Thursday, January 17, 2013

More Answers on Molinism

With the last post on Molinism, I realized there may still be some confusion as to God and whether or not there was ever a chronological point where God did not know something. There was not. I wanted to provide an explanation, so I have reproduced below a follow-up response to more questions generated by that first article.

The issue of God's not knowing counterfactuals' truth values in necessary knowledge is agreed upon by virtually all views. This is because of the nature of necessary knowledge: it contains only and all necessary truths. Since counterfactuals of the sort we are discussing are stipulated to be of creaturely freedom, they cannot belong to necessary knowledge. In fact, the only view that can claim God knows the truth of counterfactuals in necessary knowledge is the view that claims all such counterfactuals are necessarily true (and hence, they are not free). In this case, it would just be some metaphysical truth of the world or a logical truth that "In C, S would A" (as we would need to drop "freely"); it would neither be true because God willed it nor would it be true because we willed it--it would just be a metaphysically brute fact that it is necessary!

Now, what God would know in this moment is all logical possibilities (since philosophers recognize that whatever is possible is necessarily possible). But that doesn't get God to know "In C, S would freely A." Instead, he gets "In C, S could freely A," "In C, S could freely B," and so on. Now Aquinas sought to solve the problem by stipulating counterfactuals were made true in God's "free" knowledge (what he called the "second" moment). The contents of God's free knowledge are true in virtue of being chosen by God, as well as the truths of necessary knowledge are also true in the actual world (by definition). However, this gets you full-blown determinism (God chose which couterfactuals were true), and hence, Calvinism. If the moment of necessary knowledge is what one "could do," then free knolwedge is what one "will do."

It is the second moment, or what one "would do," that helps "inform" God. They are simply man-made divisions of logical relationship. God cannot know what he will create unless he knows what is possible, and Christian theology (and common sense intuition) claims God could have created differently or even refrained from creating at all. Hence, the set of what is possible is larger than and distinct from the set of what is actual, and what is possible and necessary is logically prior to what is actual. But, if counterfactuals are not mere possibilities/necessities, and if determinism is false, there must be a distinct set of truths--truths that must be known and come explanatorily after possibilities and before God's decision to create.


  1. Randy,
    Regarding Molinism, what would you say to an objector who responds that middle knowledge makes God's decisions dependent on man, thereby suggesting that man is somehow in charge ?

    1. Hi James, I would say that such a question is more emotionally loaded than it is logical. It all depends on what you mean by "dependent" and what you mean by "in charge." It's true that if the counterfactual (we'll call it CF1) "If Randy were in C, then he would not freely do A" is true, then God cannot create Randy, place him in C (where C is the entire history of the world up to the point of the counterfactual), and have Randy freely do A. In that sense, what God does (namely, creating Randy, actualizing C, wanting Randy to do A or refrain from doing A) in this specific sense delimits God's actions, and so what he does "depends" on the relevant counterfactuals being true.

      However, consider this: even if CF1 were true, God could still actualize Randy in C and have him do A. How? Simply remove the aspect of free will. "If Randy were in C, then he would do A." (We'll call that CF2). CF2, along with any counterfactual of non-logically contradictory status, can be actualized (at the price of freedom). But note something else, something vitally important. Suppose that C, along with CF2, contain some state of affairs that render a further state of affairs (CF3, which we will leave unspecified) logically contradictory to it. Then, even without free will, we still have delimiting factors on counterfactuals that can be compossibly true to form a complete possible world.

      "Yes," says the objector, "but this limitation is logical." Yes, but there's the rub: they're both logical limitations! The only reason God cannot actualize Randy's freely doing A in C is because it is in logical contradiction to CF1. So the first part of the objection only succeeds if one believes that God can overcome logical contradictions, in which case just anything follows, and I can insist it's perfectly reasonable to conclude God's decisions are and are not dependent upon man.

      As to the second part, it's still entirely up to God as to whether he allows man to have free will at all, or in some circumstances, or most, or all. Any freedom man actually is allowed to use is granted and given by God.

      I hate to psychoanalyze (mostly because I think it's unhelpful in these debates), but I would have to say I think this type of objection is brought up because people want to uphold the most reverence for God. In doing so, they somehow see God-given freedom as an inherent evil in itself. That man always uses it for evil should be an indictment against him, not freedom!


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