Dan Fincke takes issue with dismissiveness toward philosophy, and I agree with him about that, but I’m not sure about the particular example he’s chosen. That could well be just because I’m not a philosopher, so I’m not understanding.
The fellowship enables young scholars to use contemporary analytic methods to pursue independent research in the fields of divine and human agency, such as moral responsibility and freedom of will; or philosophy of mind and its theological implications, such as the presence of the divine in a natural world and the emergence of consciousness.
[The] postdoctoral research project, “Divine Foreknowledge, the Philosophy of Time, and the Metaphysics of Dependence: Some New Approaches to an Old Problem,” assesses a core Ockhamist thesis about foreknowledge. William of Ockham was a 13th century philosopher.
“The central contention of the Ockhamist concerns a point about the order of explanation. According to the Ockhamist, it is because of what we do that God long ago believed that we would do these things. That is, God’s past beliefs depend in an important sense on what we do, and thus, says the Ockhamist, we can sometimes have a choice about God’s past beliefs,” he explained. “The overarching goal of this project is to develop and assess this core Ockhamist thesis along two underexplored dimensions: the philosophy of time, and the metaphysics of dependence – both of which have seen an explosion of recent interest.”
…it does not matter whether there actually is a God. There is still philosophical illumination from exploring the implications of a hypothetical omniscient knower for our understanding of things like the connections between belief, causation, and time.
That’s the part that I don’t get, that maybe I would get if I were a philosopher. I have a hard time seeing how there can be illumination from exploring the implications of a hypothetical omniscient knower when an omniscient knower is, as far as we know, in the world we inhabit, in the conditions we understand, etc, so impossible. All it seems to generate is absurdity. Then if you have to reconcile it with the inviolability of free will, it generates absurdity squared. Dan quotes Verbose Stoic doing just that (reconciling it with free will):
Ockham likely argued that if we have an omniscient being — God — then that God would know what we’re doing right now. But that could mean that God knows that and can know that because He determined it, which would violate free will. So, then, if it is not pre-determined then God’s belief about what we will do must be formed as we do it right now. But God has always known it, which would mean that our decisions now have an impact on beliefs formed in the past. If conceptually coherent, this has major implications for the conceptions of time and of dependence — ie what it means for one fact or truth or action to depend on another — both of which are currently of interest in philosophical circles.
But does it? If it starts with impossibilities, does it have implications for anything? This is what I don’t get.