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Omnipotence Notes

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Can God be an omnipotent being?
The scope of God's power is not an exercise in speculative theorising, but is critically bound up in theological concerns - God's power to keep promises, etc. 'almighty' = God's power over all things, 'omnipotent = God's power to do all things Two ways of explicating 'omnipotence' (Thomas Morris, Ch. 39 in Davies) A) specifying the magnitude of God's omnipotence (1) God can do everything But God cannot create a spherical cube, or married bachelors, since these are logical impossibilities. These are not things that God cannot do, however, since they are logically impossible, thus are not even a candidate for ascriptions of power. (1) can be qualified thus: (2) God can do everything logically possible This, however, should be qualified further, since it is arguable that we, as humans possessive of free will (let us assume), are logically capable of doing something 'not done by God'. Thus we do not want to be restrained by (2) into asserting that God can do things which are, when complete, properly described as 'not done by God'. Thus a further qualification: (3) Anything which it is logically possible for God to do, he can do But this is a poor definition, because 'God' is left unqualified: there might be very simple, menial tasks that God cannot perform, yet by (3) he would still be omnipotent so long as he were logically incapable of those tasks. Thus: (4) Anything which it is logically possible for a perfect being to do, God can do This shuts of the compatibility between essential weaknesses and omnipotence, but relies upon our having some prior knowledge of what is is in fact logically possible for a perfect being to do. However, a facet of our definition of 'perfect being' is liable to include 'omnipotence' anyway, and thus we have reached a circularity. Geach: move away from omnipotence, toward 'almightiness' - that is, having power over all things. Does he mean 'over and above', as in, beyond the powers of any other, or 'over' in the sense of dominion, that God's powers are capable of reaching and affecting everything?
B) Specifying omnipotence in terms of the powers God possesses Power is a difficult idea to explain, since it is so fundamental. Our first acquaintance with power comes in personal agency - the power to form intentions and cause things to happen in the world as a response to the desires one feels. This is causal power, or creative power, and should be distinguished from, say, political power. Political power simply refers to the institutionalisation of personal influence and authority, with respect to matters of government. This kind of power is only the result of human social activity, and is only relevant or extant within those appropriate institutions or systems. As a result, God is not said to have these powers, but to have power in a more metaphysical sense. If I say of a task that Jones cannot do X, it is not necessarily the case that I am suggesting that Jones lacks the power to do X. The words 'can' and 'cannot' are capable of serving many different functions. 'Jones cannot do X' might imply that Jones lacks the power to do X, but also that he merely lacks the opportunity for drawing upon the power to do X, by virtue of his situation and circumstances. Equally, it may be a lack of practical knowledge that prevents Jones from doing X. He may have the power, skill and opportunity but lack the practical know-how to bring these things together to perform X. Finally we might consider whether

someone is 'capable' of doing an act in terms of moral sense - whether an act would go against that particular person's moral character. Weilenberg: God is omnipotent only if there is nothing God cannot do due to a lack of power. e.g. I can't run a 3-minute mile because I'm not fast enough - my legs lack that power. Nothing like this holds of God. God cannot walk because he has no legs, not because he lacks the power. Equally, God cannot sin because he lacks moral imperfection, not because he lacks any specific power involved in sin, e.g. the power to lie. 'Can do X' factors: 1) power, skill, opportunity, practical knowledge - ABILITY. 'able to do X' 2) determination or willpower - the persistence to set out to do x, and to complete this task 3) capability, specifically in terms of doing X being in line with the person's values and moral character 'capable of doing X'

Kenny: 'a being is omnipotent if it has every power which it is logically possible to possess'. It is 'logically possible to possess a power... if the exercise of the power does not as such involve any logical impossibility'. Aquinas - good simple definitions etc. makes this the place to start an essay?
Is God omnipotent?
1) All things can be moved and acted upon - God cannot. This is something God cannot do. 2) To commit sin is to do something - God cannot do this. 3) Theologically it is said that God's best work is his sparing and his mercy. But there are greater works than this - creating another world, or suchlike.

Stone paradox The intention is to ask a question, in the asking and answering of which it is shown that the ascription of omnipotence to God is self-defeating or incoherent. The question is: If God is omnipotent, can he create a stone which he cannot lift?
If 'yes': there is a task he cannot complete: lifting the stone. Thus God is not omnipotent. If 'no': he cannot create the stone, thus is not omnipotent. The critic's assumption here: if there is something specifiable that God cannot do, he is not omnipotent. This is not quite the same as Kenny's definition - if the act-description is itself incoherent (create a married bachelor), it does not follow that God lacks anything at all. Equally, it is not acceptable to infer that a particular power - say, power-to-do-X - exists purely from God's failure to satisfy all the requirements of the incoherent act-description X. The critic is asking whether God can create a stone which for some reason cannot be moved, or caused to rise. What would such a stone be like? What would it weigh? If God is omnipotent, he can create stones of any possible weight, but equally, for any possible weight n, God can lift a stone of weight n. The actdescription here - creating a stone which even an omnipotent being can't lift - can in this way be shown to be incoherent, and subsequently, since 'the power to create a stone which even an omnipotent being can't lift'

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