The Rise of Modern Philosophy

By Anthony Kenny | Go to book overview
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Molina on Omniscience and Freedom

The problem of reconciling human freedom with God's foreknowledge of human actions had baffled all the great scholastics of the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas maintained that God foresaw what we would do because all our actions were present to him in the single moment of eternity. Duns Scotus complained that this solution would work only if time was fundamentally unreal. Instead, he proposed that God knew creatures' actions by knowing what he himself had decreed from all eternity. Ockham objected that such knowledge would provide foreknowledge of human actions only if our actions were predetermined and therefore unfree. He himself offered no solution to the problem: divine foreknowledge was just a dogma to be blindly believed. Peter de Rivo had tried to preserve freedom while accepting divine omniscience by denying that future contingent propositions had any truth-value to be known even by God; but this was a weasel way out and was condemned by the Church. Lorenzo Valla, Erasmus, and Luther were no better able than their predecessors to reconcile liberty and omniscience. All were reduced to quoting the Pauline text with which every theologian sooner or later admits his bafflement on this topic: 'Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!' (Rom 11: 35).1

A novel and highly ingenious solution to the problem was proposed at the end of the sixteenth century by the Jesuit Luis Molina. Molina agreed

1 See vol. II, pp. 298–301.


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The Rise of Modern Philosophy


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