Knowledge De Se & Omnitemporality
December 18, 2014 — 8:38

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 10

An omniscient knower would know every true proposition–would have complete propositional knowledge–but would also have complete knowledge de se. He would know, for instance, at each possible world, which world he inhabits; he would know that he is in world W’ when in W’ and that he is in W when in W. But just how he would know this in worlds that are indiscernible–assuming that there are indiscernible possible worlds–is difficult to know. The propositional knowledge God possesses in indiscernible worlds W and W’ would be the same, and so not serve to distinguish W from W’, unless the worlds differed non-qualitatively: unless, for instance, Jones and Smith in W swap bodies in W’; or, unless, for instance, none of the persons in W is identical to any person in W’, despite the indiscernibility of the two worlds. In either case, God would know which world he is in since, for instance, Jones is left handed in W but he is not left-handed in W’.

We’ll say that God is omnitemporal in W only if God exists at each moment t in W. It is among the traditional attributes of God. An omniscient and omnitemporal God would know, at each moment t, in each world W, that he exists at t (not t’) in W (not W’). God knows that he is in W at t, for instance, by knowing everything there is to know at each temporal point t at each world W. The knowledge at each temporal point distinguishes (discernible) worlds from one another. God knows that he is at temporal point t in W, for instance, because he (perhaps) knows that p is true at t, q is true at t-, and r is true at t+, and that occurs only in W. The propositional knowledge at these temporal points serves to distinguish the worlds and inform God of which world he is in.

But now we can see how God would know which counterfactuals of (creaturely) freedom are true. We can see how to resolve the “grounding” problem. God knows that, had he actualized T (the largest state of affairs he can strongly actualize) of morally perfect world W, then Smith would freely do A at t. That’s because God knows that, had he actualized T, he (God) would exist at each temporal moment in T (including the moment t, at which Smith does A). So, had God actualized T, he would know everything that occurs are each temporal moment in T. In particular, he would know that Smith freely does A at t. He would know it, because he would be there to observe it.

Comments:
  • Mark Rogers

    Hey Dr. Almeida!
    It is hard for me to see how from the scenario you have laid out how God would have obtained much if any knowledge de se or how God would have observed Smith freely doing A. Suppose God has strongly actualized ten  worlds including T (the largest state of affairs he can strongly actualize) of morally perfect world W. God you suggest would have perfect knowledge of each and every one of these world’s temporal points as well as all propositional knowledge associated with these points since He (perhaps) knows that p is true at t, q is true at t-, and r is true at t+, and that occurs only in W (not W’). So suppose the propositional knowledge at these temporal points serves to distinguish the worlds and inform God of which world he is in. God now finds himself in world T (not T’) and at the very time Smith is about to perform an action. Besides the fact that God knows which of the worlds He actualized He is in and the particular temporal moment he is observing in that specific world what knowledge has God obtained by being there? God is merely observing again an action among many actions in one world among the ten worlds He actualized. God already knows what has preceded Smith’s action, what action Smith will perform as well as all that will come later in this world. The scenario you have created seems to me to imply that God is watching God watching Smith voluntarily perform an action and I do not see what knowledge de se God gains from that. Very interesting post, thank you.

    December 28, 2014 — 9:25
    • Michael Almeida

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for the comments! I think I wanted to offer, primarily, a way in which God could know the free actions of libertarian agents under various counterfactual hypotheses (basically, how he gets middle knowledge). So, were God to actualize T of W, then Smith would freely do A. How would God know that? Here’s a way. Were God to actualize T of W, then he would know what occurs at each time t in T. He would know, for instance, that Smith does A at t, and he sees that he would know this. Think of this way: God envisages all that would be true under the counterfactual hypothesis that he actualizes T. What would his counterfactual knowledge consist in? He sees, under that hypothesis, that he would know everything that happens in T at t, for each time t. In particular, he would know what all of the free agents do at these times t in T. He sees that he would know that Smith does A at t in T, if in fact that is what Smith does at t in T.

      The de se knowledge God has–his knowledge of which world he is in, where in the world he is, etc.–would be derived from propositional knowledge about the worlds. I’m not sure it would in general provide the basis of such knowledge.

      December 28, 2014 — 10:29
  • Mark Rogers

    O.K., got it! Thank you.

    December 28, 2014 — 10:38
  • Mark Rogers

    Hey Dr. Almeida!
    You have said “Think of it this way: God envisages all that would be true under the counterfactual hypothesis that he actualizes T. What would his counterfactual knowledge consist in? He sees, under that hypothesis, that he would know everything that happens in T at t, for each time t. In particular, he would know what all of the free agents do at these times t in T. He sees that he would know that Smith does A at t in T, if in fact that is what Smith does at t in T.” Of course every body knows this, but did you know that if God actualized T in world W, T might be indiscernible from T’ in world W’ which would be the state of affairs had God not actualized T in world W? Here is one way. Because the phenotypic plasticity of T would be characterized in such a fashion so as T systemically ranges across all times t in T’, T indiscernibly supervenes T’ and T becomes indiscernible from T’. While clearly the non-existence of T does not entail the existence T’, God will know Smith will freely do A at moment t in T because God has actualized T.

    December 31, 2014 — 10:44
  • Michael Almeida

    He sees that he would know that Smith does A at t in T, if in fact that is what Smith does at t in T.” Of course every body knows this. . .

    Well, a lot of people fuss about how God could know CCF’s. These are the people I’m addressing.

    December 31, 2014 — 11:11
  • Mark Rogers

    Sorry, Dr. Almeida, I was just trying to add a little levity there by inserting the, on TV, ubiquitous Geico Insurance Co. commercial’s funny segue.

    December 31, 2014 — 11:28
  • Michael Almeida

    ah, sorry to be humorless. Didn’t see it!

    December 31, 2014 — 12:49
  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Dr. Almeida!
    Here is another one. 
    God knows Smith will freely preform action A in T at t. Smith’s favorite action actually is A. God has watched Smith perform action A. The social milieu of Smith’s community actively promotes the performance of A and extols the virtues of performing action A. God sustains and nutures Smith’s community. Omnipotent God at times t-5, t-4….t-1 construes events such that Smith will have to choose between performing action A or B at t. Smith freely chooses to do A. God knew he would. This thought comes from Habakkuk 1.

    January 3, 2015 — 7:06
  • Michael Almeida

    I’m inclined to agree in this case that God knew that Smith would A, even without the backstory. But this is simple foreknowledge. The only problem that arises for foreknowledge here is whether God’s infallible knowledge precluded the possibility that Smith freely did A.

    January 3, 2015 — 14:07
  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Dr. Almeida!

    You say:
    The only problem that arises for foreknowledge here is whether God’s infallible knowledge precluded the possibility that Smith freely did A.

    Well, Smith has an inherent predilection for A and has done action A before t and will perform A after time t. Given the opportunity (in this story) Smith, I think, will freely do A. Smith did however have no freedom with regards to the specific location and specific time at which he freely preformed A. We do not it seems have much freedom with respect to time and location anyway. If we did we would be god like.

    January 4, 2015 — 8:42
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