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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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Hi Bill,

Regarding Matthews' "knowledge externalism" proposal, this looks to me like an implicit denial of divine omniscience.

Consider three worlds, W1, W2, and W3. As a necessary being, God exists in all three worlds. In W1 there exists A, B, and C, but no D, E, or F. In W2 there exists D, E, and F, but not A, B, or C. In W3 God and God alone exists. According to Matthews, God in W1 is intrinsically identical to God in W2 and to God in W3.

Now suppose that W1 is actual. In virtue of what does God know that W1 is actual and not W2 or W3? Here the knowledge externalist will appeal to external relations. But I don't see how this can capture omniscience. Compare God with Schmod. Schmod is just like God on the assumption of divine simplicity. That is, there is nothing intrinsic to Schmod that is distinct from Schmod. But Schmod, unlike God, is not omniscient. Rather, Schmod is like Aristotle's "thought thinking itself". Schmod knows all necessary truths, but no contingent truths. Whatever possible world is actual, Schmod's knowledge is exactly the same. Schmod, we might say, is epistemically indifferent with respect to contingent reality. Now, on Matthews' view there is no intrinsic difference between God and Schmod. But then isn't it simply gratuitous for him to insist that God, unlike Schmod, is omniscient?

Now, I agree with Matthews that God is immediately acquainted with all of reality. But I don't think it follows that what God is immediately acquainted with makes no intrinsic difference to God. If it doesn't make an intrinsic difference, then what I do think follows is that either (a) everything is necessary or (b) God's supposed "knowledge" of contingent realities is not the genuine article (because there's no intrinsic difference between God and Schmod).

Here's another way to put my objection to Matthews: I'm basically arguing that (2) entails (3), and thus that not-(3) entails not-(2). If there's no intrinsic difference between a God who knows only necessary truths and a God who knows all truths, then either (a) there are no contingent truths or (b) there are contingent truths and neither God is omniscient.

Either way, it follows that classical theism understood as commitment to (1), (2), and (4) is untenable.

Very interesting criticism, Alan.

>>Now, on Matthews' view there is no intrinsic difference between God and Schmod. But then isn't it simply gratuitous for him to insist that God, unlike Schmod, is omniscient? <<

Well, God and Schmod are not intrinsically different, but they are relationally different. God on Matthews' view is omniscient in that, in each world, God knows whatever contingent states of affairs are there to be known. It is just that he knows them without there being anything intrinsic to God in virtue of which he knows them.

>> Well, God and Schmod are not intrinsically different, but they are relationally different.

That's Matthews' view, of course. But on my view, that relational difference is a mere "Cambridge" difference, not a real or genuine difference. As I see it, the difference amounts merely to the fact that we (stipulatively) conceptualize God as externally related to contingencies and Schmod as not so related.

Matthews affirms DDS in part at least because he believes that any being-- construe that in a manner that does imply that God is a "being among beings"--that didn't satisfy DDS would not be God. In contrast, I deny DDS because I believe that any being that satisfied it would not be God (because not omniscient, among other things).

Alan,

I think you are just opposing Matthews, not really refuting him.

I think a better tack to take would be to ask whether ultimately it makes sense to affirm externalism whether for us or for God. I suspect that it does not, and that for this reason Matthews' sol'n to the above problem does not work.

I don't see why Matthews is committed to the view that there is no intrinsic difference between God and Schmod. Why can't he say that God intrinsically differs from Schmod in such a way that we can truly say of God that he is epistemically sensitive to contingent reality and Schmod not? I take it there is more than one way of being simple.

Of course, this intrinsic difference cannot vary from world to world, but I don't why that should be a problem.

Another tack would be to argue that there is not more than one way of being simple, and that being simple entails being epistimically sensitive to contingency, and so the hypothesis of a simple being that lacks this feature (Schmod) is impossible.

Good point, Matt. Schmod is intrinsically such as to know only necessary truths. God is not. So God and Schmod differ intrinsically.

What say you, Alan?

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