[Milton-L] Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 2 13:55:28 EDT 2006


An analogy whose details I do not recall has been
previously been made on the Milton List to illustrate
divine foreknowledge and human freedom. In this sort
of analogy, a person from an elevated position, say a
hill, sees that two free agents driving automobiles,
for example, are traveling from opposite directions
around a blind curve and are certain to collide.

Such a person foresees but bears no responsibility for
the collision.

I think that Diane McColley was refering to an analogy
of this sort:

"Some will say ... [that Milton's Adam and Eve] had to
fail it because God foresaw that they would, but
divine foresight is not cause, as William Kolbrener
has just explained."

I don't actually recall Professor Kolbrener's
explanation, but let's assume this sort of analogy
anyway.

If we also assume that divine foreknowledge of free
acts is possible (e.g., through some sort of Molinist
supercomprehension), then let's imagine two possible
cases:

1. An omniscient but powerless non-creator foreknows
the free acts of creatures that will choose evil over
good with the consequence that the cosmos will become
permeated with evil.

2. An omniscient and all-powerful creator creates the
cosmos and foreknows the free acts of creatures that
will choose evil over good with the consequence that
the cosmos will become permeated with evil.

In the first case, the analogy to the person on the
hill works.

Just as a person from an elevated position can see
that two free agents driving automobiles and traveling
from opposite directions around a blind curve are
certain to collide, so an omniscient but powerless
non-creator can foreknow the free acts of creatures
that will choose evil over good with the consequence
that the cosmos will become permeated with evil.

In the second case, I'm uncertain whether or not the
analogy works.

Even if we assume -- as we have assumed -- that the
omniscient and all-powerful creator's foreknowledge is
not causation, this creator's role as omniscient,
all-powerful creator raises the issue of his (or her)
responsibility for creating a cosmos despite
foreknowing that it will become permeated by evil.

Such a creator had best have a pretty good reason for
creating the cosmos.

Milton embeds a free-will defense within his larger
theodicy and seems to assume that resolves the issue
of God's responsibility, but that doesn't seem quite
sufficient to allow God "to wash his hands" of the
consequences (as someone on the Milton List has
noted).

A further step is needed, namely, an argument that the
cosmos is worth creating despite the evil that will
come to permeate it -- for example, that the amount of
evil does not cross the equivalent of a "Van Inwagen
line," a threshold whose crossing would result in an
amount of evil sufficient to disqualify the cosmos
from being created.

For Milton's theodicy to work, it has to show that God
has a pretty good reason for creating the cosmos
despite the evil that will result. (For that matter,
he would also need to have a pretty good reason for
creating Satan and his cohorts.)

Does Milton's God offer such a reason anywhere in
Paradise Lost? Does Milton offer one anywhere in his
extensive writings?

Jeffery Hodges

University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Email Address:

jefferyhodges at yahoo.com

Blog:

http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/

Office Address:

Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
Seoul
South Korea

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
Sehan Apt. 102-2302
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Seoul 131-770
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