Is there a mechanism that describes foreknowledge that does not imply present-future equivalence? For example if foreknowledge is said to be recalling information from the future, then therefore there is no distinction between present and future.

  • Can you please what you mean here by the word mechanism? Your question seems close to the problem described here philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/23408/… But I am not sure. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 3:45
  • Welcome to Phil.SE! Plato had a theory of knowledge, in which we know what we know because we recall it from past lives; which is an influence of Pythagorean doctrines. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 9:46
  • @AlexanderSKing A framework that describes the phenomenon of foreknowledge, how it can occur and what consequences it may have.
    – loser
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 16:24
  • Such mechanisms have been discussed by theologians for centuries to resolve omniscience vs free will conundrum. The most promising are Boethian (timeless) and Molinist (middle knowledge) solutions. plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-will-foreknowledge/#3
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 23:36
  • @Conifold This is exactly what I wanted, can you please explain each mechanism further as a full answer, and I will accept and upvote it.
    – loser
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


It's not that there is no distinction between future and present and recalling the future; its recalling the past. It's a question of repetition. In the Hindu philosophy there have been an infinite number if universes before this one and there will be an infinite number in the future. It's only a matter of time when repetition occurs. Swami Vivekananda said in the 1890s (Complete Works, V2 pp 229-230; also available here: http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_2/vol_2_frame.htm - under the sidebar heading "Jnana Yoga" and then under the heading "Immortality":

But the question of immortality is not yet settled. We have seen that everything in this universe is indestructible. There is nothing new; there will be nothing new. The same series of manifestations are presenting themselves alternately like a wheel, coming up and going down. All motion in this universe is in the form of waves, successively rising and falling. Systems after systems are coming out of fine forms, evolving themselves, and taking grosser forms, again melting down, as it were, and going back to the fine forms. Again they rise out of that, evolving for a certain period and slowly going back to the cause. So with all life. Each manifestation of life is coming up and then going back again. What goes down? The form. The form breaks to pieces, but it comes up again. In one sense bodies and forms even are eternal. How? Suppose we take a number of dice and throw them, and they fall in this ratio — 6 — 5 — 3 — 4. We take the dice up and throw them again and again; there must be a time when the same numbers will come again; the same combination must come. Now each particle, each atom, that is in this universe, I take for such a die, and these are being thrown out and combined again and again. All these forms before you are one combination. Here are the forms of a glass, a table, a pitcher of water, and so forth. This is one combination; in time, it will all break. But there must come a time when exactly the same combination comes again, when you will be here, and this form will be here, this subject will be talked, and this pitcher will be here. An infinite number of times this has been, and an infinite number of times this will be repeated. Thus far with the physical forms. What do we find? That even the combination of physical forms is eternally repeated.

A most interesting conclusion that follows from this theory is the explanation of facts such as these: Some of you, perhaps, have seen a man who can read the past life of others and foretell the future. How is it possible for any one to see what the future will be, unless there is a regulated future? Effects of the past will recur in the future, and we see that it is so. You have seen the big Ferris Wheel* in Chicago. The wheel revolves, and the little rooms in the wheel are regularly coming one after another; one set of persons gets into these, and after they have gone round the circle, they get out, and a fresh batch of people gets in. Each one of these batches is like one of these manifestations, from the lowest animals to the highest man. Nature is like the chain of the Ferris Wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so of the souls. Thus it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision. We see, then, that there is recurrence of the same material phenomena at certain periods, and that the same combinations have been taking place through eternity...

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