1. Joined
    24 Apr '05
    Moves
    3061
    22 Sep '10 20:29
    How should we formulate the notion of 'omnipotence'. And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?

    I have been thinking about it, and I have many concerns for the prospects of formulating the notion in terms of either the power to bring about certain states of affairs or the power to do certain things.

    For example, suppose we started with something like:

    O1. Omnipotence is the power to anything that is logically possible.

    An objection that concerns me here is related to the so-called "paradox of the stone". There is no actual paradox: even if it were the case that X cannot create a stone that X cannot lift, that does not entail any genuine (non-ersatz) limitation on X's power (since it only seems to translate to something like 'if X can create a stone, then X can also lift it'😉 and would not suggest that X is not "omnipotent". Regardless, to me, an upshot does seem to be that we should not demand that an omnipotent being be able to do anything whose description per se is logically consistent (such as the creation of something with the property that its creator cannot lift it) because some are such that, when they are done, they should decisively count against the doer's being "omnipotent" (because they entail some genuine limitation on power). For instance, there are logically possible things I can do that it seems we should not demand an omnipotent being be able to do.

    It seems like this should be easy to get around, but I am not convinced. For instance, common sense says that it is not logically possible for Y to create a stone Y cannot lift if it happens to be that Y is "omnipotent" because a stone which an omnipotent being cannot lift should be a logically impossible object. Okay, granted, but it will do us no good to try to revise O1 into something like:

    O2. Omnipotence is the power to anything that is logically possible for an omnipotent being to do.

    Or consider the following (from some wikipedia article**):

    O3. "Y is omnipotent" means whenever "Y will bring about X" is logically possible, then "Y can bring about X" is true.

    Now, the article there claims this gets around the stone problem. But why should I think it does? Presumably because I should think "Y will bring about a stone Y cannot lift" is logically impossible. But why should I think it is logically impossible? Presumably because here a supposition is that Y is omnipotent. But, according to O3 itself, the supposition "Y is omnipotent" just means [insert the rest of O3 here]. So, not only do I not see how O3 gets around the stone problem; but further I can find no actual content in O3. To understand if statements like "Y will bring about X" are logically consistent with the supposition that Y is omnipotent, I would think one would need to have already some idea of what "Y is omnipotent" means. So I have no idea why we should think something like O3 is satisfactory.

    Perhaps I am missing something, so I would be interested in your thoughts.

    Also, this brief article has some discussion on this, and it outlines a number of other and related concerns:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/omnipotence/

    In this article, they seem to conclude that the only practical option for an intelligible notion of 'omnipotence' is in a comparative sense of "maximal power, meaning just that no being could exceed the overall power of an omnipotent being".

    -----------
    **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox
  2. Standard memberPalynka
    Upward Spiral
    Halfway
    Joined
    02 Aug '04
    Moves
    8702
    22 Sep '10 21:19
    I have a serious problem understanding what the problem is.

    Isn't this the same as asking if an omnipotent being can bring about limits to its own omnipotence?

    Pretending the universe is flat and there is a magical force pulling everything down that we call gravity:
    It seems to me that any definition of omnipotence requires the ability to create any rock of positive mass X.
    It also seems to me that any definition of omnipotence requires the ability to "lift" (in this magical world) any rock of positive mass X.

    These two things together imply that the question is really: Can the omnipotent being limit his ability to "lift" rocks to rocks of size lower than Y?

    Or am I missing something?
  3. Joined
    30 May '09
    Moves
    28126
    22 Sep '10 21:33
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    How should we formulate the notion of 'omnipotence'. And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?

    I have been thinking about it, and I have many concerns for the prospects of formulating the notion in terms of either the power to bring about certain states of affairs or the power to do certain things.

    For e ...[text shortened]...
    -----------
    **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox
    I've not read the articles or anything so this is improvised and could all go horribly wrong, but let's look at O3 and the stone problem. The omnipotent agent G can, in general create objects, and can lift them. Usually, the properties of these objects don't seem particularly relevant. Can G create a green stone? Of course!

    But what about G creating an object, say S, that has the property that G (under O3) wouldn't be able to lift S?

    Maybe the reason this is hard to think about is that it is recursive. So let's focus on the lifting ability of G. Which objects can G lift under O3? Precisely those whose lifting by G under O3 do not lead to a contradiction. Does G lifting S lead to a contradiction? Yes, because by definition S is unliftable under O3, since to lift S would be to lift the unliftable.

    So the solution from this way round is that G can create S under O3 and G's inability to lift S does not violate O3, so G remains omnipotent in this sense.

    Now your view above seems to be that this is circular, because we have to define 'unliftable' in terms of O3 already, is that right?

    If so we can fix that by just defining 'unliftable simpliciter' as that which cannot be lifted. Then we define S as unliftable simpliciter.
  4. Joined
    27 Sep '06
    Moves
    9651
    22 Sep '10 22:491 edit
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    How should we formulate the notion of 'omnipotence'. And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?

    I have been thinking about it, and I have many concerns for the prospects of formulating the notion in terms of either the power to bring about certain states of affairs or the power to do certain things.

    For e
    -----------
    **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox
  5. Joined
    27 Sep '06
    Moves
    9651
    22 Sep '10 22:512 edits
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    How should we formulate the notion of 'omnipotence'. And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?

    I have been thinking about it, and I have many concerns for the prospects of formulating the notion in terms of either the power to bring about certain states of affairs or the power to do certain things.

    For e
    -----------
    **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox
    "And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?"

    Let's ask God.


    "..; but with God all things are possible."

    "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."

    On and on it goes.


    Revelation 19:6 - And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

    The Greek word is pantokrator. It is translated "Almighty" in other verses.

    I think it is safe to say that God Almighty is the most powerful being in existence. Always has been and always will be.

    This is one of those absolute truths everyone is always scrambling around looking for. 😉
  6. Standard memberDasa
    Dasa
    Account suspended
    Joined
    20 May '10
    Moves
    8042
    23 Sep '10 00:521 edit
    Omnipotent is unlimited infinite power, and what is power, its the energy, potency, intelligence, creativeness to act or do, and for God, (without limit or boundries.)

    vishva
  7. Standard memberua41
    Sharp Edge
    Dulling my blade
    Joined
    11 Dec '09
    Moves
    14434
    23 Sep '10 00:55
    If one were omnipotent, does one have to be constrained by logic?
  8. Joined
    27 Sep '06
    Moves
    9651
    23 Sep '10 01:43
    Originally posted by ua41
    If one were omnipotent, does one have to be constrained by logic?
    How should I know? I'm not omnipotent.

    Close though! 🙂
  9. Unknown Territories
    Joined
    05 Dec '05
    Moves
    20408
    23 Sep '10 01:57
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    How should we formulate the notion of 'omnipotence'. And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?

    I have been thinking about it, and I have many concerns for the prospects of formulating the notion in terms of either the power to bring about certain states of affairs or the power to do certain things.

    For e ...[text shortened]...
    -----------
    **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox
    I've one better.

    LJ ties a knot which LJ cannot undo.
  10. Joined
    27 Sep '06
    Moves
    9651
    23 Sep '10 02:04
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    I've one better.

    LJ ties a knot which LJ cannot undo.
    You're a genius! 😉
  11. Standard memberKellyJay
    Walk your Faith
    USA
    Joined
    24 May '04
    Moves
    148543
    23 Sep '10 05:16
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    How should we formulate the notion of 'omnipotence'. And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?

    I have been thinking about it, and I have many concerns for the prospects of formulating the notion in terms of either the power to bring about certain states of affairs or the power to do certain things.

    For e ...[text shortened]...
    -----------
    **http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox
    It is no different than saying I can draw a square circle....it cannot be done so it
    isn't anything anyone can do no matter how much power or knowledge they have.
    If it can be done, if it can be known, than you have omnipotent, if it cannot be
    done than why bring it up? 🙂
    Kelly
  12. Cape Town
    Joined
    14 Apr '05
    Moves
    52945
    23 Sep '10 06:251 edit
    Would an infinite rock be logically impossible? If so, can an omnipotent being create any finite sized rock? Surely mathematically we end up with the age old problem of "any finite rock as size tends to infinity" being remarkably similar to "an infinite sized rock".
  13. Joined
    24 Apr '05
    Moves
    3061
    23 Sep '10 07:25
    Originally posted by Palynka
    I have a serious problem understanding what the problem is.

    Isn't this the same as asking if an omnipotent being can bring about limits to its own omnipotence?

    Pretending the universe is flat and there is a magical force pulling everything down that we call gravity:
    It seems to me that any definition of omnipotence requires the ability to create any r ...[text shortened]... it his ability to "lift" rocks to rocks of size lower than Y?

    Or am I missing something?
    The problem I have is in the formulation of 'omnipotence'. I have no real problems with the so-called paradox of the stone itself because I think there simply is no paradox. I think arguments centered on the paradox of the stone are unsound. For instance, the argument could be delivered in the following way:

    (1) Either it is the case that X can create a stone X cannot lift or it is not the case that X can create a stone X cannot lift.
    (2) If it is the case that X can create a stone X cannot lift, then X cannot be omnipotent (because X's power would be limited: in particular, X cannot lift the stone in question).
    (3) If it is not the case that X can create a stone X cannot lift, then X cannot be omnipotent (because X's power would be limited: in particular, X cannot create the stone in question).
    (4) So, X cannot be omnipotent.

    In this argument, I think (2) is true (this is the horn of the supposed dilemma that I think actually cuts), but I think (3) is false. I like an article written by C. Wade Savage on this (entitled I believe Paradox of the Stone), in which he does a thought experiment somewhat similar to what you suggest as a thought process. He says, look, consider you have some entity E1 and some entity E2. E1 can create stones of any poundage or size or shape, etc, and E2 can lift stones of any poundage or size or shape, etc. So, E2 can lift any stone that E1 creates. So it is not the case that E1 can create a stone that E2 cannot lift. But, surely this fact should not really count against the stone-creating power of E1. Now, imagine that E1 and E2 are the same entity.

    Or the argument could be delivered in this way:
    Objector: "Okay, let's suppose, as you claim, that G is omnipotent. Now, could G create a stone He Himself cannot lift?" (with intent to usher in a dilemma.)

    But there is no actual dilemma: the theist can simply respond "No" on the basis that such a stone is a logically impossible object and that he is not committed to a view of omnipotence that entails the power to bring about logically impossible objects (If, on the other hand he is committed to such a view, then I think his view of omnipotence has major incoherency problems anyway).

    So, I think I have no problem with the "paradox of the stone". The reason I brought it up is just to make the point that I do think one of the horns of the supposed dilemma does actually cut. Basically, I think (although the paradox of the stone type arguments are unsound), there is still an upshot that renders O1 inadequate. From there, my actual problem is I do not see a good way to go about addressing this failing. Not sure if that helps clarify or not…

    Can the omnipotent being limit his ability to "lift" rocks to rocks of size lower than Y?

    I do not think that, say, the question asked by the hypothetical objector above translates to this.

    This question as you state it could maybe seem ambiguous between something like (A) Can the omnipotent being choose (say) to not fully exercise his lifting capacities? and something like (B) Can the omnipotent being bring it about that he cannot lift rocks larger than Y?

    Either way, I do not see any problem. I suppose the answer to (A) would be yes, and the answer to (B) would be no.
  14. Joined
    24 Apr '05
    Moves
    3061
    23 Sep '10 07:53
    Originally posted by Lord Shark
    I've not read the articles or anything so this is improvised and could all go horribly wrong, but let's look at O3 and the stone problem. The omnipotent agent G can, in general create objects, and can lift them. Usually, the properties of these objects don't seem particularly relevant. Can G create a green stone? Of course!

    But what about G creating an ...[text shortened]... mpliciter' as that which cannot be lifted. Then we define S as unliftable simpliciter.
    I am basically making stuff up as I go along here, so I would start with a similar disclaimer.

    So the solution from this way round is that G can create S under O3 and G's inability to lift S does not violate O3, so G remains omnipotent in this sense.

    But that seems like a clearly inadequate result. If, under O3-omnipotence G can create S, then under O3-omnipotence there is some stone that G cannot lift. Then, I do not think O3-omnipotence really survives our common sense intuitions about 'omnipotence'. As I mentioned in the post above, I think one of the horns does actually cut (that is, if you affirm that X can create some stone X cannot lift, then you thereby affirm some genuine, non-ersatz, limitation on X's lifting power, to the extent that it should preclude X's being 'omnipotent'😉.

    I like how you mention a recursive aspect of O3 because that does seem to lie at the heart of my problem with O3. I don't know, I have to think more about this one. But to me, it seems to loop back on itself in a way that can only be broken by importing in some external common-sense entailment of 'omnipotence' (in which case, O3 is inadequate because it does not actually capture our common sense about the notion). I still cannot figure out exactly how O3 gets around the stone problem. If we are set on evaluating a statement like "Y will bring about a stone Y cannot lift", the Wikipedia article reads as though this should be thought to be logically impossible if, say, Y happens to be G. But why? Presumably because G is supposedly omnipotent. Okay, so apply O3 again and now where are you? At bottom I think what they are doing here to say that such a proposition is logically impossible is actually just importing in an external common sense notion (the notion that G's being omnipotent means that G can lift stones of any poundage or size or shape, etc; or the notion that G's being omnipotent means G can also lift any stone he can create; or something like that). I am still not convinced O3-omnipotence itself actually carries any real content. But it's a little confusing to me, so I have to think more about it.

    Now your view above seems to be that this is circular, because we have to define 'unliftable' in terms of O3 already, is that right?

    If I am following you correctly, yes, that touches on a concern I have.

    If so we can fix that by just defining 'unliftable simpliciter' as that which cannot be lifted. Then we define S as unliftable simpliciter.

    But how does that preserve the question? The question (with respect to O3 and the stone paradox) is not concerned with whether or not "G will bring about a stone that is unliftable simpliciter" is logically possible. The question is concerned with whether or not "G will bring about a stone G cannot lift" is logically possible. If we wanted to say that these are effectively the same, it seems we would need to say that a stone which cannot be lifted is effectively the same as a stone G cannot lift. What warrants that? That a stone simply cannot be lifted would entail that G cannot lift it; but what about the other direction here? We could perhaps say, well, if not even G can lift a stone, then that is a stone that just cannot be lifted. But then we seem, again, to be importing some external common sense take on what it means for G to be "omnipotent". Perhaps I am missing something here.
  15. Joined
    24 Apr '05
    Moves
    3061
    23 Sep '10 07:55
    Originally posted by josephw
    [b]"And, for those theists who hold that God is omnipotent, what exactly is meant by this?"

    Let's ask God.


    "..; but with God all things are possible."

    "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."

    On and on it goes.


    Revelation 19:6 - And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice ...[text shortened]... is is one of those absolute truths everyone is always scrambling around looking for. 😉[/b]
    "with God all things are possible."

    Are we supposed to take that literally? Some things are logically impossible. Am I to think such things are still somehow possible with God? Is a square circle possible with God? Is it possible with God that 2+2=5? If so, omnipotence would seem to be incoherent.
Back to Top