Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why All Powerful Beings Are Impossible

The idea that there is some kind of being that is all powerful is a popular one. It commonly appears in a religious context. It also sometimes appears in the context of science fiction. The problem is, the very idea is logically incoherent, no matter how attractive and familiar the concept may seem. Here the reasons why this is the case will be explored.

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that there were a being that was all powerful. The technical term that would be used for such a being would be that it would be considered 'omnipotent'. Presumably such a being could do anything. After all, that is pretty much what 'all powerful' means. So for instance, such a being could turn the seas of the world into ice cream, or cause the waters of the Red Sea to part. It can be fun to imagine all the things that such a being might do, especially if that being was in a whimsical mood.

This is all well and good until one considers a special set of cases of things that this being might wish to do. For instance, to use the classic example, could such a being create a stone that it could not lift? Hmm. This presents a difficulty. If the being cannot create a stone that it cannot lift, then it would appear to fail to be all powerful. Not being able to create such a stone would be a limitation on the power of our hypothetical being. Clearly, this would be a problem for our being's all powerful status. Given this fact, then let us assume that our being can create a stone that it cannot lift. Does this help? Well, not really. Once there is a stone that our being cannot lift, once again the being's all powerful status is under threat. Now it seems that the being is no longer all powerful, as it cannot lift the stone it just created.

At this juncture, people often want to say things like "Well, the being would not want to create this stone", or something like that. This misses the point entirely. The point here is that the very notion of an all powerful being leads to a logical absurdity. The very act of postulating an all powerful being, leads to a situation that is impossible. What this shows is that the notion of an all powerful being is, unfortunately, logically incoherent. There is no other conclusion available here. What this means is that we shall just have to abandon the notion of an all powerful being, as nonsense. Sorry.

The CP

16 Comments:

Blogger ToastedSuzy said...

Well, good job on disappearing several One True Gods in a mighty swoop of verbiage, CP. Thanks for that.

You reckon you'll declare hunting season on Easter Bunnies next?

You know what you're getting in your stocking this "Holiday Season," CP?

I'll bet you do! And you DESERVE IT!

TS

4:33 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

TS,
As it happens, coal is all I ever wanted. Anyhow, I think it is important to put those pan-dimensional mega-beings into their place when they make outrageous claims.

As for that Easter Bunny, everyone knows that it is a disguise. If you check your copy of Frazer's *Golden Bough*, you will discover that the cotton pickin' Easter Bunny is in fact a hare!

The CP

7:04 PM  
Blogger Clampett said...

Well cp,

I second TS’ comment (although I can’t tell the difference between good verbiage and a sack of potatoes)

have you forgotten that Santa Claus is also logically impossible, but, somehow someway...he brings gifts to children everywhere? ;)

That considered,

I'll just send you a picture of coal so you can sit in a cold room cursing the day you defied the most high ;)

Ok, on topic:

"the very idea is logically incoherent, no matter how attractive and familiar the concept may seem."

Yes, but the very idea of logic is supernaturally incoherent.

Furthermore CP, it can be argued that if an omnipotent being is truly omnipotent, it has control over all matter and so… would not be bothered by petty mortals and their 'lifting'.

(there is no end to this Jesus/J-plato-esus continuum.)

12:08 AM  
Blogger divine galaxy said...

this is actually an interesting thought.

i am not exactly sure how to consider it.

but for one, the universe is not logical, I am not sure why we assume logic works beyond our little world.

second there truely are things in the universe that are not explainable, why does anyone think circular logic can rule the magical out?

in order for an omnipotent being to create a stone that it couldn't lift, all he would have to do is believe that he couldn't lift it, and voila, mission accomplished.

then he would just have to change his mind to lift it, and voila.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Clampett said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Clampett said...

Curses, I thought DG was you, CP.

Yet again, however, a person has attributed human characteristics to the omnipotent being in the philosophical equivalent of the strawman argument.

The being IS possible, we simply cannot fathom it's form and traits as human mortals.

For all we know, the omnipotent being(s) has/have infinite senses and abilities that we cannot fathom.

3:40 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Ok, Clampett, some comments:

1) The Santa Clause example is not on point. Santa Clause may be problematic, with respect to certain physical constants and laws, but this is a less stringent condition that logical impossibility. Consider if Santa had some form of physical muti-personality disorder, he could then get the job done in parallel. Also, it is much easier to change the constants/laws of physics, than it is to change the laws of logic.

2) You remark,


Yes, but the very idea of logic is supernaturally incoherent.


Huh? Logic is the foundation of Mathematics (see Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica). If you reject logic, you have to reject mathematics too. Also, the very notion of incoherence (understood more technically as contradiction) is itself a logical notion. Opps!

3) You continue,

Furthermore CP, it can be argued that if an omnipotent being is truly omnipotent, it has control over all matter and so… would not be bothered by petty mortals and their 'lifting'.

If I understand what you are saying here correctly, you are invoking at best, the weaker notion of physical possibility. My point here is that the idea runs afoul of the much stronger logical possibility. Trust me,this is a MAJOR problem.

The CP

3:15 PM  
Blogger Clampett said...

THAT deserves a response.

[You live up to your name, CP (I like that)]

(Disclaimer: I’m an idiot and a terrible writer, but I’m known to be relatively sharp in the field of social science)

Combat on:

(I don’t take any offense, I assume you don’t either so let the combat begin…)

:

Sandbagger!!!!

You can do better than that and I know it.

I IMPLORE you to go full throttle next time.

I’m trying to learn here in SPITE of the test-based curriculum I’m regrettably well aquatinted with. (the point is to get an A, so I can’t disagree with the prof/teacher and it’s best to memorize and parrot instead of actually learning, hence my interactions with profs and teachers like you outside of the school/ university)

But I cannot learn when you hide behind the irreproachability of philosophical logic.

On 1), I was being sardonic (hence the [;)]..I was inspired by TS’s ROFL hilarious coal comment. (Which sort of changed my mind on TS; her coal comment gave me a damn good laugh/abdominal workout)

On 2) “Huh?, Opps?!?!?!”, your employment of a text you don’t understand as to insincerely boost your logos, your employment of several rhetorical circumstantial adhominems, etc etc…. Too bad the mathematicians and physicists claim your philosophy was made obsolete by the advent of science:

http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Philosophy/axioms/axioms/node5.html

3) “MAJOR”?!?!, “at best”, “runs afoul of logic”.

That’s Bbbbbbbullshit, same as 2), PLEASE stop sandbagging at once.

I beseech you to use logic as to explain what created the spark of life.

(You can’t, hence your obsolete logic is flawed beyond repair and your philosophy department is a racket that exists so you and those like you can get paid without engaging in physical labor)

(the above was my pathetic attempt at combat philosophy, so please don’t take any of this personally… I’m not/ won’t either in the past, present and future… It’s just a fun learning experience to be combative with a combat philosopher considering the odds here….just as I hope you will have fun coming down full force on an arrogant young person like me. Regardless, I hope this will be a learning experience for both of us; I on philosophy/other topics that might surface and you on how to deal with arrogant students/other topics that might surface. Again, No more sandbagging for you…please open up full throttle so we can learn and consequently expand our intellectual horizons)

12:05 PM  
Blogger Clampett said...

sh*t,

I even hyperlinked.

here again

http://www.phy.duke.edu
/~rgb/Philosophy/
axioms/axioms/
node5.html

12:07 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Clampett,
You are correct. You are just a young one, so you do not get the full combat. It is better to make you think for yourself, than to be mean. I save full combat for my professional life.

On the issue of the Principia, actually I have been through the first volume and about half of the second. Please do not tell me I have not a read book, that I have. Have you read it?

As for 'agreeing with professors' line, it too is incorrect. A good professor wants to be challenged by students (I know many bad ones, so I appreciate your confusion). I get asked all the time what I think. I often refuse to answer. I do not want my students to be parrots. I want them to think for themselves. I would far rather have a student disagree with me in a smart and creative manner, than hear them repeat what I said. I know that you read blogs and comment on them by other professors. Here you are dealing with the 'real meal deal'.

The web site you cite is amusing, but written by a physicist. Not only that, based on the 'node5' page, this is someone who does not understand Hume. For example, he writes,

"he [Hume] proved mathematically that most of the questions asked by philosophers from the very beginning ..."

This is silly. Look at (you do not even need to read the text -- just look!) Hume's Treatise or Enquiry. You will find that there are no mathematic proofs there! Oh yes, should you want to play the ad hominem game, just to let you know, that despite my training as a philosopher, most of my research falls into what is known as matrix algebra -- I do know what a proof looks like.

Your use of phrases like 'obsolete logic' and the like are also problematic. Given that logic is a truely eternal science, how can it be 'obsolete'? There are politically correct idiots who like to claim such things, but they are usually fools. Indeed, they are often racist fools (see the first and second chapters of Chad Hansen's Language and Logic in Ancient China for the technical argument on this point).

Ok, you are now getting a bit of 'combat'. The point here is that, no matter how attractive the notion of an all powerful being, it is logically incoherent. This does not mean that there cannot be 'very powerful beings'. The wide scope universal quantifier (all) here is the problem. That is the point of this post.

Whilst we are at it, you have seen some obnoxious posts made against me elsewhere. I respect your 'politically correct' credentials. I consider myself a feminist, even if I have been accused of being a sexist. So, I ask that you read the post at http://pixnaps.blogspot.com/2006/09/meta-paternalism.html? What do you think? This is a sophisticated treatment of these topics, whereas the yelling and screaming that has occurred elsewhere is very far from it (although I am sure that the authors feel better about their bullshit). If you are really interested in getting a deep and sophisticated understanding of these topics and many others, then now might be a good time to change your major to philosophy.

You are clearly a bright guy. You write well. The danger you are currently up against is listening to people who sound good, but lack substance. In a word 'THINK'!

The CP

12:11 AM  
Blogger Clampett said...

“”””“ Clampett,
You are correct. You are just a young one, so you do not get the full combat. It is better to make you think for yourself, than to be mean. I save full combat for my professional life.

On the issue of the Principia, actually I have been through the first volume and about half of the second. Please do not tell me I have not a read book, that I have. Have you read it?”””””

Of COURSE I haven’t read it.
You are very good at identifying the glare given off by the scope (double entandre) of my intellectual sniper rifle (loaded with rubber bullets, albeit). I expected as such, but I thought you would just nuke me, not disarm and declare peace in a fashion only the victor (you) can declare. I accept your terms.
“””””“As for 'agreeing with professors' line, it too is incorrect. A good professor wants to be challenged by students (I know many bad ones, so I appreciate your confusion). I get asked all the time what I think. I often refuse to answer. I do not want my students to be parrots. I want them to think for themselves. I would far rather have a student disagree with me in a smart and creative manner, than hear them repeat what I said. I know that you read blogs and comment on them by other professors. Here you are dealing with the 'real meal deal'.”””””
Excellent!!!!!
I’m actually quite cynical about good/bad profs, I thought your type wasn’t even there anymore save a few outliers. Thanks for undoing my bitterness there a bit…. I must be dealing with the ‘bad’ professors.
I think your previous ‘make sure the water isn’t piss’ comment is telling of your attitude in terms of the ferire-frye-changeseeker-profzero types you allude to as ‘bad’.
I don’t understand what they are saying totally, I cannot do what my physicist did to philosophy and simply discard their words for I agree with them on the moral plane, I agree that all people have the right to be judged by their actions alone and that we are each other’s keepers.

So right now, part of me thinks my ancestor Tench Tilghman did NOT serve on Washington’s Staff so one day his descendants could ‘learn’ from those dedicated to the sabotage of the American republic, but another part says that the American republic has some wicked traits that need fixing and improving, that the world is run by an anglo elite who are solidifying their position of power by unleashing an interlocking series of illusions onto the people of the world.
“””””””The web site you cite is amusing, but written by a physicist. Not only that, based on the 'node5' page, this is someone who does not understand Hume. For example, he writes,

"he [Hume] proved mathematically that most of the questions asked by philosophers from the very beginning ..."

This is silly. Look at (you do not even need to read the text -- just look!) Hume's Treatise or Enquiry. You will find that there are no mathematic proofs there! Oh yes, should you want to play the ad hominem game, just to let you know, that despite my training as a philosopher, most of my research falls into what is known as matrix algebra -- I do know what a proof looks like.””””””””
Sorry, I was baiting and you know it, it was immature of me so points taken and under the terms of the peace you made, I will not bait you again.

”””””””Your use of phrases like 'obsolete logic' and the like are also problematic. Given that logic is a truly eternal science, how can it be 'obsolete'? There are politically correct idiots who like to claim such things, but they are usually fools. Indeed, they are often racist fools (see the first and second chapters of Chad Hansen's Language and Logic in Ancient China for the technical argument on this point).” “”””””
Ok, I successfully baited you there in a fashion similar to the immature person who labeled you as a sexist instead of critically approaching your ideas (sidenote, I’m not familiar with the post where you were attacked as sexist do you mind sharing the link?)…you replied in kind to me. On account of the fact you are a good professor, I wish I could take back that bullet…but I can’t.

”””””””Ok, you are now getting a bit of 'combat'. The point here is that, no matter how attractive the notion of an all powerful being, it is logically incoherent.”””””””
True. Wasn’t it the Athenians who developed the idea that the fate of the world wan;t the arbitrary actions of gods and demons, but the majority of athernians didn’t thin that as the notion of angels and demons was levied by the elite as to mold the behavior and thoughts of the weak.
“This does not mean that there cannot be 'very powerful beings'. The wide scope universal quantifier (all) here is the problem. That is the point of this post.”
Aha, that’s a simple misunderstanding on my part… I didn’t think I was capable of such deep idiocy, but I learn something new everyday it seems…still, I cannot explain why life is here, so I fall into the trap of mysticism while I KNOW should respect the unknown instead, but I fear death like the rest and entertaining fatalistic notions of an afterlife comforts my fear of death although I know the afterlife is illogical.
Wow. I seriously learned from you there. I fell into the jaws of that man’s lies and honestly believed him on Hume. Thanks for the clarification. That’s my weak point as a young and relatively uneducated person, at times I confuse the shiny flash of verbiage and rhetoric for substance, as you pointed out.

”Whilst we are at it, you have seen some obnoxious posts made against me elsewhere. I respect your 'politically correct' credentials.
Yes, PC politics are a passport to success in some places. Luckily they can be discarded as the intellectual and moral training wheels they are once a person leaves the university.
“””””I consider myself a feminist, even if I have been accused of being a sexist. “””””
Hmmm. I consider myself a feminist in so far women are unjustly disadvantaged and I’m willing to fight injustice out of sheer indignation, but I back off when people start unjustly disadvantaging men.
“””””So, I ask that you read the post at http://pixnaps.blogspot.com/2006/09/meta-paternalism.html? What do you think? This is a sophisticated treatment of these topics, whereas the yelling and screaming that has occurred elsewhere is very far from it (although I am sure that the authors feel better about their bullshit). If you are really interested in getting a deep and sophisticated understanding of these topics and many others, then now might be a good time to change your major to philosophy.”””””
Yes, CP, you know how to win people over, don’t you.
The post is fulcrumized on a value judgement, “which level of paternalism is worse?”
For me, It’s about empowering experiences. For example a male who just got a sex change might LOVE making their debut at a debutant’s ball, while an 18 year old woman from a rich southern family might DREAD making debeuts as to reinforce daddy’s social creds, she’d rather be sdoing another thing such as being at at the beach or cuddling with her boyfriend or some other thing.
The pinnicale of the topic ‘meta paternalism’ is the construction of a hierichy based on power where one individual can force others into activities the powerless do not want , regardless of the activity. But again, I’m totally uneducated on the topic of philosophy and I’m probably missing some of the more subtle points.

”””””You are clearly a bright guy. You write well. The danger you are currently up against is listening to people who sound good, but lack substance. In a word 'THINK'!”””””
Well, CP, my writing Is poor, seriously. I use 15 words where 3 would suffice, as well as employing vocabulary that indicate I’,m beyond my level of understanding even though I know it’s best to appear less clever than I am.
My writing is in need of serious repair, but thanks for the compliments nevertheless. Yes, I am a mark for charlatans, but I hope that by keeping open to learning, I can one day ID their games.
I notice the petty blog politics here. I’m not a philosophy major, I’m a history major with a bunch of leftist profs who think along the lines of Zero and Changeseeker. I enjoy a discourse with them b/c I can say things to them on a blog that I wouldn’t dare say to my profs out of political tact and concern for my GPA.

9:02 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Shit!
Sorry Clampett, I posted you a long and detailed response. It now appears to have disappeared. I will try and repost again soon. Short version: This is a good and interesting debate. Beware of the bullshit artists. There are many out there. I know you read and comment. Please carry a pinch of salt. As the Bard said "All that glistereth is not gold." Do not let people who are liars, serial abusers (despite their politically correct mantle) and failures influence you unduely. Talk to your real professors. I think that you will be surprised.

The CP

2:30 AM  
Blogger Clampett said...

hmmm.

I'll take that Advice,

Don't worry about reposting if that captured the essence of you message.

the one thing I'm having REAL doubts over are theories of white/racism-privledge.

I feel an unspoken psychological message...that 'white' is evil, and so white individuals should not be allowed to exist as white, that Christianity and American nationalism are somehow evil and so deserving of destruction.

The other side of that coin is that arab islamic individuals have been targeted for deconstruction for similar reasons, that they we aren't swayed by the organs of the plutocracy, either.

Our power to resist the influence of the plutocrats and their organs has been our undoing....perhaps we are being blead against each other, that the 'clash of civilizations' was somehow calculated to leave nothing but a mass of slaves in a new world of central planning under the supranational...

But that;s just a crazy Idea, forget it.

7:54 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Hi Clampett,
Well,I tried to repost again yesterday and that one went missing too. Sorry.

I think that you may have something on the racism issue. It is not that racism is not real. However, there are some people who are not real theorists, but instead are ideologically engaged, but unreflective. For instance, I find the racial 'appropriation' that goes on on certain other blogs offensive. If you are white, then do not claim to be of another race, even if you feel that you relate to them. I work with race issues. I work hard to speak out for the values of my African-American neighbors. They do not mind that I am a white guy -- they are pleased to have an articulate advocate. If I get something wrong though, they let me know! This contrasts sharply with these supposed racial theorists. They just talk and name call. Something similar can happen with sexism too, at times, in the wrong hands.

Elsewhere, I see that you are being impressed by something that you should not. Despite the plausible claims, a better course of action would not to have been to give the talk as a non-expert, but to ask one of the many faculty members who have to deal with the Immigration authorities. There are quite a few on campus. They have first hand experience of immigration policy. Their lawyers will also have informed them on policy changes.

The problem is that the solution described elsewhere does not make allowance for real life issues like schedules, priorly arranged talk topics etc. Despite how good it is made to sound, this situation was actually badly handled. Also, the recent claim about doing things on a low budget is not quite true. There is a fund that can be accessed which will provide $600. This is not cheap. As I have mentioned before, "All that glistereth is not gold".

Perhaps the thing that is the most annoying about these 'scholar' posts is that the author is NOT a scholar. Scholars publish in peer reviewed journals. Blogs do not count. I publish in such journals. The author does not. You have been warned.

The CP

9:52 PM  
Blogger Clampett said...

"Scholars publish in peer reviewed journals. Blogs do not count. I publish in such journals. The author does not. You have been warned."

Gulp.

I've been had!!!!!!

That's the reddest flag I've seen in a long time.

How exactly does a professor get to be a professor without peer reviewing. Sh*t, that borders on fraud.

Whatever, I'm taking a long long break from blooging considering THAT...

Thank you CP, you saved me.

-blessings.

1:56 AM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Clampett,
I should clarify. It is not like this individual has never published in peer reviewed places. It is just they do not do so now. It is my belief that after some time, say about a half dozen years or so, if one has nothing appear in print, then one has ceased to be a scholar. Such an individual should certainly not be giving out advice on scholarly matters.

The CP

6:13 PM  

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