Boethius’ Conception of God and ReligionJune 27, 2021
Boethius was educated in a Platonic tradition of philosophy and was also a Christian.
He became famous in philosophical circles with the answer he found to a question left over from Aristotle. Boethius, Aristotle’s “If God knows what we will do in the future, how can it be said that we have free will?” answered the question.
The best way to understand the contradiction in this question is to imagine a situation in everyday life. For example, I can go to the movies this afternoon or spend my time at home reading a book. I choose the first of these two choices and finally go to the cinema. Therefore, I will go to the cinema today, before I even decide to go to the cinema, so it is already true. But if this is already true, then I really don’t have the option to spend this afternoon at home reading. Here Aristotle was the first person to describe this problem. Aristotle thought that a sentence such as “I will go to the cinema this afternoon” is neither true nor false, and that this sentence is not as clear as the sentence “I went to the cinema yesterday”.
Boethius was faced with a more difficult version of the same sentence. He believed that God knew everything; not only the past and the present, but also the future… So if I’m going to the movies this afternoon, God knows it already. In this case, it is not possible to spend this afternoon reading a book. For this latter case would contradict what God now knows.
Boethius solved this problem by arguing that the same thing can be known according to the nature of the knower. For example, a sheep knows the sun only with its senses; sees and touches the heat. However, a person can produce information about which category the sun is in. What elements it is made of, how it produces heat, how close it is to the Earth, etc. he knows. This is how time is known. People know and live time as past, present and future. But God, like man, is not in time and does not live time as past, present, and future like humans. He lives in an eternal present and knows what we know about the past, the future and the present as always in the “now”. And just as my knowing that you are reading this article right now does not prevent your freedom to put an end to it, the knowledge of God does not prevent your future actions as if they were present.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook