Counterfactual Knowledge and Free Will – take 1

This is a post from my presentation for one of my upper level philosophy classes called God and Freedom. The class is basically one endless attempt at wrestling with the behemoth that is exploring the philosophical implications of human free will and the sovereignty of God. This post is basically the handout I’m making for the class about my presentation on the subject of ‘Middle Knowledge’. This is based off William Lane Craig’s essay in the book “Divine Foreknowledge”.

The question about the order in which God possesses counterfactual knowledge is a debate long argued by Dominican and Jesuit theologians, and has enormous implications on whether or not human beings possessing free will clashes with the theological claim of God being an omniscient being.

The main question:

(page 120)

Theologians from most sides tend to agree that God possesses counterfactual knowledge (“conditional statements in the conjunctive mood” eg.: if Hillary Clinton had won the primaries, John McCain would be President right now). What theologians most often disagree with, however, is when would God possess such knowledge.

The order of possible knowledge is as follows:

“Natural Knowledge”
o  o  o  o  o  o  o  o  o
The range of ‘possible’ worlds.

“Middle Knowledge”
o     o     o
The range of ‘feasible’ worlds.

“Free Knowledge”
The ‘actual’ world.

We’re concerned with “Middle Knowledge”, and the dispute over when God possesses this knowledge is not relation to time, but rather “logical order”. The question we will focus on is whether God’s counterfactual “Middle Knowledge” is logically prior or posterior to his divine creative decree.

Dominican View:
(page 121)
“Catholic theologians of the Dominican order held that God’s counterfactual knowledge is logically subsequent to his decree to create a certain world. ” Therefore when God created the world, he decreed through that act of creation which counterfactuals (or what feasibly would contingently happen) are going to be true. Logically prior to that divine decree, however, there are no counterfactuals to know, and therefore it is not necessary for him to know such possibilities in that logical order. God simply only knows the many contingent possibilities at the order in time that is logically necessary.

Jesuit View:
(page 122)
“Catholic theologians of the Jesuit order inspired by Luis de Molina maintained that God’s counterfactual knowledge is logically prior to his creative decree.” The Molinists’ main fuel for argument with Dominicans is that by making counterfactuals a subsequent consequence of God’s creating the world, the Dominicans had effectively destroyed the possibility of human freedom, for counterfactual possibility would be a mere cause and effect of a particular act of creation by God. Molinists, by placing counterfactuals logically prior to creative decree, exempt any interdependent involvement by the two, leaving room for legitimate free-choice to be a possibility for human beings, while not messing with God’s sovereignty. God would simply factor the range of possibilities into his creation of a world – and this is what Molinists coin as “Middle Knowledge”.

I’m leaning toward Molinism, for lack of a better solution. It still possesses holes for me, like if God possesses counterfactual knowledge independent of divine creation, then it might be problematic for his sovereignty. I’d be willing to deal with that though in the face of the alternative Dominican view, which would appear to me to be surrendering a white flag to determinism. And if there’s one thing I’m not… it’s a Calvinist. No thanks.