Continuity, Possibility, and Omniscience

by Richard F. Creel

Richard E. Creel is a professor of philosophy and religion at Ithaca College. Ithaca, New York 14850, and a past president of the New York State Philosophical Association.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 209-231, Vol. 12, Number 4, Winter, 1982. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Does God know all possibilities that could come to pass? Can God knows possibilities before they become actual? The significance of this is that a possibility is not knowable in its distinctness until it becomes actual because before it becomes actual there is no it to be known.

It is an assumption of classical theism that God knows not only the entire realm of actuality -- past, present, and future -- but that he also knows the entire realm of possibility in the sense of knowing all things that could have come to pass but will not, e.g., a certain shade of blue that will never become actual, or a certain member of a species of animal that will never exist. Critics of classical theism have generally accepted without a blink God’s knowledge of all possibilities and rushed onto dispute the claim to God’s knowledge of the future.

There is, however, a discerning philosopher who has challenged the claim that God knows all possibilities in the preceding sense. I speak of Professor Charles Hartshorne. To be sure, he holds that God is Omniscient in the sense that he knows all actualities as actualities and all possibilities as possibilities, but he adds that possibilities are by nature vague and indeterminate to various degrees so that, e.g., God could not have known that shade of blue until it became actual; he could, at best, only have known of the possibility of new shades of blue, without knowing precisely what they would be like. The scope of this interpretation of possibility is enormous: it extends to the individual members of every species, to species themselves, and to possible worlds. Regarding the latter, Hartshorne says, "Whatever possibilities there are God knows them. But there are, for me, no possibilities in the sense of Leibnizian possible worlds . . ." (LTR). Hence, not only individuals, but also species, genuses, and possible worlds exist only in a vague and indeterminate manner until they become actual.

If Hartshorne is correct, then obviously God’s knowledge is much less extensive than traditional believers have thought, and, moreover God’s omniscience dictates that his knowledge will continually increase as more and more things become actual. A corollary of this point is that God’s will could not be impassible and immutable because he would not be able to make his decisions about the world in advance of things actually occurring because one cannot knowledgeably and responsibly make decisions about one knows not what. Obviously, then, because of its attack upon the coherence of the traditional conception of God and current talk about possible worlds, Hartshorne’s position is a formidable doctrine. I am convinced that if his arguments for it are sound, then the jig is up for the classical conception of God and Leibnizian talk about possible worlds.

Charles Peirce on Continuity

Hartshorne’s conclusions about God’s knowledge of possibility appear to be based on Charles Peirce’s analysis of continuity. There are discussions of continuity throughout the six volumes of The Collected Papers of Peirce (CP). Indeed, continuity is the central idea in Peirce’s philosophy, whence he named his philosophy "synechism." Especially relevant to Hartshorne’s conclusions are 1.163-72, 1.499, 3.563-70, and 6.164-213. In 1.165 and 3.569 we find keys to Peirce’s understanding of continuity. In the former he says that "the idea of continuity involves the idea of infinity," and in the latter he says that a continuum is something every part of which can be divided into any multitude of parts whatsoever." These points are elaborated in 6.170:

A true continuum is something whose possibilities of determination no multitude of individuals can exhaust. Thus, no collection of points placed upon a continuous line can fill the line so as to leave no room for others, although that collection had a point for every value towards which numbers, endlessly continued into the decimal places, could approximate; nor if it contained a point for every possible permutation of all such values.

It seems reasonably clear from the preceding passage that Peirce is defining, or at least describing, the nature of a continuum in terms of two claims, One positive and one negative. The positive claim is that a continuum is something which is divisible -- the result of the division being of the type of the continuum divided, whether it be a line, an angle, a color spectrum, a pleasure spectrum, or something else. The negative claim is that a continuum is not exhaustively divisible into a finite number of results; between any two results, e.g., two points on a line or two shades on a continuum of red, it is possible in principle to derive an unlimitable number of additional points or shades of red. In brief, there are no atoms in a continuum (6.173).

This position of Peirce’s on continuity, a position that I find persuasive, has a striking implication for our understanding of possibilities. If, following the terminology of W. E. Johnson, we speak of a continuum as a determinable and a point on the continuum as a determinate, it follows, according to Peirce, that determinable points, as they exist in a continuum, "are not individuals, distinct, each from all the rest" (3.568). The significance of this is that a possibility is not knowable in its distinctness until it becomes actual because before it becomes actual there is no it to be known. Before it becomes actual, at best we can only know of the possibility of something like it. Peirce develops this point in 6.185-87.

That which is possible is in so far general and, as general, it ceases to be individual. Hence, remembering that the word ‘potential’ means indeterminate yet capable of determination in any special case, there may be a potential aggregate of all the possibilities that are consistent with certain general conditions; and this may be such that given any collection of distinct individuals whatsoever, out of that potential aggregate there may be actualized a more multitudinous collection than the given collection. Thus the potential aggregate is with the strictest exactitude, greater in multitude than any possible multitude of individuals. But being a potential aggregate only, it does not contain any individuals at all. It only contains general conditions which permit the determination of individuals. (6.185)

Clearly, then, neither human, angel, nor God can apprehend potentiality in the mode of an exhaustive set of individuals, or, as Whitehead might put it, as a set of discrete eternal objects.

Peirce goes on to say that though we can have only a vague idea of possible but unactualized individuals, it is not so with the classes of which those individuals would be members were they to become actual. Of the classes we can have a distinct idea. Consider, for example, the aggregate of whole numbers: "Though the aggregate of whole numbers cannot be completely counted, that does not prevent our having a distinct idea of the multitude of all whole numbers. We have a conception of the entire collection of whole numbers. It is a potential collection, indeterminate yet determinable" (6.186; also 6.187).

Peirce’s final thrust in this series of statements is to warn that "a potential collection more multitudinous than any collection of distinct individuals can be, cannot be entirely vague. For the potentiality supposes that the individuals are determinable in every multitude. That is, they are determinable as distinct. But there cannot be a distinctive quality for each individual; for these qualities would form a collection too multitudinous for them to remain distinct" (6.188). Peirce’s point seems to be that we can have a clear and distinct idea of the continuum or universal, e.g., length or redness, of which an actual individual is a part or an instance, but at best we can have only a vague and somewhat indeterminate idea of unactualized possibilities of a continuum. Why? Because potentiality can be grasped only in the form of continuity, and continuity is of the nature of infinity, and it is impossible in principle for us to know exhaustively the infinite individuals that can be actualized from a continuum.

Notice that in the preceding I said "impossible for us to know." Peirce does not explicitly draw the conclusion that it is also impossible for God to have such knowledge. Indeed, the spirit of several of his remarks seems contrary to such a conclusion -- though they are not so explicit as one would like. See 2.227, 4.67, and 4.583. Whitehead does seem to have been explicit that God possesses such knowledge, as can be seen in his doctrine of eternal objects, and it is perhaps at this point that Hartshorne departs most sharply from Whitehead. It is possible, however, that Whitehead was wrong and that Peirce overlooked an important implication of his own position, so let us now look at Hartshorne’s arguments for his claim that God can know potentiality only as vague and indeterminate.

Hartshorne on God’s Knowledge of Possibility

Hartshorne’s position on continuity and possibility is set forth most fully in his early essay, "Santayana’s Doctrine of Essence," and in his later chapter, "Abstraction: The Question of Nominalism." In both locations he cites Peirce extensively and summarizes Peirce s position as follows, using points on a line to illustrate his contention:

Continuity admits of any multitude, and since further a maximal multitude is impossible, and anything less than a maximal multitude of points on a line must omit something which could have been there, it follows that the continuum of possibilities cannot be any distinct set or multitude at all, but is rather something beyond multitude and definite variety, an inexhaustible source of variety rather than variety itself. (PGS 166)

In Creature Synthesis and Philosophic Method Hartshorne makes it clear that for Peirce such continua were not restricted to mathematical or geometrical entities. "As Peirce held," he writes, possible qualities of feeling form a continuum without definite parts" (CSPM 65f). From this position Hartshorne derives the conclusion that though God is always omniscient in the sense of knowing everything that can be known, still the scope or quantitative content of God’s knowledge is continually increasing as new things come into actuality that could not have been known earlier because they did not exist in a manner in which they could have been known, viz., as actual, i.e., as precise and determinate. Let us look at numerous passages in which this conclusion is contained and later reconstruct Hartshorne’s argument to this conclusion.

In his early opus, Man’s Vision of God, Hartshorne wrote,

Everything which is in the least particular, such as ‘light blue,’ or ‘sour,’ we have no reason for regarding as eternal, not because there was or could ever be a time when blue was not blue, or when blue was green, but because there may have been a time when blue was the subject of no truth whatever, since no such item was included in the whole of reality, or in the content of omniscience. Not that it was then true that ‘blue is not included in reality,’ but that it is now true that the whole of what was then real failed to contain blue, since no color which then was real was what we now know as blue. (245f.; see also WP 32)

In a recent volume, similar sentiments are stated. "I see no ground at all," Hartshorne writes, "for supposing that, besides numbers or similarly abstract entities, including metaphysical categories, every quality of sensation or feeling that occurs in experience must have its eternal duplicate. Feeling as such, quality as such, yes, but not red, sweet, as determinate qualities identical with those we enjoy in experience. Feeling is a determinable of infinite range, not a vast sum of determinates" (CSPM 65f).

Responding to criticism of the position set forth in the preceding passages, Hartshorne writes,

One objection to this view needs to be met at once. Against the idea of determinable characters it might beheld that prior to determination of the determinable the determinations must have been there as possibilities, one for each determinate character that can ever arise. This may seem self-evident. It can, however, reasonably be denied, as follows. A determination, prior to coming into existence, was neither possible nor impossible, it was nothing, for there was no such ‘it,’ and only of what in some sense is can anything be predicated, even possibility or impossibility. After being constituted in existence, the ‘it’ may then have the retrospective relation of absence from antecedent existence, but this relation is external to such existence. (PGS 141)1

In other words, there is no eternal duplicate of any actuality which is identical with that actuality in every respect except that it lacks existence. That which becomes actual did not exist before, not even as a possibility (if what we mean by "a possibility" is something that has all the definiteness of the actuality except that it lacks the dimension of actual existence).

Consequently, as Alvin Plantinga argues in The Nature of Necessity, chapter 8, because we can properly make singular affirmations only about things that exist, we cannot properly say anything about something before it comes into existence. To be sure, of anything that exists it is true that it was possible for it to come into existence, but it does not follow that before it came into existence we could have meaningfully said that it was possible for it to come into existence. Before it came into existence we could not have known precisely what we meant by speaking of "it"; we could not have been referring to "it" because it did not yet exist and therefore was not there to be referred to, and there could have been an indefinite number of things that would have satisfied any description that we might have given of "it."

By contrast, a completely specific possibility, one to which the Law of Excluded Middle applies in every respect, is actual. Any other possibility is indeterminate to some extent and less than actual to that same extent. Hence, when anything becomes actual, it is truly an emergent in the sense that it did not previously exist anywhere in reality -- not even in the mind of God as a perfect copy lacking only actual existence.2

This position is restated in Hartshorne s recent work, in which he reaffirms his unity with Peirce and his departure from Whitehead, who in Science and the Modern World speaks of color as something that "haunts time like a spirit."

My view here is the Peircean one, obscure and difficult as it may be, that all specific qualities, i.e., those of which there can be negative instances in experience, are emergent, and that only the metaphysical universals are eternal, something like Peirce’s Firstness, Secondness, Thirdness. I do not believe that a determinate colour is something haunting reality from all eternity, as it were, begging for instantiation, nor that God primordially envisages a complete set of such qualities. (CSPM 59)

A few pages later Hartshorne says regarding the creation of a painting,

The advance possibilities for a painting are only relatively definite. The pigments may already exist; the human senses are largely fixed. Thus the painter knows roughly what he can do. But that he can do just this which he subsequently does, not even deity can know until it is done. The ‘this’ of an actuality simply has no advance status, modal or otherwise. Creativity does not map the details of its future actions, even as possible. (CSPM 65)

In an even more recent statement, Hartshorne put his point this way:

What you or I now are is from the standpoint of eternity nonexistent. Not that we were impossible from that standpoint, but that we as individuals were not in being at all. I reject the idea of merely possible individuals. All individuals are actual. God knows the actual as actual, the possible, all of it, as possible, and this means as more or less indefinite. Just before my Mother conceived me I was a somewhat definite possibility, and known to God as such, but before the human species there was no possibility (nor yet an impossibility) corresponding to Charles Hartshorne. Tomorrow’s possibility is more definite today than it was a year ago, not only for us but for God. (LTR)

"The issue is not as to whether God knows all possibilities." For Hartshorne, divine knowledge is all-inclusive, knowing actualities as actualities and possibilities as possibilities. "But what some people call possibilities are not real at all but only mere words" (LTR). Therefore they cannot be known by God or anyone else except as mere words.

Now let me present a summary of what I understand Hartshorne argument to be. No two individuals on a continuum can be immediately close; therefore, there can be an indefinite number of other individuals between every pair of discrete individuals on a continuum. From this it follows that it is impossible in principle for a continuum to be known exhaustively by means of a collection of individuals that constitute it; even an infinite collection of individuals would be inadequate because in between any two of them there could be an infinite number of others. Hence, no matter how many possibilities on a continuum one may be familiar with from their actualization, there are always an even greater number that one is ignorant of except perhaps in a vague and indeterminate way. Hence, even God in his omniscience cannot know all possible individuals, at least not as a set of discrete individuals. Rather, God must know unactualized possible individuals as contained in a continuum; but to know possible individuals as contained in a continuum is necessarily not to know them as determinate and discrete but as indeterminate and vague, and therefore it is not to know them as individuals. Hence, God, like we, must wait upon creativity to find out what is possible because we can only find out from the actual what is determinately possible. Prior to the actualization of possibility, i.e., the specific determination of possibility, that creativity brings about from the infinitude of possibilities, we can only make guesses more or less approximate, depending on the range of our experience, from what is and has been actual to what is possible, e.g., from these shades of blue to the possibility of another shade of blue somehow between them.3

Part of the significance of the position that determinate qualities are emergent is that they could not have been known ahead of time in their determinateness. This means that God, as well as we, is continually increasing in knowledge as new shapes, colors, textures, creatures, etc., come to be, and it would seem to mean that sometimes God, as well as we, is completely surprised by what occurs, as when a new color (as distinguished from a new shade of the same color) occurs, or, even more dramatically, as when the perception of color occurs for the very first time. The latter would be an instance in which the first member of a species or genus becomes actual. Presumably Hartshorne would defend the idea that God, too, would be surprised upon such an occasion because even though he might already be familiar with the genus, knowledge of the genus does not imply knowledge of its species, even as knowledge of a species does not imply knowledge of all the individuals that will belong to the species. Hartshorne makes this point with regard to individuals and species in the following statement:

To understand ‘whiteness,’ and to know all the things that ever have been or will be white, are two things different in principle. This is, it can be claimed, the very meaning of universality, without which we should have no rational knowledge. It is the definition of the universal that it does not involve all its instances. (PGS 155)

With regard to the relation between species and genus Harts-horne says, "The ultimate eternal logos, the real essence of existence as such, includes all the generic factors necessary to knowledge, such as relation, time, plurality, number, quality, and the generic interrelations of these." But he adds that he does not "see any reason for supposing that such ‘essences’ as redness must be involved distinctly in the generic ideas" (PGS 164). Hartshorne summarizes these points and relates them to God in the following passage from Man’s Vision of God:

it is the very nature of the universal that one can know the genus without knowing all the species, or any of them with perfect distinctness, and certainly without knowing the individual natures which the genus makes possible. Not even God sees the individual natures as items in the generic, for it is a contradiction to make the common property imply the differences, past and future alike, thus destroying temporal distinctions. (MVG 133)

In brief, God knows eternally the genuses and species of which he is the instantiation, but all else he must learn at the window of creativity. Clearly, then, his knowledge cannot be wholly eternal, immutable, or impassible. Even with regard to what is possible in the way of worlds, God knows only "indeterminate possibilities for worlds, nothing more" (CSPM 127).

In conclusion, if Hartshorne’s analysis is correct, the classical conception of God’s knowledge must be recognized as incoherent, and Leibnizian talk about possible worlds must be recognized as babble. Referring to the Leibnizian notion of "the completely defined possible world," described in what Plantinga calls "a world book," Hartshorne says, "there are, for me, no possibilities in the sense of Leibnizian possible worlds" (AD 196f.); rather, a possible world is merely the notion of "vague directions for further determination" (LTR).4

An Alternative to Hartshorne

The preceding sections on Peirce and Hartshorne have been purely expository. My ultimate concern, however, is philosophical. Hence, I shall now turn to an evaluation of these positions. The core of Peirce’s continuity thesis is that a continuum is infinitely divisible and therefore cannot be comprehended by apprehension of a set of discrete individuals, no matter how large the set. The core of Hartshorne’s thesis on possibility is that it is impossible in principle for anyone, even an omniscient being, to have eternal knowledge of all possibilities by virtue of knowing possibilities independently of actualities. Apparently Hartshorne holds this position because he believes it is implied by Peirce’s continuity thesis. I believe he is wrong in this belief -- though this is certainly a difficult issue and his position a thoughtful one. My own position is that Peirce’s continuity thesis is correct and that there is a position on possibility that is compatible with Peirce’s continuity thesis yet makes plausible how God can know all possibilities in the traditional sense. In order to argue successfully for this position against Hartshorne’s thesis on possibility it seems clear that one must make plausible the idea that God’s knowledge of possibilities is in some relevant sense exhaustive in spite of Peirce’s continuity thesis. I believe this can be done as follows.

We are all familiar with the fact that we can take two sticks of equal length that are hinged at one end only and rotate them from a fully closed position to a fully open position, i.e., from an angle of 0 degrees to an angle of 180 degrees. If we close the sticks again, add an elastic band to the unhinged ends of the sticks, and then open them again from 0 to 180 degrees, we will in the process have circumscribed the angularity of every possible isosceles triangle. I submit when we realize this, we will have understood what a Euclidean isosceles triangle is because we will have comprehended it as a continuum of possibilities. In a sense, by moving the sticks from closed-in-line to open-in-line we will have generated an exhaustive number of isosceles triangles. There were an infinite number of points through which we passed and at which we could have stopped which would have constituted an isosceles triangle had we stopped. Further, there were no additional stopping places; we did not miss a single point at which an additional triangle could have been generated. The same point could be illustrated by thinking in terms of screwing a crescent wrench from shut to open or of turning a rheostat from off to maximum.

To be sure, in generating our triangles we did not actually stop at an infinite number of places along the way. Moreover, it would be impossible for us or God to stop at every point along the way because such points are in principle inexhaustible. Even if God has been generating isosceles triangles of different angularities every moment for the whole of his existence and therefore has generated an infinite set of such triangles by now, he cannot have generated all possible discrete isosceles triangles (even on the assumption that the length of the equal sides is being held even) because even if God generates an infinitely large set of such triangles, there is always possible an even larger such infinite set. Clearly, then, though a continuum is something from which an infinite number of individuals can be analyzed (abstracted/decided/identified), a continuum could never be constructed by putting together any number of individuals or particulars. Indeed, part of the significance of a continuum is that it allows for inexhaustible creativity; even God cannot exhaust the richness of a continuum. Neither, however, can God be exhausted by a continuum. Part of the significance of his omnipotence is that he is able to everlastingly and unrestrictedly act according to the inexhaustible resources of limitless continuity. Presumably he is the only individual able to do so.

The significance of the preceding analysis is that in understanding the isosceles triangle as a continuum of possibilities, we know all there is to be known about the possible relations among the angles of isosceles triangles. No isosceles triangle can henceforth come into existence the angularity of which could surprise us. For any isosceles triangle that ever becomes actual, we already know, and not merely in a vague and indeterminate sense, that its angularity is possible. Moreover, we can generalize from isosceles triangularity to triangularity in general and draw the same conclusion. No geometer should ever be surprised by a new triangle into saying, "I didn’t know such a combination of angles was possible! Hence, to understand the triangle as a continuum is to know in advance the possibility of all triangles that ever become actual subsequent to that understanding. If an individual’s understanding of this is eternal, then, of course, to that individual no triangle that ever becomes actual will be unfamiliar.

Meanwhile let us ask whether the fact that a continuum cannot consist of discrete individuals means that it must be impossible for God to know all possible individuals in advance of their becoming actual. The answer must be "yes" and "no." "Yes" for two reasons. First, as we have seen already, it is logically impossible for anyone to know as discrete all individuals that can possibly be excised from a continuum. Even if one extracts an infinite set of such individuals, there is always a yet larger set possible. Hence, an exhaustively infinite set of individuals could not have been known by now or ever, even iii the mind of God.

The second reason for saying that God cannot know even one possible individual, much less all possible individuals, in advance of its becoming actual is that a thing cannot be known as actual before it becomes actual. This is a point that Hartshorne’s writings have helped me understand and with which I now concur. If that very triangle there, for example, somehow existed in the world but in a mode imperceptible to anyone but God until t1, then it did not become actual at t1; it merely became humanly perceptible at t1. God knew it as actual before t1 because it was actual before t1, However, if the triangle was not actual before t1 and became actual only at t1, then even God did not know it as actual before t1.

If one objects, "But the object existed in the mind of God before it existed in actuality, and therefore God knew it before it became actual," I would disagree as follows. An object that exists in the mind of God, or for that matter in a human mind, but not in the world cannot be identical with an object in the world. An object which is "merely in the mind," as in imagination or conception, rather than perception, cannot be identical with an object in the world even if the object in the mind is corresponded to or succeeded by an object which is indiscernible from it in all respects except that it is actual. At most such objects could be qualitatively, structurally, and contextually (each in its own realm) indiscernible, but not identical simpliciter.5

More generally, Hartshorne is correct that we should not confuse imagination and possibility with one another. The distinction between the actual and the possible is of quite another order from the distinction between the perceived and the imagined (MVG 224f.). "Potentiality" refers to that quality of the existent that enables it to possess as actual a property that it does not now possess. Strictly speaking, images in the mind are not themselves potentialities -- though they may and frequently do allude to the potentialities of existents. Hence, when the potentialities of an existent are actualized in such a way that they are indiscernible from something that we had in mind, it is not the case that what we had in mind has taken on actuality; it would be closer to the truth to say that actuality has taken on what we had in mind. If by "the potential has become actual" we mean that the very thing we had in mind has taken on actuality, then that is not true; rather, something has become actual that corresponds qualitatively and structurally to what we had in mind and fulfills the intentionality of what we had in mind by being actual rather than imaginary. Hence, the imaginary is not transformed into the actual, or the abstract into the concrete, by being moved over from the one realm to the other or by being infused with a third dimension, or some such thing. Only the concrete is transformed into something concrete that resembles or is partially identical to or fulfills the imaginary. Potentialities for concreteness -- and here I believe Hartshorne and I are in agreement -- are inherent only in the concrete.

But if Hartshorne and I are correct that an actual object cannot be known as actual before it becomes actual, does that mean that Hartshorne is correct that therefore God will learn from the process of actualization things about possibility that he did not already know? I do not think so. To return to our example, God did not know that triangle as an individual before it became actual, but he knew about the possibility of it because he eternally knows the triangularity continuum of which all actual triangles are instantiations. Hence, from no number of actual triangles will God learn what triangles it is possible for there to be.

There is more, of course, to an actual triangle than the relations of its angles. It will have size and perhaps color, but I do not see these facts as implying that God will, after all, learn something about possibility from actuality. Individuals are determinate in the sense of cutting at specific points the continua to which they correspond or in which they participate. A particular triangle at a moment is exactly this shape, that color, such and such a size, and so on. I see no good reason to say that though God knows perfectly the continuum of triangularity, he does not know perfectly the continua of size and color, or, for that matter, feeling and all other types of possibility.6 Hence, it seems reasonable to believe that God can have known eternally the possibility of a triangle, i.e., a complex actuality, that cuts the continua of size, shape, and color at just those points. To be sure, as Hartshorne insists, to know a possibility is not to know an actuality; however, I am arguing, to know a possibility thoroughly is to know exactly what an actuality will be like that instantiates the possibility. In each case of the emergence of a possibility into actuality, just because it is impossible to know all tokens of the type by means of a finite or even an infinite set of tokens, it does not follow that God cannot by knowing the type know the range of possibilities that any actuality of that type must instantiate.

Such knowledge on God’s part would be impossible, of course, if knowledge of a possibility is always knowledge of a range of possibilities -- and Hartshorne seems to believe that that is all we can mean when we talk about possibility, viz., something general, vague, and indeterminate. But that belief is in part, I think, the result of his choice of metaphor, viz., touch, for selection of a quality. He points out correctly that we cannot select a single shade of red by touching a spectrum of such shades. Touch necessarily has breadth, and breadth necessarily spans an infinite number of shades on a spectrum. But what if we slice the continuum instead of touching it? Then -- assuming that the continuum is homogeneous in shade when looked on from its end -- we will have got ourselves a single, determinate shade of red, and if one knows the continuum thoroughly, I see no reason to think that one would ever be surprised by any shade of it that might ever become actual.

Consider another analogy, viz., shades of red being generated electronically in a small disc, the hue being controlled by a knob so that if you turn the knob one way the hue gets richer in a continuous fashion, and if you turn it the other way the hue gets thinner in a continuous fashion. You can stop the process at any point, and the resulting hue is always distributed homogeneously across the disc. In this way, it seems to me, we avoid the problem of having to touch a spatial continuum of hues by generating a temporal continuum of hues. Still, the two characteristics of continuous change of hue and no change of hue would be combined in a spectral rod, and so, I suggest, the idea of slicing such a rod to obtain a determinate hue is the one that best reveals how possibilties might be known as determinate.

To summarize, Hartshorne claims that when anything becomes actual, qualities emerge which even God did not know in advance. But if I am right about how and what God knows in knowing the realm of possibility, there is no reason to think that he would not know in advance of every actualization of an individual every property and relation that any individual might instantiate. This is possible because God knows possibility in the form of continua, and to know a continuum perfectly, as God would, is to know exhaustively and simultaneously an infinite range of possibilities of a certain type -- shape, size, color, number, feeling, etc. In knowing a continuum and knowing that it can be decided at any point, one knows all the possibilities that can be instantiated by any individual that will (or could) ever exemplify the universal of which that continuum is the fulfillment.7 In line with this position I believe that the expression, "the realm of essence," is most meaningfully applied to universals and their combinations understood as continua. To know the realm of essence is to know the range of logical possibilities, i.e., of simple qualities and relations and their possible combinations.

To know such combinations, however, is not to know an individual as actual before it becomes actual; an individual becomes knowable as actual only upon becoming actual. Hence, perhaps we should distinguish between possible individuals and the possibility of individuals. For reasons given earlier, what God knows eternally cannot include all possible individuals as discrete from one another. But prior to the emergence of any individual, God will know the possibility of that individual by virtue of knowing the continua to which any actual individual must correspond (or instantiate/actualize/participate in). Consequently, it seems to me that God will not learn from an emergent anything new about what is possible, and, further, that it makes sense to speak of God being aware of a continuum of possible worlds and being able in advance of the creation of any of those worlds to decide his specific will for the creatures therein.

We must, then, beware of an ambiguity in, "God cannot know x before x becomes actual." Taken as meaning, "God cannot know x as actual before x becomes actual," it is analytically true and acknowledges Hartshorne’s point that no one can know an object as actual before it is actual. Taken as meaning, "When x becomes actual God will learn something about possibility that he did not know before," it is false because of God’s exhaustive knowledge of the continua that any object must exemplify, and it acknowledges the classical point that God learns nothing from the flow of events that he would need to know in order to decide his will in general or in specific.

Does the position that I have been developing make a mockery of creativity? Hartshorne has frequently lamented that the doctrine of possible individuals does just that. He says, for example, "If all the ‘forms of definiteness,’ each perfectly definite in itself, are eternally given to God, it is not altogether clear to me what actualization accomplishes" (WP 95). I am sympathetic to this complaint and believe that my position, which speaks of the possibility of individuals rather than of possible individuals, maintains the emergent nature of the products of human creativity. William Blake’s frontispiece to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell never existed before Blake drew it. To be sure, God knew of the possibility of it before Blake drew it, but God did not know it as actual until it was drawn. Nor was its coming into existence a mere sleight of perception whereby God, who had seen it all along, whisked away a perceptual handkerchief, thereby causing others, including Blake, to suddenly begin seeing it in the 1790’s; nor should it be thought that until that point it had been in another realm and known there by God so that Blake’s artistic strokes were not of the nature of creativity but rather of the nature of rubbing away a patina beneath which lay the already existent drawing -- an illusion causing Blake and others to think that he was creating it rather than merely uncovering it. To the contrary, Blake brought into actuality for the first time something the possibility of which God knew eternally, but which neither God nor anyone else knew as actual until Blake created it.

However, is it coherent to claim that God’s knowledge of possibilia does not increase? Before responding, let me explain why Hartshorne believes it must increase. To say that God is omniscient is, in the broadest sense, to say that he knows everything. Most philosophical disputes over omniscience have to do with the scope of "everything." Does it include the future, for example? Hartshorne would say that whatever else omniscience might include, it must include knowledge of everything that can be known at the present moment, and that would include everything that is actual and has been actual. From this it follows that a being would be omniscient even if the future is not knowable as long as it knows all the present and the past. Further, if it is in principle impossible to know a specific shade of color that has not yet occurred, then it would not count against God’s omniscience if he did not know it before it became actual -- though it would, of course, count against his omniscience if he did not know it as soon as it did become actual and remember it perfectly ever thereafter. Hence, given the Hartshornean assumption that there is no knowledge of specific possibilities apart from actualities, it follows that because God is by nature Omniscient, his knowledge of possibilities will increase as novel actualities emerge (and as we saw earlier, according to Hartshorne every actuality is novel).

The epistemological position from which Hartshorne’s theological position is drawn appears to be contained in the following passages: "I can indeed know what the thing known would be though I myself did not know or feel it; but I cannot possibly know what it would be were it now unknown and unfelt; any more than I can know what an existent Platonic form would be were there nothing concrete to embody it" (WP 12). This is, Hartshorne adds, the Aristotelian principle that "the universal can have being only as it is concretized somehow." Whether or not this was Aristotle’s position, it does seem to be Hartshorne’s position that what Brand Blanshard calls a "specific universal," e.g., this shade of red, cannot be known by man or God apart from the actual. Before it becomes actual, it simply is not available to be known -- though, of course, as soon as it does become actual, God knows it and remembers it perfectly ever thereafter. This position is reaffirmed in Man’s Vision of God:

There seems but one way to know a quality, and that is to feel it. There is nothing in it to think, if by thought is meant relating; for a simple quality is not a relationship, but the term without which relations would not be possible, as the complex presupposes the simple. God must equally know qualities and relations, and how he could know a quality except by having it as a feeling-tone a quality of his experience itself, we have not the faintest clue in experience. (MVG 223)

God, then, can know a particular quality only by feeling it; but only that which is actual can be felt, and not all possible qualities can be discretely actual simultaneously; therefore God must wait upon the temporal process of actualization to gain knowledge of qualities that have not yet come to pass.

The classical theist might react to the preceding argument by insisting that it must be possible for God to know possibilities apart from actualities because he is omniscient and therefore knows all things. That, of course, would be begging the question. The debate is not whether God knows all things but whether "all things" can coherently range over unrealized possibilities in such a way that God will learn nothing about them from actuality. Hence, the only promising way to proceed, it seems to me, is to attempt to show that the idea of God knowing possibilities that have not been actualized is a coherent notion. That is, of course, what I have been trying to do by explaining how God’s knowledge of possibilities should be understood as subsumed within his knowledge of continua.

Let me try to develop my position further by claiming that I know there can be shades of blue other than those I have seen. Moreover, I claim, this knowledge is not merely formal, i.e., a warranted induction based on experiences of having seen new shades of blue emerge between shades with which I was already familiar. Give me two shades of blue that I can discriminate perceptually, and I will mix or imagine another one in between them. Hartshorne might reply along the line of John Morreall’s analysis by saying, "Yes, but there were an infinite number of possible shades in between the two you started with; therefore, you did not know for certain which shade you would wind up with when you mixed your paints or exerted you imagination. And that, I agree, is true. However, if I were more mentally agile, why could I not imagine a spectrum of blue beginning with the one shade I was given and ending with the other? It seems commonly conceded since Hume, and correctly I believe, that we are capable of imagining a single shade of blue in between two others that are given to us. Why not a spectrum in addition to a single shade? I see no reason to rule this out as a possibility.

If the generation of such a spectrum by imagination seems a coherent possibility for us, certainly it also is for God. Further, I see no reason to rule out the possibility that God could "imagine" the entire spectrum of shades of blue inasmuch as it seems reasonable to assume that he knows the factors that go into making shades of blue, as distinguished from other colors, just as we know the factors that go into making a Euclidean triangle. But what if Hartshorne objects that (1) you can imagine a spectrum of blue only by virtue of having already seen some actual shades of blue -- from which it follows that God, too, must wait upon actualization of at least two shades of blue before he can do it, and (2) the shades of blue in your mind are not actual; they are imaginary.

Regarding (1) it seems true that in order to grasp a continuum one would have to do so immediately or mediately. A continuum given immediately would have to be perceived or imagined. The latter is ordinarily the result of imaginative generalization from two or more instances of a spectrum, so let us examine the perceptually immediate possibility first. That possibility would depend upon there having been actualized somewhere in reality a spectrum -- of blue, for example. I can think of no reason, however, to believe that there is necessarily an actual spectrum of blue in the world; so it would be ad hoc to assume that there is and always has been; hence, it would seem that God, like we, must wait upon the emergence of an actual spectrum or at least upon two or more instances of blue (from which he can make an imaginative generalization) before he can apprehend the blue spectrum.8 Hence, it seems to me that either Hartshorne is correct that we should think of God as learning about possibilities from actualities, or we must make it plausible that God can immediately and eternally know all possibilities apart from becoming, and we must indicate serious difficulties in Hartshorne’s own position. I would like to argue for such knowledge on God’s part from the combination of his omniscience and his omnipotence.

The concept of omnipotence is by no means a limpid one, but roughly it means that God can bring about anything that is not self contradictory. Because it is not self-contradictory for God to create an object of any particular shade of blue, it follows that he can create an object of any shade of blue, whether he functions as direct efficient cause (the classical tradition) or as necessary contributory cause (the neoclassical tradition). From his omniscience it follows that he knows himself perfectly, and from his perfect self-knowledge it follows that he knows perfectly well everything that he can bring about, whether as sole creator or cocreator. Therefore, he knows all qualities and relations independently of becoming because actualization of them is within his power and he knows himself, and therefore his powers, perfectly.

Hartshorne might object at this point that God has perfect knowledge of his powers only in a generic sense; e.g., prior to the emergence of a novel shade of blue, he knew that he could bring about some such shade of blue, but he could not have known that he would bring about that very shade of blue there.9 Such a response, it seems to me, leads to serious difficulties.10 To begin with, it is implausible enough that, according to Hartshorne, God does not know exactly what he is up to when he is trying to bring about a hitherto unactualized shade of blue, but the problem becomes even more serious when we realize that, presumably, once upon a time there was no blue, so then God did not know that he could create blue or how to do it; worse yet, presumably once upon a time there was no color in the universe so that God did not know what color was, or that or how he could create it -- and why would this not be true of shape as well?

Hartshorne insists, to be sure, that God must always be creating a universe, but even so I see no reason to think that a universe necessarily includes shape and color, and Hartshorne himself states that "by going back far enough into the past one could (with sufficient knowledge) come to a stage at which whatever definite specificity you wish to point to was not yet in being, and was in its specificity neither possible nor impossible, though some less definite possibility was established by what had happened up till then" (CSPM 68). The significance of the preceding statement seems to be that there is no past limit to God’s ignorance of possibility. The farther we project into the past, the more ignorant he must be, so that he asymptotically approaches complete ignorance of possibility. Hence, either we must accept an absurd conception according to which once upon a time God was as ignorant as a clam, or we must accept that God learns nothing about possibilities from becoming because in knowing himself he knows all possibilities because his power ranges over all possibilities.11

Leaving aside what Hartshorne ought to think because of his own principles, let us now look at a second problem with his position. Specifically, it follows from Hartshorne’s dual claims that God is a necessary contributory cause to everything that becomes and that God is ignorant of much that can become, that he is also ignorant of much of what he can do. Hence, it is implicit in Hartshorne’s position that there are always things that God could bring about but of which he is ignorant as to the fact that they could exist, that he could bring them about and, therefore, of how to bring them about. To be sure, Hartshorne could respond that God would know that he could and how he could bring about things similar to those that he was already familiar with from actuality, but it is surely a corollary of his position that the less similar a possibility is to anything that has ever come about, the less clearly God would know that he could bring it about or how to do so.

There is here, then, it seems to me, a serious question as to how God knows what he can bring about and how to bring about anything that has not yet existed. Does he use trial and error? Does he thrash about and accidentally discover what is possible and how to cause it? Does he systematically vary his will, like a chemist conducting a series of experiments in which only the quantity of an agent is varied while all other factors remain the same? And given the Hartshornean conception of the nature of God’s influence on the world, how could God knowledgeably lure into existence a something he knows not what?12 Hence, either God would be restricted to trying to bring about new things identical to those that had happened before, or he would have to aim at bringing about he knew not quite what. Surely this is a less exalted conception of the knowledge and power of God than is the classical conception. If it is the best we can do within the limits of reason, then so be it. I have been arguing that something more is intelligible.

Consider also that the preceding problem is even worse than it appears at first because Hartshorne holds that no quality can be duplicated identically because each instance of a quality is uniquely affected by its history and relations, and no two instances of quality can have the same history and relations. Hence, God never quite knows what he is doing. This position is partially expressed in Hartshorne’s comments that

the qualities of things are as particular and unique as the things. When we think that two objects have or can have the same hue of color, we are thinking in terms of approximation; the idea that the two hues are ever exactly the same is either a sheer assumption or it presupposes as its verification an absoluteness of qualitative comparison which itself is a sheer assumption, controverted by much significant evidence. (WP 33)

He goes on to say, "the same essence can be in different things; but only if by essence we mean an entity which in itself, and not merely as we see it, is vague.

Later, Hartshorne writes, the precise qualities of particulars are themselves particular and unrepeatable. Only abstract, more or less generalized traits are repeatable. I am here differing from Santayana as well as Whitehead. Something very like this blue can occur over and over, but not precisely this blue. Particular qualities in their absolute definiteness are irreducibly relational and historical. The illusion to the contrary comes from forgetting that inability to detect a difference is not the same as ability to detect absolute similarity. If we were divine, it would be otherwise. But I assume that God knows all non-abstract or wholly determinate qualities of particulars to be unrepeatable. (CSPM 64)

In other words, two extant qualities may be qualitatively indiscernible to human perception, but they never are to divine perception, which sees things as they are in themselves. Now if this is true, then it is impossible for God to know how to bring about anything with precision because no matter what he does, the result will be different, in ways that could not have been anticipated, from everything else that has ever existed or been known. Such a position, however, does not seem to fit with thought or experience.

Because absolute precision is conceivable, I see no reason to rule out the possibility that God could achieve such, as by creating two qualitatively identical patches of red. Hartshorne might object that our empirical experience is that whenever we examine two seemingly identical patches of red under closer scrutiny, we almost always discover them to be qualitatively discernible. He might further object that even the appearance of qualitative homogeneity in one patch of red is always the result of a kind of perceptual averaging over myriad occasions of red that are not identical in shade. But, I would ask, if the perceptual result, i.e., the redness as experienced by a perceiver, is an average, then why could not two perceptual averages be identical even though there are no qualitatively identical particles in either patch, even as two arithmetic averages can be identical though none of the numbers contributive to the two averages are the same? Is it not conceivable that God could know two perceptual averages as the same while knowing the constituent occasions to be qualitatively different? I do not see how we can rule out this possibility.

Further, what about the qualitative relations among actual occasions themselves, those smallest units of reality? Might Hartshorne accept the conclusion of the preceding paragraph but add that his claim was directed not at how things appear to us but how they appear to God, who sees things as they are in themselves? To that I would respond that to accept the conclusion of the preceding paragraph is to accept that God would apprehend identical qualities in us -- results of perceptual averagings on our part though they be -- and that should be enough to establish the possibility of identical qualities.

We can certainly conceive that God might experience two actual occasions as being qualitatively identical. Hartshorne might say, "But we can conceive of that only in abstraction from the histories and relations of those actual occasions." I would have to disagree. It seems to me here that Hartshorne is presenting an empirical thesis as though it were a metaphysical thesis, i.e., is presenting a thesis that might be true but does not have to be as though it had to be. Why could not different histories and sets of relations result in identical qualities, even as different sets of numbers can result in identical averages? To address the problem more directly from Hartshorne’s point of view, why could not two actual occasions be presented with overlapping ranges of possibilities? And if they could be presented with overlapping ranges of qualitative possibilities (even by only one unit of overlap), why could they not happen to choose identical qualities? I simply do not understand the strength of Hartshorne’s conviction that qualities are like drone bees, forever retired after just one use. I can imagine arguing that God has chosen to prevent identical recurrence of any quality; Hartshorne could make a good empirical argument for this thesis; but I see no good reason to say that God can neither prevent nor bring about identical recurrence of any quality because such a thing is impossible in itself.

To return to the problems that result from Hartshorne’s position, consider that God would not only not be able to make or lure into existence two identical colors; he would never know in advance just what color he would get. The most that God or anyone can do in creative activity, according to Hartshorne, is to shoot in a promising direction, chosen on past experience, and hope for the best. "As causes we never know just what we are causing," says Hartshorne (CSPM 127); and God, according to Hartshorne, is no exception to this principle. Further, the less similar one s circumstances and actions are to one’s earlier circumstances and actions, the less confident one can be of what will result from one’s actions. Hence, the more God’s present circumstances and actions differ from his earlier acts and circumstances, the more surprised, even startled, perhaps unpleasantly, he is likely to be by what results. "Oh, my God!" I can imagine him saying, "I didn’t know that would be the outcome!" Will this tend to make God exceedingly cautious, varying his actions by only miniscule amounts so as to minimize the risk of getting significantly unpleasant results? Or will the spirit with which God proceeds to act vary with the kind of results he has been getting lately?

Finally, perhaps most radically, it follows from the unrepeatability of God’s action and the inherent vagueness of potentiality that God never knows in advance what he will do until he does it. Presumably at times he surprises himself not only by what he brings about, but also by what he wills.

Consider also that according to Hartshorne God must have eternal knowledge of his power and such knowledge must be abstract, i.e., not dependent upon any specific thing that he has brought about. But such knowledge would be empty (and therefore no knowledge at all) if it included nothing specific, and it would be arbitrary if it included eternal knowledge of only the power to bring about this shade of red or that pitch of sound. Hence, in saying that in knowing himself God knows he has power, and in knowing he has power he knows what he can do, we should not mean merely that he knows that he can do something, but not what; nor should we mean that he knows he can do anything, but without knowing specifically anything that can be done. Rather, we should mean that he knows eternally and determinately all that he can do.

A fifth problem in Hartshorne’s position has to do with the relation of imagination to perception, and the implication of that relation for memory. David Hume accepted, in spite of the anomaly that it created for him, that given two shades of blue, a human could imagine a third shade in between them without having perceived that shade before. Surely Hartshorne would allow as much. But if he does, should he not also allow that given God’s unlimited powers of thought, he would be able to fill out the whole spectrum, so that any shade of blue that he henceforth perceives in the world, he will have already been familiar with? Hartshorne might reply, "But the color as seen in imagination is itself an emergent. When we ask a human to imagine a shade of blue that he has never seen or imagined before, he does not know what shade it will be before he actually imagines it, and neither does God. Hence, the fact that we can image new shades of color independently of perception does not imply that they are not emergents, i.e., does not imply that they could have been known before they emerged. Qualities emerge in imagination as well as in perception. Regarding humans I agree with this point because our knowledge of color obviously has a temporal beginning. But what about God? Can we not at least conceive of God eternally being aware of (or "conceptually prehending," as Whitehead might say) the blue spectrum?

Perhaps the most pernicious corollary of Hartshorne’s principle of radical qualitative uniqueness, i.e., every instance of a quality is qualitatively unique, has to do with God’s memory. According to Hartshorne, God is a society of actual occasions that come into being and subsequently perish just like the actual occasions that constitute all other complex individuals. This means, together with Hartshorne’s principle of radical qualitative uniqueness, that the series of actual occasions that are identical with God’s memory of an instance of blue in the world would have to be not only numerically different but also qualitatively different from the occasions of blue that God originally encountered in the world. The significance of this is that God can never remember anything exactly as it was.

Further, it follows from Hartshorne’s dual principles of qualitative uniqueness and social divinity that God’s "memory" of something must -- because no two occasions can be qualitatively identical -- become more and more unlike that of which it is a memory as time passes. From all this it follows that even immediately after a person dies, God will not remember that person perfectly. Perhaps immediately after the person’s death God’s memory will be very like the person, but as we saw earlier, his memory must be continually changing because no two actual occasions can be qualitatively identical. Hence, an actual occasion of memory cannot be qualitatively identical with an actual occasion of perception, so one is confronted with the puzzle: just how different is it initially?

The problem gets worse as time passes. The memory of an event may be nearly identical to the event immediately after it occurs, but what about a million years later? A googol of years later? Hartshorne finds a great deal of value in the belief that though we will not survive death subjectively we will be everlastingly remembered and cherished by God. He writes in "The God of Religion and the God of Philosophy," "I deeply honor that ancient people who, almost alone in the world, could accept their status as neither divine nor immortal. But, implicitly at least, they were assured of a kind of immortality from this alone, that God would everlastingly know and love them just as they were in their earthly careers. For there cannot be a counterpart to forgetting in God" (TOG 157; emphasis mine). But now it appears that Hartshorne’s principles imply that though God will remember us, he cannot remember us as we really are, and to make things worse, his memory of us must everlastingly slide down a slippery slope of deviation from the truth. We appear to be left with nothing more than a causal relationship which would eventually result in memories that are so faded and/or distorted as to be grossly misleading.

To summarize, as Hartshorne’s principles now stand, they entail that God cannot remember anything perfectly and that his memory must get worse and worse as time passes. Does God realize that he is not remembering us correctly? If not, he is not worthy of the name "God," given its dominant meaning in philosophical and religious contexts. If he does realize that he is not remembering correctly, then he must remember us correctly since he could only know that one memory was not correct if he had another memory of the same thing that was veridical. But then he would have to have misremembered in at least one case -- which is impossible for God, as Hartshorne himself testifies. And we should ask, "If God misremembers and also remembers correctly, how could he know which memory is veridical given the fact that in order to resolve the problem he would have no higher authority to appeal to than himself?" If we try to get around this problem by suggesting, in Hartshornean language, that God has only a vague and indeterminate" awareness that his memories are gradually becoming faded and distorted, must we not then think of him as increasingly distressed and frustrated at the loss of precious memories?

Finally we come to the point at which I believe Hartshorne and I are farthest apart. He holds, as we saw earlier, that to know a genus, e.g., animal," is not to know thereby the species thereof, e.g., "dog," and to know the species, e.g., "dog," is not to know future members of the species. I, by contrast, hold that to know the genus perfectly is to know all its possible species, and to know the species perfectly is to know all its possible individual members. But in what sense do I mean this? As can be inferred from earlier arguments, I do not mean that to know a species perfectly is to know all its possible members as discrete from one another. That, I agree, is impossible. Rather, it is to know a continuum of which any specific individual would be an instantiation, and therefore it is to know independently of every individual what it is like. However, I certainly agree with Hartshorne that to know a species is not to know thereby the members of it that will become actual. To hold that it did would violate two metaphysical principles that Hartshorne and I hold in common: (1) an individual cannot be known as actual until it is actual, and (2) the future will of a free agent cannot be known for certain in advance, not even by the agent himself, much less by anyone else.13

If, however, one knows the limits within which triangles must exist and the method of their generation, then, I believe, one knows in a significant sense every triangle that will ever exist. Consequently, when the conditions that can eventuate in an actual triangle do eventuate in an actual triangle, one who has the preceding knowledge will never before have seen that triangle, but there will be no surprises in it for him. The same point, I believe, can be defended with regard to all other qualities, relations, and complexes thereof. Humans, to be sure, do not understand genuses and species with the kind of mastery and clarity of which I have been speaking. Perhaps we do understand some species in this mode, species such as triangularity, and to a lesser extent colors, though there is here great variation among us. Gifted geometers show with illustrations that they are able to imagine four-dimensional linear continua that boggle the mind of the layman, and I believe the same is true of gifted artists with regard to color.

At the same time, I certainly feel that here I am only touching an idea rather than grasping it -- or perhaps even more accurately, merely pointing to an idea dimly seen, rather than touching it -- but the kinds of difficulty I see here strike me as the kinds that we, as finite, corporeal beings, should expect to encounter as we attempt to understand the divine mode of knowledge. As a corollary to my position, I would like to suggest that the higher one rises in the continuum of intelligence, the more clearly and extensively one understands possibility in terms of continua. This claim applies to ontogeny as well as phylogeny. In terms of ontogeny, the more perfectly an individual, such as a human, understands a genus or a species, the more clearly and extensively he understands it as a continuum, and the more clearly and extensively he understands it as a continuum, the more clearly and extensively he understands the possibilities that are inherent within it. In terms of phylogeny, a type of being who is capable of understanding perfectly all genuses and species will understand all the possibilities that are inherent in reality. I do not believe humans are capable of enjoying such understanding of the entire realm of possibility, but I see no reason to think that God has not always enjoyed it.



AD -- Charles Hartshorne, Anselm’s Discovery. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Co., 1965.

CP -- Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960. "1.163" will mean "Volume 1, Paragraph 163."

CSPM -- Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Co., 1970.

LTR -- Charles Hartshorne’s December 16, 1980, letter to the author.

MVG -- Charles Hartshorne, Man’s Vision of God. N.Y.: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1941.

PGS -- The Philosophy of George Santayana, ed. by Paul Schilpp. New York: Tudor Publishing Co., 1951.

TOG -- Talk of God: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1969.

WP -- Charles Hartshorne, Whitehead’s Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972.



1Readers familiar with Alvin Plantinga’s The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: The Clarendon Press 1974), chapter 8, will recognize in this quotation the distinction that Plantinga adopts under the terminology of "predicative and impredicative propositions.

2 Since to most people the denial of possible individuals is initially preposterous, I am surprised that Hartshorne does not follow Bergson in smoothing the way by playing up the contrast between two very different senses of "x was possible," one sense being retained and the other rejected. See Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind (Totowa, N.J.: Littlefield, Adams, & Co., 1965), p. 21.

3See John Morreall’s interesting discussion of "Hume’s Missing Shade of Blue," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 42/3 (March, 1982), 407-15. Morreall argues that our ability tr, fill in a missing shade of blue is destructive of Hume’s copy theory of thought but is not incompatible with his empiricist framework.

4I would like to thank Professor Hartshorne for reading an earlier draft of this expository part of my paper and, in a very instructive letter dated June 14,1981, pointing out a misunderstanding that has now, I believe, been corrected.

5 Phil Weiss seems also to have arrived at this conclusion in his analysis of the theories of possibility of David Lewis, Nicholas Rescher, and Justus Buchler. See his "Possibility: Three Recent Ontologies," International Philosophical Quarterly 20/2 (June, 1980), 219.

6 Whether we should hold that there are an infinite number of basic continua is an interesting question that I will not take up. Hartshorne does not seem disposed to think that there are, and neither am I.

7 Strictly speaking, we cannot slice a continuum at a point because there are no points, in the sense of joints, in a continuum. Rather, the point is created by the slice.

8 Given Hartshorne’s belief that becoming is discrete, not continuous, I believe he would say that there can be no such thing as an actual continuum; any seemingly actual continuum would be illusory. See his "A Revision of Peirce’s Categories," The Monist 63/3 (July, 1980). especially 286ff.

9 Interestingly, for Hartshorne God’s power exceeds his knowledge, i.e., he can do things that he does not know he can do. My position is the opposite: God’s knowledge is greater than his power, i.e., he can know of more than he can do; e.g., he knows of the possibility of free actions by creatures but he cannot cause them to perform particular free actions.

10 Eugene Peters’ "Hartshorne on Actuality," PS 7/3 (Fall, 1977), is the only piece I knew of, other than my own, that is exclusively devoted to critical evaluation of Hartshorne’s theory of possibility. However, Theodore Vitali’s "The Peirceian Influence on Hartshorne" (PS 7/4) and the articles by David Griffin and Lewis S. Ford in Two Process Philosophers (AAR Studies in Religion, 1973:5) are excellent expository background and contain some critical remarks, especially by Ford. Also relevant to the type of analysis that I shall give is Ford’s use of set theory in his "God Infinite? A Process Perspective," The Thomist 42/1 (January, 1978), 1-13.

11 My position, I concede, as Hartshorne does about his, is "obscure and difficult" (CSPM 59), but these characteristics as contained in my position strike me as none other than the kind of obscurity and difficulty we should expect to encounter when we try to understand divine knowledge. For Peirce’s Wittgensteinian counsel on this issue see 6.508.

12 Lewis Ford notes this problem in his article, "Whitehead’s Differences from Hartshorne," in Two Process Philosophers, ed. Lewis S. Ford (Missoula, Montana: American Academy of Religion, 1973), p. 78f.

13 Because our willings are free and have temporal beginnings, we sometimes discover that when a moment of decision comes, we do not will what we had thought we would. If my argument in "Impassible Love" is correct (see Hartshorne’s response to this paper, delivered to the 1981 meeting of the Society for the Philosophy of Religion), then God can never be ignorant or mistaken about what he will will because he is always willing all that he ever will will. There is no futurity to God’s will as far as his deciding it is concerned.