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Divine Omiscience and Future Contingents m Gersonides T. M. RUDAVSKY GERSONIDES' THEORY of divine ominiscience has been seriously criticized' ever since the publication of his most complete philosophical work, Milh.amot HaShem (Wars of the Lord), in the early fourteenth century/ His immediate Jewish successors rejected the theory, claiming that it was heretical? One ' An earlier version of this paper was read at The Ohio State University colloquium series, and at the NEH summer institute of Medieval Philosophy held at Cornell University. I am grateful to those who have criticized my paper on those occasions; in particular I would like to thank Professors Boh and Feldman who offered many valuable suggestions. '~ The philosophical questions raised by Levi ben Gerson (x'~88-1344) are contained in his major work Milh.amotHashem (M.H.) (Wars of the Lord) (Leipzig, 1866). A recent English translation of book three of this work can be found in Gersonides The Wars of of the Lord; TreatiseThree: On God'sKnowledge, trans. N. Samuelson (Ontario, 1977). In this paper references will be made both to the Hebrew edition (MH), as well as to Samuelson's translation (Wars). In both cases reference will be made to treatise, chapter, and page number. For an extensive bibliography of scholarly works on Levi ben Gerson, cf., the first footnote of M. Kellner's essay "(;ersonides, Providence and the Rabbinic Tradition," Journal of the AmericanAcademy of Religion 42 (1974), pp. 673-685; Recent updates have been provided by Kellner both in the first |ootnote to his essay "Maimonides and Gersonides on Mosaic Prophecy," Speculum 5'a (1977) PP. 62-79 and in "R. Levi ben Gerson: A Bibliographical Essay," Studies in Bibliography and Booklore, Vol. 12 0979), PP. 13-23. References to specific articles will be made in the present essay when relevant; however, the following works should be noted for their treatment of Gersonides' theory of divine omniscience: N. Samuelson, "Gersonides' Account of God's Knowledge of Particulars," J. Hist Phil xo (October, x972), pp. 399-416; C. Sirat, Les theoriesdes visionssurnaturelles darts la penseejuive du moyen-gtge (Leiden, 1969); C. Touati, La Pens& Philosophique et Thkologique de Gersonide, (Paris, 1973); C. Touati, (trans.), Les Guerres du Seigneur, Livres III, et IV, (Paris, 1968). :~ For a discussion of Jewish theological attitudes to C-ersonides, cf. M. Kellner, "Germnides and his cultured despisrs: Arama and Abravanel,"J. Medievaland RenaissanceStudies6, no. 2 (Fall, 1976), pp. 269-296; op. cir., "Gersonides, Providence and the Rabbinic Tradition," J. American Academy of Religion 42 (December, 1974), pp. 673-685. [513] 514 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 21:4 OCT 1983 implication of Gersonides' view is that God has no direct self-knowledge, that is, inasmuch as God knows only universals, Gersonides' theory leads to the apparently paradoxical result that not only does God not know particulars qua particulars, but he does not even know himself as a unique entity. One of Gersonides' strongest adversaries in the late-thirteenth century, Hasdai Crescas, devoted a substantial portion of his magnum opus Or HaShem (Light of the Lord) to an attack against Gersonides' view, claiming that it precluded coherent theories of prophecy and divine providence/ More recently Isaac Husik, in his comprehensive history of medieval Jewish philosophy , has characterized Gersonides' theory as a "theological monstrosity. "5 Only Charles Harteshorne has entertained the credibility of Gersonides' theory , upholding what he calls the "principle of Gersonides" as a plausible solution to the problem of divine omniscience. ~ In this paper, I should like to examine the implications of Gersonides' position. Although scholars have recently focused on his theory of divine omniscience, little attention has been paid to the implications of his theory for prophecy. More specifically, this paper will address two questions: first, whether Gersonides' solution to the problem of divine omniscience is selfconsistent ; and second, how well his theory treats such theological problems as prophecy, divine foreknowledge and divine self-knowledge. In Part 1 of the paper, the scope of the problem of divine omniscience is discussed. Then in Parts II and III Gersonides' formulation of the problem is presented first in light of his criticisms of Aristotle and Maimonides, and then in terms of his own solution. Finally, in Part IV...


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