Maximally Specific Synthetic Propositions

I have already argued that logically possible worlds ought not to be regarded as maximally consistent sets of propositions because it has been demonstrated that the ‘set of all true propositions‘ does not exist. Instead, therefore, we should speak about logically possible worlds as maximally specific propositions, from which one could in principle derive all the propositions which could describe that logically possible world (i.e. maximally specific propositions are exhaustively descriptive).

I was reading Kant recently, and he said the following:

“… Now, however, we can also conceive of an understanding which, since it is not discursive like ours but is intuitive, goes from the synthetically universal (of the intuition of a whole as such) to the particular, i.e., from the whole to the parts, in which, therefore, and in whose representation of the whole, there is no contingency in the combination of the parts, in order to make possible a determinate form of the whole, which is needed by our understanding, which must progress from the parts, as universally conceived grounds, to the different possible forms, as consequences, that can be subsumed under it.”
~Critique of the Power of Judgment 5:407

What he means here by an intuitive understanding is just the understanding of God, which is not discursive but consists in one simple apprehension (simple in the sense that it is non composite, and thus has no parts – here meaning that no appeal to any other idea is necessary for God to, in one single act of understanding, understand the whole truth). What is interesting to me is that he says that even the intuitive understanding would comprehend the synthetically universal. Remember that for Kant, a synthetic proposition can be derived a priori, such as the proposition: “5+7=12” in which we find that the predicate ’12’ is not contained in any of the parts ‘5’ or ‘7’ or in the idea of addition. It is in no way contained in the subject, and thus the answer is synthetic, but can be derived a priori.

However, that knowledge of the world would be synthetic from the perspective of God’s mind, even if he could derive it a priori and in one simple intuitive act of understanding, because what it contains is not simply determined by God in such a way that it could not possibly have been otherwise than it is. Any world with actually contingent truths would be a world the description of which would include synthetic propositions.

First, what this means for Molinism

Maximally specific synthetic propositions are logically possible worlds, and include exhaustive descriptions of the world. If the world includes any genuinely contingent truths, such as the acts of one morally free agent, then this must be included in God’s simple apprehension of that maximally specific synthetic proposition which is true. Thus, some contingent truths are derived a priori if and only if middle knowledge is involved in maximally specific synthetic propositions. God, it seems, cannot be made to understand the world through two or more acts of understanding (one initial and one or more posterior), but must comprehend the world by one single act of understanding. Thus, God understands all truth in one simple act of intuitive understanding iff maximally specific propositions allow for the derivation of subjunctive counterfactual conditionals of creaturely freedom. Only in that case could God’s understanding of the whole truth be accomplished in one act of intuitive understanding.

The question may arise: if Molinism is true, couldn’t God make it the case that all free agents freely choose not to sin at all opportunities whence the choice to sin arises? Here we must say on the one hand that it seems to be the case for any one particular that God could, with middle knowledge, orchestrate events such that the person in question would freely choose not to sin. However, we cannot say that it is feasible for God to make it the case that all free agents never freely choose to sin. For instance, my morally neutral action in one instance may make it inevitable that another person will freely choose to sin. Perhaps my choice to sin may make it inevitable that somebody else freely choose to sin. Thus, though there may be some world in which God organizes events so as to make it the case that I freely choose not to sin, there is no telling that that world is on the whole better off.

In this way we can explain that the salvation of every individual is neither a historical accident, but nor is it the case that all persons who do actually reject God’s love and self-revelation of himself to them would have in all feasible worlds done so. Instead, their salvation becomes in one sense bound up with the story of all mankind – individual salvation is always related to and derived from the salvation of the many. In this way, because man is in this salvation-drama as a community, tied by a mysterious moral bond, it may be unfeasible for God to actualize a logically possible world any better than this one overall. Perhaps this is also the proper explanation of that passage in which Jesus talks about how if he had done the same miracles in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented.

‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
~Matthew 11:21 (Luke 10:13)

Thus, Christ did not do those miracles in the past to the people of Tyre and Sidon because the world would not have been, overall, made better by it. This aligns well with the idea that Christ came in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4-5). This helps promote the ideal that we have a moral duty to be saints.

Second, what it means for Philosophy of Time

Also, if worlds are maximally specific propositions then the actual world must be known as a maximally specific synthetic true proposition – which cannot be tensed. Thus, in order to preserve modal logic itself we are led to conceive of God existing necessarily such that he is not in time (his knowledge isn’t subject to time or tense). If the actual world is a maximally specific true proposition, and if God’s knowledge of all truths is intuitive and achieved in one simple act of understanding, then it seems that the maximally specific true proposition cannot be tensed, and thus that tense is not an objective feature of the world. This concludes to the truth of the B Theory of time, and offers a modal defeater for the A Theory of time – it makes the A theory of time not merely unlikely, but logically impossible.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Modality, Molinism, Philosophical Theology, Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Time, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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