2 and if Smith is at lunch, then Black will share argument X with Smith.
    Then and only then, it seems to me, would he have the sort of knowledge needed to violate POLICY. But by hypothesis he doesn’t have this knowledge.
    However, what do you think about this case (I think Dave Hunt shared this with me in conversation): God wants to determine if he is going to create hell. He will only do so if there will be people (non-human and/or human) who deserve to go to such a place. Via his foreknowledge he sees that there will be people (if only Satan and his minions) who deserve this and thus he creates hell.

    May 21, 2006 — 3:13
  • Kevin Timpe

    Justin,
    I don’t think the case smuggles in middle knowledge, but you do point out a legitimate problem with how I described case 2. I said above: “The divine being also knows, by knowing Black’s moral character, that he will share argument X with Smith today at lunch at t2 only if reason Y occurs to him at t2.” And I stipulated that both Jove and Zeus know this. But it should have read: “The divine being also knows, by knowing Black’s moral character, that he will share argument X with Smith today at lunch at t2 only if reason Y occurs to him at t2 and provided Smith is there.” So your (2) above is right.
    But I don’t think that this requires God to have middle knowledge, despite looking like it might. For one, keep in mind that the divine being (whether we’re talking about Jove or Zeus) doesn’t know the truth of (2) pre-volitionally. As described, he would know this only at t1, which is after he already done a lot of things (including willing to create Smith and Black). But I think that even the Open Theist would grant that sometimes God could know what an agent would freely do in a particular situation in virtue of knowing that agent’s present moral character. For example, I think that even the Open Theist would allow God to know (modifying one of Eleonore Stump’s examples) that if I was offered a nickle to chop up my daughter into little pieces 5 mintues from now, I would freely reject. God needn’t know this via middle knowledge. Rather, he knows that this is what I would do by knowing the contents of my moral character right now. So I would think that the Open Theist would grant that in some cases, God could have the kind of knowledge described by your (2). Any Open Theists out there listening want to confirm whether or not this is true?
    If the account of how simple foreknowledge could be providentially useful at all works, then it might also help in the hell case that you suggest. But what I’m trying to develop here is the mechanism by which such knowledge could be providentially helpful. Do you think that your example shows this more clearly than either of the two I’ve suggested?

    May 22, 2006 — 10:49
  • Heath White

    I’m finding SF problematic. If God really knows all future events, then he knows them from creation on (at least). He doesn’t come up with them on the fly, as history unfolds. And I think he would therefore have no use for probabilistic knowledge, except as a kind of intellectual curiosity.
    Also, he would know his own future decisions (assuming he makes those in time). If he knows before t that Y will occur at t because he makes it occur then, is that pre-volitional knowledge or not? I don’t know.
    Likewise, it can’t be that God knows “X will happen unless I do something” and then makes decisions about whether to do something. That would be middle knowledge. He has to know that he will do something and X won’t happen, or know that he won’t do anything and X will happen. But I’m not sure that qualifies as providential control.

    May 22, 2006 — 13:00
  • Justin Capes

    Kevin,
    With respect to the hell case, if all we are trying to do is provide (at least) one case in which simple foreknowledge allows God some providential advantage over and above what he might have if he only had probabilistic knowledge of the future, then, yeah, I think the hell case works. But whether it is more effective than your examples, I’m not sure. I’m tempted to think it works better than case-1 insofar as the really interesting cases involve human agency. However, I suspect your second example is more dialectically advantageous insofar as it is more “realistic”. Perhaps the more examples the merrier for the propoent of SF.

    May 22, 2006 — 14:02
  • jon kvanvig

    Kevin, you say above,

    But I think that even the Open Theist would grant that sometimes God could know what an agent would freely do in a particular situation in virtue of knowing that agent’s present moral character. For example, I think that even the Open Theist would allow God to know (modifying one of Eleonore Stump’s examples) that if I was offered a nickle to chop up my daughter into little pieces 5 mintues from now, I would freely reject. God needn’t know this via middle knowledge. Rather, he knows that this is what I would do by knowing the contents of my moral character right now.

    I’m having trouble making sense of this idea for OT. Whatever reasons OT’s give for thinking that there is only probabilistic knowledge of future free actions will require that the only truth there could be is one that puts a probability operator on the consequent of the conditional you state. OT’s hold, I would have thought, that only that which is causally or logically necessitated by the past or present is capable of being known. If that is right, then one’s moral character can’t make the claim in question true unless it, too, provides some causal or logical guarantee of the link from antecedent to consequent in your conditional. But maybe you have an argument in mind that I’m missing?

    May 22, 2006 — 16:29
  • “OT’s hold, I would have thought, that only that which is causally or logically necessitated by the past or present is capable of being known”
    That’s an unusual condition on knowledge. Why is it that, when it comes to a proposition p concerning the future, God (or anyone else for that matter) knows p only if p is causally (or more strongly) necessitated? Why not the well-received condition on knowledge that God knows p only if p is true?
    God has strong epistemic credentials, for sure, and it is true that proposition p might have been false. What then? What about the world in which p is false? We say here about that world that had p been false (had that world been actual) it would *have to have been* the case that God knew ~p instead. I can’t think of a more proper set of conditions for a backtracking conditional. It is precisely what happens in Newcomb Problems with 100% accurate predictors; and God is (if anyone is) a 100% accurate predictor.

    May 22, 2006 — 19:45
  • Tom

    The question is a bit more specific, namely, how is a God who possesses simple foreknowledge able to make decisions based on simply-foreknown events. The problem is that foreknown events and choices are by definition already the result of whatever was done to influence them. Basinger (The Case for Freewill Theism: A Philosophical Assessment) remarks, “Since there can never be a time when a God who possesses complete SFK [simple foreknowledge] does not know all that will occur, and since foreknowledge can be utilized in a providentially beneficial manner only if there is a time at which what is foreknown can influence a divine decision that is itself not also already foreknown, there can exist no conceivable context in which SFK would enable God to make providentially beneficial decisions that he would not be able to make without this knowledge.��?
    If God simply foreknows all of history in the sense argued, then he knows his own as well as our choices, and he knows them in one single and (often argued) timeless sweep. He doesn’t acquire his knowledge in stages or bites. In this case, simple foreknowledge provides God no providential advantage in governing the universe for the simple reason that God cannot intervene into the story line of history on the basis of such knowledge. What is foreknown, according to this view, is what actually happens and by definition is already the result of whatever has or has not been done to influence it. Such knowledge can’t then also be the basis of such interaction for the simple reason that this knowledge comes to God too late (logically speaking) for God to use in influencing outcomes. Thus proponents of the open view claim there is nothing a God who possesses simple foreknowledge can do that a God who does not possess such foreknowledge cannot also do (relative to foreknowledge that is). It seems to me that whatever might be the reciprocal nature of the relationship between God’s actions and ours within the foreknowledge of God, the simple foreknowledge model offers us no help whatsoever in understanding it.
    To dismiss this objection, one would need to show specifically how God could base a decision
    about event S on the knowledge that “S will occur.��? But foreknown-S already IS the result of what was or was not done in an attempt to prevent or bring it about.
    It’s not the case that open theists all deny that God knows the future ‘exhaustively’. The question is whether or not God’s knowledge of the future is exhaustively ‘definite’ or not. That is, whether God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future is limited to knowledge of what ‘will’ and ‘will not’ occur or whether it also includes knowledge of what ‘might and might not’ occur. So we’d agree that there are no ‘will-’ or ‘will not’-type truths that posit future contingent events. But we can agree that there are ‘truths’ describing such events, namely, ‘might and might not’ propositions. So open theists can argue that God’s knowledge is exhaustive in scope, infallible, immediate, and dynamic (not unchanging). We don’t have to deny exhaustive foreknowledge unless you assume “exhausitive knowledge��? excludes knowledge of future contingents as contingent. But why believe that? God can know that “S might/might not occur at t.��? That counts as foreknowledge in my view. We certainly base our choices and planning on knowledge of such contingencies don’t we?
    Wanna say something about hell too, but I gotta run!
    Tom

    May 23, 2006 — 1:06
  • Tom

    Sorry ’bout all the italics! I stink at formatting.
    Tom

    May 23, 2006 — 1:07
  • Kevin Timpe

    John,
    I agree with you that OTs think that God can have foreknowledge about what will happen (as opposed to what might happen) only in those cases where some feature or set of features about the present is causally or logically sufficient for the future event in question. But I take it that sometimes a person’s moral character is such that it provides the needed link in the conditional. This is what I was trying to get at with the example above. Given my present moral character, I think that either your or God could know that the following conditional is true: if I was offered a nickle to chop up my daughter into little pieces in 5 mintues, I would freely reject. Of course, if I had developed a worse moral character during the past 30 years, then this conditional might be false. And I might even be able to change my moral character so that in the future it would be false. But I’m pretty sure that it’s true right now. Now, maybe you think that there is a reason why one’s moral character can’t even underwrite such claims. If that’s the case, then I guess it’s back to the drawing board.
    Mike,
    Spoken like a true Ockhamist! You ask: “Why is it that, when it comes to a proposition p concerning the future, God (or anyone else for that matter) knows p only if p is causally (or more strongly) necessitated? Why not the well-received condition on knowledge that God knows p only if p is true?” Most OTs think that there just aren’t any true propositions about what will happen in the future for truly indeterminate events/actions. So they just don’t think that this condition is satisfied in such cases. At least one OT thinks that there are such truths, but they are in principle unknowable, and thus God wouldn’t be justified in believing them even if He did, so such beliefs wouldn’t count for knowledge.
    Tom,
    Is there a reason that SFK must be understood as God everlastingly knowing exhaustively about the future all at once? In other words, is there some reason that the line of thought that I’m exploring here, and that David Hunt has argued for elsewhere, doesn’t even deserve to be on the table? Or are you instead suggesting that this view isn’t a view involving simple foreknowledge? Also, if you note above, I said that on OT God has probabilistic knowledge of the future–or “knowledge of what ‘might and might not’ occur” as you put it. Not only do I not deny that, but I build it in to the various cases discussed above. I’m not here arguing that there are ‘will’-type truths about indeterminate events in the future. Rather, I’m trying to argue that if there were, then they would not be providentially useless (see my comments above dated May 19, 2006 09:48 AM). Unless one can say why the two cases I’ve sketched out above fail to give Zeus more providential control than Jone, or a principled reason why the type of knowledge Zeus has doesn’t count as simple foreknowledge, it seems (to me anyway!) that I’ve shown how such knowledge could make a providential difference.

    May 23, 2006 — 8:10
  • Kevin, thanks,
    Is OT based on the assumption that there are no true (contingent) propositions concerning the future? (I take it there aren’t any false ones either). I thought rather that this was a position they were forced to accept on the basis of some argument about the incompatibility of foreknowledge and freedom. But I could certainly have that wrong.

    May 23, 2006 — 13:30
  • Patrick Todd

    Hi Kevin,
    I’ll take a stab at saying why your examples don’t show that SF helps God providentially govern the world.
    Your examples presuppose that there are facts about what will be the case that allow Zeus to foreknow the future in part. That is, there is an exhaustive set of facts about the future, and Zeus has the power to extend his foreknowledge to cover some of these facts and not others. On the basis of knowing some of these facts, Zeus is in position to providentially act in order to bring about some desired result.
    The problem is that the same set of facts that allows Zeus to know that (to use your first example) X will occur at T2 also contains a fact about whether or not Y will occur at T3. In other words, Zeus could, in principle, extend his foreknowledge to include whether or not, as a matter of fact, Y does or doesn’t occur at T3. Zeus just chooses not to in order to providentially act with respect to Y’s occurrence. But since we’ve granted that there are truths about the future, there are also truths about Y’s occurrence, and unless we are thinking that Zeus can somehow make it so that Y doesn’t occur at T3 when it’s always been true that Y *will* occur at T3, then Zeus can’t do anything with respect to the facts concerning Y’s occurrence at T3.
    For your examples to work, it seems to me that we’d have to suppose that there is no fact of the matter concerning whether or not Y occurs at T3. But then, if there is no fact of the matter about this indeterminate event, why should there be one concerning X’s occurring at T2? In other words, your examples presuppose that there are facts concerning what will happen at all times up to T2 so that Zeus can know these facts. But your example also presupposes that there aren’t facts about what will occur at T3 since Zeus stands in position to providentially act with respect Y’s potential occurrence at T3. This seems odd.
    So here is an example in which SF *would* give Zeus more providential control. There are facts concerning what will happen at times T1 – T20 *but not* facts concerning what will happen at times T21 and onward. Zeus extends his foreknowledge to cover the facts concerning what will happen at times T1 – T20, but since there are facts about what will happen at these times, Zeus does not stand in position to providentially act with respect to these events. However, there are no facts about what will happen at times T21 and onward, and so on the basis of knowing what will transpire at T1-T20, Zeus is in better position than Jove (who only has probabilistic knowledge of what will occur at T1-T20) to providentially bring about certain results at times T21 and onward. (Zeus wouldn’t be changing any facts about what occurs at T21 onward; there are only probabilities concerning what will occur at such times.)
    This would be a quite strange universe, however. Why should there be facts about indeterminate events only up to a certain time, after which there simply are no facts? I’ve no idea, but as I see it, this is what would be needed for SF to give God more providential control than a God without SF.

    May 23, 2006 — 13:38
  • jon kvanvig

    Kevin, if it takes logical or causal necessitation to make knowledge of the future possible, I don’t see how the OT will allow anything less in the case of a counterfactual of freedom. That’s what worries me here. I would expect the OT to say here just what they say about the future. At best, God can only know what is likely to happen, and at best, the link between antecedent and consequent is probabilistic.

    May 23, 2006 — 14:05
  • Patrick Todd

    Jon –
    This is admittedly just a suggestion, but at present I don’t see why it shouldn’t work: The OT can say that certain decisions we make are psychologically necessary. This is, I take it, what Kevin was getting at in his example: it would be psychologically impossible for Kevin to kill his daughter for a nickel. For the OT, it remains metaphysically (or logically) possible that Kevin do so, but given facts about Kevin’s psychology (or, as he put it, his moral character) it is not psychologically possible that Kevin do so. Nothing about what the OT must say about freedom precludes the OT from saying that some decisions we make could be psychologically necessary (supposing, of course, that some decisions we make can actually be so.)
    An even more tenuous suggestion is that this psychological necessity could ultimately be analyzed in terms of causal necessity, e.g. perhaps certain brain states etc. that reflect my psychology causally necessitate that I do X in Y. Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems alright to me. If this could work, then it seems the OT can get around your worry.
    I think the OT should say something like this, ultimately. Certain facts about my psychology make true certain counterfactuals about me, and on the basis of sufficient causal factors being in place for the antecedents of such counterfactuals obtaining, God can know in a non-probabilistic fashion what I’ll freely do in the future. For example, supposing that its psychologically necessary that I do X in Y, and God sees that there are sufficient causal factors for my being in X in 5 minutes, God knows that I’ll do X in 5 minutes. (Sufficient causal factors are in place for my doing X in 5 minutes.)
    God would then be a sort of quasi-molinist God who can generate foreknowledge of what we’d freely do, not in virtue of middle knowledge, but in virtue of those counterfactuals that are made true because of what our psychology is like. So long as certain decisions we make really are psychologically necessary (and why shouldn’t some be?) the OT God can have foreknowledge in this way.

    May 23, 2006 — 15:04
  • jon kvanvig

    Patrick, here’s a dilemma for your suggestion if you really want to be an OT. Either psyc. imp. is a kind of causal impossibility or not. If it is, then everything is fine, except that you can’t be a libertarian anymore about the action in question. If it’s not, then take any claim about the future concerning my actions that psychologically I have to perform (suppose there’s a law of nature to undergird my continued existence until then). Now, why isn’t mere psychological necessity enough to make that truth knowable for the open theist?
    My point has been that parity of reasoning should apply both to the OT’s attitude toward the knowability of the future and to the knowability of a conditional.

    May 23, 2006 — 17:13
  • Patrick Todd

    Jon –
    To me, one horn of the dilemma you suggest is perfectly plausible: the action in question isn’t free in the libertarian sense. That is right. If it is psychologically impossible for Kevin to kill his daughter for a nickel, then if put in that situation, Kevin isn’t free to do otherwise than reject the nickel. (Again, it’s metaphysically possible that he does so, but psychologically impossible.)
    But, crucially, and as Kevin has pointed out, Kevin has freely (in the lib. sense) made himself into the sort of person for whom it is psychologically impossible to take a nickel to kill his daughter. So long as this is true, Kevin is morally responsible for his decision to reject the nickel.
    So I’m fine with saying that I’m not free in the libertarian sense with respect to at least some of my decisions: my psychology may causally necessitate that I do X in Y, so if I find myself in Y, then I’m not free to do otherwise than X. But I’m responsible for my psychology being that way and not some other way, so still responsible for doing X in Y even though I can’t do otherwise.

    May 23, 2006 — 17:54
  • Kevin Timpe

    Patrick,
    Your last response is a great expression of restirctivism–van Inwagen would be so proud! I prefer to think in terms of direct/indirect freedom in addition to direct/indirect moral responsibility, and that in the character formation case I’m both indirectly responsible and indirectly free. But I don’t think that anything of significance hangs on this distinction between the restrivist and myself on this point. It may just be terminological, and I’ve been told on more than 1 occasion that I should concede to the restrivist here.
    I still need to respond to your previous comment. But I’m going to take my dog to the park and finish marking some exams, so will get to it later (maybe tomorrow). Thanks for the fun and productive exchange.

    May 23, 2006 — 19:46
  • jon kvanvig

    Patrick, you’ve lost sight of the conditional in question: it requires libertarian freedom in the consequent. You just took it away with what you said. So the counterfactual is false on your account.

    May 23, 2006 — 19:49
  • Tom

    I stepped away a day and fell behind! So let me quickly post this without having read the last few posts, then I’ll play catch up when I can.
    Kevin: I agree with you that OTs think that God can have foreknowledge about what will happen (as opposed to what might happen) only in those cases where some feature or set of features about the present is causally or logically sufficient for the future event in question.
    Tom: Right. A presentist/open theist would argue this. The present grounds all truths, including truths about the future. Present realities (physical laws, dispositional realities, etc.) may be such they entail a certain coming-into-being, viz., they’re such that some event or state of affairs ‘will’ occur. Or they may be such that they rule out certain states of affairs (and so, ‘will not’). An open theist can argue that some present realities are such that certain future states are neither entailed (‘will’) nor ruled out (‘will not’). They ‘might/might not’ happen.
    Kevin: But I take it that sometimes a person’s moral character is such that it provides the needed link in the conditional. This is what I was trying to get at with the example above. Given my present moral character, I think that either your or God could know that the following conditional is true: if I was offered a nickle to chop up my daughter into little pieces in 5 mintues, I would freely reject. Of course, if I had developed a worse moral character during the past 30 years, then this conditional might be false.
    Tom: I’d agree. In this case a person’s moral character just is that present reality that grounds truths about her future (whether she ‘will’ or ‘will not’ or ‘might/might not’ do something). Mother Theresa had a sufficiently determined character that rendered this or that conditional true or false. She freely chose her way over time into a predictable way of behaving. Eventually the moment came when “Mother Theresa might abuse small children��? was false. Similarly, Hitler chose his way into an equally predictable way of behaving, only with regard to evil. So moral character counts as one of the present realities that may determine this or that about our future. But our characters may also be insufficiently developed so that a good deal about our futures is indeterminate (‘might/might not’).
    Kevin: And I might even be able to change my moral character so that in the future it would be false.
    Tom: So just include in the conditional the state of moral character that determines this or that about some future choice (or include some time limit as you do, as in “in five minutes��? which would reflect your moral character at that time). So you’d have something like, “If Keven freely solidifies into morally corrupt ways of behaving, he ‘would’ abuse his daughter in situation Z.��?
    Kevin: But I’m pretty sure that it’s true right now. Now, maybe you think that there is a reason why one’s moral character can’t even underwrite such claims. If that’s the case, then I guess it’s back to the drawing board.
    Tom: I think moral character can be sufficiently solidified over time. I think Mother Theresa probably BECAME her choices so that eventually she loved ‘compatabilistically’ rather than ‘libertarianly’. This is fine with me so long as the compatibilism was libertarianly determined, if you get my meaning. As Augustine (?) said (or something close to it), “Sow a thought, reap a choice, sow a choice, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny.��? Libertarian free will would then be finite. It gives way over time to compatibilism. But we freely determine which way we end up—compatibilistically loving or compatibilistically selfish and evil.
    Mike, you may find something of interest for Ockhamists in this article: http://www.alanrhoda.net/ papers/opentheism.pdf. Some open theists are Ockhamists. Bill Hasker, I think, is. He’d either deny bivalence and argue that “Bill ‘will’ do S in Z in 10 years��? is (where S in indeterminate) neither true nor false, or he’d agree that it’s either bivalent but logically impossible to know. I don’t find either or these the best avenue for defending an open theist semantics. With Alan (and other open theists), I’m a Piercean (www.alanrhoda.net/papers/In_Defense_of_Prior’s_Peircean_Tense_Logic.pdf).
    Kevin: Most OTs think that there just aren’t any true propositions about what will happen in the future for truly indeterminate events/actions.
    Tom: If you’re using ‘will’ in the Peircean sense, yeah. As OVers work it out, I think most are/will settle into the conviction that there are true propositions about future indeterminate events. It’s just that those truths are three (as opposed to the traditional two):
    X will do Y in Z
    X will not do Y in Z
    X might/might not do Y in Z
    Kevin: Is there a reason that SFK must be understood as God everlastingly knowing exhaustively about the future all at once?
    Tom: Most advocates of simple-foreknowledge will argue that God’s being omniscient is the reason. God is at all times omniscient. And at all times there are truths about the future. Open theists are the only people around that I know of who are arguing that God knows some of that future as indeterminate, that is, knows what might/might not happen (without also knowing about the same events that they ‘will’ or ‘will not’ happen).
    Kevin: Or are you instead suggesting that this view isn’t a view involving simple foreknowledge?
    Tom: Right. I’m not seeing simple-foreknowledge in your examples.
    Kevin: Also, if you note above, I said that on OT God has probabilistic knowledge of the future–or “knowledge of what ‘might and might not’ occur” as you put it. Not only do I not deny that, but I build it in to the various cases discussed above.
    Tom: It only makes sense to me to say God has knowledge that an event is more or less probable to occur if one is an open theist. This sort of knowledge is precisely what makes one an open theist. Okhamists approach ‘will’ and ‘will not’ with a different semantic and attempt to depict God as epistemically closed with regard to the future (that is, God knows the future exclusively in terms of what shall and shall not occur, as ‘definitely this’ and ‘definitely not that’) while at the same time suggesting that God knows the relative probabilities of indeterminate events. So God knows that 10 years from now I’ll definitely have a latte at 9:02 AM (and so on) and he knows this ‘will’ occur with a 75% probability. That’s all self-contradictory to me.
    Kevin: I’m not here arguing that there are ‘will’-type truths about indeterminate events in the future. Rather, I’m trying to argue that if there were, then they would not be providentially useless (see my comments above dated May 19, 2006 09:48 AM).
    Tom: Then I don’t understand your examples, because I don’t see that what you’re suggesting IS a providential advantage. I’m looking for an example of God simply-foreknowing that “S ‘will’ occur��? and then basing some decision about S on this knowledge of S. That would be a providential advantage. But you haven’t shown that so far as I can see.
    Tom

    May 24, 2006 — 10:36
  • Thanks Tom. Incidentally, which Tom?

    May 24, 2006 — 13:42
  • Patrick Todd

    Hi Jon –
    Here is the conditional in question, right?
    If Kevin were offered a nickel to kill his daughter, he would freely reject it.
    I’m unclear on why the freedom in the consequent of this conditional has to be libertarian freedom. I’m not sure whether Kevin originally intended for it to be a counterfactual of lib. freedom, but as I see it, it isn’t one. It is a counterfactual of some other sort of freedom; I’ll go with a ‘counterfactual of source-incompatibilistic freedom’.
    My claim isn’t that the OT God can know what we’ll freely do in the lib. sense, but that he can know what we’ll freely do in some other sense. This is because, as I see it, there are no true ‘would’ counterfactuals of libertarian freedom (and thus no way for God to know what we would lib. freely do). Here’s why.
    If I would do X in Y, then if in Y, I will do X. If I will do X in Y, then if in Y it is causally necessary that I do X. (This is, of course, going to be the point of contention.) If it is causally necessary that I do X in Y, then I can’t do otherwise than X in Y. And if I can’t do otherwise than X in Y, then I don’t have libertarian freedom with respect to X in Y.
    So if it is true that I would freely do X in Y, this can’t be a counterfactual of lib. freedom. It’d have to be a counterfactual of some other sort of freedom (I’ve suggested source incompatibilistic freedom, though I’m quite open to suggestions here!), namely, *whatever sort of freedom it is that I’ve got with respect to X when I’ve lib. freely made myself into someone for whom it is psychologically necessary to do X*.
    On the basis of the truth of this sort of counterfactual of freedom, the OT God can know what we’ll freely do in the future – though not what we’ll freely do in the lib. sense.
    Again, I’m not quite sure what to call this sort of freedom, but unless one thinks that libertarian freedom is the only freedom on offer, or that in such a situation one isn’t actually free with respect to X, then I think this can work.
    One last thought: I chose source incompatibilistic freedom because the freedom in question is still incompatibilistic since it requires one to have lib. freely made oneself into a certain sort of person. And one’s own will is still the ultimate reason for why one is the sort of person for whom some decisions are psychologically necessary.
    Hope this gets at your last post, though maybe I’m missing something.

    May 24, 2006 — 17:21
  • jon kvanvig

    Patrick, I think this is an objectionable way to talk, enough to make my philosophical skin crawl. My objection is to the idea that, for each theory of X, there is a kind or type of X, or sense of ‘X’ that we can employ in conversation. Down this path lies the practice of talking about coherentist justification, or foundationalist justification, or contextualist knowledge or invariantist knowledge, or Kantian rightness or utilitarian badness. Such language can often be reinterpreted in terms of intended reference to the theories in question, but in other cases, nonsense results. There is knowledge, there is justification, there is freedom, and there are various theories of each. When attempt are made to talk about types of each, when the reference is clearly to a particular theory of each, we should always insist that the type talk be replaced with accurate descriptions in terms of the theories in question. If you think source incompatibilism is true, that’s fine. But there isn’t a source incompatibilist sense of freedom or compatibilist kind of freedom or libertarian type of freedom. There’s freedom and there are various theories.
    Moreover, OT’s agree with Molinists that the correct theory of freedom is libertarian. That’s settled enough in the literature to be part of common philosophical parlance, and having a settled vocabulary here is necessary for productive conversations about the issues. There are perhaps interesting close cousins of these views that might endorse some other theory of freedom, and I expect that’s the direction you’d prefer to pursue. But when Kevin suggests an OT endorsement of a counterfactual of freedom, any OT defense will have to assume the theory of freedom that is distinctive of the OT position. Otherwise it’s like some contemporary theologians claiming to defend some aspect of traditional Christianity by reinterpreting the words so that, on that reinterpretation, the sentence expresses a true proposition (one, of course, which is contrary to some aspect of traditional Christianity). The word ‘obfuscation’ comes to mind…

    May 24, 2006 — 20:25
  • Tom

    Patrick says of the conditional
    “If Kevin were offered a nickel to kill his daughter, he would freely reject it��?
    that he’s unclear as to why this has to be libertarian free will.
    From this OVer’s perspective, if one understands the freedom in question to be libertarian, then there are no true CCFs and the proposition about Kevin would be false. There are no ‘will’ or ‘will not’ (from the Piercean perspective) type propositions that posit future contingents. To posit a conditional involving some indeterminate act, then (as I see it) the only way to express this propositionally is “If Kevin were offered a nickel to kill his daughter, he might and might not reject it.��?
    Patrick continues: “It is a counterfactual of some other sort of freedom; I’ll go with a ‘counterfactual of source-incompatibilistic freedom’.��?
    I see your point, though (even as an open theist) I’d just call it compatibilistic freedom (though libertarianly determined over time by the agent). Mother Theresa became (or rather chose to become) psychologically incapable of abusing children. Was she physically capable of committing such crimes? Sure. But she chose to become a slave (in her mind, emotions, judgments, etc.) to goodness. Evil increasingly became less and less likely for her. Eventually some evils became psychologically impossible for her.
    Patrick: My claim isn’t that the OT God can know what we’ll freely do in the lib. sense, but that he can know what we’ll freely do in some other sense.
    Tom: If I’m understanding you, then your thinking along the lines of sufficiently developed moral character, in which case open theists can agree. The future of some characters can be predictable in certain situations. My point is that those characters are not predictable until agents render them over time sufficiently predictable through the exercise of libertarian free will (at least in morally significant terms). So the only way to predict what an agent will do based on psychology/character development is based on that character at the time the prediction is made. But this would rule out divine pre-creational planning, for example, or even God’s knowing what we’d freely do during our lifetimes before we rendered ourselves sufficiently predictable. But this “non-libertarian sense��? seems to me to be nothing but compatibilistic free will and not a third sort of freedom.
    Patrick: This is because, as I see it, there are no true ‘would’ counterfactuals of libertarian freedom (and thus no way for God to know what we would lib. freely do).
    Tom: I’m with you here. So IF there’s true ‘would’, it cannot posit a libertarian action. (Ah, I see you already say this a paragraph or two later.)
    Patrick: So if it is true that I would freely do X in Y, this can’t be a counterfactual of lib. freedom. It’d have to be a counterfactual of some other sort of freedom (I’ve suggested source incompatibilistic freedom, though I’m quite open to suggestions here!), namely, *whatever sort of freedom it is that I’ve got with respect to X when I’ve lib. freely made myself into someone for whom it is psychologically necessary to do X*.
    Tom: I’ve been trumpeting this for several years now.
    Patrick: On the basis of the truth of this sort of counterfactual of freedom, the OT God can know what we’ll freely do in the future -though not what we’ll freely do in the lib. sense. Again, I’m not quite sure what to call this sort of freedom…
    Tom: It’s compatibilistic freedom straight-up. It’s just that were most theistic compatibilists use compatibilism to help defend the idea of God’s determining our actions and our also being morally accountable for them, an open theist at this point would still argue that there’s no long-term foreknowledge available through the sort of *freely determined compatibilistic behavior your talking about. This is true because the agent herself is the one who shapes and determines the direction her compatibilism will take (for good or for evil), and that is libertarianly determined and so unpredictable, and b) the situations in which we’re predictable (like somebody’s offering Kevin a nickel to kill his daughter) are usually themselves indeterminate events and involve genuine libertarian choices (other than our own choices). So predictable charaters offer some providential advantage for a God who knows our characters perfectly. Any open theist concedes this. But they don’t offer long-range forecasting for individuals not yet existent or existent but not yet of sufficiently developed character.
    Patrick: One last thought: I chose source incompatibilistic freedom because the freedom in question is still incompatibilistic since it requires one to have lib. freely made oneself into a certain sort of person. And one’s own will is still the ultimate reason for why one is the sort of person for whom some decisions are psychologically necessary.
    Tom: Then it’s just compatibilistic freedom, not incompatibilistic freedom (or so it seems to me). Sure, it was libertarianly determined by the agent herself over time, but once determined, once settled into, the exercise of freedom is quite compatibilistic. If I follow Jon, I tend to agree. One is either libertarianly free or not. So I’m using “compatibilistic��? freedom to refer to the non-libertarian exercise of the will. Libertarians have traditionally said no such exercise of the will may be considered ‘morally significant’ or accountable behavior. But I think such exercise of the will can be morally significant on one condition–namely, that the agent himself libertarianly chose to develop the sort of character that became fixed, or solidified, with respect to good or evil. At some point Mother Thersea was not libertarianly free to canabalize children. But we take this to me a morally admiralbe trait because SHE chose libertarianly to become that sort of person. Had some force OTHER than her own libertarian will determined her this or that way, then libertarians would say her development and character were not her own and therefore are not morally significant (accountable to her).
    I’ll try to interact more specifically with Kevin’s examples regarding providential advantage in the future.
    Tom (Belt)

    May 25, 2006 — 1:20
  • Tom

    I hope this brings me up to date on Kevin’s examples.
    Kevin: It seems to me that in both of these cases, Zeus is better able to exercise providence because he has more knowledge in the very same situation than does Jove. If this is true in either case, than the antecedent to CONDITION is fulfilled and Sanders’ argument fails. (Now, in these cases Zeus might not have much more providential control than would Jove, but that’s not the issue here.)
    Tom: Just to make sure I’m following you. You begin by saying Zeus is “better able to exercise providence��? but qualify the claim with “Zeus might not have much more providential control than would Jove��? but that this isn’t the issue. I thought how much providential control foreknowledge provided *was the issue. But maybe you just meant to say that Zeus would only have slightly more providential control. Not sure.
    Kevin: Case 1 (involving indeterminate events): At t1, there is only a .17 probability that X will occur at t2. If X occurs at t2, then there is a .97 probability that Y will occur at some later time, t3. If X does not occur at t2, then the probability that Y will occur at t3 is .24. At t1, Jove could only know that there is an overall probability of .497 that Y will occur at t3. At t1, if Zeus extends his foreknowledge to include the fact that X does in fact occur at t2, then He can know that the probability of Y occurring at t3 is .97. Zeus is a better epistemic situation at t1 with regard to Y occurring at t3 than is Jove, and thus is better equipped to providentially control whether or not Y occurs.
    Tom: So are you suggesting that God’s foreknowledge is volitional (or, that he’s not all times omniscient)? He can choose which future events to foreknow by “extending his foreknowledge��? to include them? I’ll scan the posts again to catch up, but I’d just say that as I understand the simple-foreknowledge view, the only probabilities God knows are 1 (for events he knows ‘will��? occur) and 0 (for logically possible events he knows ‘will not’ occur). So what you’re suggesting doesn’t look like the simple-foreknowledge view I’m familiar with. You want to say God knows X ‘will’ occur (which to my mind means ‘will with a probability of 1��?) but that God also knows X is indeterminate. But to my mind indeterminate means “with a probability of greater than 0 and less than 1.��? As I understand it, once you posit simple-foreknowledge, the only probabilities God attaches to possible events are 0 and 1. Once you introduce God knowing objective probabilities for future events, you start sounding like an open theist. But then you revert with “extending his foreknowledge to X��? to God’s knowing only one probability for future events—1 (that which ‘will’ certainly occur).
    I’m sure an Okhamist like Craig would work the semantics differently so that he could allow for objective possibilities AND have God knowing the entire future exclusively in terms of what shall and shall not occur. But still he recognizes there has to be some *wiggle room for God to make use of what he knows will happen in providentially advantageous ways, which is part of the reason why Craig is a Molinist. He realizes that with the standard simple-foreknowledge view (where there’s never a time at which God does not know ALL that will occur) there’s not the needed wiggle room to base decisions that are not themselves foreknown upon events which are foreknown in an attempt to influence the latter. So he posits middle knowledge. It looks to me like you’re just positing an open future of indeterminate events but then simply supposing that God can choose to foreknown them. But I really think the supposed providential advantage it gives is vacuous. If God simple foreknows all that will occur, there are no probabilities of greater than 0 and less than 1 that God also foreknows.
    Let me ask this, Kevin. In Case 1 you mentioned no objective probability for X. So what is X’s probability of occurring? Is X’s occurring a historically contingent event? Is its probability of occurring 1 or less than 1? If less than 1 (viz., if it’s indeterminate), then what are the grounds for God’s knowledge that X ‘will’ certainly occur?
    Kevin: Case 2 (involving free will): In virtue of knowing Smith’s present moral character, the divine being knows that if Smith doesn’t consider argument X at t2, then Smith will remain an atheist. But by also fully knowing Smith’s present moral character, the divine being also knows that if Smith were to consider argument X at t2, there is a .87 probability that he would convert to theism. The divine being also knows that the only human being that is capable of articulating argument X is Black, who normally has lunch with Smith everyday at the university. The divine being also knows, by knowing Black’s moral character, that he will share argument X with Smith today at lunch at t2 only if reason Y occurs to him at t2. But the divine being knows that the probability that reason Y will occur to Smith at t2 is only .14. The divine being also knows that Black is planning on leaving the university early today to prepare for tonight’s television address. At t1 (where t1 is earlier than t2, which is in turn earlier than t3), Black gets in his car to drive home. The divine being could prevent Black from driving home, and thus ensure that he has lunch with Smith at t2, by making Black’s car fail to start. But the divine being has a general policy, which he calls POLICY, of interfering with cars only if he can be more confident than not that it will result in the conversion of at least one person.
    Tom: Sounds perfectly open theistic!
    Kevin: But Zeus, if he has foreknowledge that despite the low probability of .14, knows that reason Y will occur to Smith at t2 and that Smith will therefore share argument X with Black, knows that there is a .87 probability that Black will convert to theism. On the basis of this knowledge, Zeus knows that the antecedent of POLICY is fulfilled. Zeus thus makes Black’s car fail…
    Tom: On the simple-foreknowledge view, there’s no time at which God foreknows that there’s an 87% probability Black will convert to theism but does not also foreknow that he’ll cause Black’s car to fail. That’s the problem.
    You obviously see that when it comes to foreknowledge, providential advantage requires some temporal gaps in (what shall we call it?) the divine acquisition of truths about some future event. You need these gaps, this wiggle room, to allow God to do the “basing of decisions not foreknown��? upon other events “already foreknown” which is at the heart of your examples regarding Zeus. But the “on the basis of this knowledge, Zeus [then] knows so-and-so and THUS [then] decides to make Black’s car fail��? actually denies what simple-foreknowledge affirms, that there are such gaps in God’s knowledge of the future; that is, that there are ever times when God does not know all that shall occur in the future. On the simple-foreknowledge scheme, Zeus could not reason his way through to the decision you suppose. To make those kinds of providential moves, Zeus either (a) has to be ignorant of the outcome he desires to influence (Smith’s choice to convert or not at hearing Black’s argument) at the specific time he makes his choice to have Black’s car fail, or (b) has to make all such decisions based on infallibly knowing at all times the objective probabilities of the indeterminate events in question, probabilities that are grater than 0 and less than 1 (which is the Open View). Zeus simply doesn’t have the sort of wiggle room you suppose IF he’s omniscient and IF such omniscience entails he’s always knowing all that shall occur in the future (i.e., if the simple-foreknowledge view is true).
    Tom

    May 25, 2006 — 6:34
  • Tom

    In my comment about Craig it was of course “objective PROBABILITIES” (not “possibilities”) that I meant.
    Tom

    May 25, 2006 — 6:36
  • Tom

    One last Q for Kevin-
    Forgetting for the moment just what the “simple-foreknowledge��? view actually entails, let’s just consider a view, call it UF for ‘undivided foreknowledge’, and let’s suppose that this view makes the following claim:
    “There is never a time when God does not know all that will occur in the future.��?
    Would you agree that foreknowledge of this sort offers God no basis upon which he is able to decide how to act providentially in the world (in influencing foreknown events, in bringing them to pass, in preventing them, etc.)?
    Tom

    May 25, 2006 — 8:02
  • Kevin Timpe

    I’ve been doing end of the term grading, but hopefully now can catch up on the discussion.
    Patrick,
    In your May 23, 2006 01:38 PM post, you suggest the following dilemma: either (i) Zeus knows all the facts about the future or (ii) Zeus knows knows the facts about the future up until a certain time. With regard to (ii), I agree that it would be a strange world. But if it is even possible that the world is like that, then we have a case where foreknowledge would be providentially useless, and the argument that I started this post with would fail. With regard to (i), I don’t see why I couldn’t appeal to the standard Ockhamist strategy with regard to God’s knowledge about whether Y occurs at T3. Say that Zeus could know that, but simply chooses not to. Sure there is a truth about whether or not Y occurs, but the truth is grounded in what Zeus chose to do on the bases of the knowledge that he did have. So I don’t think that my case does require, as you suggest, “that there aren’t facts about what will occur at T3 since Zeus stands in position to providentially act with respect Y’s potential occurrence at T3.” Instead, the truth of what occurs at T3 just counterfactually depends on how Zeus providentially acts at T1 given his foreknowlege of what will transpire at T2.
    Jon,
    I agree with Patrick about the conditional in question. There are numerous incompatibilists who think that alternative possibilities aren’t required in the case of determination by one’s moral character. In these cases, one can still act freely so long as one freely set one’s moral character (which will require alternative possibilities at some point in the character-forming-process). This is, I take it, one of the central lessons of Kane’s use of the Luther example. Stump also seems to agree. I think that van Inwagen would disagree on the basis of his restrictivism, but that’s simple because he defines free will as requiring the ability to do otherwise at that time. We could rework the whole problem in such a way that it’s about actin in a way for which one could be morally responsible, and then I think he’d agree with the character cases. But I don’t think we need to do that. But contrary to what you seem to think, and what Tom clearly thinks, the freely involved in such a conditional is NOT compatibilism–because it does not think that free will is compatible with causal determinsm as it is usually expressed in the free will literature. Free will might be, in certain cases, compatible with local determinism of a certain sort, but spelling out the “of a certain sort” is going to ensure that we’re still talking of an incompatibilist view. And if libertarianism is understood, as it usually is, as the conjunction of incompatibilism and ‘we are sometimes free’, I don’t see how this isn’t a form of libertarianism.
    Tom,
    I’m going to respond to you still–but you’ve raised so much, it will take me a bit. Thanks for your patience.

    May 25, 2006 — 12:42
  • Kevin Timpe

    Tom,
    I don’t have the time to respond to every issue you raise–good though the are–but here is a start. Thanks for pressing me on some of these issues.
    Tom: our characters may also be insufficiently developed so that a good deal about our futures is indeterminate.
    Kevin: Sure, but I just need a case where our moral character is set with regard to one particular aspect of it to get a case to work. And you endorse that this is possible. So I think we’re in agreement here.
    Tom: I’m not seeing simple-foreknowledge in your examples.
    Kevin: Here’s where the foreknowledge is. Zeus foreknows at T1 that an indeterminate event will happen at a future time T2. And since this knowledge isn’t based on middle knowledge, it’s simple foreknowledge. And such knowledge is providentially useful to Zeus because he is in a better position, at T1, to guide what happens at T3 than is Jove (who lacks foreknowledge). Because of his foreknowledge of what will (not a Percian ‘might’ but a real ‘will’) happen at T2, he is able to have a higher degree of providential control about what happens at T3 than is Jove.
    Tom: Then it’s just compatibilistic freedom, not incompatibilistic freedom (or so it seems to me).
    Kevin: I agree with Jon that there’s just one sort of freedom, though the compatibilist and incompatibilist disagree with what is required for one to be able to have such freedom. But that aside, I disagree that this is compatibilism for the reasons indicated in my comments to Jon above. Source incompatibilism is clearly a form of incompatibilism, not compatibilism. And if libertarianism is simple the conjunction of incompatibilism and the existence of free will, then the view under discussion is still a kind of libertarianism. And I don’t think that I’m unusual in my understanding it this way. Kane, Stump, McKenna, Fischer, Campbell, Clarke, Levy would all, I’m pretty sure, agree with me here. And while I’m not suggesting that agreement entails truth, I do think that this pedigree is quite substantial. I’d be happy to argue for this at greater length, but I don’t think that the present post is the best place to do so.
    Tom: You begin by saying Zeus is “better able to exercise providence” but qualify the claim with “Zeus might not have much more providential control than would Jove” but that this isn’t the issue. I thought how much providential control foreknowledge provided *was* the issue. But maybe you just meant to say that Zeus would only have slightly more providential control.
    Kevin: Yes, if Zeus has any more providential control than does Jove, then it is false that simple foreknowledge offers no providential advantage.
    Tom: Let me ask this, Kevin. In Case 1 you mentioned no objective probability for X. So what is X’s probability of occurring? Is X’s occurring a historically contingent event? Is its probability of occurring 1 or less than 1? If less than 1 (viz., if it’s indeterminate), then what are the grounds for God’s knowledge that X ‘will’ certainly occur?
    Kevin: Yes X is contingent. The probability of an indeterminate event depends what time you’re asking about. At T1, the probability that X will occur is, as described above, .17. At T2, if X occurs, the probability is now (and forever after) 1 and if X does not occur, the probability is now (and forever after) 0.
    Tom: Would you agree that foreknowledge of this [i.e., what you called undivided foreknowledge] sort offers God no basis upon which he is able to decide how to act providentially in the world (in influencing foreknown events, in bringing them to pass, in preventing them, etc.)?
    Kevin: Yes, I don’t see a way to resist affirming this (though I’d like to!). But I’m trying to see if there is a way that a version of foreknowledge that is less complete than this could be providentially advantageous. Are you familiar at all with David Hunt’s work in this area? I think I’m trying to press a similar argument to the one that he does.

    May 25, 2006 — 13:08
  • jon kvanvig

    Kevin, Open Theism isn’t just the position that denies exhaustive foreknowledge. There are a lot of positions that do that. What makes Open Theism special is that it sacrifices complete providence in order to preserve human freedom, and the motivation for the conflict here is because they adopt a libertarian account of freedom.
    Also, compatibilism isn’t the position that freedom is always and everywhere accompanied by deterministic causes. So, if you get, as Patrick argued, causal necessitation in the consequent of the conditional you asked about, Tom is right that this is compatibilism. To get all the way to Thomism, you have to add that all free actions are determined so as to provide a basis for complete providence, but that extension is not part of compatibilism proper. And to ask an Open Theist whether freedom is compatible in any case whatsoever with causal determination will be to get a clear “no”.
    Of course, there are related positions one might introduce here based on alternative positions to libertarianism and compatibilism. That’s an interesting project to pursue, but it’s confusing to label these as versions of Open Theism.
    This point touches on your earlier post where you first defined OT and then identified four versions of it. I think your definition of OT fails precisely because it doesn’t include the notion of freedom that is so central to everything open theists want to maintain. It is a position that endorses restrictions on omniscience and providence for the purpose of retaining a libertarian conception of human freedom. The restrictions are interesting in their own right, but they don’t define the position. To see this, note that skeptics who think there is an omnipotent being who created everything out of nothing are not open theists.

    May 25, 2006 — 19:03
  • Kevin Timpe

    Jon,
    I agree with almost everything that you say in the first and last paragraph. I’m getting ready to leave for a 2 week vacation, so I don’t have much time. But let me quickly say this. I agree that OT assumes a libertarian position. I didn’t spell this out earlier when defining OT, but I was making that same assumption–maybe I should have made that clearer. But it doesn’t seem right to me that libertarianism can never allow an action to be free and determined at all. Two quick reasons. First, causal determinism is usually defined as a global feature of a world, and it is this form of determinism that is usually involved in defining compatibilism and incompatibilism. So, incompatibilism is the thesis that it is not possible to be free if the conjunction of the state of the universe at one moment in time and the laws of nature entail the state of the universe at any other moment of time. Libertarianism is incompatibilsm plus the thesis that we are at least sometimes free (hence entailing the falsity of causal determinism).
    Second, on the way that you define libertarianism, neither Bob Kane nor Eleonore Stump would qualify as libertarians (for they both allow that free actions can be causally determined by one’s character, so long as one’s coming to have that kind of character was free and not determined–see The Significance of Free Will and “Augustine on Free Will” respectively). Do you really mean to say that niether Bob nor Eleonore are libertarians? If their views are forms of libetarianism as I think they are, then I don’t see a why an OT couldn’t have this sort of view of free will in mind. Now, maybe they don’t; that is, maybe no extant OT view allows for determination by one’s freely chosen/formed moral character. But I don’t see why such a position is in principle not an option.

    May 26, 2006 — 10:47
  • jon kvanvig

    Kevin, my plea is for some terminological regimentation here, and without it there’s no good way to answer the question who is a libertarian and who isn’t. But, for what it’s worth, I think your account of libertarianism is unfaithful to the history of the dispute. Note that on your view it takes only one contracausal possibility in the entire history of the world to make every causally determined action free. You’re right that it is the possibility of global determinism that motivates compatibilism, but the dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists is not about whether global determinism is true or even possibly true. Notice that your last sentence of the first paragraph formulated as it is as a sufficient condition, is correct (libertarianism is incompatible with global determinism); but that claim alone surely underrepresents the libertarian position since you can’t replace the ‘if’ here with ‘iff’ and have it be plausible at all (since global determinism doesn’t follow from the impossibility of freedom).
    I doubt there is anything philosophically at stake in deciding whether Kane and Stump can appropriately be labelled libertarians, and my appeal wasn’t intended to claim that there is some nature to these positions that requires the terms to be used in any given way. My complaint was that when one uses the term ‘open theist’ in an expanded way (since I think it is pretty clear that they claim to value freedom for actions in the sense that an action is free only if the everything strictly about the past plus the laws doesn’t entail that the action is performed), confusion results. Better to let the term pick out the view as they maintain it and ask about related views, and here we get interesting questions such as: with Stump’s or Kane’s view of freedom, is complete providence possible? with a denial of the law of conditional excluded middle, does the endorsement of counterfactuals of freedom allow complete providence? I think the answer to the first question is “no” and the answer to the second is “yes, though not with necessity”. But that’s stuff for a different post/paper!

    May 26, 2006 — 11:28
  • jon kvanvig

    Oops! The “no” about Stump and Kane needs to be qualified in terms of non-Molinism. If Molinism is true, it doesn’t matter whether you have standard libertarianism or the related incompatibilist views of Stump and Kane.

    May 26, 2006 — 11:31
  • Patrick Todd

    Hi all. A lot to catch up on here, so this is gearing up to be a long post!
    It looks like this is a debate concerning what certain theories of freedom amount to, and I certainly don’t think I’ve got anything much to add here.
    As merely a biographical note, though, I will say that my impression (and Kevin’s) was that compatibilism is the view that freedom is compatible with *universal* causal determinism, and that any view of freedom that denies this is a version of incompatibilism. Hence, when talking about the freedom in the consequent of the conditional we’ve been discussing, I didn’t say it was freedom as the compatibilist conceives it (since it is *not* compatible with universal causal determinism). But I certainly don’t want to argue that compatibilism has to be understood this way (though, right or wrong, this is how I’ve understood it).
    I do want causal necessitation in the consequent of the conditional, but as everyone has pointed out, this is causal necessitation that results from what one has freely done in the past in a non-causally necessitated way. Thus, the freedom here is a freedom that is incompatible with universal causal determinism. That is the important thing, I think, and the thing that makes the view amenable to an open theist who thinks (1) we’ve got to be free to do otherwise with respect to some decisions at some times to be morally responsible agents (all OTs have to affirm this) and (2) God can’t know what we’ll freely do in this way but (3) it is also sometimes the case that in exercising freedom to do otherwise we can make ourselves into people for whom some decisions are causally necessary (b.c. of facts about our psychologies), and that with respect to these decisions we are still free. (Kevin indicates that this is a common incompatibilist view.) Moreover, (4) when we do make ourselves into this sort of person, certain ‘would’ counterfactuals of freedom become true, on the basis of which God can know what we’ll freely do in the future because he sees that sufficient causal factors are in place for the antecedents of such counterfactuals obtaining.
    Tom,
    From what I can tell, this is your view too, right? – except that you think the freedom involved with (3) and (4) above should be called (or is) compatibilistic freedom, and with Kevin, I’m not sure that it is best called this. But nothing much hangs on this, I don’t think. We both think that the freedom in (3) and (4) is of course incompatible with *universal* causal determinism.
    Jon,
    You say “And to ask an Open Theist whether freedom is compatible in any case whatsoever with causal determination will be to get a clear “no”. Of course, there are related positions one might introduce here based on alternative positions to libertarianism and compatibilism. That’s an interesting project to pursue, but it’s confusing to label these as versions of Open Theism.��?
    This is interesting. Gregory Boyd and Tom think that the freedom required for moral responsibility is sometimes compatible with causal determinism (namely, in the sense described above). (Incidentally, I do too.)
    But we also think that freedom to do otherwise rules out God knowing what we’ll do in this way, and that we are actually sometimes free to do otherwise, and so, as you say, we sacrifice complete providence in order to preserve freedom. You seem to think, though, that holding this first point, despite holding the second, warrants being called something else than an open theist.
    But there are fewer more prominent open theists than Boyd, and the first point is very much in the spirit of what he often argues. Tom, I’m sure you’d be able to say much more about this than I, but Boyd often argues that we sometimes freely make ourselves into certain sorts of people, at which point our characters are sufficiently hardened so that God knows what we’ll do. (Boyd says just this to handle Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial, and Boyd thinks that Peter freely denied Christ.) Boyd and Tom call the freedom we have at this point compatibilistic, and hence, compatible with causal determinism.
    I’ve just been putting it in terms of psychological necessity in order to make clear that this can be a sort of causal necessity, and, to my knowledge, Boyd doesn’t say just this. But it doesn’t seem to be out of line with what at least one prominent open theist says about certain decisions we make.
    But, indeed, maybe we need a new label! I just wanted to point out that some people who are definitely known as OTs in the literature hold a position that says that morally responsible freedom is sometimes compatible with causal determinism. I agree, though, that it is confusing, since these OTs don’t hold strictly to a view of freedom that says that morally responsible freedom entails freedom to do otherwise (what I’ve been referring to as lib. freedom, but Kevin seems to have said that this isn’t essential to being called a libertarian, so I’ll remain agnostic about it). And this view of freedom is, of course, the view that drives OT. (What overall view of freedom it is that these OTs endorse is a question I’ll leave for another day, important as it is!)
    I don’t know how to clear this up, but since Boyd is definitely known as an OT, maybe it’d be easier to still refer to this view as OT, but just a modified sort. What do you think? More importantly, though, the view still retains what originally drives OT, namely, that freedom to do otherwise rules out God’s knowing what we’ll do in this way, and that we are sometimes free to do otherwise.
    Well, that should do it for one post! Kevin, I’ll try to address your response to the dilemma I raised for your examples hopefully sometime in the next day.

    May 26, 2006 — 12:59
  • Kevin Timpe

    Jon,
    Two last points before I have to pack. First, you say “the dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists is not about whether global determinism is true or even possibly true.” Correct. But it is a debate about what would follow from the truth of causal determinism. Incompatibilists say that this would entail that there is no free will and compatibilists would say the lack of free will doesn’t follow from the mere truth of causal determinism.
    Second, you also say “Notice that your last sentence of the first paragraph formulated as it is as a sufficient condition, is correct (libertarianism is incompatible with global determinism).” I never said that the libertarian thinks that the falsity of causal determinism is a sufficient condition for free will, just a necessary condition. There may be (and very likely are) other necessary conditions. These might include: an epistemic condition, an authenticity condition, a sourcehood condition (it is this latter one, I think, that would disallow some kinds of ‘local’ determinism but not the kinds of determinism by character that I and Patrick have in mind here). Nor did I say that the falsity of causal determinism is a sufficient condition for libertarianism being true–again, it’s just a necessary condition.
    I feel like I must be missing at least part of what is motivating you here, but I’m not able to see what it is. Maybe this is just a drawback of holding such conversations via blogs and not in person. But regardless, I’ve both enjoyed and appreciated the conversation with you, Patrick, Tom and the rest. I hate to bow out of the conversation at this point, but London awaits. Maybe I can catch up with the rest of the conversation when I return.

    May 26, 2006 — 13:21
  • Tom

    As an open theist I’d agree with Jon on this—if “complete providence��? be understood as exhaustive and unconditional determination of the minutia of creation by God’s will then open theists can’t (along with other non-open theists like traditional Arminians and Molinists) can’t be seen as believing in divine providence. We don’t think God relates to the world that way. But whereas Arminians and open theists agree that the future is (how shall I say it?), ontologically open (future indeterminism is real and not just epistemic), Arminians and Molinists share the Calvinist’s conviction that God knows the future in blueprint form as it were, so that the future is epistemically closed for God.
    But I’d disagree with Jon that saying the future is in some respects epistemically open for God means denying omniscience. I don’t at all see myself as having denied omniscience. An open theist can affirm that God knows all truths and believes no falsehoods [if I remember Craig’s definition rightly], or something along those lines if you prefer to tweak it a bit. Alan defines omniscience as God knows all and only truths). That’s fine. Point is, an open theist can agree that there are no truths at any time that God does not know. And open theists don’t have to deny bivalence either; and we can also disagree with Hasker’s view that there are truths about the future that are logically impossible to know. I’m happy to affirm that whatever truths there are at any time about anything at all (past, present, or future) God knows them. I don’t know how I as an open theist can affirm omniscience and more clearly.
    None of this seems incompatible with God’s knowledge of the future being in some respects epistemically open (as open or indeterminate as it in fact is, assuming genuine indeterminacy), provided we allow into the class of future tense propositions (traditionally limited to ‘will’ and ‘will not’ props) a third proposition—‘might and might not…’—which posits that very indeterminacy we claim is a feature of the real world. All three props then are jointly exhaustive and mutually exclusive. Alan, Boyd, and I argue for just such a semantic in a paper available on Alan’s website. So open theists need not, as Jon commented, “deny exhaustive foreknowledge.��? On the contrary, I personally insist on it. But I don’t limit foreknowledge to knowledge of what ‘will’ or ‘will not’ happen. Indeterminists who do that end up, in my view, denying omniscience, not me.
    Jon: To ask an Open Theist whether freedom is compatible in any case whatsoever with causal determination will be to get a clear “no.”
    Tom: That has pretty much been our answer, yes. There’s just the delicate case of when future choices are rendered determinate by a moral character sufficiently developed over time through libertarian free will. Such choices are strictly speaking compatibilistic, but I wouldn’t deny that such choices reflect the agent’s own moral character (something I wouldn’t grant in the case of choices that are causally determined by God). At least that’s where I am on it today.
    Jon: I think your [Patrick] definition of OT fails precisely because it doesn’t include the notion of freedom that is so central to everything open theists want to maintain. It is a position that endorses restrictions on omniscience and providence for the purpose of retaining a libertarian conception of human freedom.
    Tom: Restrictions on providence in the sense that God freely decides to limit the exercise of his power for the sake of goals and purposes he sovereignly determines, yes. But there are models of influence/control that are not deterministic which are both praiseworthy and afford God a good deal of influence in the world. But there are to my mind no restrictions on omniscience entailed by open theism. None at all.
    Quickly to Kevin, then (if you haven’t left yet). I haven’t read Hunt in a while. I don’t remember him arguing a view of foreknowledge very different from the standard simple-foreknowledge view. But you’re probably right. If he’s trying to articulate a view that avoids the providential uselessness of the traditional Arminian view, that’s good. I’d be interested to see if he can do it!
    Tom
    (I’m out for a bit as well. In Beirut now, on to Egypt in a few days. Busy!)

    May 26, 2006 — 15:30
  • jon kvanvig

    Kevin, I wish you would be around to respond, but the centrality of PAP to discussion of libertarianism shows, I think, that libertarians think of the relationship between actions and alternatives on an atomistic level: for each free action, there have to be alternatives. There is the more general position, incompatibilism, that countenances freedom even when PAP (appropriately construed) is false, as long as the causal basis for PAP’s falsity in a given case is it’s truth in a prior case.
    My cranky side is coming out here, I’m afraid, but I despise discussions that don’t honor the history of terminology and try to make terms into exhaustive and exclusive categories when the history doesn’t license such an assumption. The most obvious place in philosophy where this occurs is in the literature on foundationalism and coherentism, but I think the point applies to libertarianism and soft determinism/compatibilism as well. These latter positions are contraries at most (if for no other reason than the possibility of hard determinism), and though it is permissible to stipulate what one means by these terms however one wishes, it just leads to confusion to assume that every possible position must be either libertarian, hard determinist, or compatibilist.
    On a different point, Tom is right: there are ways of limiting providence that don’t require abandoning the impeccable account of omniscience in terms of knowing all truths. I think the views in question are not plausible, but that is a different matter. I think tense in natural language has an obvious function: past tense allows us to say true/false things about the past, present tense about the present, and future tense about the future. But the lesson of the Quine/Duhem problem is that there is always a way to maintain consistency by denying auxiliary hypotheses, and there’s no point getting into all that here. I also like it when philosophers whom I respect are cited when providing evidence regarding the nature of a position: so Hasker counts, van Inwagen counts, Zimmerman counts. But when Billy Bob from the backwoods with no terminal degree in philosophy claims to be an open theist and holds that men are from Mars and women from Venus, I’m not inclined to adjust my historical picture of the position the term ‘open theism’ signifies. Instead, I’m inclined to see analogies between open theism and the new position. OK, that was mean and perhaps even unfair…and with that display of philosophical crankiness, I resign from the thread…

    May 26, 2006 — 18:58
  • Tom

    I can appreciate how Jon feels. I’m a guest after all and not a member contributor. I haven’t forgotten that. Forgive my presence, Jon. Open theist is a passion of mine and I’m very interested in where it goes and those who discuss it. Knowing I don’t have a terminal degree in philosophy is why I’ve tried to reference Alan (Ph.D. in Philosophy, not philosophical theology–;o)–) on my fundamental points, since he makes the same points.
    So let me bow out and let you all get to work. But I’ll observer from the sidelines if I may!
    Thanks,
    Tom

    May 27, 2006 — 1:02
  • jon kvanvig

    Tom and all, Please accept my apology for the crankiness of my last post–it most assuredly was not referring to anyone here. When I referred to Billy Bob, I was referring to an open theist that has gotten way too much attention in the literature, given the incredibly low quality of his work (not to say lack of training in philosophy). There are much better representatives of the position, and though I have a fairly strong distaste for the position, their views deserve serious discussion.
    All the rest is just a terminological issue about what the terms are going to refer to, and that is worth getting clear about simply to prevent miscommunication. But it was never my intention to cast aspersions on the honest and beneficial interchanges in this thread!

    May 27, 2006 — 7:17
  • Tom

    Thanks for your comments Jon. And thanks to all for a forum where someone like myself can occasionally come and kick it around with people he’d never be able to approach in real life!
    As for terminology, I think I’m on the same page as you Jon with respect to what *compatibilism, *libertarian free will, and *omniscience (knowledge of all truths) all mean. And it looks like we both recognize that *providence can refer to models of influence/control that are less than exhaustively *determining (though we disagree on how determining of the world God actually is).
    There’s just the term *open theism and what is rightly to be seen as essential or non-essential to the view on which we have some disagreement. If I follow you, you feel the historical use of the term refers to those who believe the future is partly epistemically open for God because God is not omniscient while I maintain the term can (and has historically from the start of the debate surround open theism) includes those who agree (and in fact have argued) that God is omniscient in addition to being epistemically open with regard to the future.
    Is this the main difference between how you’re using the term *open theism and how I’m using it? If you’d help me get clear on what you see to be proper use of the term, I’ll be on my way.
    Thanks again,
    Tom

    May 28, 2006 — 1:09
  • Tom

    One last comment just to clarify!
    I’m not suggesting that belief in divine omniscience is essential to open theism. I’m arguing that denying divine omniscience is not essential to open theism. An open theist may or may not affirm divine omniscience and remain an open theist. Of course critics of the view have from the start argued that the denial of omniscience is a necessary and defining element of open theism. But open theists have from the start responded that this is not the case.
    Who gets to define a view, to say what it is what it isn’t? I should hope those who hold the view have some priority in defining themselves. At the very least, articulating open theists’ beliefs to their satisfaction should be the goal of critics. And on this score many (most?) critics have done a poor job of articulating the open view. Now, if there are open theists of recognized academic stature who would not want to see the term *open theism applied to those who maintain the future is epistmically open for the omniscient God, then I’d be very interested in hearing their arguments.
    Tom

    May 28, 2006 — 1:49
  • jon kvanvig

    Tom, the terminological issue isn’t about foreknowledge and omniscience, since there are two broad ways of being an open theist. One sides with Swinburne that omniscience is knowing all that can be known and the other with Geach that omniscience is knowing all that is true. The former treats sentences the same with respect to truth no matter what the tense of the sentence; the latter doesn’t. The terminological issues ended up being ones about whether libertarianism is the only version of incompatibilism (I think it’s a mistake to think it is), and what the relationship between open theism and libertarianism is. The standard understanding has open theists and molinists siding together against Calvinists and Thomists, precisely on this issue. So when a question is asked about counterfactuals of freedom from an open theist or molinist perspective, it is understood to involve libertarian freedom. After all, Thomists think there are counterfactuals of freedom as well, and there is a consistent position available that defends counterfactuals of freedom that are compatibilist in character and also denies bivalence and so refuses to endorse complete foreknowledge and providence. But that position isn’t a version of open theism.
    Nothing substantive hinges on the terminology, however, and once it is clear that terms are being used in somewhat unusual ways, the only point to stress is to say what these terms of art refer to first in order to allow discussion to focus on the substantive issues. In particular, a view that combines source compatibilism with a denial of bivalence on the basis of the existence of future contingents could just as easily be claimed to be a version of Molinism if it is claimed to be a version of open theism. But that argument isn’t one worth having, though anyone is free to stipulate what their terms refer to so that one answer rather than another results.

    May 28, 2006 — 6:58
  • I’m recently back from vacation, so I’m jumping in late in the game. Just a couple thoughts:
    1) It seems to me that the plausibility of Kevin’s argument stands or falls with the compossibility of SF and God’s being able to “extend” or, conversely, “restrict” his foreknowledge at will. Now, with Patrick, I’m inclined to see this as the ‘voluntary necescience’ version of OT, but let’s call it SF anyway. Also, if standard incompatibilist arguments relating to foreknowledge and future contingents work, then SF is not an option to begin with. Kevin’s arguments presuppose that such arguments can be defeated. For the sake of argument, let’s grant him that. My worry then is that God’s being able to “extend” his foreknowledge is a denial of God’s essential omniscience, where that is understood as the idea that, necessarily, God knows (not just “can know”) all and only what is the case. Kevin seems to think that, possibly, God can bracket off some portion of his knowledge and, temporarily, cease to know it, while retaining the ability to regain that knowledge whenever he wants to. I think this is incoherent.
    Suppose God decides to bracket his knowledge that P. Does God still know that he has bracketed his knowledge that P? If so, then God still knows that P (and knows that he knows P), hence nothing’s been bracketed in the first place. On the other hand, if in bracketing his knowledge that P God also brackets his knowledge that he has bracketed his knowledge that P (and brackets all higher-order knowledge that P), then I don’t see how God could will to “extend” his knowledge to P because he no longer even knows that P is there to be known.
    2) On the terminological debate regarding OT, it really all depends on where one places the core of the OT position. I, Tom, Boyd, and (I think) Patrick, understand OT primarily as a model of providence according to which God faces the future as realm consisting at least partly of unsettled, open possibilities. If that’s the core of OT, then issues like libertarian freedom and omniscience are only secondary concerns. Thus, I would define OT as the conjunction of
    (a) monotheism
    (b) the epistemic openness of the future for God
    (c) the causal openness of the future (i.e., future contingency)
    All OT’s agree on (a)-(c), but not all agree on the scope of libertarian freedom or on God’s knowledge. Thus, in principle one could be an OT and deny libertarian freedom while affirming some other kind of future contingency (say, quantum indeterminacy). In practice, every OT that I know of does affirm that our actions are at least sometimes free in a libertarian sense, but nevertheless I don’t think that should be seen as a sine qua non for being an OT.

    May 28, 2006 — 23:01
  • jon kvanvig

    Alan, on your account of OT, note that the following is a version of the view:
    human actions are free but determined, and the future is undetermined because of indeterminacy at the quantum level, which leaves the future epistemically open for God.
    Of course, you can go back and add that OT requires that some human actions are free in an incompatibilist sense, and then the counterexample I’d use would change to where the only such action was Adam and Eve’s choice in the Fall. And then you could tinker some more to require a wider representation of incompatibilistically free actions.
    My point is that when you say that OT consists primarily of a model of providence involving an open future, that’s Aristotle with a dose of real theism, not open theism yet. To get open theism, you have to talk about the motivation to account adequately for the risks God purportedly took in creating free individuals.

    May 29, 2006 — 7:29
  • Jon,
    I accept your observation that on my account of OT one could be an OT and hold that “human actions are free but determined, and the future is undetermined because of indeterminacy at the quantum level, which leaves the future epistemically open for God”.
    Where we disagree is on whether the above should qualify as a version of OT. You say it doesn’t. I say it does. Can we resolve the impass? Maybe.
    Part of my project is to start from a generic, minimalistic definition of OT to delineate a family of models of providence that share a common theme – God’s approaching the future as partly open. Particular models within that family may then be distinguished by the additional commitments that they incur. In other words, I want to map the theoretical terrain as much as possible before jumping into the details of specific OT models. That’s why I’ve suggested (a)-(c) as a minimalistic definition of OT. I might even go further and drop (c).
    You want to start with something more robust, which is fine if the objective is to focus on a narrower set of models. But if you want to stipulate that only such models merit the label “open theism” then I beg to differ. The label aptly applies to any view that affirms theism along with the idea that the future is relevantly “open” from God’s perspective.

    May 29, 2006 — 13:04
  • Patrick Todd

    Hi all,
    Tom, you say earlier:
    “So open theists need not, as Jon commented, “deny exhaustive foreknowledge.��? On the contrary, I personally insist on it. But I don’t limit foreknowledge to knowledge of what ‘will’ or ‘will not’ happen.��?
    No big deal here, but in the spirit of what Jon earlier said to me [ :0 ], I think saying that the OT God has exhaustive foreknowledge is confusing. I agree that the OT God exhaustively foreknows all there is to know about the future, but this shouldn’t be construed as God’s having exhaustive foreknowledge, I don’t think. I think we ought to say something else here.
    I say this because when the OT says that God has exhaustive foreknowledge, it sounds as if what is motivating the OT is to make it seem that one is not making as big as departure from classical theology as one really is. I think giving this impression is bad, for various reasons.
    Some points to make here regarding the terminological debate over OT:
    Alan,
    I think Jon is right to say that libertarianism (= freedom to do otherwise) must take a more central role in how we define OT. For why is it that OTs adopt “a model of providence according to which God faces the future as realm consisting at least partly of unsettled, open possibilities��?? Ultimately, because they think that such freedom is incompatible with an exhaustively foreknown or foreordained future. The motivation for the OT model of providence is a commitment to a certain view of human freedom.
    What I disagree with Jon about is that holding to a *strictly* libertarian (= if free at all, then free to do otherwise) account of freedom is essential to the OT position. This is because, as I’ve argued, OTs can say that some of our actions are psychologically/ causally necessary but still free, and hence maintain that freedom to do otherwise is not a necessary condition for being free. However, such a position on freedom would still require one to say that we must sometimes be free to do otherwise. And it is freedom to do otherwise that the OT thinks is incompatible with an exhaustively foreknown or foreordained universe.
    (Jon, perhaps we could resolve this if I said that, as a matter of fact, we are not *free* with respect to those decisions that are for us psychologically necessary, but that we are nonetheless morally responsible for them. Thus, I’d be maintaining the strict libertarian account that you think is essential to the OT position; i.e. “And to ask an Open Theist whether freedom is compatible in any case whatsoever with causal determination will be to get a clear “no”.��? Thus, to return us to Kevin’s conditional, if Kevin’s decision not to take the nickel is psychologically and thus causally necessary, perhaps I should say that it simply isn’t a free decision, though still a morally responsible one. Consequently, the OT God couldn’t know what we would freely do (since freedom is strictly libertarian, and requires freedom to do otherwise), but could know what we would do in a morally responsible way. I’d be fine with this if so. It would just require a separation of the notions of freedom and moral responsibility in a way that I haven’t been separating them.)

    May 29, 2006 — 14:26
  • Patrick Todd

    Alan,
    I think your three conditions aren’t adequate because they don’t capture the theological claims that I think are essential to the OT position. First, it is hard to see why process theism doesn’t count as a version of OT on your account, unless you have in mind by ‘monotheism’ something much more specific than what I’ve got in mind. Maybe you do, though, and maybe it rules out process theism. Is this right?
    What is distinctive about OT is that it claims that the denial of exhaustive foreknowledge is in the least compatible with orthodox Christianity. (Of course, a lot of OTs go on to say that traditional Christianity supports the open view, e.g. by scriptural considerations, etc.) Open theism is, after all, an eminently theological movement, and precisely what distinguishes it from process theism is that it says that its model of providence (i.e. God facing an open future) is compatible with orthodox Christianity. After all, we can notice that if the process theologian adopts belief in creation ex nihilo, or otherwise makes his position closer to traditional theism, he isn’t in danger of becoming an open theist on those grounds alone. He’d be an open theist when he makes his position sufficiently close to traditional theism *and* argues that it is compatible with orthodox Christianity.
    In short, what makes open theism open theism and not a set of interesting modifications of process theism is that open theists claim that their model of providence is compatible with traditional Christian belief. Open theism was born when (hopefully!) orthodox Christians started saying that God doesn’t know the whole future.
    I also think it is interesting that on your account a (quite liberal!) Muslim could in principle be an open theist. I think this is a too expansive usage of ‘open theist’, since, as I’ve indicated, I think OT is a theological/philosophical movement within Christianity. If a Muslim adopted the OT model of providence, I’d be far more inclined to call that Muslim something besides an open theist. She’d be a certain sort of Muslim who agrees with the OT model of providence.
    But anyways, giving a necessary and sufficient conditions definition of OT is going to be quite hard! My own view is that an OT is someone who thinks that the nature of human freedom precludes God from having exhaustive foreknowledge of the future, and that this position is compatible with one’s traditional Christian belief.

    May 29, 2006 — 14:44
  • Patrick,
    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I do intend ‘monotheism’ to be construed in a way that rules out process theism. Thus, I would say that the God of OT must, among other things, create ex nihilo if he creates at all and be omnipotent in the sense of being able to unilaterally bring about whatever is logically possible and compatible with his character.
    I wouldn’t want to say, however, that to be an OT one must be a Christian. It seems to be that a Jew or a Muslim or one who simply believes in ‘the God of the philosophers’ could be an OT (though in the case of Islam at least, that would probably make one a heretic).
    I do agree with you that laying out a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for OT is tricky. There are several different, related views that go by the name “open theism”, as well as a number of theoretical positions in the same neighborhood that probably no one actually holds but that seem, prima facie at least, to be possible options. My thinking is that we ought to start by casting the net broadly with a very generic first approximation definition of OT and then screen out the fish that clearly aren’t viable. What we wind up with is a smaller set of ‘live’ options in terms of which we can give a more precise characterization of OT.

    May 29, 2006 — 21:32
  • Tom

    Patrick: in the spirit of what Jon earlier said to me, I think saying that the OT God has exhaustive foreknowledge is confusing. I agree that the OT God exhaustively foreknows all there is to know about the future, but this shouldn’t be construed as God’s having exhaustive foreknowledge, I don’t think. I think we ought to say something else here. I say this because when the OT says that God has exhaustive foreknowledge, it sounds as if what is motivating the OT is to make it seem that one is not making as big as departure from classical theology as one really is. I think giving this impression is bad, for various reasons.
    Tom
    Patrick,
    I appreciate the point. I don’t think open theists (the academically qualified ones) will all agree though. Part of the debate is a struggle over the ownership of such terms (and language is often used to ‘include’ and ‘exclude’ people). So Bruce Ware says open theists aren’t *theists, they’re *neotheists. And many agree. So we can’t use *theist to describe ourselves anymore. And (in his and other objectors’ view) since in his view we can’t possibly maintain *omniscience as open theists, so we’re told we can’t use that term either, and so on. I think open theists are willing to concede all these points if there is some actual argument for them from the meaning of language.
    When it comes to *exhaustive foreknowledge, we can’t deny that traditionally this has been understood to be foreknowledge of all that ‘shall’ and ‘shall not’ happen (excluding the ‘open’ view sort of knowledge), a sort of blueprint model of foreknowledge, knowledge that the world in its entirety will work out ‘this’ way and not ‘that’ way.
    But there’s nothing in the terms *exhaustive or *foreknowledge that requires limiting God’s knowledge to this traditional blueprint model of ‘shall’ and ‘shall not’ props. The only thing in favor of it is tradition (not to be set aside lightly I admit, but challengeable). Seems to me that divine omniscience entails foreknowledge that is both exhaustive (viz., whatever there is to foreknow God foreknows — but not the “whatever is logically knowable but there are some truths that are logically unknowable” sort; rather the stronger “there are truths about future contingencies and all truths are knowable and God knows them” sort) and infallible. But if we concede that we don’t really believe God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, that would mean we believe in *partial foreknowledge (or deny foreknowledge altogether) does it not? And does that not imply a denial of omniscience? But I believe that for all truths that exist at any time, God knows them infallibly.
    In the end, I’m a peon in the mix of those who actually have anything to do about how the debate is framed and how terms are most appropriately employed. So this is just my five cents. But surely those who insist that open theists ought not to employ the term *exhaustive foreknowledge to describe their view can offer some substantive reason why such language (the words ‘exhausitve’ and ‘foreknowledge’) cannot bear the weight of the open view. I don’t think open theists are interested in sneaking their view in by using language they know others will understand in traditional ways and so not be challenged. On the contrary, I think they want to be understood as believing in something different that the traditional view, so they’re willing to point out the differences. But for me (and others) it’s a simple matter of what words mean, i.e., the words *exhaustive and *foreknowledge. In my view the traditional blueprint understanding of the *sort of knowledge which constitutes God’s exhaustive foreknowledge at any time is just wrong and needs to be challenged.
    Tom

    May 31, 2006 — 0:27
  • Patrick

    Hi Tom,
    Wow, this whole thread has really shown me how difficult terminological issues can be!
    I too appreciate the exchange here, and have gotten a lot from it.
    First, with terms like omniscience and theism, the open theist has good arguments to the effect that his position satisfies the definitions of these terms *as traditionally defined*. On either of the traditional definitions of omniscience (i.e. knowledge of all the can be known or knowledge of all and only truths) the OT can plausibly argue that his position satisfies these descriptions. So, in arguing that the OT God is omniscient, the OT isn’t suggesting an alteration of what the traditional meaning of ‘omniscience’ is. He is just simply pointing out that his position, as a matter of fact, meets the criteria of the traditional definition, and thus that he should be allowed to use it when describing his position.
    Not so with ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’. If the OT wants to use this term in describing his position, then he *must* be altering its traditional definition (which is, I take it, roughly “All things that happen are such that God always foreknew that they would happen”, and the OT clearly can’t affirm this. But maybe you think this isn’t what everyone has always had in mind by ‘EF’?). That’s the problem, it seems to me. The OT shouldn’t be asked not to use terms when his position is consistent with their traditional definitions, like in the case of omniscience and theism, but I think it is probably fair to ask the OT not to use terms to describe his position when his position is *not* consistent with the terms’ traditional definition.
    So there is, I think, an important disanalogy between the OT’s usage of ‘omniscience’ and ‘theism’ and the OT’s usage of ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’.
    Second, you seem to want to say that, if one insists that the OT not use the term ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’ then one ought to be able to find reason for this within the meanings of the individual words ‘exhaustive’ and ‘foreknowledge’, i.e. find something about OT that is inconsistent with what analytically follows from such terms combined together.
    I don’t think this is quite right, though. Consider that what we’ve traditionally meant by God’s having ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’ could have been referred to as God’s having ‘complete coolness’, if the entire philosophical/theological community had (quite oddly!) stipulated that God’s being completely cool means that he is such that nothing takes places that he hasn’t always foreknown would take place.
    Here, it would be more obviously the case that the OT shouldn’t say (within phil/theo debate) that God is completely cool, even if nothing within the ordinary meanings of ‘complete’ and ‘cool’ is inconsistent with saying that the OT God is completely cool. Same thing here. Sure, nothing about the words ‘exhaustive’ and ‘foreknowledge’ and their combination rules out the OT from making sense of saying that God has ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’, but that isn’t the point. The point is that ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’ is a single term with an accepted definition; whether the OT can intelligibly, under one possible construal of ‘exhaustive foreknowldge’, say that God possesses it doesn’t seem to matter.
    So I don’t think I need to be able to show that the words themselves carry some meaning that the OT position can’t support. Moreover, I couldn’t do this in the case of a lot of philosophical terms that shouldn’t be used to describe certain positions. For instance, it seems that on your view, a compatibilist about free will could, if he wanted, say that his position can also rightly be called incompatibilist, since there is nothing in the word ‘incompatibilist’ itself that rules out his calling his position incompatibilist. (He could intelligibly say, “My position is incompatibilist – I hold that freedom is incompatible with external constraints” or something. The point is that he doesn’t have to abuse the word ‘incompatibilist’ to do this; he just has to abuse what ‘incompatibilist’ means to the people who use this word in the context of philosophical debate. So with the OT’s usage of ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’.)
    But like I said before, what worries me about the OT’s saying that God has exhaustive foreknowledge is that it seems like the OT could be trying to pull off a philosophical sleight of hand. But I probably shouldn’t be too worried about this, as you say. Also, I don’t see anything wrong, really, with an OT saying, “So it turns out that God does have exhaustive foreknowledge, but just in the sense of X.” — so long as the OT clearly stipulates what he means is not what we’ve usually taken the term to mean. I do think, though, that it would be unfortunate if all open theists started saying that God has exhaustive foreknowledge. This would simply force us to come up with a new term to mean what we’ve usually meant by ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’ so as to clarify just what it is that the OT God *doesn’t* have. If possible, it is better to just stick with the original terms and their traditional meanings. Then we don’t have to do as much work like this – i.e. clarifying what terms mean.
    Last, I think you are quite right to say that omniscience entails exhaustive foreknowledge as you’ve defined it, i.e. whatever there is to foreknow, God foreknows. But this isn’t the traditional definition. We’d want to argue that omniscience *doesn’t* entail exhaustive foreknowledge as traditionally defined, of course. And why not just say that God foreknows all there is to foreknow and leave it at that? (I do see, though, that it might be hard to resist the temptation to call this exhaustive foreknowledge, but maybe it should be resisted.)
    I’ve got to stop here, even though I’ve not addressed everything you’ve pointed out. (I don’t know what to say about some it yet!)
    The good thing here is that nothing major rides on this, and I’d be happy to concede that all is well with the OT saying that God has exhaustive foreknowledge. So take the above for what it is worth. Though I don’t have any historical examples here, maybe once in a while a new philosophical position rolls around and forces everyone to modify what terms have usually meant to accomodate the new position. And maybe that is what we ought to do here.

    June 1, 2006 — 16:12
  • tom

    Patrick-
    Thanks for your reply. About ‘exhaustive foreknowledge’ we agree on this — there’s nothing in the words that rule out OT. It’s entirely traditional usage of this term that OT is in conflict with. Some terms aren’t worth fighting for I’m sure. But I think open theists ought to fight for this one. That is, they should challenge the traditional understanding of it. First because to “foreknow” is a biblical term. One has to decide what one means when speaking of God’s possessing such knowledge exhaustively. Being an important biblical concept, I think open theist ought to ask traditional theists to justify their exclusive claim to the words.
    Secondly, I don’t see how, as you mention, OTs are in the eyes of these same traditional theists in line with the traditional understanding of omniscience if the same theists insist OTs also deny exhaustive foreknowledge. For the traditional theist, these go together. I can’t speak for the philosophical community, but I’ve stayed in touch with the theological debate over the OT, and none of the critics concede that OTs are justified in using the term ‘omniscient’ to describe their view of God.
    But another important thing we agree on (the point of the thread) is that *simple foreknowledge as traditionally understood (as God knowing at all times all that will ever occur) is providentially useless.
    Tom

    June 4, 2006 — 0:15