hard-fact/soft-fact debate

hard-fact/soft-fact debate
   The debate among Christian philosophers over hard facts and soft facts is bound up with the problem of foreknowledge and freedom. There is not even agreement among Christian philosophers as to the definition of the terms 'hard fact' and 'soft fact', however, let alone as to the existence of these facts. The intuition behind the distinction is that there are some facts that obtain entirely in virtue of the state of the world at one single time (hard facts), and there are other facts that obtain in virtue of the state of the world at different times (soft facts). An example of a hard fact might be the fact that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066: this fact obtains purely in virtue of what happened in 1066 (the fact that it wasn't called 'the Battle of Hastings' till later is irrelevant). An example of a soft fact would be the fact that the media correctly guessed in 2004 the result of the 2005 UK elections. This fact obtains not just in virtue of the fact that the media made a certain guess in 2004 but also in virtue of the results of the 2005 UK elections (had they been different the media's guess would have been wrong). The debate impinges on the debate over foreknowledge and freedom because it is contended that God's foreknowledge is a soft fact about the past, since the fact that God foreknew in the distant past that Judas would betray Christ obtains partly in virtue of the fact that Judas did later betray Christ. Further, God's forebelief is also claimed to be a soft fact, since the fact that God forebelieved in the past that Judas would betray Christ obtains partly in virtue of the fact that Judas did later betray Christ: God would have had a different belief had Judas not done so. The importance of the claim that God's forebelief is not a hard fact about the past is that it is claimed that only hard facts about the past are necessary and outside our power in the present. It follows that God's forebelief does not endanger the freedom of our future actions just in virtue of its pastness. The strategy of attempting to solve the problem of foreknowledge and freedom by invoking the distinction between hard facts and soft facts is known as 'Ockhamism' after William of Ockham. This distinction was reintroduced into the modern debate by Marilyn McCord Adams.
   Further reading: Fischer 1989; Ockham 1983; Zagzebski 1991

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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