Philosophy Word of the Day – Omniscience and Divine Foreknowledge

Omniscience is an attribute having to do with knowledge; it is the attribute of “having knowledge of everything.” Many philosophers consider omniscience to be an attribute possessed only by a divine being, such as the God of Western monotheism. However, the Eastern followers of Jainism allow omniscience to be an attribute of some human beings. But what exactly is it to be omniscient?

The term’s root Latin words are “omni” (all) and “scientia” (knowledge), and these suggest a rough layman’s definition of omniscience as “knowledge of everything.” Yet even though this definition may be somewhat useful, there are a number of questions which the definition alone does not address.

First, there is the general question of what exactly our human knowledge is and whether or not an understanding of human knowledge can be applied to God. For example, does God have beliefs? And what kind of evidence does God need for these beliefs to count as knowledge? There is also the question of what exactly this “everything” in the definition is supposed to mean. Does God know everything which is actual but not all that is possible? Does God know the future, and if so, how exactly? This last question is a perennial difficulty and will require a thorough investigation. (Continue article)

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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6 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day – Omniscience and Divine Foreknowledge

  1. Hi Etio,

    That’s an interesting and controversial question. Based on the evidence of Scripture, it seems pretty clear that God does have knowledge of the future. I believe God has a direct perception of every aspect of reality, including the future. What’s your take on this question?

  2. Sorry to post this a second time, to correct a typo!

    To be precise, I don’t think you can say that a Buddha remained human once they had attained enlightenment. The Shakyamuni Buddha specifically denied that he was a human when questioned by the Bramin Dona specifically denied that he was a human, or for that matter a deva (god or deity).
    You can read the text here: http://tinyurl.com/yeqxrp4

    Still, we still have the potential to become Buddhas!

  3. To be precise, I don’t think you can say that a Buddha remained human once they had attained enlightenment. The Shakyamuni Buddha specifically denied that he was a human when questioned by the Bramin Donan specifically denied that he was a human, or for that matter a deva (god or deity).
    You can read the text here: http://tinyurl.com/yeqxrp4

    Still, we still have the potential to become Buddhas!

  4. Hi Win,
    Thanks for pointing that out! It’s a fascinating concept that a human being could possess omniscience. I wonder if they would define it in the same way analytic philosophers do — maybe they’d view it as possessing all wisdom rather than knowing all true propositions? Just speculating.
    Take care,
    Chris

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