Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hasker's argument against the compatibility of foreknowledge and freedom

Hasker's argument against the compatibility of foreknowledge and freedom.

•Arguments against the compatibility of foreknowledge and freedom
1.It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.
2.It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to believe anything which is true.
3.God has always believed that Clarence will have a cheese omelet tomorrow.
4.If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing.
5. Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast.
6. It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that Clarence would have a cheese omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one.
7. Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.

32 comments:

unkle e said...

Interesting you should post this at this time because I am discussing that exact question with an atheist who is using the argument to show that God's existence is impossible (except he's not presented the argument so well).

I have taken the line that God can only foreknow what will happen, and his foreknowledge does not actually make anything happen. It requires Clarence to make a choice and actually eat a cheese omelet to make the event happen, and therefore God's omniscience cannot prevent the choice, but depends on the choice.

I illustrate this two ways.

(1) I ask can God's omniscience foreknow something that DOESN'T happen? (Clearly not. Hence his foreknowledge depends on the choice being made - it is an old sci fi time paradox.)

(2) Consider if only ONE of God's omniscience and Clarance's choice are operating. If God knows Clarence will eat the omelet, but he doesn't actually eat it, can his omniscience MAKE him eat it. Clearly not, because knowledge isn't generally a cause. But if God isn't omniscient and Clarence chooses to eat the omelet, can he do it - clearly yes. This shows that it is the decision to eat, and not the omniscience that determines whether he actually eats or not.

Clearly, the logical sequence is choice -> action -> God's foreknowledge, and not the other way round.

Do you think all that is enough (if put more cogently) to defeat the argument, or do you have another approach?

Ilíon said...

All such pathetic arguments (I'm really tempted to write "arguments") along the lines of this one are embraced only by those who do not or will not understand that God is not Zeus -- you know, persons such as 'atheists' and "open theists."

God is the Creator of space ... and of time. "Open theists" (and most 'atheists') seem simply to refuse to understand that fact and what follows from it.

Zeus -- let us grant that he exists or did exist -- is an effect of time and space, just as are Mr Hasker and Mr Dawkins (who, by the way, given his assumptions, can't even present a coherent argument against the existence of Zeus).

Arguments of this sort are fatally flawed in at least two ways:
1) Even aside from the other false (and embarrassingly so) premises in the argument, the argument can never apply to God.
2) Due to the false premises in the argument, it doesn't even apply to Zeus. Or to you or me.


1) God is the Creator of time and space.
1a) As such, he is not (for lack of better words) "contained within" time and space; he is not time-bound as we are. This fact simply and inescapably follows from 1).
1b) Since God is not "in" time, our distinctions of 'past' and 'present' and 'future' have nothing to do with him. And, for that matter, they don't have much to do even with us -- there is only the instant.
1c) We, being "inside" time, perceive only a single instant, this one right now. As God is "outside" time, all instants are open to him.
1d) Therefore, even were the argument otherwise sound and valid, it would fail to tell us anything about God.


2) There are so many flaws in such reasoning. Where to begin, even if but scratching the surface?

2a) There is no such thing as "the future;" it simply doesn't exist.
2b) Therefore, the very first premise is not merely false, it is incoherent.
2c) Therefore, as a premise of a logical argument, premise 3) may be incoherent. Or, at best, when used in this way, it improperly and incorrectly tries to subordinate the Creator to the creation. Certainly, this reflects a casual and anthropocentric way of speaking about God; it just happens to not reflect the reality of the relationship of time to God.
2d) Likewise, premise 4), being in part based upon premise 3), tells us nothing about God.
2e) Likewise with sub-conclusion 5).
2f) Likewise with sub-conclusion 6).
2g) Likewise with conclusion 7).

2h) Knowledge does not cause causality. Is Washington's crossing of the Delaware on December 24/25, 1776, to launch a (successful) surprise attack against the Hessians in Trenton *caused* by your knowledge that he did so?

Jason Pratt said...

In effect I agree with both the rebuttals so far (although I wouldn't put it quite as derisively as Il.)

I understand that WH is critiquing certain proclivities Calvinists have had (and to some degree still have) concerning the foreknowledge of God; but the Boethian approach (or neo-Boethian perhaps) exemplified by Il and Unkle is the proper solution. Unless the topic isn't supposed to be about the final Independent Fact of all reality but instead about a Mormon idea of God (or Zeus, or something of that sort, as Il says.)


Put shortly: seeing something happen does not in itself restrict the freedom of the happening thing to happen. From the vantage of God, God sees Clarence eating the cheese omelet at time-point-x. God, from His vantage, has the ability to act in relation to that knowledge at any time-point other than x, including points sequentially prior.

One key difference between God and (let us say) a demi-urge-ic author such as myself (who can do much the same thing in regard to the plot of a story), is that for God this would be part of one ultimately complex timeless action of His. So it isn't a case (unlike myself) of where God sees Clarence at time-x eating his omelet and then is restricted from doing anything in the time-sequence sequentially prior to x that would lead to Clarence not eating his omelet. God's action before x and at x (including active perception of x-state) would be one overarching unity.

("It's all in Lewis, it's all in Lewis. What do they teach in schools these days?" {g})

JRP

Mike Almeida said...

5.. . . it is not in Clarence’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast.
7. . . . it is not in Clarence’s power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.


The familiar response to this, I think, is that while (5) is true, (7) is false. See 'Are We Free to Break Laws?' Theoria (1981). There is a difference between saying I can break a law or I can change the past and saying, I can do something such that, were I to do it, the past would have been changed. In the second case, I do not myself change the past, nor do I have the power (whatever that is supposed to mean) to change the past. I can't do that. What I can do is act in a way such that, were I to do so, the past would have been different. This is what Clarence can do. He can fail to eat the omelet tomorrow. That does not mean that he has the power (whatever that means) to change the past.
It doesn't help at all to talk about 'counterfactual power'. If what you mean by that is the second notion of power above, then he does have it. If what you mean is the first notion of power, then we all agree that he doesn't have that.

Anonymous said...

This is slightly off topic, but I'd be interested to know what people thought about the connection between foreknowledge and determinism.

Unkle e might be right that God's believing that Clarence will eat an omelet needn't cause the eating of that omelet. However, someone could grant that and say that if God believes that e will occur in the future there is some other event in the past, e', such that the occurrence of e is entailed by a description of e' and the laws of nature.

Suppose you don't play the timelessness card and believe that God's beliefs are based on infallible grounds. It seems that whenever God has a belief about some future event e, God will have infallible grounds for that belief about the future where those grounds are provided by past events. But, that past event, e', that provides God with God's infallible grounds would necessitate the occurrence of e. That, I take it, suggests that whatever else e is, it is not a libertarian free action.

I suppose you could say that (a) God needn't believe just on infallible grounds or (b) you could play the timelessness card or (c) you can adopt some conception of free action other than the libertarian conception. Is there a (d)?

I guess I'd worry about denying (a) insofar as it gets harder to see what essential omniscience comes to given (a). I take it that if God is essentially omniscient, then in every world, w, if p is true in w, God knows it and if p is false in w God refrains from believing it. If you adopt something like Roger White's principle that rules out two permissible epistemic responses to a single body of evidence, you can't say that in worlds where God has the same grounds God would end up with different beliefs. So, either there would be worlds where God doesn't believe things that are true b/c God refrains or worlds where God believes something false because there would be two worlds where God has the same grounds and forms the same beliefs but in one world God would be mistaken. Stipulating that neither of these would occur, we seem to get the beginnings of an argument from essential omniscience to the claim that God believes only on infallible grounds. From there it seems we have an argument for the incompatibility of foreknowledge and the kind of libertarian freedom that personally I think it's silly to get worked up about. Maybe the counterfactuals of freedom are useful here?

Alan Rhoda said...

Any argument for a substantive conclusion, like Hasker's, can be met by denying a premise or by challenging an inference. But no one should fool themselves into thinking that those responses don't come without costs of their own.

Unkle gives an Ockhamist response, which denies premise 4. This is a popular response, but unless combined with Molinism (which faces tough challenges of its own) it affords no basis for divine providence. If, as Ockhamism proposes, God's knowledge of what we will do is explanatorily posterior to what we in fact do, then it comes "too late" in the explanatory order for God to do anything about it.

Ilion's gives a Boethian response, which denies premise 3. God, it is suggested, doesn't have beliefs "at a time" because God is timelessly eternal. This response faces similar issues with respect to explanatory priority and divine providence as does Ockhamism. It also faces the additional challenge of making sense of divine timelessness.

(Aside to Ilion: The derisive tone of your comment is inappropriate for serious discussion. You shouldn't let your own convictions stop you from exercising due charity toward those you disagree with. Love your enemies, etc.)

Mike challenges the inference from 5 and 6 to 7. This is really just a variation on Ockhamism. The sense that "bringing about" God's having had a different past belief relevant for 4 and 5 need not be construed as "changing" the past from what it was or backwardly "causing" the past to have been what it was. Instead, it may simply be construed as being able to "act in a way such that, were I to do so, the past would have been different" (cf. Michael Dummett's "Bringing about the Past").

Mike Almeida said...

God will have infallible grounds for that belief about the future where those grounds are provided by past events. But, that past event, e', that provides God with God's infallible grounds would necessitate the occurrence of e. That, I take it, suggests that whatever else e is, it is not a libertarian free action.

Determinism alone guarantees that the action is not libertarian free. But the cation might nonetheless be strong compatibilist free. It might be free in the sense that the agent could have done otherwise, if you think that matters to being free. And if he had done otherwise, God would have had infallible knowledge of that. His ability to do otherwise does not entail that God's knowledge is anything less than infallible.

Gordon Knight said...

Dearest Illion: I think you should read Hasker before calling his argument "pathetic". WH is one of the best philosophers of religion we have running about now.

The atemporal God reply has two problems. (1) its difficult to see how such a God can be a person--but this might just be my prejudice so lets go on to (2) Suppose God is "outside of time" It still follows that it is true at any given temporal moment that God believes what God believes. God's foreknowledge is still a part of the universe of Clarence, and it is logically, even if not temporally, prior to Clarence's choice.

Unkle e: It is true that foreknowledge does not cause Clarence to act. But there are more sorts of fatalism than causal determinism. Here is what I think is going one: If I am free in the libertarian sense, it must be possible for me make a choice other than the choice I do make--this is just the principle of alternative possibilities. Frankfort thinks he has counterexamples to this, but he is wrong.. (and that is another topic!). Anyway, If I am about to choose to drink coffee and if my choice is free, then I must be really able to choose not to drink coffee. But, it turns out, given divine foreknowledge, God knows that I will choose to drink coffee. One thing I am not able to do is change God's knowledge. But if I choose not to drink coffee, I would change God's knowledge. So its not really in my power. THe only choice in my power is what I actually do choose.

Or did you mean Unkle e to endorse backwards causation? that would muddy the waters. I assume the past is fixed.

Mike Almeida said...

Alan,

I don't see how Molinists can or would deny (4).

4. If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing.

It is true that Molinists admit that libertarian free agents that will do X might fail to do X. But failing to do X is not bringing it about that God has not always believed that the agent will do X. There is nothing anyone can do to bring it about that God did not always have that belief. What you can do is act in a way such that were you to do so God would not always believed that. But that is a far cry from bringing it about. The past is settled and God's beliefs are settled. The occasional counterfactual dependence of the past on the present entails nothing inconsistent with our views about the asymmetry of past and (present &) future with regard to what we can bring about.

Anonymous said...

I agree with WH and Rhoda. It is starting to appear that the only viable positions are Calvinism or Open Theism. Pick your poison.

Alan Rhoda said...

Mike,

You might be right that Molinists shouldn't deny 4, but I pretty sure that Tom Flint at least would. He holds that the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are prevolitional w.r.t. God, but postvolitional w.r.t. creatures. This may lead to explanatory circularity (as Robert Adams has charged), but it means that even if God believes (on the basis of his middle knowledge) that I will freely do A in C, I still have it in my power to refrain from doing A in C and thereby to "bring it about" that God does not believe that I will freely do A in C by "bringing it about" that God had different middle knowledge.

Ilíon said...

Jason Pratt: "In effect I agree with both the rebuttals so far (although I wouldn't put it quite as derisively as Il.)"

You're right, of course. What's that, you say? Oh! You didn't actually refute my criticism, mild though it was, but rather simply called me a sophist for the ease with which I demonstrated the mistake you were making; which is to say, you "refuted" me by accused me of being intellectually dishonest (that is, of being worse than a liar). Isn't that odd?

Ilíon said...

Unkle E: "I have taken the line that God can only foreknow what will happen, and his foreknowledge does not actually make anything happen. It requires Clarence to make a choice and actually eat a cheese omelet to make the event happen, and therefore God's omniscience cannot prevent the choice, but depends on the choice.
...
Clearly, the logical sequence is choice -> action -> God's foreknowledge, and not the other way round.
"

I see two problems with your approach; not so much problems of logic on your part, but of (let us say) application as the 'atheist' or the "open theist" likely fail (or decline) to critically examine their own positions. These problems follow from your failure to reject the false premises of the (pathetic) argument -- starting with #1.

The 'atheist' will crow: Ah! So God's state-of-being is contingent, which is a direct contradiction of your most important statement about his nature. Therefore, there is no God.

The "open theist" will crow: Ah! So God's knowledge is contingent, just as we've been saying -- for, since we cannot understand how it is that God is "outside" time (i.e. independent of time), it cannot be the case that he is. Therefore, God is indeed our Little God, whom we are capable of encompassing. Or even of fitting into our pockets.


Unkle E: "I have taken the line that God can only foreknow what will happen, and his foreknowledge does not actually make anything happen."

To effectively criticise this (pathetic) argument from the inside, as you are doing, one needs first to grasp that "the future" doesn't exist; there is no "what will happen." -- Of course, that knowledge leads to (once again) rejecting at minimum the first premise of the argument.

So, IF one insists upon taking arguments of this sort seriously, then one needs to resist the temptation to speak of "what will happen" and instead speak of "what may happen."

Seen in this light, God's knowledge of "the future" consists of this: God knows *all* the potentialities (That idea, should they even try to grasp it, will *really* blow the minds of the "open theologists," with their Little God.)

What "God knows *all* the potentialities" means in practice is this:
1) God knows that tomorrow Clarence may (*) face the choice of having a cheese omelet for breakfast.
2) God knows which other potential choices shall remain viable for Clarence whichever he makes of the two choices concerning the omelet.

(*) God also knows the sequentially prior choice(s) Clarence may face which do or do not "prune the possibilities."

Jason Pratt said...

Alan: {{If, as Ockhamism [or anyway Unkle] proposes, God's knowledge of what we will do is explanatorily posterior to what we in fact do, then it comes "too late" in the explanatory order for God to do anything about it.}}

Only if God is supposed to be operating in ontological dependence within the sequential system. And regardless of whether Ockham was in effect proposing this (though I doubt he intended to), I don’t see that Unkle was even accidentally proposing this yet. (Although admittedly his logical sequencing attempt could be read that way.) But I’ll leave that defense to Unkle.


{{[The Boethian] response faces similar issues with respect to explanatory priority and divine providence as does Ockhamism.}}

Only if consequence must always be understood as subsequence. Depending on the type of God we’re talking about (for example ontologically ultimate supernaturalistic theism), consequence may be contemporaneous with the event.

{{It also faces the additional challenge of making sense of divine timelessness.}}

True; but we’re going to have to put up with some kind of paradoxical behavior and/or characteristics in regard to any ultimate ground of all existence (naturalistic or supernaturalistic; atheistic or theistic; or any combination thereof). The challenge in any case is to identify the most logically applicable paradoxes, where necessary.


Gordon, going into more detail vs. Ilíon (and perhaps my own post): {{(1) its difficult to see how such a God can be a person}}

Difficult, granted; but I agree, not immediately pertinent to the current topic, so on to:

{{(2) Suppose God is "outside of time" It still follows that it is true at any given temporal moment that God believes what God believes.}}

Agreed.

{{God's foreknowledge is still a part of the universe of Clarence...}}

Intimately connected to Clarence’s universe anyway.

{{...and it is logically, even if not temporally, prior to Clarence's choice.}}

Only if the term “fore” smuggles in precedence under temporality, though.

Continuing my answer through your comment to Unkle: {{If I am free in the libertarian sense, it must be possible for me make a choice other than the choice I do make}}

Something my position on God’s omniscience does not remotely deny.

{{Anyway, If I am about to choose to drink coffee and if my choice is free, then I must be really able to choose not to drink coffee.}}

Ditto.

{{But, it turns out, given divine foreknowledge, God knows that I will choose to drink coffee.}}

I would say, given God’s omniscence, that He sees (and so knows) you choose to drink the coffee, and not not-drink the coffee. You are no less (or more!) free to drink the coffee if I happened to be sitting there watching you drink the coffee. You are not, of course, free both to drink and to not-drink the coffee (in an absolute sense), but that would be true whether anyone accurately perceived you drinking the coffee or not.

An observation very relevant to:

{{But if I choose not to drink coffee, I would change God's knowledge.}}

False dilemma; you are proceeding as though you can choose to drink the coffee, which God knows you drink, and then (having done this) to not drink the coffee instead, thus “changing” God’s knowledge of whether you drank the coffee or not, from what it was (you drank) to what it now is (you didn’t drink).

You wouldn’t be able to do this in regard to non-omniscient accurate observers either, whether you or I. The difference with God is that, in relation to any prior temporal point, He would have access to the knowledge of whether you do in fact drink the danged coffee or not. {g} If you answer “blu--no, yellow!” God (and whatever throws you off the bridge) knows you first answered blue, then yellow. You can have it both ways, but not at the same time in a mutually exclusive fashion; much less can you have it both ways at the same time in a mutually exclusive fashion in sequential order!

{{THe only choice in my power is what I actually do choose.}}

Which is the actuality knowledge God will have of the event. (He would have knowledge of all unrealized potentialities, too, but that is beside the point. {s})


Incidentally, Mike’s most recent reply to Alan is quite similar to my comment to Gordon here, in principle application.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Il,

Victor’s question was, “What would disprove Christianity?” BDK asked, within that context, if everything could be explained without deities, would any of the local theists still be a theist? I provisionally assumed BDK wasn’t trying a mere rhetorical trick (where a raw assertion of “explanation” would be presented as though it was supposed to count as a real explanation), and answered him accordingly. You assumed (or so so explained later, eventually) that BDK was trying a mere rhetorical trick, and answered him accordingly. BDK turned out to not be trying a mere rhetorical trick. Ergo, his question was in fact proved to be neither dishonest nor, in context with Victor’s topic, silly. Your attempt to make it silly depended on assuming that which was incorrect (BDK’s intention of playing a rhetorical trick) and taking his question out of context of the preceding discussion (when he had introduced it within that context).

Whether it counts as evasive sophistry to treat an opponent’s challenge as worthless rhetorical foofaraw; and then trying to make out later that, had the opponent actually treated his own challenge the same way (which he did not), his attempt to do so would have been actually threatening in any way (instead of merely embarrassing to him for having tried it--which he did not); while not bothering to answer the opponent’s challenge with anything other than what amounts (in local context) to a raw counterfactual assertion (which he had specifically asked respondents not to do in answering his question)... frankly, I’ll leave that for others to decide.

You needn’t blame me for your having done all that, though. Did you treat his question as rhetorical sophistry? The record shows you did. Did you answer his question as though he meant his question seriously? The record shows you didn’t. Did you do the former in order avoid doing the latter? I never said you did; I only said I didn’t. If you say you did the former for some other reason than to avoid doing the latter, then let it be so.


(Incidentally, or perhaps not incidentally, your original stated ground for claiming that BDK’s question was odd and misshapen, and silly and/or dishonest, was not that BDK was only using “explanation” in a ridiculously trivial sense as a venial rhetorical trick. Your original and, for some time, sole explanation was, “for, after all, there are things which cannot be explained without reference to the transcendent God, yet [the] ‘atheist’ will not admit that simple fact, much less give up their pretense of being atheists.” As I noted before you specifically bothered to provide the ‘his idea of an “explanation” is only a rhetorical trick’ defense: if your answer, as you had given it (up to that point), didn’t amount in effect to ‘Your question is absolutely worthless because it can simply never be true. So there! Nyah! Loser! Pwnd!’, then I had to admit that I failed to see the relevant logical distinction between that and your answer. If you had meant to be giving the ‘only a rhetorical trick’ rebuttal to his question from the beginning instead, you were being far from clear about it.)

JRP

Mike Almeida said...

. . . even if God believes (on the basis of his middle knowledge) that I will freely do A in C, I still have it in my power to refrain from doing A in C and thereby to "bring it about" that God does not believe that I will freely do A in C by "bringing it about" that God had different middle knowledge.

I'm denying nothing of what you've said, except for the description. I would not call what free creatures are able to do an ability to bring it about that God believes one thing or another.
'Bring it about' is causal talk, and free agents cannot cause this. What they can do is act in such a way that it is caused by someone or somethign else. But they can't cause it. In any case, fortunately, Tom is on his way here via Houston. I'll have a chance to ask him whether he prefers to put it this way!

Michael S. Pearl said...

We have recently had at least a couple of discussions pertaining to the matter of whether atemporal truth-values are compatible (or cohere) with "choice". See

http://academy.galilean-library.org/showthread.php?t=7506

(I joined in at posting #57 in that thread)

and

http://academy.galilean-library.org/showthread.php?t=7510

(I joined that thread at posting #19)

It is my position that there is at least a semantic incoherence between propositions presumed to have atemporal truth-values and choice.

Michael

Ilíon said...

Anonymous: "Suppose you don't play the timelessness card ..."

Why advance an argument based on false premises? Sure, one can "prove" anything that way, but what has one accomplished?

Mike Darus said...

Ilion,

I think the argument for God's timelessness is coherent and logically strong. However, I am concerned that there is little Biblical support for it. The Biblical terms for eternal and everlasting fall short of supporting timelessness. You can get a little closer with holiness by stressing the "otherness" definition. Have you been able to support God's timelessness biblically?

unkle e said...

Gordon, you say:

"One thing I am not able to do is change God's knowledge."

Why can't I change God's knowledge? God's knowledge is of what I actually choose. This question reflects CS Lewis's comment to Calvinists who say that we cannot change God - he asked "Does God forgive me of specific sins I do not commit?"

So I say we can change God's actions in all sorts of ways. This is confirmed by Jesus: "Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather you together like a mother hen gathers her chicks, and you wouldn't let me!" (rough paraphrase)

Anonymous:

"It is starting to appear that the only viable positions are Calvinism or Open Theism."

Surely one of the truths about God all theists should be able to accept is that he/she/it is way beyond our comprehension. I'd rather stick with the truths I believe I have good reason to believe, and accept some paradox (Trinity, Jesus the God-man anyone?) than think I can resolve it all and so come to clearly wrong conclusions. Of course I recognise that is tricky, but I think it's a truer position.

Ilíon said...

Mike Darus: "I think the argument for God's timelessness is coherent and logically strong. However, I am concerned that there is little Biblical support for it. The Biblical terms for eternal and everlasting fall short of supporting timelessness. You can get a little closer with holiness by stressing the "otherness" definition. Have you been able to support God's timelessness biblically?"

What are they teaching these days?

The very first verse of the Bible asserts God's timelessness. God's very Name (commonly translated as "I am that I am") affirms God's timelessness. The frequent Biblical assertions that God does not change echo his Name and affirm his timelessness. God's assertion that he is Lord of All affirms his timelessness. The Biblical claim that God upholds the existence of all things is an affirmation of his timelessness. The common Biblical claim that God is (i.e. exists) "from everlasting to everlasting" is an affirmation of his timlessness. The Biblical assertion that "A day in God's sight is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day" is, among other things, an affirmation of God's timelessness.


Mike Darus: "However, I am concerned that there is little Biblical support for it."
How much Biblical support is required?

Will you object that nowhere in the Bible does God explicitly say, "I am The Timeless One" or something like that?

Likewise, nowhere is it recorded that Jesus explicitly said, "I am God" or "I am the Creator of the heavens and the earth." Yet, everyone willing to understand his recorded words knows that he asserted that he is God and is not dumbfounded to encounter the explicit assertion in the Epistles that all things made were made through him and by him and for him.


Time is not Absolute (shoot! even the 'atheists' will sometimes admit this). We live in a clock (which, by the way is indirectly stated in Genesis). There is no such thing as "universal time" in the physical Cosmos -- how much less can it be said that the Creator of the Cosmos is subject in any fashion to time?

Finney said...

"1.It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow."

Doesn't it follow from premise 1 that Clarence cannot not have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow?

Gordon Knight said...

Mike,

So you are saying that if
I have the power to do P, and P implies Q, don't I have the power to do Q?

On the eternal God hypotehsis. Suppose God eternally knows I will drink coffee. Then God can cause prophet Isaiah to prophesize that I will drink coffee. Such a prophesy if really caused by an omnisicent God, cannot be false. So now if i choose not to drink coffee, I would be changing the past, even if God's knowledge is atemporal.

Robert said...

Very interesting discussion, can I add my 2 cents too? :-)

First of all why must the Christian be **limited** to only one option in explaining the compatibility between divine foreknowledge (DF) and libertarian free will (LFW)? For example I agree with the Molinists that God has middle knowledge, he has the ability to know how things may have gone differently if different choices had been made (there are not many, but there are clear examples of this in the Bible). If God has middle knowledge then he is able to foreknow what agents acting with libertarian freedom will do. I also agree with Ilion that God as creator must have a different relationship with time than we do. While we operate in three dimensions, say that in reality there are 10 different dimensions (anyone ever read FLATLAND and remember how the three dimensional figures experienced more of reality than the two dimensional figures? And if that was true with beings separated by one extra dimension in a novel, what must it be like for God if he operates in say 10 dimensions in reality???) The so-called Ockhamists also have some important things to say. Why must we be restricted to only one of these approaches? Why can’t we be eclectics and borrow from all of them?

Second, can we make a distinction between an action that is necessitated (i.e. Clarence must eat the omelet tomorrow and it is impossible that he do otherwise) and certainty (i.e., Clarence will in fact eat the omelet tomorrow, but his action is not necessitated, though he could do otherwise, he in fact will eat that omelet tomorrow). It seems to me that the problem as usually presented by atheists, calvinists and open theists (they are strange bedfellows, but bedfellows nonetheless on this issue) seeks to show that LFW and DF are not compatible. If so, then that action of Clarence eating that omelet tomorrow, must be one in which Clarence’s action is not necessitated, but certain. I mean if your argument makes the event of Clarence eating the omelet tomorrow NECESSITATED, then LFW is excluded, ruled out, cannot be present with regard to the action of Clarence eating that omelet tomorrow. If you are going to argue that God’s foreknowledge necessitates Clarence’s action, then you aren’t playing by the rules of this game. You see the game is to show that DF and LFW are compatible regarding a particular action (in this case Clarence and his eating that omelet tomorrow).

Much has already been said so I am not going to reinvent the wheel here. But I would like to piggy back on some things already said.


Unkle e wrote:

“I have taken the line that God can only foreknow what will happen, and his foreknowledge does not actually make anything happen. It requires Clarence to make a choice and actually eat a cheese omelet to make the event happen, and therefore God's omniscience cannot prevent the choice, but depends on the choice.”

I like this because it makes the point that DF is not causative. God watches me now and if I do wrong, his awareness, his watching me does not cause me to do wrong (if I am acting with LFW, then doing the wrong action is my choice). And if God watching me now does not cause my actions if I am acting with LFW, then how does God watching me in the future do so?

Unkle e also makes the point here that God’s foreknowledge depends upon what we will in fact do. Let’s call an action that we in fact do, an Actual Outcome (AC). If God has DF of a future event that will in fact occur, that means God foreknows actual outcomes.

Regarding Clarence and that doggone omelet that he will either decide to eat tomorrow or decide not to eat tomorrow, one of those possibilities will become an AC tomorrow. Either he will in fact eat the thing tomorrow (AC = A) or he will in fact not eat the thing tomorrow (AC = not-A). Now it cannot be both, he cannot simultaneously both eat it and not eat it tomorrow (it will be one or the other, and which ever one it will be, will be the AC that obtains).

Now what do we mean by LFW? We mean, or at least most of us mean, that prior to an AC occurring (say Clarence eating the omelet or not eating the omelet tomorrow), Clarence could actualize either possibility (he could choose to eat it and also choose not to eat it tomorrow). If LFW is involved then the actualizing of either of these different possibilities is a choice and neither choice is necessitated for him. Again, if his action is some how necessitated then LFW is not involved and then we are not trying to show compatibility between DF and LFW.
Now we need to ask a very simple but important question: if LFW ever exists, when does it exist in relation to actual outcomes? Say Clarence does in fact choose to eat the omelet tomorrow, can he then reverse or undo this AC with the miraculous power of LFW? No, AC’s are irreversible, once done they are done and you don’t get re-dos or take-overs! :-) At least that is what I argued with a calvinist recently. Imagine how disorderly and chaotic things would be if you could “play back the tape” and substitute one AC for another AC at your whim? (I assume that God created an orderly world, a world where this kind of thing does not happen). So LFW with regard to a particular action does not exist )**after** an AC has occurred. Once it’s done it’s done. Well if LFW ever exists, then when does it exist in relation with AC’s? I suggest as my “final answer”, :-) that it occurs BEFORE THE AC occurs. In other words before Clarence chooses to eat it he also had the choice not to eat it and so up until he eats it the possibility that he not eat it is a viable option (and vice versa if the AC is him not eating the omelet tomorrow).

OK, why is it important to recognize that LFW if it ever exists must exist prior to the AC? Because what if God’s DF involves his knowledge of AC’s that make up the future? Note contrary to Ilion’s claim that the future does not exist, if we are going to talk about God foreknowing a future event, then that means God knows an action that will occur in the future (an event that has not already occurred/past, is not happening now/present; but an event that will in fact occur but has not yet occurred). So let’s assume that there is one actual future and that that consists of all of the Actual Outcomes that will occur but have not yet occurred. Clarence will either eat the thing or not eat the thing tomorrow. Either way, whatever he ends up choosing to do (remember he’s got LFW) tomorrow will be one possibility being actualized into an actual outcome. Now say that God knows the set of all future AC’s, that means He knows what events will comprise the one actual future that will (with certainty) occur. If LFW is sometimes present, then this one actual future will occur with certainty but is not necessitated either.

So where is the incompatibility between DF and LFW then?

If Clarence acts freely tomorrow (i.e., acts with LFW in the action of choosing to eat it or choosing not to eat it), then he will in fact either eat it (one AC) or he will in fact not eat it (another AC), and one of those AC’s will be part of the one actual future. As long as he retains LFW up until the point in time in which one of those different possibilities is actualized as an actual outcome, then he is acting freely with LFW being present. And if God foreknows (don’t ask me HOW he does so, I don’t believe anybody knows that, at most we can only know THAT he knows the future) that Clarence will eat the omelet, because that is the actual outcome that will obtain, then how are they not compatible? And say that Clarence will not eat the omelet tomorrow, then that is the actual outcome that God foreknows. Either way he goes, he acts with LFW and either way he goes, an actual outcome that God foreknows results.

Unkle e seemed to be saying something very similar:

“(1) I ask can God's omniscience foreknow something that DOESN'T happen? (Clearly not. Hence his foreknowledge depends on the choice being made - it is an old sci fi time paradox.)”

If his foreknowledge depends upon the choice that is actually made, on the actual outcome, then the actual outcome is what God foreknows.

“(2) Consider if only ONE of God's omniscience and Clarence’s choice are operating. If God knows Clarence will eat the omelet, but he doesn't actually eat it, can his omniscience MAKE him eat it. Clearly not, because knowledge isn't generally a cause. But if God isn't omniscient and Clarence chooses to eat the omelet, can he do it - clearly yes. This shows that it is the decision to eat, and not the omniscience that determines whether he actually eats or not.”

So Clarence freely does the action, and if his action is not caused by God, Clarence is the cause of his own action. Can anybody say agent causation? God’s foreknowledge does not determine the action Clarence does, if he is acting with LFW.

“Clearly, the logical sequence is choice -> action -> God's foreknowledge, and not the other way round.”

So God foreknows the choice you will make and the choice you make is the actual outcome that God foreknows. And if LFW existed with regard to that particular action before it became an Actual Outcome, then again how are the two incompatible?

“Do you think all that is enough (if put more cogently) to defeat the argument, or do you have another approach?”

I think you are on the right track, I would only “stack the deck” by also adding that God has middle knowledge and God is outside of time and sees everything at once (what Lewis called the “eternal now”).

Gordon wrote:

“Unkle e: It is true that foreknowledge does not cause Clarence to act.”

“But there are more sorts of fatalism than causal determinism.”

But again we are not talking about fatalism being compatible with DF, we are talking about DF and LFW being compatible (so for the sake of argument we need to assume the actions by Clarence involve LFW).

“Here is what I think is going one: If I am free in the libertarian sense, it must be possible for me make a choice other than the choice I do make--this is just the principle of alternative possibilities.”

This is a bit confused and not clear at all. Back to Clarence, if he is acting with LFW in regard to eating that omelet tomorrow, then before the actual outcome (which is either going to be him eating it or not eating it tomorrow) he can choose to go either way.

“Frankfort thinks he has counterexamples to this, but he is wrong.. (and that is another topic!).”

What does Frankfurt have to do with anything here, he came up with imaginative examples in which a person could not do otherwise and yet could be held responsible anyway (he was arguing for moral responsibility without PAP, we are talking about a situation where PAP is present, Clarence is in fact acting with LFW).

“Anyway, If I am about to choose to drink coffee and if my choice is free, then I must be really able to choose not to drink coffee.”

So previous to your either drinking the coffee or not drinking the coffee tomorrow, you have the ability to do either one up until the time in which you choose to either drink the coffee or choose not to drink the coffee (the dynamics are the same as with Clarence and his omelet, we have merely substituted coffee in your case).

“But, it turns out, given divine foreknowledge, God knows that I will choose to drink coffee.”

So that means the actual outcome will be that you will drink the coffee. God foreknowing that is no problem if He is able to foreknow actual outcomes that are yet future.

“One thing I am not able to do is change God's knowledge. But if I choose not to drink coffee, I would change God's knowledge.”

No you wouldn’t. If the actual outcome will be that you do not drink the coffee then that will be the actual outcome, and that will be the actual outcome that God foreknew you would in fact do. And if you choose to drink the coffee then that will be the actual outcome that God foreknew you would in fact do. And in either case if you had LFW then you could have done either one up until the time when one of the different possibilities became actualized as an actual outcome.

“So its not really in my power.”

So what is in your power? To change God’s knowledge of actual outcomes?

“THe only choice in my power is what I actually do choose.”

Right and that choice that you make is an actual outcome that God foreknows you will in fact do. And if you made a different choice then God would foreknow that actual outcome, what you will in fact do, as well. And if you acted with LFW then you could choose to go either way and either way you actually end up going would have been foreknown by God.

“Or did you mean Unkle e to endorse backwards causation?”

That is odd, where did he endorse or mention backwards causation?

“that would muddy the waters.”

But he didn’t do that.

“I assume the past is fixed.”

So do I as the past is the set of actual outcomes that has already occurred. As actual outcomes they are irreversible events, fixed, not going to change. You can’t “unring the bell”, or can you?

Robert

normajean said...

Gosh, Robert sure seems convincing to me. But then there's Alexander Pruss, Mike A, and da Maverick (prob). Maybe I just don't understand the “good” objections to Craig and Molinism. what sadness……… grrrrrr

Ilíon said...

Finney: ""1.It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow."

Doesn't it follow from premise 1 that Clarence cannot not have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow?
"

Yes; the argument contradicts itself, through and through. After all, one can "prove" anything with false premise ... or a contradiction.

Ilíon said...

Robert: "OK, why is it important to recognize that LFW if it ever exists must exist prior to the AC? Because what if God’s DF involves his knowledge of AC’s that make up the future? Note contrary to Ilion’s claim that the future does not exist, if we are going to talk about God foreknowing a future event, then that means God knows an action that will occur in the future (an event that has not already occurred/past, is not happening now/present; but an event that will in fact occur but has not yet occurred)."

Looking at reality from our point of view --

How can "an event that ... has not yet occurred" be said to exist? Even putting the ellipsis back in ("an event that will in fact occur but has not yet occurred"), how can the event be said to exist? How can "the future" -- a vast collection of hypothetical instances in which potential and/or speculative acts and events which have not occurred may occur -- be said to exist?

Likewise, how can "the past" -- a vast collection of instances in which acts and events which did occur, but are not occurring -- be said to exist?

Is the existence of "the future" (should it exist) identical-in-property to that of "the past" (should it exist)? Is the existence of either identical-in-property to the existence of this instant?

Is not the answer to both questions clearly, "No?"

Steve said...

Do be honest I'm not sure that this line of argument needs to refer to God at all. Why can't we just put the argument like this:

(1) It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.
(2) It has always been true that Clarence will have a chees omelet for breakfast tomorrow.
(3) If is not in anyone's power to bring it about that what is true is false.
(4) Therefore it is not Clarence's power to bring it about that it is false that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast.
(5) It is not possible for it to be true both that it has always been true that Clarence would have an omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one.
(6) Therefore, it is not in Clarence's power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.

I don't see that bring God's foreknowledge into the issue makes the conclusion any harder to avoid. Indeed, I expect it makes it easier to avoid as there are extra premises involved that needn't be. Though admittedly, bringing God into the argument does bring out that one's response to the argument may require one to change one's concept of God's knowledge. The problem, however is not God's foreknowledge but the things that the foreknowledge is of, namely future truths about free actions. To avoid the deterministic conclusion Hasker would have us think that we have to deny not only that God knows such truths, but that such truths even obtain. This is, I think, an error.

From this formulation of the argument, you can clearly see that saying that God is timeless is, for the reasons that GK has given, not a complete solution to the problem that Hasker raises. That said, I think many of the other responses above are on the right lines.

Steve Lovell

Finney said...

"Yes; the argument contradicts itself, through and through. After all, one can "prove" anything with false premise ... or a contradiction."

Yep. I think everyone overlooks the fact that it's already assumed the person will eat an omelette independently of whether God knows it or not.

Ilíon said...

Finney: "I think everyone overlooks the fact that it's already assumed the person will eat an omelette independently of whether God knows it or not."

Which is to say, the very first premise of the (pathetic!) argument contains the hidden assumption that "libertarian free will" does not exist.

Finney said...

You'll notice that nearly every argument of this sort contains that hidden self-defeating premise. I wonder why so much writing is needed to adress this argument. I would wish one more post can be written on this so that we can finally bury it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I solved the pseudoproblem raised in this post here, where I had the True Believer atheists mistreating me b/c they thought I was a Christian.