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The Narcissist as Know-it-all

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Grandiosity, Fantasies, and Narcissism

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First published Mon Feb 1, 2010; substantive revision Mon Mar 13, 2017
Omniscience is the property of having complete or maximal knowledge. Along with omnipotence and perfect goodness, it is usually taken to be one of the central divine attributes. Once source of the attribution of omniscience to God derives from the numerous biblical passages that ascribe vast knowledge to him. St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae I, q. 14), in his discussion of the knowledge of God, cites such texts as Job 12:13: “With God are wisdom and strength; he has counsel and understanding” and Rom. 11:13:“O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Another source is provided by the requirements of formulating one or another theological doctrine. For example, the doctrine of divine providence holds that God has a plan for the world according to which all things are in his care and work out according to his good will. As Flint puts it,

to see God as provident is to see him as knowingly and lovingly directing each and every event involving each and every creature toward the ends he has ordained for them. (1998: 12)

It is thus tempting to think than an account of providence requires attributing vast knowledge to God. (For a dissenting interpretation of providence which does not require complete knowledge, see Hasker 2004.) Philosophical considerations of so-called “perfect being theology” provide a third motivation for including omniscience among the divine attributes. Perfect being theology appeals to St. Anselm, who held that God is that than which nothing greater can be thought (Proslogion, [sign in to see URL]). Anselm expands on what he means by greatness by giving the formula that “God is whatever it is better to be than not”, and he concludes that this includes such properties as making other things from nothing, being just, being happy, and being perceptive, omnipotent, and merciful. This entry will address philosophical issues concerning omniscience as a divine attribute or a perfection, without considering its potential application in theology.

1. Defining Omniscience
2. Additional Features of Divine Knowledge
3. Foreknowledge and Human Free Action
4. Further Difficulties for Omniscience
4.1 Omniscience and Immutability
4.2 Omniscience and Knowledge de se
4.3 Omniscience and Knowledge de re
4.4 Omniscience and Cardinality
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