MightyMan4

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Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« on: April 18, 2013, 08:43:51 pm »
I have recently finished listening to the entire defender's podcast (1 & 2) and woven throughout the teaching is the use of Middle Knowledge (MK) to answer the tough questions surrounding the tension between God's omniscience, God's sovreignty, and creaturely free will. (BtW, defenders PC is awesome!)

In my quest to understand MK I came upon an problem that I belive makes MK a logically necessarily false doctrine, as in it is definitely not true. The problem is this: If for any free agent P in any situation S, there is exactly one action A that agent P will do, then how is it possible for agent P to have free choice in situation S?

It seems to me that this is obviously deterministic. It is deterministic in such a way that God is not the cause of agent P doing action A in situation S, but niether is P the cause of action A, but rather the combination of P and S is completely deterministic towards the execution of A.

I would rather understand that P would have free will in S if and only if there were strictly more than one (rather than exactly one) action (like A1, A2, or A3) that P would do.

Perhaps I misunderstand MK. If I do I think that MK would say that action A is different for different possible worlds. As if in possible world PW1 P would do A1 in S, rather if PW2 P would do A2. But that still seems deterministic in that God would be controlling the choice of P by picking the which possible world to actualize.

Thoughts?
Jesus died for the Terrans, not the demonic Zerg or those wierdo Protoss. Woot Woot!

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John M

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Re: Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2013, 11:53:18 pm »
In my quest to understand MK I came upon an problem that I belive makes MK a logically necessarily false doctrine, as in it is definitely not true. The problem is this: If for any free agent P in any situation S, there is exactly one action A that agent P will do, then how is it possible for agent P to have free choice in situation S?

I believe you are misunderstanding middle knowledge and Molinism (note: I will use Molinism in my response here, Molinism is the theological position that man has free will and God possesses middle knowledge - where middle knowledge is knowledge of what any free willed creature would do in any circumstance the creature finds himself in).

It is true that in any given situation (i.e. time, place, circumstance) agent P will do exactly one action A - but if you think about it, that really doesn't say much of anything interesting. Why? Because this is true for ANY doctrine of providence you have - deterministic or not. Think about it - whether or not the world is really free or really determined, in either case it is true that in any circumstance you find yourself in, you will do at most one action A.

So, the fact that agent P will do action A doesn't really do much in helping us here. The main question you want to ask is - could P have done anything else? THAT is the question Calvinists and Molinists attempt to answer.

Your statement earlier, therefore, doesn't accurately describe the question we are trying to address (the statement "If for any free agent P in any situation S, there is exactly one action A that agent P will do, then how is it possible for agent P to have free choice in situation S?"). To answer that question is simple for the one who believes in Molinism - the answer is "its possible by giving agent P free will". Not a very interesting answer, but, again, this really doesn't address the real question that needs to be asked.

What you want to ask is:

    "If, for any agent P in any situation S, is there exactly one action A that agent P could do?"

The Calvinist (aka predeterminist) would say, "yes, there is only one action A that agent P could have actually done - it is the action he will do and it is the action God predetermined him to do".

The Molinist would say "no, there is more than one action that agent P could do, and he is free to choose. But, it just so happens that he will do action A and God, via his middle knowledge, knows that P will do A".

An example:

Calvinist: "Peter could not have done anything other than deny Jesus 3 times that night when Jesus was arrested and tried. God predetermined that  Peter would deny Jesus 3 times and thus Peter could not have done otherwise."

Molinist: "Peter could have affirmed that he knew Jesus that night, he was free to do so if he wanted. However, if Peter were to be put in those very circumstances of that night, he would choose not to do so but instead would choose to deny Jesus 3 times. And God knew this - God knew what Peter would choose to do in those very circumstances."

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I would rather understand that P would have free will in S if and only if there were strictly more than one (rather than exactly one) action (like A1, A2, or A3) that P would do.

I'm not sure if this makes sense. I think you might be confusing "would do" with "could do". Under any circumstance a person might find himself, he will do one thing. The question is couldhe have done something else? THAT is the question.

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MightyMan4

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Re: Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2013, 01:10:07 am »
Thanks for your response. I am afraid I have an extremely difficult time seeing any difference between molinism and determinism. I just don't see any difference.

It seems that for a given agent, the circumstances that the agent is in are fully determinative of the action that the agent does. Isn't that what is meant by "for any P in any S, there is exactly one A?" Saying that the agent "freely" does it just sounds like arbitrarily inserting the word "freely" in so that we can say we have free will.

I really do not want to mischaracterize or misunderstand the molinist doctrine of MK, so I am very thankful for your response.
Jesus died for the Terrans, not the demonic Zerg or those wierdo Protoss. Woot Woot!

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John M

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Re: Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2013, 09:40:06 am »
Thanks for your response. I am afraid I have an extremely difficult time seeing any difference between molinism and determinism. I just don't see any difference.

It seems that for a given agent, the circumstances that the agent is in are fully determinative of the action that the agent does. Isn't that what is meant by "for any P in any S, there is exactly one A?" Saying that the agent "freely" does it just sounds like arbitrarily inserting the word "freely" in so that we can say we have free will.

I really do not want to mischaracterize or misunderstand the molinist doctrine of MK, so I am very thankful for your response.

Well, it certainly isn't fully deterministic. The word "freely" here is VERY important - it is not an arbitrary insertion of a meaningless word.

Here's an example that hopefully illustrates this. Suppose you are in the circumstance that you are walking along an otherwise empty, desolate street, and you see a man deep in sleep on the ground with a 20 dollar bill loosely held in his hand. If you take it, you know you'll never be caught. Suppose you are not an honest person, and in that circumstance, you will ALWAYS steal the 20 dollar bill. ALWAYS! That's just the kind of person you are. (not you you - its just an example, don't be offended :) )

BUT! Did you have a choice not to steal the 20 dollars? And not only do we need to ask if you had a choice not to steal, we need to ask, COULD you have elected to choose that other choice of not to steal?  Even though, with the kind of person you are, you NEVER would have choosen to not steal, that still doesn't do anything with respect to whether you COULD have chosen not to steal.

So - could you have chosen to do other than what you do?

If predestination is true, you cannot (e.g. you HAD to steal. You did not have it in your power to walk away and not take the 20 dollar bill).

If you have free will, you do have a choice. For example, just because in those circumstances you would NEVER pass up the chance to take that 20 dollar bill, that does NOT mean you are determined to do so.  You don't HAVE to take the 20 dollar bill, even though you always will. You could have elected not to steal. It is in your power to walk away and not steal.

Ultimately, this is a question of accountability and responsibility. Just because you are in a position where you will always sin, if we have free will, it was your choice to sin - you are accountable for your choices that you make. (now, the question is worse with predestination - because in that case, I'm not ultimately to blame - I had no choice but to sin - so now the responsibility falls on God for that sin - this is why many think predestination leads to God being the author of evil and sin).

I suspect what you are having difficulty with is not necessarily free will but that God would put us in circumstances where he knew we would sin. In other words, even if free will exists, God has middle knowledge so he knew what sinful men would do in certain circumstances, so why didn't he create the world differently with different circumstances and different people so the sins would not be committed?

"God did create me and he did create the world in which I find myself in - and by golly! - I ended up on this desolate street with a sleeping guy holding onto a 20 dollar bill and God KNEW I would take it! Why did he put me in a position to sin? All he had to do was create the world a little differently so I would never find myself in those cirucmstances and I wouldn't have sinned! Therefore, ultimately, its God's fault that I sinned since he was responsible for creating me, the world and my circumstances."

But could God have done that? This gets to the point Dr. Craig always makes about "possible worlds" and "feasible worlds" - some worlds simply are not feasible for God to create. Perhaps God could not create a world in which this much good and this less evil exists WITHOUT that world having the circumstance where I am on that empty street with the sleepy guy holding money? Additionally, perhaps, God planned to use my sin for the betterment of this world? Maybe that guy would have used his last 20 dollars to buy booze, get drunk, hop in a car and kill a family in a drunk driving accident (and with God's middle knowledge, he would have known that ;) )? But I took his last 20 dollars, and he was left to drive home sober, effectively saving a family in our actual world.


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UNOWN301

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Re: Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2014, 04:18:54 pm »
If for any free agent P in any situation S, there is exactly one action A that agent P will do, then how is it possible for agent P to have free choice in situation S?

It seems to me that this is obviously deterministic. It is deterministic in such a way that God is not the cause of agent P doing action A in situation S, but niether is P the cause of action A, but rather the combination of P and S is completely deterministic towards the execution of A.

I don't quite see the problem. Here's why...

Action A will be carried out by agent P in situation S precisely because that is what agent S would have freely done in situation S. It's as if you are thinking of counterfactuals as arbitrary truths, but its quite the contrary. They are true only because the free agent made it so.

Now, your point about the combination of P and S make the execution of A threw me off for a bit, but I think I understand what you are saying now. It seems to me that it is incorrect to say that the combination of P and S determines A because even in the same situation S, had agent P chosen a different action A', the combination of P and S could result in the execution of a different action (namely A'). So it seems to me that it is not the combination of P and S, but rather it is solely the free choice of agent P which makes the counterfactual statement the way it is. The reason it is not A' however is simply because that is not the choice the free agent did in fact choose, but it could have been A' had he chosen it.

I think the underlying misconception here is that it doesn't follow that because a counterfactual statement is true therefore it couldn't have been false. It could be false, but if it were, it would be because the agent freely chose a different action.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 04:20:55 pm by UNOWN301 »

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Vimbiso

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Re: Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2014, 07:55:19 am »
I have recently finished listening to the entire defender's podcast (1 & 2) and woven throughout the teaching is the use of Middle Knowledge (MK) to answer the tough questions surrounding the tension between God's omniscience, God's sovreignty, and creaturely free will. (BtW, defenders PC is awesome!)

In my quest to understand MK I came upon an problem that I belive makes MK a logically necessarily false doctrine, as in it is definitely not true. The problem is this: If for any free agent P in any situation S, there is exactly one action A that agent P will do, then how is it possible for agent P to have free choice in situation S?

It seems to me that this is obviously deterministic. It is deterministic in such a way that God is not the cause of agent P doing action A in situation S, but niether is P the cause of action A, but rather the combination of P and S is completely deterministic towards the execution of A.

I would rather understand that P would have free will in S if and only if there were strictly more than one (rather than exactly one) action (like A1, A2, or A3) that P would do.

Perhaps I misunderstand MK. If I do I think that MK would say that action A is different for different possible worlds. As if in possible world PW1 P would do A1 in S, rather if PW2 P would do A2. But that still seems deterministic in that God would be controlling the choice of P by picking the which possible world to actualize.

Thoughts?

MightyMan4 if I have misunderstood you correct me.

First things first God's omniscience is causally effete. Just because God knows what you are going to do in the future does not make His knowledge of your future actions the reason you perform those future actions. The question then is how does God know the future? Some people have tried to explain God's knowledge of the future by saying that He determines the future including people's future choices and that's how He knows the future. The problem with this view is that it flies in the face of our human experience. When you make a choice you firmly believe that it is you that is making the choice and not that you have been determined to make that choice. Second if God does determine our choices then we are part of a gigantic cosmic game and God, in effect, has been dishonest which is incompatible with His moral perfection.

What about free will? Put simply free will is the ability to make autonomous decisions i.e. you are the beginning and end of your decision making process. Even when you have one option, you still retain free will because it is still you who makes that choice autonomously. If we apply this to your scenario you can see that P still has free will in situation S in which the only option is A. When P chooses to do A, P autonomously chooses to do A and therefore has exercised free will. Let me illustrate this point using God. God can only speak the truth. In a situation in which God is asked a question, He can only respond truthfully because God cannot lie. Can we say then that God is determined to speak the truth? No we cannot because when God speaks the truth, He does so because He wants to speak the truth even though He is incapabable of lying. So God still retains His free will even though His only option is to speak the truth.

So how does God know the future. Omniscience simply means knowledge of all true propositions. This includes counterfactual propositions. Thus defined, whatever is true regarding propositions about the future, God will know.
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dorel

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Re: Problem with Middle Knowledge and God's Omniscience
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2016, 01:43:34 am »
"I would rather understand that P would have free will in S if and only if there were strictly more than one (rather than exactly one) action (like A1, A2, or A3) that P would do. "
Here is your erore:
In any situation S, a person P cannot do more than one action A.
He has the possibility tu choose between doing  A, A1, A2, A3..., but if he will do A, he will not do A1, A2, A3 and so.
Naw, the middle knowledge says that God knows that a person P in a given situation S having the possibility to do A, A1, A2, A3..., will choose to do action A, or action A1,or A2, and so.