Personal responsibility and middle knowledge: a challenge for the Molinist

  • Joseph ShieberEmail author


In this paper, I develop and discuss an argument intended to demonstrate that the Molinist notion of middle knowledge, and in particular the concept of counterfactuals of freedom, is incompatible with the notion of personal responsibility (for created creatures). In Sect. 1, I discuss the Molinist concepts of middle knowledge and counterfactuals of freedom. In Sect. 2, I develop an argument (henceforth, the Transfer of Negative Responsibility Argument, or TNRA) to the effect that, due to their construal of the concepts of middle knowledge and counterfactuals of freedom, Molinists are not entitled to the notion that individuals are personally responsible—even for those actions that they freely perform. I then discuss the only two promising strategies for rejecting the argument in Sects. 3 and 4. Finally, in Sect. 5, I contend that, although TNRA may be unsuccessful as an internal argument against the Molinist, either of the possible strategies for rejecting TNRA poses a difficulty for the Molinist. Both response strategies force the Molinist into adopting a popular compatibilist strategy for rejecting a common negative argument against compatibilism. Thus, if Molinism represents a libertarian—i.e., incompatibilist—account of human freedom (as, e.g., Flint claims in his recent Divine Providence: The Molinist Account, noting that libertarianism is one of the “twin bases of Molinism”), then the discussion of TNRA poses, if not a dilemma, at the very least a serious challenge for the Molinist.


Molinism Free will Responsibility Foreknowledge Problem of evil Compatibilism Molina Plantinga 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLafayette CollegeEastonUSA

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