Monday, March 7, 2016

Different Accounts of 'Omnipotence'

From guest blogger, Nic. 

Absolutism is the idea that an omnipotent being is able to to do anything including things that are logically impossible. This means that the omnipotent being would be able to make a squared circle and create an immovable rock. This is an interesting view because God is commonly described as being an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient being. This means God can do anything, is perfectly good, and knows everything respectively.

The common way for philosophers to reject absolutism is to appeal to the counterexamples of the squared circle and immovable rock. In the example of the squared circle, it seems impossible to create an object that has both the necessary and sufficient properties of a square while at the same time having the necessary and sufficient properties of a circle. An absolutist would need to maintain that God can make a squared circle, but this is logically impossible so the absolutist seems to be wrong in this case. God also would need to be able to create a rock that God is to able to lift, but if God can do anything God should certainly be able to lift the rock. This now creates a problem because either God cannot lift the rock or God cannot create the rock; in both cases God would no longer be omnipotent.

There are non-absolutist ways to maintain that God is omnipotent, including this definition: God can do anything that is logically possible. This formulation still falls prey to the immoveable rock problem and therefore doesn’t get God’s omnipotence out of jeopardy. 

Another formulation of God’s omnipotence is stated: God can do anything that is possible for that being to do. This means that God could do anything that an omnipotent being could logically do therefore creating the squared circle or immoveable rock are both not things that God could do. The interesting part here is that God now cannot do something that non omnipotent beings can do, that is create an immoveable rock. Its actually quite easy for human to create an immoveable rock just by chiseling out a large boulder from a mountain side.

Even this loosest of all the definition of omnipotence has a problem. God is an omnipotent being God should at least be able to to perform all of the tasks that a non omnipotent being can perform. God cannot create an immoveable rock but humans (non omnipotent beings) can create an immoveable rock. Therefore, God does not achieve the necessary conditions for omnipotence. 

It seems that all of the definitions of omnipotence have problems that undermine the desired power of Gods ability. In the strictest definition of omnipotence God’s power creates logical impossibilities but in the loosened definition God doesn’t seem to have enough power. I think this is sufficient evidence to reject the claim that God is an omnipotent being. This certainly create a different picture of God but I don’t see a reason that God must be omnipotent. God can still be very powerful and in fact be the most powerful of all beings without having the condition of omnipotence.

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