Molinism and Sovereignty

The Christian who believes that God has middle knowledge is typically concerned to secure the belief that God is Sovereign in the sense that nothing whatever is out of God’s providential control and direction. God ordains what we will freely do, according to the Molinist, without determining it, and this seems to preserve a special view of God’s sovereignty.

However, if God has middle knowledge, and if the Molinist-type counterfactuals are out of God’s control and in no way determined by him, then the Molinist has only just pushed the problem back one step, since instead of God allowing men to make free choices which are ‘out of his control’ (he actualizes them weakly, and not strongly, by simply allowing them, rather than causing or determining them), God now allows subjunctive counterfactuals to be true or false independently of what he wills. God, according to the Molinist view, is just dealt the hand he is dealt of counterfactual conditionals. So, it seems that the Molinist does no better, because the world is still, in some degree, out of God’s control.

What is more, not only are Molinist-type counterfactuals violations of the PSR if they are ungrounded, but the PSR is also violated, even if they are grounded, if there is no sufficient reason why those Molinist-type counterfactuals which are true, are true, and those which are false, false.


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.
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4 Responses to Molinism and Sovereignty

  1. camcintosh says:

    This has got to be one of the most overrated objections in play in PoR. CCFs are grounded in their respective creaturely essences, which are in turn grounded in the mind of God, just like numbers and other abstract objects.

    • Interesting. I’d like to hear more about how you suppose Molinist-type counterfactuals could be grounded in the essence of libertarian-free creatures, which is in turn always grounded in the mind of God. I would love to be able to make sense of that (the prospect is intellectually exciting).

      I don’t think that abstract objects like numbers or propositions exist mind-independently. I’m a conceptualist of the modal-realist variety, like (or similar to) Aquinas, and think that forms do not exist outside the mind, but that the world was created by God such that forms are abstracted correctly from nature whose structure is conceptual/formal. I do not agree with Scotus that universals subsist in individuals. Thus, even if I say that the forms exist in the mind of God, I take it that the forms do not really ‘exist’ (for some of them are uncreatable and distinct from God). What is your take on Universals?

      Moreover, if Molinist-type counterfactuals are grounded in the essence of libertarian-free creatures, and if that essence is determined (in any relevant sense) by those libertarian-free agents, then how does stipulating that it is grounded get you out of the problem that God does not determine the truth of Molinist-type counerfactuals? After all, Molinist-type counterfactuals could be grounded in such a way that would make it impossible for Molinism to be true. So what good does it do to say that CCF’s are grounded if the account of how they are grounded makes it impossible for Molinism to be true?

      • camcintosh says:

        I lean toward conceptualism as well. In particular, I’m attracted to Greg Welty’s work in this area, who argues that nominalism holds at the divine level but platonism holds at the created level. God’s thoughts are to us and creation more “metaphysically” robust” than they are to God himself.

        The CCFs are grounded in the contingent properties of creaturely essences, and differ from world to world. God still has the choice of which world to actualize. For a full defense, see Kvanvig, The Possibility of an All-Knowing God. See also the relevant sections of Flint’s Divine Providence: The Molinist Account.

        Alternatively, if you’re following the recent literature on grounding, you could argue that CCFs are fundamental truths that do not need a ground. Because grounding is distinguished from necessity, the problem does not arise. I myself am not so sure about this solution, but it is suggestive and probably defensible, given the resources out there on grounding.

      • Intriguing. I will certainly be reading into this. Thank you.

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