Foreknowledge, Causal Relations, and Subjunctive Conditionals

Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski

in The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge

Published in print June 1996 | ISBN: 9780195107630
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199852956 | DOI:
Foreknowledge, Causal Relations, and Subjunctive Conditionals

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It is often thought that physical laws just are generalized subjunctive conditionals expressing relations between physical events. Metaphysical laws, on the other hand, seem to be more than the subjunctive conditionals grounded in them. This makes it much more difficult to give a positive account of the causal relations between nomically equivalent events that are related by metaphysical laws. No positive solution to the divine foreknowledge dilemma can be given until a very comprehensive explanation of the relationship between God and contingent events has been given. John Pollock defines a strong subjunctive conditional in which transitivity and adjunctivity are built in, but even then he finds that the resulting conditional is not sufficient for defining the causal relation, and he has to add the provision that the antecedent expresses a condition prior in time to the consequent. Pollock concludes that since no counterfactual condition can distinguish between nomically equivalent states of affairs, no purely counterfactual analysis of causation can succeed.

Keywords: God; physical events; metaphysical laws; subjunctive conditionals; causal relations; divine foreknowledge; dilemma; contingent events; John Pollock; causation

Chapter.  12285 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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