Foreknowledge and Freedom
December 29, 2006 — 10:13

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Concept of God Divine Foreknowledge Free Will Molinism Open Theism Theological Fatalism  Comments: 11

Since there’s still little going on here, I thought I’d direct readers to another post in my series based on my introductory philosophy course lecture notes. This time it’s on foreknowledge and freedom. Again, I don’t expect it to include anything newsworthy for many readers of this blog, since we’ve discussed all these issues here in much more depth in the past, but I’ve tried to summarize the main moves in the discussion at a level someone in an introductory course could understand, and some may want to take a look at that or offer feedback. Newer readers less familiar with our discussions on this topic or with the literature on the issue may find it informative as well. I did try to include the most current work on the subject.

Comments:
  • Kevin

    Hey Jeremy,
    Can you comment more on why if molinism obtains the cosmological argument is easy defeated?

    December 29, 2006 — 17:19
  • I was just thinking that the cosmological argument relies on some principle of explanation such that there aren’t any facts with no explanation. It seems that Molinism has facts about what free creatures would do that can’t be explained because of facts about the person (unless compatibilism is true) and can’t be explained about facts about the future (unless a B-theory is true). Therefore Molinism doesn’t do any work in solving the problem without bringing in something that already solves the problem, unless you deny a principle that the cosmological argument relies on.

    December 29, 2006 — 17:59
  • It seems that Molinism has facts about what free creatures would do that can’t be explained because of facts about the person (unless compatibilism is true)
    Jeremy, I wonder why? Suppose compatibilism is false. Suppose, further, that there are always at least two possible futures open to each moral agent. I’m not sure why I can’t satisfy at least some principle of sufficient reason. We can give an explanation of what agent’s will do in terms of probablistic causes. Why didn’t I win the lottery? Because, among other things, the chances of that occurring are less than 1/15 million. What we cannot do in an indeterministic world is give a contrastive explanation. But most PSR’s don’t require that anyway. So what am I missing?

    December 29, 2006 — 18:26
  • I tend to think an explanation has got to be more than the likelihood of something’s occurring, at least if it’s going to ground something like God’s foreknowledge.

    December 29, 2006 — 22:38
  • I tend to think an explanation has got to be more than the likelihood of something’s occurring, at least if it’s going to ground something like God’s foreknowledge.
    Why do you tend to think that? Suppose there are always two possible futures. One of those futures w is the actual future, and God knows that it is w based on his knowledge of you and his position as a perfect predictor. The probability that w is actualized is 1. There is no chance in nature. It is of course possible that w’ is actualized, it is just not actual. Our assignments of probabilities are really just assignments of credences for which future is realized. I incidentally do not take probability 1 as absolute certainty, as some do.

    December 30, 2006 — 17:43
  • I’m having trouble figuring out what you mean. When you say probability 1 isn’t absolute certainty, I can accept that if “absolute certainty” is read epistemically and “probability 1” is read metaphysically.
    I can accept that something is actual but not necessary. But what makes it actual? If libertarianism is true, it’s that I freely do a certain thing in a way that isn’t predetermined by the previous state of the world. But if it isn’t predetermined, then the information about the present shouldn’t be enough for a perfect predictor to make the prediction. The predictor would have to have direct contact with the future.
    I’m worried about saying that God can predict what I will do based on his knowledge of me and his position as a perfect predictor. In particular, what is perfect about his process of predicting? Does he use knowledge of what I am like right now to predict what I can do based on what the present state of the world guarantees? That’s what you seem to be denying. But I can’t figure out what the judgment is based on if it’s not that.

    December 30, 2006 — 18:40
  • When you say probability 1 isn’t absolute certainty, I can accept that if “absolute certainty” is read epistemically and “probability 1” is read metaphysically
    What I am denying is what is often said, namely that the assignment of probability 1 is reserved for propositions/states of affairs that are necessary (and therefore certain). I deny that for lots of reasons we need not get into. The assignment of probability 1 is appropriate for all states of affairs that obtain or that will obtain (not merely those that must obtain). All that God needs to know is what will obtain. With respect to my choices, it seems to me that he can know this on the basis of knowing me, that is knowing my character and dispositions, and knowing the influences on my character and the degree of those influences in any particular circumstance. That is the ground of his knowledge of what I will do (not what I must do, since there is nothing that I must do).
    It is perfectly consistent with the claim that there are many possible futures that there is one knowable way that the future will unfold. I would urge that further that it is consistent with having infallible knowledge of the one way the future will unfold. But that’s another story.

    December 30, 2006 — 21:14
  • All that God needs to know is what will obtain.
    Yes, but how does God have access to that information? If it is by having direct contact with the truth in the future, then a B-theory must be true. If it is not, then it must be from information already around in the present, which seems to me to require determinism. I don’t for a minute think that truth about future contingents is a problem, but that’s because I think the truthmakers for those future contingents are in the future. I don’t know how a presentist or growing block A-theorist can say that.

    December 30, 2006 — 22:53
  • Yes, but how does God have access to that information?
    The idea is that God predicts perfectly on the basis of all of the detail he knows about you and your circumstances. What is controversial in what I say is that there is a probability 1 that you do A in C and that it is possible that you do ~A in C. So there are two possible futures, one of them gets probability 1 (or certainty) of occurring, the other gets probability 0 of occurring, but both are possible.
    Here’s an example. Since the sun will rise tomorrow, I give the proposition that it will probability 1, and I am prepared to wager on the suns rising based on that assignment. Is it possible that the sun does not rise? Yes, but there is no chance that it won’t.

    December 31, 2006 — 11:27
  • There’s something I really like about saying futures with 0 probability can be possible. It actually allows a compatibilist to explain how you could have done otherwise even though the state of the world right now guarantees what you will do. That’s not what you have in mind, I’m sure. I have to say that I still can’t figure out how this is indeterministic. It seems as if the probability of 1 makes it deterministic, whereas the admission of other possibilities just makes it soft determinism rather than hard determinism.

    December 31, 2006 — 15:07
  • Predetermination assumes that God predestines all acts. That means, he directs the steps of man, even if the man’s plans are different. Therefore, there is no room for saying that God can allow a will that is contrary to His determination. Even acts against God, such as the death of Christ, are predetermined according to the will of God otherwise they cannot happen.

    January 3, 2007 — 17:10