A latter-day look at the foreknowledge problem

  • Nelson Pike


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    See also Chapter 3 of Haack's bookDeviant Logic (Cambridge University Press, 1974.) Others who have held. that the foreknowledge argument defended in “Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action” is reducible to the argument for logical fatalism include Steven Cahn in Chapter 5 ofFate, Logic and Time, (Yale University Press, 1966) and Alvin Plantinga in Section II of “Ockham's Way Out” (Faith and Philosophy 3 [1986]; included in the Fischer collection). I might add that Haack's version of this thesis bears striking resemblance to Cahn's. The reducibility thesis in one form or other has also been advanced by Richard Taylor in “Fatalism” (Philosophical Review [1963], and Gary Iseminger in “Foreknowledge and Necessity”(Midwest Studies in Philosophy I [1976]; see also the reply to Iseminger's article by George Mavrodes in the same volume). For a helpful discussion of this topic see “Two Form of Fatalism” by David Widerker (contained in the Fischer collection).Google Scholar
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    Although Haack makes no separate mention of this analysis, it is the one obviously working in Aristotle'sDe interpretatione, 9; see, e.g., 18a 34–37 and especially 18b 33–19a 5. One can assume, therefore, that she would accept this reading of her text since she explicitly identifies ALF as the one discussed by Aristotle in this source. Of course, “uttered” is here short for “said, affirmed, asserted, thought, etc.” I might add that I know of no way to make sense of the claim that a proposition already containing a temporal indexical istrue at a time exceptvia an analysis such as this, i.e., one making use of the concept of something (e.g., asentence, thought, affirmation, etc.) that occurs at a time and is true.Google Scholar
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    In Chapter Two (pp. 28–29), Craig provides four ways of describing the (alleged) previously existing state of affairs mentioned in ALF. The fourth of these is SA with its hypothetical structure less than fully explicit. It reads “It could have been truly asserted at t1 that ‘Jones will do A at t2’”.Google Scholar
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    “The Lordlooks down from heaven, andsees all the sons of men; from where he sits enthroned helooks forth on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all, andobserves all their deeds” (Ps. 33, 13–15, Revised Standard Version, italics added). See also, e.g., Gen. 6, 1–12; Gen. 11, 5; Ex. 2, 25; Ex. 3, 4; Deut. 32, 19; 2 Kings, 19, 16; 2 Chron. 24, 22; Job 36, 7; Ps. 80, 14; Ps. 94, 9; Prov. 24, 18; Lam. 3, 50. The idea that what God sees he seeswith his eyes reinforces this image and can also be widely documented in the Old Testament, e.g., Ps. 33, 18; Prov. 22, 12, Isa. 37, 17; Ez. 7, 4.Google Scholar
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    This reading of the text is reinforced inST, I, 14, a. 13 where Aquinas says that insofar as a contingent thing is considered as “now in act” (i.e., as “present”) “it can infallibly yield certain knowledge, for instance to the sense of sight, as when I see that Socrates is sitting down”. Aquinas then adds: Hence all things that are in time are present to God from eternity, not only because He has the types of things present within Him, as some say, but because His glance is carried from eternity over all things as they are in their presentness. Hence it is manifest that contingent things are infallibly known by God, since they are subject to the divine sight in their presentness⋯ Here, the actual thing known appears to be that which “yields” (causes) the content of God's knowledge. However, there are other passages in Aquinas that conflict with this picture of God's knowledge of contingent things. For example, inST I, 14, a. 5 he says: God sees Himself in Himself, because He sees Himself through his essence; and sees other things not in themselves, but in Himself, because His essence contains the likeness of things other than Himself. In his reply to obj. 3 Aquinas concludes that God's act of knowing a contingent thing is not “specified” by the contingent thing but by the divine essence. The point seems to be that the content of God's knowledge isnot determined by the actual thing known but by a “likeness” of the thing contained in the divine essence. I suspect that the preponderance of Aquinas's remarks on this topic favor this second view. I am indebted to W. P. Alston for insisting on this point when responding to an earlier draft of this article. For a helpful discussion of this issue see sections 1.3 and 1.4 of Freddoso's Introduction toLuis de Molina On Divine Foreknowledge. [All passages quoted from Aquinas'sSumma Theologica are taken from the Great Books edition, trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Revised by D. J. Sullivan; Benton, Chicago, 1952.]Google Scholar
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    See Craig'sOnly Wise God, Chapter 5, pp. 73–74 for an even more flagrant example of this mistaken thesis.Google Scholar
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    The emphasis here is on a principle I have urged several times in my writings on this topic,viz, that in order to determine whether (and if so what) power Jones has in a given circumstance one must take account of thefactual conditions that obtainin that given circumstance. So, if we suppose that the actual world has a certain (hard) history prior to t2 and then ask whether,in the actual world, Jones has power at t2 to refrain from doing A, the answer must take account of the things we have supposed to exist or obtain prior tot2in the actual world. An appeal to the way things are prior tot2 in someother possible world is simply not relevant. The same principle is the pivot of the reflections offered in note #36 above. In this connection, see Chapter 4, Section I ofGod and Timelessness, pp. 58–59 and Section II of “Divine Foreknowledge, Human Freedom and Possible Worlds”,Philosophical Review 86 (1977).Google Scholar
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    Although it involves the rejection of assumption (I), Hasker's resolution of the foreknowledge problem does not include a challenge of the claim that God's beliefs about what will happen in the future entail the truth of the propositions believed. A better example of the sort of dissolution I here have in mind is W. P. Alston's rejection of (I) on the grounds that the knowledge of an omniscient being does not consists ofbeliefs — infallible or otherwise. See “Does God Have Beliefs”,Religious Studies 22 (1986).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nelson Pike
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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