Friday, January 18, 2019

Molinism and prophecy

Here’s a curious puzzle. Every theist—including the Molinist and the Open Theist—will presumably agree that this conditional is true:

  1. If God were to announce that Trump will freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow, then Trump would freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow.

After all, both presumably accept that God wouldn’t affirm what he didn’t know to be the case.

However, plainly, the truth of (1) isn’t enough to justify God in announcing that Trump will freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow. For, plainly, something like Molinist middle knowledge or mere foreknowledge or theistic compatibilism would be needed for God to be justified in issuing the prophecy. Something like (1) that holds independently of theories of divine foreknowledge is not going to do the trick.

Suppose now Molinism is true. It seems to be one of the advantages of Molinism that it can explain prophecy. But what relevant proposition beyond (1) does God know in the Molinist case that justifies his announcement?

Here is one possibility:

  1. Trump will freely refrain from tweeting tomorrow.

But God’s knowing (2) is insufficient to justify God’s announcement. For imagine that the reason why Trump will refrain from tweeting tomorrow is that Trump likes to surprise people and nobody predicted that he wouldn’t tweet tomorrow. Then (2) can still be true—but if that’s the reason why (2) is true, then the truth of (2) won’t justify God in announcing that Trump won’t tweet.

I think what we want to say is that on Molinism what justifies God’s announcement is something like this:

  1. Claim (1) holds not just because God’s announcements are always true.

But now here is the problem. If claim (1) holds not just because God’s announcements are always true, there must be some further explanation for why claim (1) is true other than just because God’s announcements are always true. But what is that explanation? Presumably it lies in the truth of some Molinist conditional. But it seems that the most relevant Molinist conditional is (1) itself, and that just won’t do.

Here’s another way of putting the point. The Molinist’s best response to the grounding objection is to say that Molinist conditionals are true but ungrounded. Such a Molinist has to say that the only reason (1) is ever true is that God doesn’t make untrue announcements. But, plausibly, if the only reason (1) is true is that God doesn’t make untrue announcements, then God isn’t justified in issuing the announcement. So God is never justified in issuing the announcement.

If I were a Molinist, I would say that God cannot make prophecies that end up being explanatorily prior to the prophesied actions. But if one makes that restriction, one might as well accept mere foreknowledge.

2 comments:

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

How would mere foreknowledge solve the problem?
Suppose God, using his mere foreknowledge sees Trump not tweeting.
What happens if he tells Trump?
If Trump has libertarian free will, then he might try to prove God wrong and decide to tweet tomorrow.
But that means God does not have mere foreknowlegde after all.
The bottom line is, I think, that it is impossible to have perfect foreknwoledge of a libertarian free choice. That would lead to open theism, I guess.

Alexander R Pruss said...

See the paper I link to. The mere foreknowledge solution restricts instances where an announcement can be issued to cases where the announcement is causally isolated from the action. Thus, God can't tell Trump. But he could tell someone who is causally isolated from Trump.