What does God know? What is Aquinas’ answer? Is it the best model of God’s omniscience? These main question will be answered and some thoughts will be given. Does God know actual infinites? Does God have knowledge of contingent things and future events? Does God have knowledge of particulars and universals? These are some more interesting questions that will be answered with the text.
What does God know and how does he know?
God knows things from himself, which is inferred from the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. Aquinas answers also that God has knowledge of things that are not. “God knows all things whatsoever that in any way are. Now it is possible that things that are not absolutely should be in a certain sense (143).” God’s knows all absolute things by their final causes, which Anselm would say by a thing’s rectitude since that is the highest truth.
“Whereas things, which are not actual, are in the power either of God himself or of a creature, whether in active power, or passive; whether in the power of thought or of imagination, or of any other kind whatsoever. Whatever therefore can be made, or thought, or said by the creature, as also whatever he himself can do, all are known God, although they are not actual (143-144).” It’s implied that God knows things based on what potentiality they have or what their actuality is.
Objection 3 of the ninth article, argues that since God’s knowledge of the cause of what is known by him that things that are not cannot be known by God. Aquinas replies that his knowledge of the things not to be are necessary. “Hence, it is not necessary that whatever God knows should be, or have been or is to be; but this is necessary only as regards what he wills to be, or permits to be (144).” The things that God will’s to be are necessary, but things that are not are things that are possible, not necessary. God knows things from himself, by his will and the essence of other things, whether it be actual or potential.
Does God know evil?
It is argued that God cannot know what is evil, since evil is the privation of the good. Evil is not part of the essence of God or of things that are good. How can God know evil? Since God is not the cause of evil, how can he know it? Aquinas answers: “Whoever knows a thing perfectly must know all that can occur to it (145).” God can know the opposites of evil by knowing the good perfectly. God knows the negation of his will, so he knows what evil is since he knows that humans can violate the will of God. Even humans know the opposite of good since the law shows us this. Surely, the lawmaker knows how is law can be broken.
Does God know singular things?
God knows universal things by his pure act and essence of his being. However, the objector will argue that singular things are known by material things, which is unlike God. “Therefore, God cannot know singular things since these are potential and not actual like universal things. God cannot know singular things because they are potential and not actual like him. “God knows singular things through universal causes (147).” This is true, since God can know singular things that may make universal or by knowing what universals causes singular things. This objection simply makes a fallacy of division by arguing that we cannot know the part from the whole.
Can God know Infinite things?
If I was Aquinas, I would simply argue that mathematical infinites are not things, since they are contradictory when applied to real world examples. Herbert’s hotel paradox shows this to be the case. According to Augustine, infinite cannot be numbered but can be comprehended by him whose knowledge has no number. God’s knowledge would know all infinites since his being is infinite. “God knows not only things actual but also to himself or to created things, as was shown above, and since these must be infinite, it must be held that he knows infinite things (149).” These “infinite things” can’t be actual number of things since every example you could try to give would be a potential infinite, not an actual infinite. Therefore, the only actual infinite thing God knows is himself.
Does God have knowledge of contingent things and future things?
All three objections argue that all of God’s knowledge has to be necessary since God’s knowledge comes from the necessary being himself. Every conditional statement would have to be necessary, both antecedent and consequent. The future propositions cannot be known by God since these are not necessary things since they can change. The knowledge of men are necessary propositions Aquinas seems to imply, but future choices by them are contingent things. “Now the works of men are contingent, being subject to free choice. Therefore, God knows future contingent things (152).”
Aquinas argues that God knows all actual things but things possible to him and to the creature. “Since some of these are future contingent to us, it follows that God knows future contingent things (152).” God knows these by knowing his creation and creatures. He would have to know what free creatures would do since God knows these creatures in their potentiality and actuality. “Now God knows all contingent things not only as they are in their causes, but also as each one of them is actually in itself (152).” Now, man’s things are contingent upon himself, but man is contingent on God for his existence. Based on Aquinas’s reasoning, God knows his creatures that are contingent on him so God knows these contingent propositions.
God knows things from himself, the causes of his will, and the causes of what he created. He knows particulars by knowing the universals from his essence. He knows the evil by knowing the good. He knows the only actual infinite, which is God. He knows all contingent things because they are either contingent from him or from the things contingent on him. God’s knowledge comes from God’s necessary being of knowing himself and what comes from him.