Year 2019, Volume 18 , Issue 36, Pages 439 - 464 2019-12-30

William Alston on the Nature of Divine Knowledge and Time
William Alston'da İlâhî Bilginin Doğası ve Zaman

Abdulkadir TANIŞ [1]


In the contemporary philosophy of religion, William P. Alston has proposed one of the most important views on the nature of divine knowledge. The basic reason for the view, which can be called as intuitive conception of knowledge, is that it is the perfect way to explain the nature of divine knowledge. According to the view, divine knowledge related to an entity or a fact is simply the immediate awareness of that entity or fact. The basic emphasis of intuitive conception of knowledge is that God knows all things with absolute immediate awareness, even without God’s own mental representations. Therefore, divine knowledge does not include any belief or proposition since it implies indirectly knowing. It has been argued that these claims of Alston about the nature of divine knowledge have important implications for the relation between God and time. From this point of view, some thinkers have claimed that intuitive conception of knowledge requires God’s timelessness, while others have claimed the opposite. In this study, although intuitive conception of knowledge seems more compatible with God’s timelessness, I will argue that it is insufficient to explain the nature of divine knowledge. And I will give two reasons for this claim. If intuitive conception of knowledge is accepted, (i) it will limit the extent of divine knowledge and (ii) it cannot be preserved the different mode of being between God and temporal beings. Thus, I will conclude that intuitive conception of knowledge as described by Alston is not satisfactory in explaining the nature of God.

Summary

One of the most important views in the contemporary philosophy of religion on the nature of divine knowledge has been asserted by William Alston. The view, which can be called as intuitive conception of knowledge, has been put forward in order to oppose the traditional view that divine knowledge contains some beliefs, propositions and internal representations, etc. According to intuitive conception of knowledge, God's knowledge of a fact consists of direct awareness of the fact in question. Direct awareness refers to the fact that the known entity or fact is bodily present to God's consciousness directly. The most important reason underlying Alston's use of intuitive conception of knowledge is that it is the perfect way to explain the nature of divine knowledge. According to him, God’s knowing a fact or an entity through a proposition, belief, or mental representation would not mean perfection for him since his knowledge would have been mediated by another means in such a case. Therefore, intuitive conception of knowledge, which means absolute immediate awareness, is the model of knowledge that best suits God's perfection.

The concept of intuitive knowledge advocated by Alston can be seriously challenged in two respects. First of all, the claim that the intuitive knowledge model is based, that the known fact or entity is bodily present to the consciousness of the knowing subject will create significant problems in terms of the classical assumptions of theism. The most fundamental challenge is how to preserve the different mode of being presupposed between God and temporal beings when intuitive conception of knowledge is accepted. Accordingly, theism has a sharp ontological distinction between God and temporal beings, assuming that they have very different modes of being in their relations to time. But the assumption that the temporal being is bodily present to God’s consciousness implies that the temporal being is present to God’s consciousness with its temporal characteristics. In this way, the fact that the temporal being is bodily present to God indicates either (i) that God is temporal with this being or (ii) that the temporal being is in fact timeless. Indeed, philosophers like William Hasker try to justify God's temporality based on intuitive conception of knowledge. Although Alston defends the idea that “a fact’s being present to God directly or bodily does not mean that God shares the same mode of being with this fact”, he is unable to show how it is possible. Moreover, the idea that the known fact or entity is bodily present to God's consciousness implies that the fact or entity in question is immanent to God. Especially, the example of “self-awareness of one's own consciousness states” given to explain intuitive conception of knowledge is remarkable. Because this example is generally presented as a situation in which the knowing-known distinction is eliminated. Given these considerations, how will the fundamental theistic idea that temporal beings and God have ontologically different mode of being, be protected? We can underline that the intuitive model of knowledge tries to eliminate the means such as beliefs or propositions in divine knowledge and to bring the knowing subject and the known object closer in order to explain the nature of divine knowledge in a perfect way. However, it is so controversial how far the intuitive model of knowledge can preserve the different mode of being between God and temporal beings which theism presupposes.

Second, if we accept an intuitive conception of knowledge, it seems inevitable to limit the extent of divine knowledge. For example, consider counterfactual situations. Can God have knowledge of counterfactual situations? God should not have such knowledge in terms of intuitive conception of knowledge. For intuitive conception of knowledge assumes that the known fact is present to the consciousness of the person who knows directly. But counterfactuals do not exist actually. Thus, if God's knowledge consists only of intuitive knowledge, then He will not know any counterfactual because there is no being to be present to Him. For divine knowledge should consist of some propositions or mental representations to know situations such as “Actual world instead being as it is, it could have been such and such” or “if x had chosen b instead of a, it would have been such and such”. Therefore, if the whole of divine knowledge is interpreted as intuitive, it seems a necessity to limit his knowledge to the actual situation. In other words, if the whole of divine knowledge is intuitive direct knowledge, and this knowledge requires that the known fact is bodily present to God, then divine knowledge will only cover the knowledge of the facts which have already existed.

Çağdaş din felsefesinde ilahî bilginin doğası konusunda önemli görüşlerden biri William P. Alston tarafından ortaya atılmıştır. Sezgisel bilgi anlayışı olarak adlandırabileceğimiz bu bilgi anlayışının savunulmasının temel gerekçesi, onun Tanrı’nın mükemmelliğiyle daha uyumlu olmasıdır. Bu bilgi anlayışı, Tanrı’nın varlık ve olgulara dair bilgisinin O’nun bu varlık ve olguların doğrudan farkındalığından oluştuğunu iddia eder. Bu bilgi anlayışının temel vurgusu, arada Tanrı’nın kendi zihinsel temsilleri dahi hiçbir vasıta olmaksızın O’nun her şeyi mutlak doğrudan bir farkındalıkla bildiğidir. Bu yüzden, Tanrı’nın bilgisi, dolaylı olarak bilme anlamına geleceği için inanç veya önerme şeklindeki öğeleri içermez. Alston’ın ilahî bilginin doğası konusundaki bu görüşlerinin, Tanrı-zaman ilişkisi konusunda da önemli imalarının olduğu iddia edilmiştir. Buna dayanarak bazı yorumcular sezgisel bilgi anlayışının Tanrı’nın zamansızlığını gerektirdiğini iddia ederken, bazı yorumcular da tam aksini iddia etmiştir. Bu çalışmada, sezgisel bilgi anlayışının, Tanrı’nın zamansızlığı düşüncesiyle daha uyumlu görünmesine rağmen, onun ilahî bilginin doğasını açıklama konusunda yetersiz olduğu iddia edilecek ve bu iddia için temel olarak iki gerekçe ileri sürülecektir. Sezgisel bilgi anlayışı kabul edilirse, ilk olarak, bunun Tanrı’nın bilgisinin kapsamı konusunda bir sınırlılık yarattığı; ikinci olarak, Tanrı ve yaratılmış varlıklar arasındaki farklı varlık modunun nasıl korunacağı probleminin ortaya çıktığı gösterilmeye çalışılacaktır. Bu yüzden, Alston’ın savunduğu şekliyle sezgisel bilgi anlayışının ilahî bilginin doğasını açıklama konusunda doyurucu olmadığı söylenecektir.  

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Primary Language tr
Subjects Social
Journal Section Articles
Authors

Orcid: 0000-0002-5564-7384
Author: Abdulkadir TANIŞ
Institution: HITIT UNIVERSITY, FACULTY OF THEOLOGY, THEOLOGY PR.
Country: Turkey


Dates

Publication Date : December 30, 2019

ISNAD Tanış, Abdulkadir . "William Alston'da İlâhî Bilginin Doğası ve Zaman". Hitit Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 18 / 36 (December 2020): 439-464 . https://doi.org/10.14395/hititilahiyat.551691