Acts of understanding: Elucidating/Negating the previous post

I may have been overambitious in my previous post, and made too much out of too little (this came to me upon critical reflection). My mistake was that I suggested that the difference between certain ‘modes’ of God’s understanding, classically distinguished, represent different acts of apprehension. It isn’t clear, though, that this is the case.

Let us ennumerate the ways God could know something:

  1. Simplex Intelligentia – God apprehends the merely possible.
  2. Scientia Visionis – God knows by ‘vision’ or ‘observation’.
  3. Scientia Media – God knows subjunctive counterfactual conditionals of creaturely freedom.
  4. Cognitionem Ratiocinativam – God knows a priori all truths which can thus be known. (This differs from Simplex Intelligentia in that it consists in true counterfactuals [eg. ‘if creation instantiates, then beings capable of love will occupy it’], but also differs from Scientia Media insofar as it does not include subjunctive conditionals of creaturely freedom).

I was trying to argue that if God has Scientia Visionis then God’s understanding cannot be achieved in a single act, since in creating the world his knowledge would include some articles of knowledge subsumed under the category of Cognitionem Ratiocinativam, and then in a logically successive (not temporally successive) act of understanding God would gain knowledge by observation of the world (Scientia Visionis). In other words, God could know counterfactually that the world, if he were to create it, would consist of such-and-so, but could not know (without middle knowledge) whether the world would consist of this or that event. God would have to create the world, and then his knowledge of it would be enriched, since he would then know by ‘vision’ a posteriori such things as “Adam in fact chose to eat the pomegranate from the tree in the Garden of Eden.” His knowledge would be partitioned into two logically successive stages, the first in which he knows a priori, and the second in which he knows a posteriori. However, since ‘worlds’ just are maximally specific propositions (assuming I am not mistaken about that), then it seems as though in order for God to choose to actualize a world, he would have to actualize a maximally specific proposition from which could be derived all those synthetic truths about what creatures do do in such a world. Thus, such a maximally specific proposition (I reasoned) must include counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (counterfactual at least prior to creation).

Perhaps my mistake is just that, absent creation, the counterfactuals God knows by Cognitionem Ratiocinativam would not, properly, be predicates born by the world (they would not be true ‘of the world‘ (since there is no as of yet any world of which they might be true), but true in a merely possible sense). Once the world exists (i.e., given creation) then God knows all those truths about it, including synthetic truths, by one act of understanding (immediate intuitive apprehension). Thus, there is no act of understanding such that God apprehends only part of the truth about the world, since what God knows counterfactually about the world logically-prior to creation is not what he knows about the world but rather is what he apprehends as a mere possibility (a mere possible description).

I think it is clear that different modes of God’s knowledge, insofar as we represent it to ourselves theologically, do not in any sense constitute different ‘acts’ of understanding.

So, to come at it again, let us say that the first act of understanding of God is the counterfactual “if I create a world, then it will consist of X” – (where X is exhaustively descriptive of the world). I had thought that if God understood “if I create a world, then it will consist of X” where X simply outlined a set of counterfactuals, along with a set of counterfactual-counterfactuals (eg. if Adam were to exist and be faced with the opportunity to exercise free will, Adam would either choose one way, or the other – and if he chose the first, A’ would result), then God would know that if he actualized the world, some things would be actualized (which he knows a priori) and that other things may or may not be actualized. He would have to ‘wait and see’, as it were, to find out a posteriori whether some things instantiated or not. This seemed to work out fine if the actual world were a maximally consistent set of (true) propositions, but it seemed somehow more difficult if the world were a maximally specific true proposition. God’s act of creation would not merely be the ground for the possibility of certain things, but the act of instantiating all those things which are (in fact) instantiated (since creating a world would simply be to actualize a single particular maximally specific proposition, which is exhaustively descriptive of the world).

In retrospect I think I was not only wrong to reason this way, but embarrassingly wrong. God’s act of actualizing a single particular maximally specific proposition may leave ‘open’ what that maximally specific proposition would consist of in particular (derivatively). In other words, contingent agents who act in some sense as moral ‘prime-movers’ may determine the particulars of the world, for which God’s act of creation was the ground of their possibility, and still God’s knowledge of the world would be accomplished in one ‘act’ of apprehension logically successive to the act of creation.

We all make mistakes I guess, perhaps me more often than I would like.


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, Free Will, Modality, Molinism, Philosophical Theology, Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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