Suppose God is omnipotent. Then, it seems, he can bring it about that
(*) a new crater now appears on the far side of the moon if and only if Jones tomorrow freely mows the lawn.
But if God did that, then his knowledge of the present state of the moon, plus his knowledge of his omnipotence, would yield him knowledge of whether Jones tomorrow mows the lawn. Hence, if one restricts omniscience with respect to future free actions, one must similarly restrict omnipotence.
This may not be such a big deal. After all, although (*) is logically possible, the open theist may claim that it is logically impossible that God bring about (*). Still, it does show that there is a connection between omniscience and omnipotence.
One might think that an open theist who holds that propositions about future free actions cannot have truth value, or who holds that reports of future free actions are all automatically false, can escape the worry about the above restriction on omnipotence. After all, if such propositions are all false, then God can bring (*) about simply by doing nothing, since the right hand side of (*) is automatically false. And it seems too much to ask out of omnipotence to require that God bring about a proposition that cannot have a truth value. But one can still modify the task to get around this response. Let the task be to bring it about that:
(**) At t it be true that a day before t Jones mowed the lawn iff two days before t a new crater appeared on the far side of the moon,
where t is two days from now. In other words, the restriction on omniscience still implies a new restriction on what histories God can bring about. Again, it may not be such a big deal to the open theist.
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.
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).
In the comments on Kevin’s post Divine Eternity and Libertarian Free Will, several commenters have raised the problem of how an atemporal God can know what time it is. There are several directions someone can go with this question, and I wanted to comment on it in a little more detail than seemed right in a comment thread. The main problem is as follows.
1. God is omniscient, i.e. God knows every true proposition.
2. God is atemporal, i.e. God does not experience events in temporal succession but instead experiences every temporal event timelessly.
3. The A-theory of time is correct, i.e. there is a fact beyond the facts about what happens before and after other events, namely the fact about which of those events is taking place now.
4. By 1 and 3, God knows what time it is.
5. If God knows what time it is, then God is in time.
6. By 4 and 5, God is in time.
7. By 2 and 6, we have a contradiction. So something above must be denied.
I used to reject the Boethian understanding of eternity (i.e., the claim that God is atemporal) because I thought there were good objections to the view. And since the truth of divine simplicity would entail the truth of divine eternity (though it isn’t clear that the entailment goes the other way), these objections would also be objections to divine simplicity. But I’m becoming less and less convinced that the concept of divine eternity is problematic. One of the objections that I used to think was problematic involves our having free will. One way of spelling out the objection in more detail is as follows:
If agents have libertarian free will, then it is not the case that all of their actions are determined by antecedent causes outside of their control (including God). But if God isn’t the ultimate cause of an agent’s action, then He does not know about that action in virtue of causing it. Instead, God actually has the knowledge that He does because of a free agent’s action. Thus, God is dependent on the agent’s action for His knowledge. However, if God’s knowledge is dependent on another agent’s action, then that agent’s action causally affects God. However, the doctrine of eternity rules out that God can be causally affected by anything outside of Himself, since to be causally affected it a kind of change, and change requires time.
I’ve been thinking about Molinism of late and I’m puzzled by the claim that the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCFs) are prevolitional (logically prior to God’s creative activity), contingent, and within my power. Consider the claim that the CCFs are contingent. What is the relation between the CCFs re S’s actions and S’s individual essence? Not entailment. If individual essences are necessary (and I think they are) and if S’s individual essence strictly entails certain CCFs then the CCFs are necessary. Suppose, instead, that the CCFs regarding S are made true by certain actions S performs. This conflicts with the prevolitionality condition. The CCFs are true prior to God’s creative activity; ergo prior to S being on the scene. I don’t see how S’s actions can be the truth-makers for CCFs given that they are logically prior to God’s creative activity. Truth-makers need to exist in order to make true something but I don’t exist prior to God’s creative activity; so my actions aren’t the truth-makers for CCFs about me. Another option is to view the CCFs as brute. They are true in a similar way that possibility claims are true. Problem: possibility claims are necessary, at least for an S5er like myself. So the CCFs need to be brute and contingent. Problem: the CCFs should have some relation to (i) my individual essence and (ii) my choices. If they are entirely brute then the truth of the CCFs is not explicable in terms of (i) or (ii), in which case I begin to lose the intuition that they are within my power.
Brian Leiter has a new guest post up by John Martin Fischer on the state of the state of free will and moral responsibility. This is the first in what Brian promises will be a series of commissioned posts by leading philosophers.
First off Fischer deserves some thanks for singling us out towards the end of his insightful remarks on work relating to the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. I find myself in agreement with Fischer’s remarks that
Molinism provides a picture of how God could know about future actions of humans, and how he could use this knowledge in his providential activity. But it does not provide an answer to the problem about the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human free action; rather, it simply presupposes some answer to this problem.
To paraphrase David Hunt, I don’t want my defense of human freedom to be hostage to a particular speculative account about how in fact God knows the future.
Fischer also thinks it would be interesting to see some work done in the direction of the nature of belief as a route towards progress on the traditional problem between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. I confess that I don’t know what Fischer has in mind here, but hopefully someone can fill in the details in the comments section.
Numerous philosophers (including Bill Hasker, Tom Flint, David Basinger and John Sanders) have argued that God’s having simple foreknowledge (as opposed to middle knowledge) would not aid God in His providential control of the world. A similar argument is developed against the eternalist’s position that God is outside of time. I have my students in my Philosophy of Religion course read Sanders’ version of the argument, found in his “Why Simple Foreknowledge Offers No More Providential Control than the Openness of God,” Faith and Philosophy (1997). I’m wondering if any of you know about a good, and readable, reply to this kind of argument. David Hunt’s “Divine Providence and Simple Foreknowledge” is good, but a little too difficult for most undergraduates. Any suggestions, on either a suitable article or on a response to this kind of argument?
Here’s a hard problem that I’ve been thinking about and making very little progress. I was reminded of it reading Hugh McCann’s reply to Rowe in the January 2001 issue of Faith&Philosophy. Rowe took a Reid line against McCann’s version of Thomism about the way in which God concurs with human beings in acting, claiming that “God leads us around by the nose.” The criticism seemed appropriate, since what God wills is logically sufficient for us doing the actions we do.
McCann’s reply? That logical sufficiency doesn’t undermine even libertarian free will, because the logical relationship between our wills and God’s will is symmetrical: God’s general concurrence is sufficient for us acting as we do, but our willing as we do is also sufficient for God’s concurring as He does. (This is a bit mysterious, but I’ll let it pass for now.) So if logical sufficiency undermines free will (here I mean by that libertarian free will), then God can’t have free will either. McCann’s resolution of the issue is that the loss of free will has to be tied to causal or nomological implications, not logical ones.
This same issue arises in the literature on freedom/foreknowledge. Bill Craig and David Hunt both claim that the mere fact that some event or state of affairs logically implies that I will mow my lawn tomorrow is irrelevant to whether I will freely mow my lawn tomorrow, even if that event or state of affairs is one strictly about the past. For both, the question of freedom here is tied to causal or nomological implications, not logical ones.