The overseer analogy

STA objects that God cannot know the future:

[E]ven what we ourselves know, must necessarily be; and, of course, the knowledge of God is much more certain than ours. But no future contingent things must necessarily be. Therefore no contingent future thing is known by God.

The argument is easy to retool as one against free choice, viz: free choice requires future contingency but the future is not contingent because God knows it.

In response, he gives a well-known analogy of one on a road and the overseer:

Things reduced to act in time, as known by us successively in time, but by God (are known) in eternity, which is above time. Whence to us they cannot be certain, forasmuch as we know future contingent things as such; but (they are certain) to God alone, whose understanding is in eternity above time. Just as he who goes along the road does not see those who come after him; whereas he who sees the whole road from a height sees at once all traveling by the way.

The analogy is from space to time, and amounts to a “flatland” argument since the overseer is above those walking around on the flat space. Divine duration is seen as an ulterior dimension to temporal duration. It follows that things that are really impossible – and not just unknowable- within temporal duration are possible in divine duration. In a two dimensional space, it is impossible to draw a circle cutting another circle that doesn’t cut it at two points, but in three dimensions this impossibility no longer exists. So for those who exist in time it is impossible in principle to know the future, but within the divine duration this impossibility no longer exists.

But wouldn’t it be possible for temporal beings to know the future by being told? Isn’t prophesy a possibility?

But isn’t this like assuming that anything that can be expressed in three dimensions can be expressed in two? This dovetails with the actual prophesies that I accept, which could be either hyper informed analysis of human affairs* or are expressed in ways that were multiply-realizable.**

Can we make the argument more formal?  Given all our beliefs – whether natural or revealed – fall under the principle of contradiction, and it is impossible under that principle for future contingents to have truth values, e.g. in the statement tomorrow there will be a sea battle neither the truth nor the falsity is necessary but only their conjuction, this would seem to be true even of a prophesy.


*Like the Fatima prophesies of “Russia spreading her errors around the world”

**Like Christological prophesies of Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53. “They have pierced my hands and feet” was realizable in ways other than crucifixion.

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