Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 10, number 28, April 1978
Omnipotencia, Omnisciencia y libertad
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Eugenio Bulygin
Universidad Nacional de La Plata

Abstract: The essay has no theological purpose; its aim is to elucidate the logical relationship between the concepts of omnipotence, omniscience, and freedom —a theme which has been studied by many contemporary analytical philosophers, such as Prior, Von Wright, Mackie, Kenny, and Plantinga.
The point of departure is Leibniz´ famous argument about our world being the best of all possible worlds:

(1) If God is almighty, He can create any possible world.
(2) If God is all-knowing, He knows which is the best of all possible worlds:
(3) If God is good, He always chooses the best.
(4) God is almighty, all-knowing, and good.
(5) God has created this world.
(6) This world is the best of all possible worlds.

Although this is logically sound, it is also confusing, for our world seems, to a great extent, an evil one, and it is difficult to believe it can be the best of all possible worlds. From here springs, not a distrust in logic, but an inquiry into what Leibniz´ argument proves and does not prove.
It does not prove this is the best of all possible worlds. It does prove that, if God is almighty, all-knowing, and good, then this is the best of all possible worlds. The logical validity of the argument means precisely this: if the premises are true, the the conclusion is also true; if the conclusion is false, one of the premises must be false. The problem narrows down to premise (4), which is in no way self-evident. This authorizes a different use of the same argument: instead of proving, based on God´s attributes, that this is the best of worlds, we could try to prove, supposing the conclusion false, that one of the premises, specifically the fourth one, is false. That is to say, if this world contains an appreciable amount of evil, then the premise (4) is false. But Leibniz´ argument does not prove that this world is good— it can be the best of all possible worlds and still be an evil world. So, the proof that this is an evil world does not make Leibniz´ premises false. To do so, one must prove that this is not the best of all possible worlds, i.e., that a better world than ours can be possible. A line of argument could be: (1) Evil exists in this world. (2) A world in which no evil exists is better than a world in which evil exists; therefore, (3) this is not the best of all possible worlds. Those who defend God´s attributes have attacked our third premise by invoking the argument of freedom, which shows that the existence of evil in the world does not exclude the possibility that this is the best of all possible worlds.
We pass on to God´s omniscience. Can He foresee men´s actions, i.e., know them beforehand? Is not such a knowledge incompatible with freedom? It would seem that, if God can foresee all human actions, none of such actions can be free. This is a specific instance of a wider problem, that of the knowledge of contingent futures (including future free actions).
Answers posed to this problem can be classified in two groups: (a) The ortodox solutions, which pretend to preserve both man´s freedom and God´s omniscience, and so must show that the two concepts are not incompatible; and (b) the heterodox answers which admit the logical incompatibility of the two ideas and deny one of them, be it human freedom or divine foreknowledge.
Bulygin questions the validity of the orthodox philosopher´s basic assumption —the belief that, if God does not know contingent futures, He is not all-knowing. Then he shows the concept of freedom to be logically compatible with that of omniscience. So far he follows orthodoxy, but then he adds, along a more heterodox line, that God cannot know contingent futures, and so cannot know the future free actions of men. In brief, the inability to foresee free human actions does not affect His omniscience at all, for propositions about contingent futures are neither true nor false (only propositions about non-contingent futures can be so), and therefore they cannot be known, for knowledge entails the truth of the known proposition.
From God´s inability to foreknow free actions, orthodox philosophers go on to affirm that God is not omniscient. But God can be consequently, the future free actions of men. Omniscience is to know all that can be known, not to know that which cannot be known. There is no paradox, therefore, in saying that God is omniscient and, at the same time, does not know contingent futures.
Aquinas would have agreed with at least a part of Bulygin´s answer, for, in the first place, the Doctor Angelicus strongly emphasizes that God cannot do that which is logically impossible, and that such an inability does not affect His omnipotence; and, in the second place, he maintains (by implication) that God cannot know contingent futures.
All this goes to say that Leibniz´ premises are not contradictory. It is possible coherently to maintain that God is almighty, all-knowing, good, and has create this world; and if these premises are true (which is not proved here), then our world is, in spite of everything, the best of all possible worlds.
[Sebastián Lamoyi]
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