Temporal Necessity; Hard Facts/Soft Facts

In conclusion, then, the notion of temporal necessity is certainly queer and perhaps a misnomer. It really has little to do with temporality per se and everything to do with counterfactual openness or closedness. We have seen that the future is as unalterable as the past, but that this purely logical truth is not antithetical to freedom or contingency. Moreover, we have found certain past facts are counterfactually open in that were future events or actualities to be other than they will be, these past facts would have been different as a consequence. God's beliefs about the future are such past facts. Moreover, the effects of actions which God would have taken had He believed differently are also such past facts. Oddly enough, then, virtually any past fact is potentially counterfactually open, and the only necessity that remains is purely de facto. We, of course, do not in general know which events of the past depend counterfactually on present actions, and those cases we do know about seem rather trivial. Our intuitions of the necessity, unalterability, and unpreventability of the past as opposed to the future stem from the impossibility of backward causation, which is precluded by the dynamic nature of time and becoming. But the counterfactual dependence of God's beliefs on future events or actualities is not a case of backward causation: rather future-tense propositions are true in virtue of what will happen, given a view of truth as correspondence, and God simply has the essential property of knowing all and only true propositions. With regard to the future, virtually all facts are counterfactually open, and therefore future-tense propositions are not temporally necessary. Propositions thus move from being temporally contingent to being temporally necessary when all the opportunities to affect things counterfactually have slipped by. Hence, the mere fact that an event is past is no indication that it is counterfactually closed. This is especially evident in the case of God's foreknowledge. If we say that God foreknows that I shall do x and therefore I cannot refrain from doing x, lest I change God's past foreknowledge, we are being deceived by a modality which has nothing to do with my power or freedom. All that is impossible is the conjunction of God's foreknowledge that p and of ~ p; but this modality in sensu composito has no bearing on my ability to act such that ~ p would be true and God would have foreknown differently. Temporal necessity, then, turns out to be only obliquely temporal and modally weak, certainly no threat to freedom or divine foreknowledge
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DOI 10.1007/BF00141013
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