Thursday, April 26, 2012

Divine beliefs

  1. (Premise) There is no set of all true propositions.
  2. (Premise) For any kind K, there is a set of all actual entities of kind K.
  3. (Premise) Divine believing is a kind.
  4. (Premise) God believes every true proposition and no other propositions.
  5. (Premise) If there are at least as many Fs as there are Gs, and there is a set of all of Fs, then there is a set of all Gs.
  6. There is a set of all divine believings. (by 2 and 3)
  7. If there are at least as many divine believings as there are divinely believed propositions, then there is a set of all divinely believed propositions. (by 5 and 6)
  8. If there are at least as many divine believings as there are divinely believed propositions, then there is a set of all true propositions. (4 and 7)
  9. It is not the case that there are at least as many divine believings as there are divinely believed propositions. (1 and 8)
Note that premise 1 follows from 7 and the fact that there are at least as many true propositions as there are sets (since for every set S there is the proposition that S=S), and no set of all sets.

It is natural to think that when x believes p and believes q, then there exist two believings. But by (9), this is false in the case of God. How could that be? Maybe when God believes a proposition p that obviously (to God) entails a proposition q, his believing of q is not a distinct believing from his believing of p: he believes q by believing p. After all, it would have been inaccurate for you to have said five minutes ago: "Alex does not believe that it is true that 82=64." But prior to thinking about this, while I did believe that 82=64, I had no separate belief that this proposition is true. Nonetheless, arguably, it was appropriate to credit me with the second-order belief that it's true that 82=64. Perhaps, then, God has only one act of believing, where he believes a maximally specific true proposition that obviously (to him—all entailments are obvious to him) entails all truths.

And if divine simplicity is true, then that one divine act of believing is identical with God and has its content extrinsically.

I think the most disputable premise in the argument is 2. What if there is a proper class of Ks, say? But the argument can be re-run with proper classes in the place of sets. One just strengthens 1 to say that there is no proper class of all true propositions. And that is correct, since for every proper class C, there is a true proposition that C=C, and there is no proper class of all proper classes. So even if one replaces "sets" with "proper classes" in 2, the argument can be run. And it is plausible that there will be no replacement that will do the job. For no matter what kind of group-type G we put in place of "set" in 2, we will probably be able to run some analogue of Cantor's diagonal argument to show that there is no G of Gs.

What if we apply the argument to the kind true proposition? I think this is perfectly legitimate and shows that propositions aren't actual entities. Facts like <There are infinitely many propositions> aren't grounded in infinitely many propositions, but in something else, like the unified divine nature.

8 comments:

Heath White said...

I think the classical understanding of God's knowledge is that it is non-discursive or non-linguistic. That is, the content of his belief is not a proposition, properly speaking. Maybe it is an image, like the content of a visual memory, or (my favorite) maybe it is just the world itself (God does not *represent* the world to himself). In any case, anything along those lines would solve the problem.

G. Nation said...

If God is omniscient, then God has no beliefs; he has true knowledge of all that exists, and true understanding of all that does not.
God is omniscient.
Therefore God has no beliefs.

Alexander R Pruss said...

If one knows something, one believes it, or it is standardly taken.

Marc Belcastro said...

Dr. Pruss:

~ "What if we apply the argument to the kind true proposition. I think this is perfectly legitimate and shows that propositions aren't actual entities." ~

Do you think we could apply this argument to the kind set(s), and then conclude that sets aren't actual entities? If so, would this undercut all of the premises which (appear to) presuppose that sets are actual entities?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Marc,

I don't think the premises presuppose that sets are actual entities.

In other words, "There is a set of all Fs" maybe can have a non-literalistic interpretation that doesn't commit us to an entity that is the set of all Fs, but can be read similarity to "There is a similarity between this house and that house" (which maybe just means that the houses are similar, not that something that is a similarity exists).

Marc Belcastro said...

Dr. Pruss:

Thanks. That's helpful.

I'm not sure if you'd characterize your proposal as (an approximation of) nominalism, but if you would, how do you think a nominalist about sets should think about sets? As mind-dependent collections?

thirdmillennialtemplar said...

"Nonetheless, arguably, it was appropriate to credit me with the second-order belief that it's true that 82=64. Perhaps, then, God has only one act of believing, where he believes a maximally specific true proposition that obviously (to him—all entailments are obvious to him) entails all truths"

Should we be concerned that this would still render God's knowledge propositional? It seems to me that, classically, as Heath White has said in the first comment, God's knowledge has been understood to be properly intuitive or non-discursive.

Moreover, I wonder if we can construe logically possible worlds as "maximally specific true propositions."

truelovewaitsbest said...

Our Faith towards God must not be like "To see is to believe." It's faith, we believe on someone or something even if we do not see it.