SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

How to Get Past the Problem of God's Omniscience
(Philosophy of Religion, )

The problem of God's omniscience is as old as it is simple: The problem is that it appears, given God's omniscience, that one is only able to do something about the future, if one is able to do something about God's past beliefs. It appears, however, that nobody is able to do anything about God's past beliefs (because nobody is able to do anything about the past). It appears, therefore, that, given God's omniscience, nobody is able to do anything about the future.

The problem has led many to give up the view that God is omniscient (or even to give up the view that God exists). The aim of my paper, however, is to reject the problem by drawing attention to a so far unnoticed ambiguity in the formulation of the problem: it is not entirely clear what the phrase ``the past'' refers to. For while it is clear that what has already ended belongs to the past (such as the last glacial period), it is not entirely clear whether what has already started but not yet ended belongs to the past (such as the current geological epoch or the expansion of the universe). The phrase ``the past'' may, accordingly, either refer to something that includes that which has already started but not yet ended (to ``the inclusive past'' as I'll call it), or to something that excludes that which has already started but not yet ended (to ``the exclusive past'' as I'll call it).

The aim of my paper is to argue that, once we resolve the ambiguity, the problem of God's omniscience disappears (or, at any rate, is not as severe as often supposed). For the aim of the paper is to argue that either God's beliefs do not belong to the past (if ``the past'' means ``the exclusive past''), or that it is false that nobody is able to do anything about the past (if ``the past'' means ``the inclusive past''). The main idea: On the one hand, if the ``the past'' means ``the exclusive past'', then only that which has already ended belongs to the past. God's beliefs, however, have not ended yet. God's beliefs, therefore, do not belong the past (if ``the past'' means ``the exclusive past''). On the other hand, if ``the past'' means ``the inclusive past'', then what has not ended yet (and what is, therefore, still ongoing) belongs to the past. It is false, however, that nobody is able to do anything about what is still ongoing. It is false, therefore, that nobody is able to do anything about the past (if ``the past'' means ``the inclusive past''). Thus, once we resolve the ambiguity, the problem of God's omniscience disappears (or, at any rate, is not as severe as often supposed).

Chair: Ina Jäntgen
Time: 11:20-11:50, 10 September 2021 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.006
Remark: (Online Talk)

Marco Hausmann 
(Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany)

Marco Hausmann is writing a dissertation on free will and determinism at the University of Munich, Germany. He is the author of the papers ``The Consequence Argument Ungrounded'' (Synthese, 2018), ``Against Kripke's Solution to the Problem of Negative Existentials'' (Analysis, 2019) and ``The Consequence of the Consequence Argument'' (Kriterion, 2020). Together with Joerg Noller, he is editor of the book ``Free Will: Historical and Analytic Perspectives'' (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming). His research interests include metaphysics, logic, and the philosophy of language, freedom and religion.

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