1. A Re-Cap of My Argument
It will be recalled, that in my first essay, I developed an argument from what I called “The Dependence Thesis” (‘DT’) which held:
(DT). For any person S and CCF C, if C is true, S has made it true that C
As I noted in part 3 of my first essay, if (‘DT’) is true, the Counterfactuals of Creaturely Freedom (‘CCFs’) do not wont for truthmakers. That is, they are true; and what’s more their truth is grounded in the causal powers of the relevant agents. Otherwise said: we are explanatorily anterior to the truth of propositions regarding how we act.
But, as I noted, if that is true, there arises an issue of timing. Simply put, it seems to follow that the (‘CCFs’) were true long before we made them so. In fact, it might be said that God knew them to be true as at the moment of creation. To make this concrete, take the proposition:
(C) Andrew has written a rejoinder to John’s essay
As from the moment of creation, God knew (C) to be true. And yet, to the extent that (‘DT’) is true, there was still some 13.8 billion years to traverse before the realisation of the conditions making (C) true. Simply put, if (‘DT’) is true, my actions in the present, cause God to know that (C) before I performed them. Hence, backwards causation.
I need not repeat the reasons for my scepticism regarding backwards causation. For that, I would simply turn readers to my first essay. Nonetheless it is worth pointing out, that one might escape this argument by punting to something like an Eternalist (B-theory) conception of time.
It should also be noted that John himself, has acknowledged it as an impossibility. Rather, the real issue for present purposes, is the meaning and truth of (‘DT’).
Readers will recall that, in my first essay, I sought to defend (‘DT’) on two alternative grounds. On the one hand, I argued that it was ingredient in what it means to say that we are morally culpable for our actions. On the other hand, I argued that it was essential or necessary to Molinism itself. The significance of this latter point, was that if true, Molinism finds itself committed to a thesis that spells its own demise.
2. John’s Reply – (MT) and (MT2)
In his reply, John sought to identify a supposed ambiguity in the meaning of the words ‘made it true’ in (‘DT’). As he rightly identifies, on my rendering of those words, they mean something like:
(MT) For any person S and CCF C, if C is true, S causes it that C
Accordingly, (‘DT’) can be rendered as follows:
(‘DT1’) For any person S and CCF C, if C is true, S has caused it to be true that C
In a verbal exchange between John and myself, cavils were raised about the use of the word ‘cause’. Specifically, a somewhat pedantic point was made about the distinction between causing actions and causing propositions. I readily grant the distinction between actions and propositions. But the significance of that distinction, for present purposes, continues to escape me.
In the exchange, John was willing to concede that if I cause an event, a proposition is subsequently made to be true. Consider for instance, the fact that I had coffee and eggs for breakfast this morning. As a result, there exists a true proposition of the form “Andrew Harland-Smith had eggs for breakfast this morning”. To put it another way, my having had eggs and coffee for breakfast are the truth conditions of the aforementioned proposition.
And that is enough to get my argument (that Molinism seemingly entails backwards causation) across the line. To illustrate, take the proposition “Andrew and John are having a written/verbal exchange about Molinism”. As John himself concedes, the truth conditions of this proposition lie in actions that we cause here in 2018. And yet, as from the moment of creation, God knew it to be true. Hence, backwards causation.
To avoid this un-welcome consequence, John attempts to distinguish (MT) from (MT2).
(MT2) For any person S and CCF C, if C is true, C corresponds to a state-of-affairs of what S would do in circumstances C1
2.1 A Distinction Without a Difference
Truth be told, it is unclear to me what, if any, cash value this distinction has. At no point does John spell out what he takes ‘correspondence’ to be. Nor is it clear to me what ‘correspondence’ is if it isn’t a causal relationship.
If John’s concept of ‘correspondence’ does turn out to be causal, there is simply no distinction between (MT) and (MT2). Specifically, it turns out that one can substitute the consequent of (MT2) with the words “C is caused to be true by some state of affairs describing what S would do in any circumstances C1”.
Perhaps I’m mistaken (prove me wrong), but it seems that ‘correspondence’ is a causal concept. To illustrate, as I sit here, I have a rather large, and particularly dull textbook sitting next to me, the title of which is “Principles of Real Property Law”. This state of affairs ((hereafter (S)) “corresponds” to a true proposition:
(P) There is a large and particularly dull textbook titled “Principles of Real Property Law” sitting on Andrew’s desk
Notice however, that (S) “corresponds” to (P) precisely because (S) causes it to be true that (P).
2.2 Molinism as Committed to (MT).
But cavils about the meaning of the term ‘correspondence’ to one side, there is a deeper worry somewhere in the offing. Specifically, Molinism must endorse (MT).
This claim derives from the assertion in part 2.2 of my first essay that Molinsim is committed to (‘DT’). Now, in fairness to John, part 3 of his response does attempt to resist this claim. But his attempts to do so are, at least in my estimation, mystifying. Specifically, I’m at a loss as to how he manages to saddle me with logical fallacy of which he accuses me.
At the risk of being somewhat repetitious, allow me to re-capitulate the argument. As the joint statement explains:
“…if the CCFs are a feature of God’s free knowledge, they are no longer truths about what libertarian free agents would do. To the extent that the ultimate source of their truth lies in God’s creative decree, their truth has been fixed independently the relevant agent’s causal powers”.
Hence it is anathema to Molinism to suppose that the (‘CCFs’) have had their truth set prior to, and hence independently of, the relevant agents’ causal powers. Specifically, Molinists tell us, that to say such a thing would undermine our status qua free agents. Accordingly, by its’ own lights, Molinism asserts:
(P). For any person S and true (‘CCF’) C, the truth of C is not independent of S’s causal powers.
Notice however, that (P) is identical to (P’)
(P’). For any person S and true (‘CCF’) C, the truth of C is dependent upon S’s causal powers.
In a verbal exchange between the two of us, John insisted on the pedantic and mystifying claim that there lies a distinction between the expressions: “C is not independent of S’s causal powers”, and “C is dependent upon S’s causal powers”. Truth be told, this proposed distinction continues to elude me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is a knock down argument for thinking that (P) and (P’) are identical.
Very simply, the word ‘independent’ is a conjunction of the word ‘dependent’ together with the negative prefix ‘in’. Accordingly, the logical form of the phrase ‘not independent’ reads:
It’s a grade school rule of logic that a double negative constitutes a positive; such that applied in the instant case, (1) can be re-stated as:
Thus, (P’) can be substituted for (P). Notice however, that (P’) is identical to (‘DT1”); that being the re-capitulation of (‘DT’) in light of (MT).
3. Is Mine an Argument Against Foreknowledge?
Recall the timing problem identified earlier. Take the proposition:
(C) Andrew has written a rejoinder to John’s essay
As noted a few times: As from the moment of creation, God knew (C) to be true. And yet, insofar as (‘DT’) is true, there was still some 13.8 billion years to traverse before the realisation of the conditions making (C) true. Simply put, if (‘DT’) is true, my actions in the present, cause God to know that (C) before I performed them. Hence, backwards causation.
John replies that this furnishes us not only with an argument against middle knowledge, but against foreknowledge in general. Implicitly, the claim is that if successful, my argument proves too much. Specifically, the allegation is that I haven’t simply proven that God doesn’t have middle knowledge, but that He doesn’t have foreknowledge at all. And yet, since we both agree that God has foreknowledge, something must be wrong with my argument.
John furnishes us with precious little in the way of argument on this score. But the more general point is relatively easy to defuse. To illustrate, return, for a moment, to (C). Notice, one only has a problem with backwards causation if my present actions (in 2018) are the basis of God’s knowledge that (C).
But, it isn’t obvious that we should take this for granted. Indeed one might say (as the proponents of Simple Foreknowledge do), that the (‘CCFs’) are an object of God’s free knowledge. That is, one may say that God knows that (C) because He has made it so. Or, perhaps more precisely, God knows that (C) because it is the consequence of creating us with the particular natures we possess. Either way, contra Molinist assertion, the truth of (C) is logically downstream of God’s creative decree.
Now, it may be that this response entails determinism of some kind. But there are two points to make here. Firstly, it remains false to assert that mine is an argument against foreknowledge. Secondly, it is worth re-iterating that this is an argument that John is estopped from raising against me. As I demonstrated, any argument to this effect must invariably rest at some level upon (‘DT’) and its correlates. That being the case, the John cannot in good conscience, press this claim against me and yet deny (‘DT’). Otherwise he is committing something like what Arthur Schopenhauer called the “taxi-cab fallacy”. In one breath, his would be an attempt to use (‘DT’) to saddle me with determinism. But, in the other breath, he would be seen to dismiss (‘DT’) when it’s noted that, combined with Middle Knowledge, it invariably pushes him into the cold embrace of backward causation.
4. Summing Up
Having said all of that, allow me to draw together the various threads of the argument so far. In my first essay, I sought to defend three contentions:
- (‘DT’) is inherent in what it means to say that we are morally culpable for our actions
- (‘DT’) is inherent in the reason Molinism treats the (‘CCFs’) as an object of God’s middle knowledge.
- (‘DT’) seems to entail backwards causation.
I have emphasised throughout that (‘DT’) only seems to entail backwards causation. Not least because I do acknowledge that there are other responses that the Molinist may make to escape this consequence. It may be possible, for instance, to punt to haecceitism. And whilst I find haecceitism incredible, it would take a much wider ranging exchange to fully flesh out why I consider it incredible. At any rate, it is not a possibility that John has pressed in his pleadings, so I feel little compunction in having passed it over.
 See part 2.2 of my first and present essays.