is a term probably originated by Luis Molina
, the Spanish Jesuit1
to refer to God
's knowledge of what each person would do in any possible circumstances.
Lemme explain...back in the 1500s, the Jesuits and the Dominicans were all huffy about free will. The Jesuits claimed that an action is free iff it's uncaused, and that there are free Human actions. (The Dominicans, however, were essentially determinists and disliked this Jesuit claptrap.)
The Jesuit beliefs gave us a problem--or, they gave God a problem, and you know he has enough problems already what with his Son getting murdered and all. The problem was this: how could God know the future if it's uncaused/indeterminate? Middle Knowledge was supposed to be the answer. It's called Middle Knowledge because it's in the middle between his knowledge of a priori truths and his knowledge of truths causally determined by his Will.2
This Middle Knowledge thing is not something we talk about all day in philosophy class. It was mentioned in only one (Phil. of Religion) of the twelve I took, and we recently had a good laugh at one very bright philosophy professor for never having heard of it. But it has come up in the world of philosophy when asking if God could have created beings that were free (in the indeterminate sense) but who never did anything wrong (and known beforehand that they'd be so fabulously behaved), and if so, why the heck didn't he?3
1 That's what Robert Merrihew Adams thinks.
Sea food See footnote #2 below.
2 Adams also gives the alternate explanation of it as being between His knowledge of there mere possible and His knowledge of the actual. I guess that works too. Anyway, he states that both of these are simplified and points us to Molina's Liberi arbitrii cum gratiae. Sure. I'll read that. Just give me a year to learn Latin. e.e
3 The answer, of course, is yes. Those who believe in God believe in a being with the ability to do evil and who they claim to know never will, even before he doesn't cruelly blot out the Sun tomorrow. He should have made a bunch of little gods. (Though some will argue.)