Does God believe in himself?

Rachel asked:

Does God believe in himself?

Answer by Peter Jones

What a good question. It opens a can of worms, as perhaps you already know or suspect.

Philosophers sometimes define knowledge as ‘justified true belief’. If it is, then God must believe in Himself in order to have knowledge of Himself, and if He ever stopped believing He would become ignorant of Himself.

And yet, how could He justify this belief? To know that His belief is justified He would have to have knowledge of Himself that is not merely justified true belief but is more secure than this, more directly known.

In this case, as well as justified true belief there is a stronger form of knowledge for which the knowledge simply is the justification, and the belief simply is the knowledge.

This is knowledge by identity. Aristotle proposes that it is the only form of true knowledge. Kant uses the phrase ‘non-intuitive immediate knowledge’ to mean what I imagine is the same thing.

If knowledge by identity is required in order to justify justified true belief then justified true belief is not knowledge but a conjectural theory. This would be my view, and it seems to be logically inevitable.

So God would have no need to believe anything about Himself, since He would know by being. Or, if we imagine that God has to believe things like we do, then His knowledge would justify his beliefs.

It is not irrelevant that the Sufi sage Al-Halaj was crucified not for claiming ‘I know the truth’, but for claiming ‘I am truth’. The difference between these claims is the difference between a belief that may or may not be justified and knowledge that is simply known and which therefore justifies the use of the phrase ‘true knowledge’ to describe it.

I do not think we have to believe in God to find a study of your question illuminating. A book could be written in reply but this may be a start. It seems a good example of the way that a study of God’s qualities and properties can be useful quite regardless of whether He exists.


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