Molinism and the Grounding Objection

by Max Andrews

The grounding objection asks the question: By what means or grounds does God know what he knows (particularly middle knowledge)?

Suppose I have an argument similar to the grounding argument from the grounding objection claiming that contingent truths are not self-explanatory but must simply exist, from all eternity, as an ungrounded, metaphysical surd.  How would I, as a Molinist, respond?

This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does.  God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

God does not get his knowledge from things, but knows all things in himself and from himself; therefore, the existence of things, whether in time or eternity, contributes nothing to God’s knowing with certainty what is going to be or not to be… For prior to any existence on the part of the objects, God has within himself the means whereby he knows all things fully and perfectly; and this is why the existence of created things contributes no perfection to the cognition he has of them and does not cause any change in that cognition… [And] God does not need the existence of those things in his eternity in order to know them with certainty.[1]

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[1] Luis de Molina, On Divine Foreknowledge, trans. Alfred J. Freddoso (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), 4.49.12, 11.

4 Responses to “Molinism and the Grounding Objection”

  1. “This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does.”

    Perhaps so, but this seems somewhat unfair. Does anyone understand how God knows what he does? God “knows all things in himself and from himself”? Maybe that means something to some people, but I think to most it just means “He just does.” And that hardly seems like grounding.

    • I think it provides grounding but if there’s another explanation for how God knows what he does then I’d be happy to entertain it.

  2. Maybe I’m misunderstanding Luis de Molina here, but it seems to me that he’s making an appeal to God’s aseity, or perhaps more correctly, divine simplicity. God knows what He knows not because He has the attribute/property of knowledge, but because He *is* knowledge. Perhaps this provides grounding of a sort, but then of course, we just have to turn around and ask what the grounding for divine simplicity is. So it would seem somewhat tenuous, depending on one’s certainty of divine simplicity.

    But if I’m mistaken (in that Molina wasn’t referencing divine simplicity), then Molina’s assertion that God “knows all things in himself and from himself” doesn’t make much sense (to me). The only other way I can read this is to say that God’s (middle) knowledge is simply intuitive. But, like I said before, what that basically amounts to is that “He just knows.” That does not strike me as a ground; it strikes me as an assumption.

    The indication here is that if someone were to ask you what the grounds for middle knowledge were, you would respond similarly to Luis de Molina (as quoted here). What I’m saying is that if you were to do so to me, it doesn’t appear to me that you’d actually be answering the question satisfactorily. Unless I’m just missing something (which of course is entirely possible), the ground is either divine simplicity or “He just does.” The former qualifies as a ground I suppose, it just takes us farther down a (possibly more controversial) rabbit hole; the latter is doesn’t seem to be a ground to me, but if it somehow is, it definitely isn’t satisfying!

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