[Milton-L] Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom

Judith Herz jherz at alcor.concordia.ca
Wed Aug 2 17:21:15 EDT 2006


I don't know if it's original to me, but I've been using this one in the
classroom for years. It more or less works, although one could complain
about a road with blind curves.
Judith Herz

----- Original Message -----
From: "Horace Jeffery Hodges" <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 3:55 PM
Subject: [Milton-L] Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom


> 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
> Sinnae-dong 795
> Jungrang-gu
> Seoul 131-770
> South Korea
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