Omniscience and Freedom

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This is the the thirty-fifth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I continued a series within the series on philosophical theology, looking at a thorny problem about divine omniscience with respect to time. This post moves on to questions about omniscience with respect to human freedom.

A second puzzle related to omniscience is how an omniscient being could know the future given human free will. While the first omniscience puzzle is largely a problem for an atemporal God, this puzzle is primarily for a temporal God, although we will see that God’s being atemporal is not going to be enough for a complete answer for many theists. The problem is basically as follows:

If God knows that I will do something tomorrow, then it necessarily follows that I will do it. That seems to imply that I will not be able to do otherwise. How, then, is divine foreknowledge compatible with human freedom? If God knows the future, it seems that we are not free.

There are five ways people have tried to avoid this puzzle without denying either God’s omniscience or human freedom.

1. Atemporality

The first way is straightforward, at least at first. I believe Augustine was the first to suggest that if God is atemporal then God does not know anything before it happens. If all the knowledge of what I will do is outside time, then God’s knowledge of it can simply derive from God’s immediate perception of what is future to me. Since all of time is present to God, God is aware of all of time without knowing it in advance. That seems to avoid the problem.

Perhaps it does avoid the problem, but it is at some cost. For one thing, the atemporal view now needs to face the puzzle of omniscience and time in the last post. Someone taking this way out will need to take view 2 or view 3 on that problem. Whether you consider this a real problem depends on whether you considered those views plausible solutions to that problem.

But there is a further difficulty. To use atemporality to avoid the puzzle of foreknowledge and freedom, you need to say that all knowledge of human free choices is outside time rather than earlier in time. That means no human being can know the future. That means God could not give prophecies of what will happen unless it does not depend on human choice (or unless those prophecies never lead to human knowledge). So in Christianity, when Judas betrayed Jesus, something crucial to the divine plan in Christianity, God would not have been able to allow anyone know in advance whether Judas would do it, including Jesus, who the gospels tell us had predicted it within time. God could still know what is future to us, but he could never allow anyone in time (even the second person of the Trinity!) to know it ahead of time.

So it seems the atemporal solution is only technically a solution to this problem. It does allow you to avoid the problem, but those who accept human prophecy as leading to at least someone's knowlege in time can do so only by adopting another response in addition to divine atemporality. So we turn to those responses, since this one is insufficient given the existence or even possibility of prophets.

2. Openness

A second view is that God is in time, but God does not know the future. This view is sometimes called the open view of God, or open theism, because according to this view the future is open in the sense that there is no truth now about what in the future will be true. At least this is so when the future would depend on what free human beings will do. So on the open view, there is no truth about what I will do tomorrow, since I am free to do both of two things that I might do, and therefore God can know all true things without knowing which one I will do. If it's not true that I will do either one, even if it's true that I'll do one of the two, then God would know that I will do one without knowing which I will do.

If God’s knowledge is limited because there are no truths about the future, then it does not threaten omniscience if omniscience is just knowing everything that's true. You need a further claim that there are truths about the future to get the conclusion that God knows the future. Without that, God can fail to know the future without failing at anything possible. Many theists are still uncomfortable with God not knowing the future, but this avoids the problem. It retains omniscience (read as knowing every truth) in the face of human free choice that influences the future. As with the first view (if the first view were going to be a complete solution), this view does involved denying a traditional view of God. What, then, is required to retain traditional views of God?

(Note: The open view is often attributed to Aristotle, but he is often misinterpreted on this issue. He does present the view, and he may well be the first philosopher to do so carefully. But he presents it only to show that it is contradictory. He thinks it requires saying that "Either A or not-A" is true, while denying that A is true and denying that A is false. He thinks that results in a contradiction and is thus unsatisfied with where his starting point has taken him. What is not clear is what he thought as a result, but he seems to me not to be satisfied with the open view of the future. On the other hand, Aristotle's follower Alexander of Aphrodisias very clearly does endorse this view and even applies it to the foreknowledge question, perhaps for the first time, although he does not think in monotheistic terms.)

3. Time is Like Space

A third view retains God’s knowledge of the future with human freedom by taking a response from the omniscience and time puzzle above. If time is like space, it allows for a different way out of this problem. If time is like space (i.e. the B-theory from last post), then there is nothing special about past, present, or future. All times are alike. The only thing that makes the present special is because we are at it. There are beings at other times, including us at other times, and those times are present to us at those times.

What bothers us about the future is that it seems open to us. If it is already set that we will do something, then it seems not open to us. So if someone knows ahead of time what will happen, it seems not open to us. But the problem isn't really foreknowledge, is it? What makes it seem not open isn't that someone knows it but that it's already settled. It can be settled without being true. This is why open theism (view 2 above) does not just deny foreknowledge. It denies any truths about the future (at least when the truth would depend on free action).

But if time is like space, there is nothing special about the future to make there be no future truths. Past truths are true even if they depend on free human choice. One way to capture this is to talk about necessity and possibility about the past and the future. If it is true that I was in Syracuse for Christmas this year, then there is nothing I can do now to change that fact. There was something I could have done beforehand that would have made it not true, but given that it is true there is nothing I can do to change it.

Can we say the same about the future? Those who pose the foreknowledge problem assume so. According to this view, however, that argument fails. There is actually nothing I can do to change the future from what it is, since the future is already what it will be. It is settled in one sense, the sense in which statements about the future are already true or false. What is necessary and what is true are not the same thing, however. What is necessary is what could not have been false. Some things are true that could have been false, and other things are true that could not have been false. 1+1=2. That could not have been false. But I stayed in Syracuse this weekend, and that could have been false. It could have been true that we went to New York City for Christmas. But we didn't. I can't now do anything about that, but it could have been true.

Similarly, even though it's (presumably) true that I will still be in Syracuse next weekend, there are things I can do now that if I did them (and presumably I will not) I would end up traveling over New Years. It's true that I will not do so (and I keep saying presumably not because it's not true about the future but because whatever the truth is I can't be absolutely sure of it yet). But things I can do now would affect what the future will be. That I will do certain things makes it true that other things will happen. I don't have to do those things. But I will.

Therefore, this view takes the foreknowledge problem to be a misunderstanding from the very outset. It relies on the assumption that truth about the future means necessity about the future. Something can be true about the past without being necessary, so why could it not be true about the future without being necessary? If truth about the future doesn't mean the future is necessary, then why should it interfere with freedom? (Cleanthes the Stoic was the first philosopher I know of to state this response clearly, although he didn't do so in terms of a theory of time. He simply focused on separating truth and necessity. Thomas Aquinas also takes this view.)

The only reason I can do something about the future, then, is because I am at this time and not at another time. That doesn't mean statements about the future are less true than statements about things that have already happened. It just means I am before the thing that is true in cases of future truth. When I was before the past things that are true, I could do things to affect that. It is because I did those things that I did the things I did. It is because I didn’t do other things that other things are false. But my doing or not doing certain things in the past did affect what is true about what I did.

Similarly, my doing or not doing certain things in the future affects what I will do in the future. None of this means I had to do certain things in the past or that I have to do certain things in the future. It just means that it is true that I did things in the past and true that I will do things in the future. The puzzle about omniscience, then, assumes that truth and necessity are the same thing. But truth is not necessity, according to this objection. Therefore, it can be true that I will do something and yet not predetermined by things true at this time that I will do it. What makes me do it is me at the time.

Now given such a picture, what can a theist say about God’s knowledge? Once you acknowledge that it is already true now that I will show up for class tomorrow, it is not a big step to say that God knows it. The worry about freedom was originally raised because of foreknowledge, but the way out that denies God’s foreknowledge in view 2 also has to deny that the thing not known is even true to begin with. If you deny that and allow that it is true, is it a problem if God knows it? If time is like space, then the existence of the whole time line already laid out before God’s eyes (whether God is in time or not) would contain what free beings do. It would not necessarily contain anyone or anything making those things happen against our wills, so why would it need to include those actions not being free?

Part of the trouble, according to this third view, is that God’s knowledge seems to be necessary. If God is a necessary being, and God is omniscient, it seems to God is necessarily omniscient, and that means that God’s knowledge is necessary. But that doesn’t mean the things God knows are necessary. If God knows something, it necessarily follows that it is true. But what is necessary is that it follows that it is true. God’s knowledge of that particular thing is not necessary, just as your action (the one God knows) is not necessary. If you had done something different, God would not have known the same thing. God knows it because you will do it. In a sense, this is something like backward causation. You do something now, and it causes God to have known all along that you would do it.

That is indeed a strange result, but one kind of prayer that some people believe in also has this result. For instance, suppose a particular election has crucial significance for some important issues that will affect the direction of the world, and the election has just ended. They are now counting the votes. What if many people pray for the election to go a certain way, and God answers those prayers in the affirmative? God ensures that certain events happen in the right way to convince enough people to vote a certain way. But that would involve making sure that all sorts of things had already happened. The only way God could answer such a prayer is by foreseeing that people would pray a certain way and answer it ahead of time. That would mean God’s action was caused by people’s later prayers. If this kind of prayer is possible, then backward causation already happens in some sense. Maybe the kind that causes God’s knowledge ahead of time is not so worrisome in that light. (See here and here for more on retroactive prayer. The first argues for its theoretical consistency, and the second points out how common it is in practice.)

4. Compatibilism

There are two other ways out of this problem. One is very straightforward. I expect to begin discussing free will as a subject in its own right not in the next post but in the one after. It will become clear that philosophers disagree on what freedom even is. The kind of freedom that's inconsistent with determinism is what I've been assuming in this post. If freedom is compatible with determinism, as the majority of philosophers today believe, then this problem is much easier to deal with. That kind of freedom is easily consistent with the future even being necessary. I won't work out the details of why, but I wanted to acknowledge that one way out of this problem is simply by accepting compatibilism about freedom and determinism. I wanted to show in this post that there are other things to say in case compatibilism is false. Freedom might still be consistent with foreknowledge. But that way out is indeed available to those who prefer to be compatibilists.

5. Molinism

Second, some philosophers take a view that they call middle knowledge. This view is sometimes called Molinism, after Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, who first expressed it formally. Molinists think God knows what free beings will do in any given situation. Compatibilists who accept determinism have no problem accepting this as well, but it is those who do not accept compatibilism who think this helps with foreknowledge problems. I will say only that it would help with foreknowledge problems if it were true, since God's knowledge of what free beings will freely do must somehow be consistent with their being free, but the solution can't really get off the ground.

The problem is that there is no explanation of these special truths. Philosophers call them counterfactuals of freedom, because they are truths about what people would do freely in circumstances that might not be true (thus counterfactual). What makes counterfactuals of freedom true? Apparently nothing. If we are free in the relevant sense (and thus not predetermined), nothing about the world now could make these things true. Thus counterfactuals could be true only if we have compatibilist freedom anyway, and thus Molinism ends up working only if you already accept compatibilism.)

Summary

So there are five responses to this puzzle, each affirming both God’s omniscience and human freedom, and each involving some potentially unwelcome admissions.

1. The atemporal view denies the view that God is in time, which unfortunately was one of the easy ways out of the first puzzle. That means view A has to accept one of the other views for the puzzle about what time it is, and those have their unfortunate implications. This view also has to deny the possibility of foreknowledge through prophecy. No human being could know the future by getting it from God.

2. Open theism has to deny God’s knowledge of the future, even if it can hold on to omniscience by saying omniscience is knowing everything that is true. This similarly removes the possibility of prophecy, at least about things that human action could affect, and it denies much of the teaching of traditional religions.

3. The time-like-space view has to accept the counterintuitive view that time is like space. There is nothing special about the present, and the future is like the past in the ways specified above. This view also has to accept either God's atemporality (see view 1) or something like backward causation, which is also counterintuitive.

4. Compatibilism accepts free will as compatible with determinism, which is certainly not the expectation of most people when they start studying philosophy, even if it is the dominant view now among philosophers.

5. Molinism either has truths that are true for no reason, or compatibilism in true (in which case I refer you to view 4).

So in the end it seems that one can (a) deny prophecy that leads to knowledge, (b) deny foreknowledge, (c) accept the future like the past, i.e. B-theory of time, while accepting something like backward causation, (d) accept the future like the past, i.e. B-theory of time, while accepting divine atemporality, (e) accept compatibilism about freedom and determinism, or (f) accept that there are some truths that have no explanation. Views (a) and (b) are revisionary theological claims. Those who prefer a traditional view of God, then, have options (c), (d), (e), and (f). I should note that if (f) is true, then the cosmological argument for God's existence is defeated extremely easily. See the post on that subject earlier in this series.

In the next post I'll present an argument about what kind of revelation we might expect from a good God.

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Since there's still little going on here, I thought I'd direct readers to another post in my series based on my introductory philosophy course lecture notes. This time it's on foreknowledge and freedom. Again, I don't expect it to include anything news... Read More

17 Comments

“A second view is that God is in time, but God does not know the future.”

I wouldn’t quite agree with this statement. As far as I know, there are 4 main positions within the category of open theism, but I think most may also disagree with this part of your overview. I’d change the second part of the statement to “God does know the future perfectly because God knows exactly what is settled (the things that we will and will not do) and God knows exactly what is open (the things that we might and might not do).” For example, if it is true now that I will eat a sandwich tomorrow, God knows it as such. If it is true that I might eat a ham sandwich or I might eat a turkey sandwich (provided those are mutually exclusive for the sake of this example), then God knows that it is currently false that I *will* eat a ham sandwich and God knows that it is currently true that I *might* eat a ham sandwich. When the event actually obtains, the might’s change into either does or does not. The might changes to either a will or a will not. Thus, the content of God’s knowledge also changes in sync. God knows all truths about the future... no more, no less.

“according to this view the future is open in the sense that there is no truth now about what in the future will be true. At least this is so when the future would depend on what free human beings will do.”

Given what I wrote above, I’d change the “will” that I underlined to “might”.

“this view does involved denying a traditional view of God.”

Yes, this would possibly challenge the traditional idea of God being immutable because the content of God’s knowledge would change if the truth-values of events change.

(Unfortunately in previewing my comment, the formatting doesn't show up.

Heather, that's exactly what I said. I made the effort to point out that the things God doesn't know (according to open theism) are the things that depend on free will. Open theists tend to underestimate how thoroughgoing this would be, but I did make that qualification. Here are my exact words:

This view is sometimes called the open view of God, or open theism, because according to this view the future is open in the sense that there is no truth now about what in the future will be true. At least this is so when the future would depend on what free human beings will do.

There are variations within open theism, but they are largely differences over two issues. One is whether God voluntarily chooses not to know the future (to ensure freedom) or whether it is based on there being no truth about the future. As I've argued, the first position does not help with this issue, since it is the truth of future contingent statements that leads to the problem (given certain assumptions that I would myself deny).

The other issue open theists disagree on is whether future contingents are neither true nor false or whether instead they are simply all false. That issue has to do with technical enough points of tense logic that I didn't want to get into it.

I said:

according to this view the future is open in the sense that there is no truth now about what in the future will be true. At least this is so when the future would depend on what free human beings will do.

Your responded:

Given what I wrote above, I’d change the “will” that I underlined to “might”.

I don't think that's necessary. What I said is correct. In fact, changing it would make it wrong. The future in fact depends on what I will do. It doesn't depend on what I might do. What I might do may or may not happen, so the actual future doesn't depend on that. Various possible futures might depend on that, and it might turn out that the actual future does, but the actual future depends on what I will do. When it becomes true that I do it, the future from then on depends exactly on that and not on some other possibilities. So what I had seems to me to be the right way to say it.

Yes, this would possibly challenge the traditional idea of God being immutable because the content of God’s knowledge would change if the truth-values of events change.

I wasn't thinking of immutability at all. Of course it goes against immutability, but people conceive of immutability in very different ways. There are plenty of people who deny immutability to some degree who aren't open theists.

What I was talking about was a much more radical departure from traditional views of God. I was talking about the denial of God's exhaustive foreknowledge itself as a radical departure from traditional views. Open theists often underestimate how thoroughgoing God's ignorance of the future would have to be, but even an assertion of God's ignorance on just one item is a radical departure from the traditional conception of what God's foreknowledge includes. The entire prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible relies on God's foreknowledge of what free human beings will do, and I already mentioned the Christian claim that Jesus knew that Judas would freely betray him.

"If God knows that I will do something tomorrow, then it necessarily follows that I will do it. That seems to imply that I will not be able to do otherwise. How, then, is divine foreknowledge compatible with human freedom? If God knows the future, it seems that we are not free."

Divine omniscience does not (however) influence human freedom, undermines or violates it. God intrinsically knows the future choices of free creatures without using his foreknowledge to make them act otherwise, according to what he, for eternity, knows. By nature, God knows and foreknows all things; even those that will unfold in the future time. Even the things that God knows with complete certainty, are by no means, influenced by his knowledge/foreknwoledge. When one acts, one always does what is within human boundary and what is one cannot see. By that, I mean human decisions whether present and/or future are limited in somewhat; however such resctriction is in in accord with and compatible to the very nature of man.

Blessings,

Lou

You should have mentioned the modal fallacy...

I did. I just didn't call it that. The modal fallacy is the same thing as confusing truth with necessity. I just didn't want to get into the technical symbolic modal logic to show how it involves pulling a necessity operator into the parentheses when it only rightly belongs outside of them. But that's how the same point applies when you're working in terms of formal logic.

Jeremy,

I agree that if God knows that I will do something, then it necessarily follows that I will do it. But it doesn't follow that I will necessarily do it. So human freedom, even in an incompatibilistic sense, isn't sacrificed. And it doesn't imply, as far as I can tell, that I will not be able to do otherwise. Rather, it implies that I will not do otherwise.

You ask, "What makes counterfactuals of freedom true?" This question, as William Lane Craig suggests in his "Middle Knowledge, Truth-Makers, and the 'Grounding Objection'" paper (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/grounding.html), assumes a theory about the relationship of truth and reality which first needs to be articulated and defended before it can be specifically applied to counterfactuals of freedom. For instance, one might just as easily ask, "What makes '1 plus 1 equals two' true?" If one can simply respond "The fact that it is so," why can't one do the same about any counterfactual? That's not to say that one will respond in this manner; but, as Craig stresses, a theory about the relationship of truth and reality would then need to be articulated and defended.

Don, your first paragraph is what I said above. This is Aquinas' response to the standard argument from Alexander of Aphrodisias.

"1+1=2" is a necessary truth. I would hope that Craig doesn't believe truths about free human choices are necessary. there's something about the very nature of "1+1-2" that makes it true. Its truthmaker is itself (although ultimately God's nature). The same can't be said of truths about libertarian free acts.

Jeremy,

Thanks for the reply to my late comment. If it is not the case that all truths are necessary truths, then what I said in my second paragraph still applies and one would have to develop and defend a complete theory about the relationship of truth and reality, not just mention that some truths are necessary truths. (Maybe a better example would have been "What makes 'Zeus does not exist' true?")

I have no real problem with your post except that when you say, in passing (i.e., with very little defense), that Molinism "has truths that are true for no reason," that's a statement, I think, that, though often stated in passing, needs to be more thoroughly backed-up (which involves developing and defending a theory about the relationship of truth and reality).

What makes 'Zeus does not exist' true?

I think the standard answer is that all existing things are the truthmaker for each negative existential.

I'm not sure what you mean by a theory about the relationship between truth and reality. I know I'm going to hold that every truth has a truthmaker, i.e. something that explains why it is true. Do you mean something more in-depth than that? I think that's all I need.

No, I meant nothing more in-depth than that. But merely saying that everything truth requires a truthmaker does not say much. Who's to say that counterfactuals of freedom don't have truthmakers? One would have to explain why not, which, once again, involves developing and defending a truthmaker theory. (Maybe Craig's paper, though, if you care to skim it, can help explain better the relevant issues involved.)

Standard answers, under closer analysis, can be problematic. Consider your recent suggestion: if existing things are truthmakers, then exactly what is meant by "existing things"?* There would need to be a lot of clarification here. For example, what makes "Abraham Lincoln was president" true? He no longer exists. So it is not entirely clear what counts as the "existing thing" in this instance.

Even on a simpler case there would be issues. What makes "Bush is president" true? That Bush exists? That, if anything, merely makes "Bush exists" true. Moreover, how is saying (if it is to be said) that Bush's existence is the truthmaker of "Bush exists" any different from saying that what makes "Bush exists" true is the fact that it so (which is the simple response I mentioned in my first comment)?

*(I know you actually suggest that existing things are truthmakers merely for negative existential statements whereas I discuss other sorts of statement; but again then, that is only partly, not fully, articulating a truthmaker theory.)

I thought I'd already explained why counterfactuals of freedom can't have truthmakers (on the Molinist conception of them; compatibilists have no trouble explaining what the truthmakers would be). According to the A-theorist, truths in the present can't have truthmakers in the future (my preferred solution). But they can't have truthmakers in the present either, because that would mean the present guarantees the future, and determinism is true. The point of Molinism is to avoid determinism.

Abraham Lincoln exists, just not at this time. That's what follows from the B-theory. You can't say that if you hold to presentism, as Craig does. Presentism has a more general problem with truthmakers for past truths, never mind future contingents. Since the view is inconsistent with our best science anyway in addition to all the philosophical problems, I think it's hopeless to try to maintain it, but some smart philosophers (e.g. Dean Zimmerman) find it so obvious that they want to.

how is saying (if it is to be said) that Bush's existence is the truthmaker of "Bush exists" any different from saying that what makes "Bush exists" true is the fact that it so (which is the simple response I mentioned in my first comment)

I'm not sure why those two have to be different. The point isn't whether you can explain truthmakers in terms of facts. It's whether there are the facts to use as truthmakers. With presentism, there are no facts about the past and future. There are just facts about the present that then have to do far more than they really can accomplish if they're to ground truths about the past and the future.

Your explanation was not thorough at all, in my opinion. If the idea that on presentism "there are no facts about the past and future" is your explanation for why Molinism cannot allow for truthmakers of counterfactuals of freedom then that simply begs the question, since it assumes what it's trying to prove (see below for more on this). If your explanation is that there being present truthmakers of future events entails determinism, then you would need to do more than just assert that. You haven't defended that at all. Moreover, it's not at all clear that that is the case. (Also, this second explanation seems to contradict the first.)

I'm not sure why those have to be different.

I agree. That was my point. Thus, if what makes "Bush exists" true is the fact that it is so, then why isn't what makes "Smith will go outside tomorrow" true the fact that it is so?

With presentism, there are no facts about the past and future.

That doesn't follows from presentism (at least not without an argument). What follows is that there are no facts in the past and future—because, of course, the past and future don't exist. (You stated it right in the second sentence of your most recent comment.) But, unless proven otherwise, I see no reason not to believe that there are still (present) facts about the past. Lincoln existed is a (present) fact about the past. The fact Lincoln exists, however, does not now exist, given presentism, because it existed in the past.

Thus, if what makes "Bush exists" true is the fact that it is so, then why isn't what makes "Smith will go outside tomorrow" true the fact that it is so?

Because it's a fact about something that doesn't exist, and I haven't seen any account of how facts about things that don't exist can be in the present. I'm not sure what you mean by a fact, but it seems very unlike anything I've encountered in the philosophical literature if there can be facts that don't depend on anything in existence.

Forget facts. Since you want to take this clear beyond the target audience of introductory-level philosophy, we can just say that truth supervenes on being rather than trying to keep it to the original argument that I use with introductory students who don't know anything about correspondence theories of truth or things of that nature.

Presentism requires truths that, as Ted Sider puts it, float free of the world:

For the presentist, all states of affairs are currently existing states of affairs, and the properties and relations of objects are confined to those of currently existing objects. But surely the truth about the past is not fixed by the truth about the present. [Four-Dimensionalism, pp.36-37]

Now you seem to be making John Bigelow's move in response to this argument, which takes there to be properties of the sum total of everything that include properties like previously containing Abraham Lincoln. These brute properties don't have any grounding in any intrinsic features of the world. They don't depend on the things that exist for being the way they are. So I don't think this move really allows for truth to supervene on being.

Jeremy,

This will probably be my last comment. Thanks for the responses.

I know you said to forget facts, so pardon my bringing them back up. You criticize presentism for its needing to have some of its facts be about things that don't exist. But the "exist" in the last sentence must be meant tenselessly; otherwise any B-theory of time falls subject to the same criticism. If, however, it is held without argument that tenseless facts are required as truthmakers then that seems to beg the question against the Molinist/presentist. If that position were obviously true then it would not need an argument, but it doesn't seem apparent to me. Moreover, I'm not certain what all the implications would be for suggesting that the existence of the time block of the universe, or all of reality, (the B-theory of time) is the basis for God's knowledge of it.

Also, it doesn't seem that all truths (e.g., necessary or negative existential truths) have truthmakers in the same sense that other truths do, on your theory. It isn't apparent to me why counterfactuals of freedom can't also be one of these odd cases. (It is not my position though that such counterfactuals would need to involve an "odd case.") But again, if you're presupposing that truths need tenseless truthmakers then that just seems to beg the question, and Molinism would be certain to fail.

(As an aside, Sider's comment just seems confused. It doesn't even seem to make sense to suggest—and the presentist doesn't suggest it—that facts about the present can fix facts about the past. The fact that Lincoln does not presently exist says absolutely nothing whatsoever about whether he did exist, and presentism doesn't entail that it does. So I am not sure what Sider is meaning to say there.)

But the "exist" in the last sentence must be meant tenselessly; otherwise any B-theory of time falls subject to the same criticism. If, however, it is held without argument that tenseless facts are required as truthmakers then that seems to beg the question against the Molinist/presentist.

The claim can be meant ambiguously. To make it more precise, I could say that truths need some presently existing or tenselessly existing state of affairs to be the case to be grounded.

Counterfactuals of freedom seem so very much not like necessary truths that I don't know how they could function the same way. It's that they are contingent that makes them difficult to ground. Trying to make them enough like necessary truths might do, but can you make them enough like necessary truths so that they serve as their own explanations without making them necessarily true? I don't think you could.

Ted Sider doesn't think presentists believe that facts about the present fix facts about the past. What he says is that presentism seems to lead to that unwelcome conclusion, and so it must be false. If there are these free-floating truths in the present about the past, then there are things in the present that fix the past.

My response is always to claim that the original incompatibility argument fails. Either it commits a modal fallacy (like the rendition you start with) or it relies on a dubious transfer principle (one that would work just as well for logical determinism). I don't have to come up with some story as to how divine foreknowledge is compatible with free will. The incompatibility claim never even gets off the ground.

Now, based on your discussion, I guess I'm supposed to be in 3. But why can't I be a presentist or a 'temporal becoming' booster and still insist that the incompatibility argument fails?

Presentism and growing block theories of time have the problem about grounding truth about the future. If you grant truth about the future, and you accept that the future state of affairs can cause God's knowledge, then you're good. But that does mean accepting backward causation or divine atemporality, and it does mean overcoming the problem of grounding future truths in something there are no facts about (and all those problems that have now been discussed to death). So I'm open to its being done, but all those problems need to be addressed.

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