Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent. (pp. 77-78)
We have here a standard New Atheist rhetorical trick: Take a simplistic objection to theism that has been raised and answered many times and present it to the unwary non-expert reader as if it were a devastating refutation that no one has ever been able to rebut.
As to the substance: Note first that for almost all theists, “omnipotence” does not entail the power to bring into being a self-contradictory state of affairs (e.g. creating a round square or a stone that is too heavy for an omnipotent being to lift). The reason is that there is no such power; the very notion of such a power is incoherent, precisely because the notion of a self-contradictory state of affairs is incoherent. God’s power would be limited only if there was some power He lacked. Since there is no such thing as a power to make contradictions true, His inability to do so is no limitation on His power. (And if an atheist insists that an omnipotent being would have to have such a power, that only hurts his own case. For that enables the theist to say, in response to any possible objection that the atheist could ever raise: “Since God can make contradictions true, He can make it true that He exists even though your argument shows He doesn’t!”)
Now, suppose A and B are logically coherent but mutually incompatible states of affairs. God, being omnipotent, can bring about either one. Suppose that in fact He wills to bring about A rather than B. Being omniscient, He knows that A rather than B is what He wills to bring about. Where is the conflict with omnipotence? Does His knowing that A is what He wills entail that He could not have willed B instead? No, He could have willed it; He just hasn’t. Does the conflict lie instead in the fact that He can’t will A and B together? No, because A and B are logically incompatible, and (as we have seen) omnipotence does not entail the power to generate contradictory states of affairs.
It seems that what Dawkins has in mind is a situation where God decides to do A at one point in time and actually carries out His decision at some later point in time. Since at the time of His decision He infallibly knows what He will do later on (given that He is omnipotent) it is not open to Him to “change His mind” and do something different at that later time, and thus (Dawkins concludes) He is not omnipotent.
There are two problems with this, though. First, even if this were the right way to think about divine action, Dawkins’ conclusion wouldn’t follow. For what he is saying is that God cannot bring about the following situation:
S: An omniscient being infallibly knows that He will bring about A in the future and yet does not bring A about.
And from the fact that God cannot bring about S, Dawkins infers that He is not omnipotent. But the reason God cannot bring about S is that S is self-contradictory, and omnipotence does not entail the power to bring about self-contradictory states of affairs. (Again, if Dawkins wants to dig in his heels and insist that omnipotence must entail such a power, that will only hurt his case. For the theist can then say “Sure God can bring S about, since, being omnipotent, He can even make contradictions true!”)
As it happens, though, this is not the right way to think about divine action. From the point of view of classical theism, anyway, God is immutable and eternal. He doesn’t “change His mind” because He doesn’t change at all. Nor is there any temporal gap between His willing and His acting. Rather, God is altogether outside time. We make decisions and then carry them out moments, hours, days, or years later. God isn’t like that. When He wills that A happen at such-and-such a point in time, we might have to wait for A to happen, since we are within the temporal order; but God doesn’t, because He isn’t. For Him, the whole created order – including every event at every point in time – follows from His one creative act.
This is extremely well-known to people who actually know something about the history of philosophical theology. Naturally, then, Dawkins and his ilk are unaware of it. Their conception of God is breathtakingly crude; they think of Him on the model of Ralph Richardson in Time Bandits, or perhaps (for you 1980s comic book fans) the Beyonder from Secret Wars. What is the point of arguing with such ignoramuses? There would be little point at all, except that the ignoramuses are breeding even more ignoramuses. As Dawkins’ example shows, being the reverse of omniscient seems entirely compatible with preternatural power – such as the power to make willful ignorance and bigotry seem like dispassionate, learned rationality.
I'm not sure why Dr Feser feels the need to label philosophers who disagree with him "ignoramuses". Here is a book by philosophers of religion devoted to nothing but incompatibility arguments.ReplyDelete
Well, Anonymouse, perhaps Mr Feser gets tired of the "polite" pretense that intellectually dishonset persons are other than they are.ReplyDelete
But, the Anonymouse may have a point. The ignorance of Dawkins, et al., is willful, and so 'ignoramus' doesn't seem to quite fit the bill.ReplyDelete
I don't label all philosophers who disagree with me "ignoramuses." As I have said many times, there are atheist and secularist philosophers for whom I have great respect, and have given as examples writers like Mackie, Smart, Q. Smith, Searle, Nagel, Fodor, and many others. I apply "ignoramus" only to those philosophers who (a) loudly and smugly express contempt for theism while (b) showing by their remarks that they simply have no idea what they are talking about. And if you look at the posts on Dennett, Rey, Warburton, et al. linked to in the "Speaking from ignorance" post just below this one, you'll see that I provide ample evidence for the appropriateness of this characterization.ReplyDelete
And Ilion's point about willfulness is a good one. Perhaps I was too charitable...
And by the way Anon 6:43, Dawkins is not a philosopher, he is a biologist. In the modern academy it seems that once you have a PhD, particularly in something "very important" such as Biology/Physics etc. it entitles you to blather on and on about something when you have no idea what the hell you're talking about. Had Dawkins constructed a thoughtful argument based on an understanding of Theism grounded in its historical defenders such as Aquinas, Leibniz et. al., then Dr. Feser would not have responded to him in this way. But Dawkins didn't do that, he shot his big, condescending British mouth off without doing any damn research and for that reason he is completely deserving of all of the contempt he receives.ReplyDelete
"And by the way Anon 6:43, Dawkins is not a philosopher, he is a biologist."ReplyDelete
And that's OK, really -- after all (according to the physicist John Barrow) Richard Dawkins isn't really a scientist, either.
And, by the way, I point to Barrow's statement not because it's a sound/valid argument (it isn't), but because it's the very sort of argument Dawkins likes to deploy.ReplyDelete
it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible.ReplyDelete
In his excellent little book, God is No Delusion: A Refutation of Richard Dawkins, English Dominican, Fr Thomas Crean, observes that among the logicians who have noted the problem is St Thomas Aquinas himself (who answers as in this post). You would have thought a man who claims to base his conclusion on evidence would have known that.
It is not the publication of ignorant books like The God Delusion that damns popular atheism. It is the popularity of such bad books among atheists that indicates the philsophical illiteracy of the movement.
Just recently discovered your blog Edward. It is excellent - keep it up.
Frank Schaeffer sums up Dawkins and his ilk nicely in the following quote from a recent article of his:ReplyDelete
"But Dawkins and Hitchens are to atheism what Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell have been to religion: men who discredit whatever they're selling by their tawdry proselytizing and commercial opportunism combined with absurdly big egos and a deadly certainty that they and only they are right."
The article is pure ad hominem, but quite humerous.
Off-Topic request for help,ReplyDelete
In preparing for graduate work in philosophy, I have been trying to gain a firmer grasp of general trends in modern philosophy. As a pre-cursor; I have been spending a LOT of time within history of philosophy so that I have an understanding of the historical landscape in which modernity is situated.
I am now reading a book claiming to gernerally represent the modern state of affairs in philosophy called: "Philosophy: End or Transformation". The book consists of a compilation of contributing articles by the following philosophers:
The general idea behind the book is that modern philosophy is at an impass or watershed moment. Some of the above contributors are of the opinion that philosophy is at an "end" (not worth doing anymore?); others maintain that it is at a point of "transformation" into something quite different from what the average person understands as "philosophy".
From what I gather from the book's "General Introduction", not a single one of the contributors believes that traditional metaphysics is possible (this comment comes from the book's editor(s), not the contributors -so perhaps the editor(s) over-states the case). The comment is made that every one of these philosophers has "taken the linguistic turn". This turn seems to involve a wide array of modern developments/conclusions which, taken together, render any attempt at traditional metaphysics impossible and ill concieved from the start.
Has anyone read this book? Specifically, can anyone speak (from an A-T perspective) to what is meant in modern philosophical circles by the "linguistic turn". As I read through the essays; I find myself aking the following question: if the philosophic enterprise is as limited as these authors conceive it to be; why the hell would anyone bother to philsophize? What's the point? Who is the audience?
Perhaps I am reading things the wrong way and over-reacting, but their overall outlook seems to marginalize any idea of philosophy as a legitimate "search for truth"; what's left seems to be a notion of philosophy as will-to-power or as a tool for "culture shaping".
As I said, I know this is off topic, but I would be grateful for any comments or recommended resources that might help me understand the perspective of these philosophers better.
Dr. Feser, it's unfortunate that the Beyonder was displayed on a Secret Wars II cover. The first Secret Wars was much better.ReplyDelete
"The article is pure ad hominem, but quite humerous."ReplyDelete
On the other hand, most persons who toss around the phrase 'ad hominem' have no idea what they're talking about.
Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logiciansReplyDelete
Yeah, because as we all know, logicians study divine attributes, not with modal or predicate logic. Divine attributes.
Oh boy ...
"Yeah, because as we all know, logicians study divine attributes, not with modal or predicate logic. Divine attributes.ReplyDelete
Oh boy ..."
Can you clarify what you're saying a little bit here? The "oh boy..." at the end seems to suggest that you consider it to be controversial or inflaming considering the ordinary content of this blog, but personally I can't understand exactly what you meant to imply.
"... This is extremely well-known to people who actually know something about the history of philosophical theology."ReplyDelete
It's also well-known to those who just paid attention in church -- I grew up in very "low-church" churches, and I understood these things even as a child.
Can you clarify what you're saying a little bit here? The "oh boy..." at the end seems to suggest that you consider it to be controversial or inflaming considering the ordinary content of this blog, but personally I can't understand exactly what you meant to imply.ReplyDelete
My point is that logicians work in philosophy of logic, which is about modal logic etc.
Dawkins saying "Logicians noticed such and such about divine attributes" makes no sense because divine attributes have nothing to do with philosophy of logic.
I have a feeling Dawkins threw in the talk of what "logicians" were doing for rhetorical show. "These people, experts in logic mind you, all sniff at the idea of omnipotence and omniscience!" Clarity would not serve him well in that case.ReplyDelete
I have a feeling Dawkins threw in the talk of what "logicians" were doing for rhetorical show.ReplyDelete
I have the following objection to Prof. Feser:
Let's define a property:
A "Loser McWeaksauze" is a being for which it is impossible to do anything.
Now, consider the coherence of the following statement: "Loser McWeaksauze is omnipotent"
Given your account of omnipotence, it's not only true, but being a Loser McWeaksauze entails being omnipotent!
S': Loser McWeaksauze does something
S' is incoherent, so even an omnipotent Loser McWeaksauze couldn't do anything.
But that can't be right, can it?
I believe Dr. Feser defined omniscience as the ability to actualize any possible state of affairs. Now, God changing His mind is not a possible state of affairs by the way God is defined, therefore he cannot actualize it. However, Loser McWeaksauce moving is a possible state of affairs, so if he cannot actualize it, he is not omnipotent.
That one can say "square circle" doesn't make it so. That one can say "impotent omnipotent being" doesn't make it so.ReplyDelete
How does the second person of the trinity exist in time in the person of Jesus of Nazareth some 2,000 years ago but God remains outside of time?ReplyDelete
>How does the second person of the trinity exist in time in the person of Jesus of Nazareth some 2,000 years ago but God remains outside of time?ReplyDelete
I reply: Why must we assume when God interacts with us He is doing so from within time?
Did God enter Time when He spoke to Moses from the burning bush?
I think not based on Catholic Dogma.
Thus, why should we assume the Divine Person of Jesus exists in created Time? His human nature, naturally existed in Time but I would venture not His Divinity.
Matthew's "Loser McWeaksauze" example is not a counterexample to Ed Feser's remarks on omnipotence. Feser said that omnipotence does not imply the power to bring into existence self-contradictory states of affairs. It does not follow from Feser's contention that he is required to accept the definition, "An omnipotent being is one that can do anything it is possible for it to do." This definition is vulnerable to Matthew's example, but it leaves Feser unscathed.ReplyDelete
Then let me try to repair my counterexample:ReplyDelete
Loser McWeaksauze, by definition, can't bring about any state of affairs.
From this follows that not even an omnipotent could bring it about that Loser McWeaksauze does anything.
But then, not even an omnipotent Loser McWeaksauze would be required to bring about any state of affairs, because not even an omnipotent Loser McWeaksauze is requred to bring about a state like
S: Loser McWeaksauze brings about a state of affairs
So given this definition, impotent beings are omnipotent!
Your counterexample is incoherent.
An omnipotent being is one that can bring about any logically coherent state of affairs. You then propose an omnipotent Loser McWeaksauze, which is a being that can bring about any state of affairs (omnipotent) and can't bring about any state of affairs (McWeaksauze.) From a self-contradictory premise, any conclusion is possible.
In any event, an omnipotent being is not required to have the ability to bring about your state of affairs S, but it is required to be able to bring about plenty of other states of affairs, none of which McWeaksauze can.
I get your point. But I still feel that this is an incomplete account of omnipotence. For example, there would be no Leibniz' Lapse in this case.ReplyDelete
I think what Anon was going for was something like this:ReplyDelete
Can God get a divorce? Can God trip over a rock? Can God act immorally?
Some think those are all possible states of affairs...I'm dubious; that said, it certainly seems imaginable that God could become human and trip over a rock or become human and get married and divorce his wife or do something that would be immoral if he did it. The only reason that these states of affairs are self-contradictory is that they go against God's nature, not because there's something incoherent about divorce, or tripping, or doing immoral things. It's only self-contradictory for God to do these things.
This starts to lead to the conclusion that "God is omnipotent" means "God can realize any possible state of affairs so long as doing so doesn't contradict God's nature".
The problem with that conclusion, though, is that then lots of beings become omnipotent. For instance, Loser McWeaksauce can realize any possible state of affairs except those ones that go against his nature. Of course, lots more possible states of affairs go against Loser's nature than against God's, but we're looking for technical definitions here.
It seems to me this can be avoided, but it requires some footwork to do so. You could define omnipotence as maximal power, like Flint and Freddoso do, or you'd have to say that an omnipotent being can actualize any possible state of affairs except those where it would indicate a deficiency if he actualizes them (this is how Katherin Rogers construes Anselm's account of omnipotence).
Anyway, I think this is what anon was going for.
Bobcat: "that said, it certainly seems imaginable that God could become human and trip over a rock or become human and get married and divorce his wife or do something that would be immoral if he did it. The only reason that these states of affairs are self-contradictory is that they go against God's nature, not because there's something incoherent about divorce, or tripping, or doing immoral things. It's only self-contradictory for God to do these things."ReplyDelete
If God *were* to do something contrary to his nature, then all things (including God himself) would cease to exist.
The Incarnation was not a shadow-play ... there were real things at stake; namely, everything.
"Can God get a divorce? Can God trip over a rock? Can God act immorally? "
I would say yes to all three questions, in terms of the way we have been using the word possibility. God can bring about the state of affairs of his own self-limitation, e.g. by taking the physical form of a man, for whom it is possible to trip over a rock.
To act immorally is to fail to act as well as one might have. Therefore, an immoral act is not a novel act that must be available to omnipotence, but a degradation of an act already accounted for in omnipotence. So God already does, or can do, every true act that is counted immoral, only in a better way that is not immoral. (e.g. divorce is not a new act, but the failure of the act of marriage. God does not prove his omnipotence by failing at marriage.)
"Omnipotent" means that because "all powers" [potencies] have their source in God, there must be something in God that is analogous to these powers. This is because a cause contains its effect, either formally (directly) or eminently (in a prior manner).ReplyDelete
We say that God is a rational being because, as the source of rationality in humans, there must be something in God that is like rationality in humans. Talk about whether God can perform this or that magic trick misses the point.
"God can bring about the state of affairs of his own self-limitation"ReplyDelete
I don't have that intuition. I take it that on the paradox of the stone, you would take the view that God can create a stone so heavy that he can't lift it, because he can first (1) create a stone; and then (2) limit his power such that the can no longer lift the stone?
As far as the stone goes, there can only be one infinite being. So anything God creates must be less than Him, and therefore "movable" in the general Aristotelian sense, since God is necessarily greater than His creation. The only way God wouldn't be able to move the stone would be if it were another omnipotent being, which involves a logical contradiction. I do think God could, if He chose, self-limit to the point that he could not move a particular stone.ReplyDelete
By self-limitation I just mean choosing not to use powers that you have, or arranging so that they are unusable. I can self-limit my abilities by taking a drug that temporarily paralyzes me, for example. Then I can't move any stones at all.
God took on a limited nature in becoming man; how exactly He does this is a mystery, of course, but I don't see a contradiction in it.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
Not ducked at all, J/Perezoso/Nutbar.ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
"As far as the stone goes, there can only be one infinite being. So anything God creates must be less than Him, and therefore "movable" in the general Aristotelian sense, since God is necessarily greater than His creation. The only way God wouldn't be able to move the stone would be if it were another omnipotent being, which involves a logical contradiction."ReplyDelete
I don't see what the contradiction there is in there being two omnipotent beings; what if these two beings were both omniscient and omnibenevolent? Then they would necessarily have the same desires and the same beliefs. You might question what would make them two rather than one, but why couldn't they have two haecceities?
"God took on a limited nature in becoming man; how exactly He does this is a mystery, of course, but I don't see a contradiction in it."
I certainly don't want to claim that there's a contradiction in God becoming man, but I'm not sure God limited himself when he became man. There were things Jesus couldn't do qua human but I'm doubtful that there were things he couldn't do qua God.
Bobcat: "I don't see what the contradiction there is in there being two omnipotent beings ..."ReplyDelete
It's more clear -- as in obvious -- when one reasons in terms of the A-T concepts with which Mr Feser deals (*). However, most of us haven't encountered those concepts, nor really grasp them, if we have encountered them.
So, to try to put the problem into different terms ...
An omnipotent being is non-contingent. That is, its existence doesn't follow from nor depend upon anything other than itself. This is a simple matter of definitions; if a being's existence depends upon something other than itself, that is, if it is a contingent being, then it lacks at least one "power" and, definitionally, it is not omnipotent.
Now, certainly, we can imagine the existence of a multiplicity of non-contingent beings. But, what matters isn't what we can imagine, but rather what is coherent.
Let us propose that there exist two (for simplicity) non-contingent beings. Now, since these beings are non-contingent beings, this means that the existence of neither depends in any way upon the existence of the other, nor upon the existence of anything else.
But, it seems to me that we immediately have an inconsistency, an incoherence. For, what of existence itself?
Definitionally, there can be no reality/existence "greater" or "higher" than a non-contingent being, or "in which" a non-contingent being exists. That is, existence itself must inseparably inhere in the non-contingent being.
But, if we propose the existence of two non-contingent beings, do we not also have to propose that existence does not inhere to either of them, that existence is a third entity or being, and that it is "higher" than the two proposed non-contingent beings? And, if we must make this step, then we have said that the two beings aren't *really* non-contingent beings, after all.
(*) At the same time, following Aristotle, the A-Tists make some statements that I don't believe are warranted: for instance, that God cannot not exist.
As I mentioned above, I believe that if God *were* to act contrary to his own nature, then all things, present *and* past, and including God himself, would cease to exist, would never have existed (this is difficult to think about, since God is not time-bound as we are). Now, God is Truth, and truth cannot be false. BUT, God is personal and free, he is an agent; he's not the concept 'truth.' Rather, truth (as all existing things) is contingent upon God.
From our point of view, seeing that we do exist and that our existence is contingent upon God, it *appears* that God is not free to violate his own nature. But, I think that that conclusion is more an Aristotlean assumption than an actual conclusion. And, I don't see how it can be said to be sensible from God's point of view (I mean, to the extent that we can share in God's point of view).
Ilíon said that the contradiction in there being two omnipotent beings is "more clear -- as in obvious -- when one reasons in terms of the A-T concepts with which Mr Feser deals" (emphasis mine).ReplyDelete
Your use of the phrase "it's more clear" suggests that lots of other theists have to hold that it's impossible for there to be more than one omnipotent being at the same time; it's just that because they use different metaphysical categories, it's more difficult for them to explain why.
Assuming I have you right, I don't see why that would be. Even if it's the case that on an A-T account you can't have two omnipotent beings, I don't see why it would have to be the case using Plantinga's metaphysical system (he believes in haecceities) or Berkeley's (I can see why Leibniz would have to believe this, as the only way he differentiated among monads was through their different perceptions; obviously, two omniscient monads would have the same perceptions, and so wouldn't be different).
Regardless, I don't understand your response even assuming A-T metaphysics. You write,
"if we propose the existence of two non-contingent beings, do we not also have to propose that existence does not inhere to either of them, that existence is a third entity or being, and that it is "higher" than the two proposed non-contingent beings?"
I don't see why we would have to propose that. Is this some sort of Platonic view?
"And, if we must make this step, then we have said that the two beings aren't *really* non-contingent beings, after all."
I don't see that either. Even if existence itself (whatever that is) is somehow "higher" than the two non-contingent beings, it's higher only in the sense that it's a property that characterizes them both but that they don't characterize. It's not like it causes both of them to exist. Are you saying that were it not for existence being instantiated in them, they wouldn't exist? And if so, isn't that true even if there was one non-contingent being?
Regardless, I'm not sure that you couldn't have an omnipotent being whose existence was somehow dependent on another omnipotent being. Take the second Person of the Trinity: the Father begets, necessarily and eternally, the Son. Isn't there some sense, then, in which the Son is dependent on the Father?
lots of other theists have to hold that it's impossible for there to be more than one omnipotent being at the same timeReplyDelete
"Omnipotent being" means that all powers have their source in that being. If two beings are omnipotent, then all powers would have to have their source in Being A and all powers would have to have their source in Being B. But
a power cannot have its source or "ground of being" in more than one thing.
Also, omnipotency is not a hypotheses. It is a conclusion logically derived from the existence of a First Mover, and the uniqueness of the First Mover is demonstrated prior to the demonstration of omnipotency. In fact, omnipotence depends of the First Mover being unique.
"'Omnipotent being' means that all powers have their source in that being".ReplyDelete
I'd say that's the classical reading of omnipotence (it was also Kant's and Leibniz's), but nowadays omnipotence is usually cashed out as the power to realize any logically possible state of affairs (which of course is entailed by the classical definition of omnipotence), though nowadays evangelical philosophers dominate the Christian philosophy world.
I'd say that's the classical reading of omnipotence, but nowadays omnipotence is usually cashed out as the power to realize any logically possible state of affairsReplyDelete
But we live in a cash-free society!
Yet surely the conclusions of our predecessors should not be held hostage to the shifting winds of lexicographical fancy.
No, we shouldn't be held hostage to the lexicographic winds of change. That said, just because the classical theists came up with it first doesn't mean that contemporary theists can't propose modified definitions. It seems to me that there are some definitions of omnipotence, popular ones at that, where it's perfectly possible for there to be two omnipotent beings whose wills are necessarily aligned. But people around here were telling me (not in these words, of course) that I was misusing the word. So let me just put my conclusion forward:ReplyDelete
(1) There is more than one way of using "omnipotence", some of those ways are not the classical way, and some of those non-classical ways are licit uses; and
(2) On the classical definition, you can't have more than one omnipotent being, which is probably something in its favor.
just because the classical theists came up with it first doesn't mean that contemporary theists can't propose modified definitions.ReplyDelete
Just because Euclid came up with the Elements doesn't mean that contemporary geometers can't propose modified definitions of "line", "point", or "parallel."
In fact, they have. But they don't then complain that Euclid's theorems can't be proven with their postulates.
And if under the new definitions, certain things become incoherent, that would count against the modified postulates.
"Just because Euclid came up with the Elements doesn't mean that contemporary geometers can't propose modified definitions of 'line', 'point', or 'parallel.'ReplyDelete
"In fact, they have. But they don't then complain that Euclid's theorems can't be proven with their postulates."
So it looks like you're saying that since classical theists came up with their definition of omnipotence first, that whenever anyone else talks about God's unlimited power, they can't talk about omnipotence, because the classical theists got there first? That surely can't be what you mean. So what do you mean?
Regardless, Euclid came up with Euclidian geometry. But Riemann came up with his own geometry. And the question as to whose definition of "point" and "line" we should use depends not just on whether we're talking about Euclid or Riemann's theory, but also on which theory more accurately describes space in our world. If Riemann's theory does (and it does!) then I think people who are talking about space have full right to say that when we talk about points and lines we should use Riemann's definitions, because they're more accurate.*
Similarly, the classical theists were trying to capture something about an actually existing entity: whether we should use their definition of omnipotence or contemporary theists' definition depends on which one more accurately describes properties of the entity under discussion. Since we can't make God do tricks for us to answer our question, we have to base our answer on empirical observation or conceptual analysis.
Now, although I support classical theism, I'm not sure that it has fewer problems than contemporary theism. For one thing, contemporary theists can define omnipotence as maximal power, and that might get around the two omnipotent beings "problem" (I'm not sure it is a problem). For another, there are PRIMA FACIE (not necessarily ULTIMA FACIE) problems for classical Christian theism: the doctrine of divine simplicity is hard to understand on its own, and it's even harder to understand when combining it with the doctrine of the Incarnation and the doctrine of the Trinity, and the doctrine of impassability is PRIMA FACIE (not necessarily ULTIMA FACIE) hard to square Christ's suffering on the cross. I think contemporary theists have a PRIMA FACIE (not necessarily ULTIMA FACIE) easier time addressing these worries than classical theists do.
I think the biggest strength for classical theism is proving the claim that God exists. But even here contemporary theists do OK for themselves, particularly Craig's Kalam cosmological argument which, although it was lifted from classical Islmaic theists, is compatible with proving the existence of a complex, everlasting, passable God. And this says nothing about Swinburne's/the McGrews' Bayesian approach and Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism.
*--Full disclosure: I don't know if Riemann actually has different definitions of points and lines from Euclid, but I assume he does.
Riemann altered the parallel postulate. But note that the Euclideans were never too happy about the parallel postulate either. Lobachevsky used a different alternative. I would love to see the survey of your property done up in Riemannian geometry, though. All those tensor equations....
It's not that the theologians "got there first." It's using their terms to talk about something else. It's like saying I want to talk about "cows" but by "cow" I mean "white-tailed deer." And then concluding that I have found an inconsistency in the concept of "cow."
I saw this sort of thing all the time in business management. Some term would become popular, and then management would have long debates about what the term meant "for us." In one meeting they were talking about the success of Ford's "Vendor Certification" program and wanted to define what "Certification" would mean at our company. I suggested they find out what it meant at Ford. You see, it's not that Ford "got there first" it's that Ford had a concept that worked really well. Our company [back then] thought they could have the same success while using the name with any old meaning. That is pure magical thinking: that the power is in the name and not in the meaning.
Actually it's your argument that strikes me as weak. But I'm coming from mathematics and the consistency completeness theorem which says that it is not possible for a set to be both complete and consistent. So a universal set like omnipotence must be inconsistent by definition.ReplyDelete
The one time I raised this with someone trained in theology they said God isn't bound by the rules of logic which struck me as mighty convenient.
Gödel's and Cohen's theorems apply to axiomatic set theory, and by extension to any system that is expressed in the language of mathematics. Physics, for example. That is why there can be a Theory of Everything, but we can never know for certain that we have found it.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure which of the eleven axioms of set theory "omnipotence" falls into, since it means only that "all powers" have their origin in the first cause.
Martin: "But I'm coming from mathematics and the consistency completeness theorem which says that it is not possible for a set to be both complete and consistent. So a universal set like omnipotence must be inconsistent by definition."ReplyDelete
Is that *really* what the "consistency completeness theorem " says? And, if it is, is not the "consistency completeness theorem" itself subject to the same reasoning or claim?
This is going back a ways for me, but here's a plain language formulation of the theorem from Wolfram alpha:ReplyDelete
Any formal system that is interesting enough to formulate its own consistency can prove its own consistency iff it is inconsistent.
So I was thinking was something along the lines of "How does God know he's omnipotent?" I would think that is because he's omniscient. But that leads to the question "how does he know he's omniscient?"
That statement strikes me as similar to TheOFloinn observation that we might find a theory of everything but be unable to prove we have found it.
I'm trying to think of a way to concisely demonstrate the proving your consistency by being inconsistent. The only plain language example I remember goes on for quite a while involving card catalogs. I tried to find a link to it and haven't been able to.
Persons are not formal systems.ReplyDelete
Persons (whether human or divine) are not formal axiomatic systems ... so right of the bat, in trying to treat them (or their knowledge/wisdom) *as* formal axiomatic systems, we're going to get into trouble, don't you think?ReplyDelete
Martin (Wolfram): "Any formal system that is interesting enough to formulate its own consistency can prove its own consistency iff it is inconsistent."
Is it not the case that an inconsistent formal axiomatic system can prove *any* statement which can be formulated within the system?
I was able to produce some plain language example of consistency completeness that are shorter than the one I read when I learned the theorem.ReplyDelete
I have a library of amazing books:
- Book A in my library is a list of all the books in my library that are not self referential. This book does not contain a reference to itself and is thus incomplete.
- Book B in my library is also a list of the books that are not self referential. It lists all the books A contains as well as books A and B. It is thus inconsistent because by listing itself as self referential it is in error. Note that book A does not contain this error and is still consistent!
- Book C in my library contains the title "The Book of All False Statements." On the first page is a line that reads "This book is incomplete."
The common problem with all of the books is their attempt to contain a set of all elements which includes themselves. Given the original definition of the set this is not possible and results in either self contradiction or self omission.
Martin: "I have a library of amazing books:"ReplyDelete
First, the incompleteness theorem isn't about such things as books or (mere) lists of facts; it's about "formal axiomatic systems" which are "robust enough" to be used to perform (Peano) arithemtic.
Nevertheless, I do understand that you're intending to use an analogy to explicate some certain fact or facts about the mathematical concepts of completeness and consistency, so as to explain/defend your initial objection to Feser's argument. So, ok --
Martin: "The common problem with all of the books is their attempt to contain a set of all elements which includes themselves. Given the original definition of the set this is not possible and results in either self contradiction or self omission."
Is the criterion (*) for filling the set to be listed in the books (in question):
1) the simple "axiom" "list all books in my library?"
2) or, is it the more complex "axiom" "non-self-referenially list all books in my library?"
3) or, is it the yet more complex "axiom" "non-self-referenially list all non-self-referenial books in my library?"
(*) it seems to me that any of these three candidates we have only one criterion, rather than multiple criteria.
The answer to the question "are person's axiomatic systems" is open to debate.ReplyDelete
Someone who accepts the computational theory of mind would believe that we are.
Yes, if you allow inconsistency then you can prove anything. This is why division by zero is not allowed in arithmetic and there undefined operations. It order to be useful it must be incomplete.
I'm working on extending my library analogy to include a book called "The book of all knowledge" and show how such a book would be inconsistent.
Martin: "Yes, if you allow inconsistency then you can prove anything. This is why division by zero is not allowed in arithmetic and there undefined operations. ... "ReplyDelete
Actually, the reason division by zero is -- by axiom -- not allowed in arithmetic is that division by zero yields "the infinite number." It's not that division by zero makes arithmetic inconsistent (*), it's that arithmetic is not robust enough to deal with "the infinite number."
(*) If division by zero made arithmetic inconsistent, then it is arithmetic itself which is inconsistent.
Martin: "... It order to be useful it must be incomplete."
Incompleteness and inconsistency are two quite different things.
A complete arithmetic (were one possible) would be useful. An inconsistent arithmetic can never be useful.
Martin: "The answer to the question "are person's axiomatic systems" is open to debate."ReplyDelete
That there are persons who will dispute a truth does not make its truth-value open to debate.
Martin: "Someone who accepts the computational theory of mind would believe that we are."
Notice how you've phrased that -- "someone who accepts ..." -- notice your recognition of the implicit scientism and anti-reason of the position.
Such persons tend to be fools (*) (**) -- such persons tend to be intentionally ignoring (or denying-without-valid-reason) truth about ourselves, truth which we all *know* to be true, and which disproves their position. Some of these persons "who accept the computational theory of mind" may be simply ignorant, but most are intellectually dishonest (they are worse than mere liars).
Computation is counting, nothing more and nothing less; it's arithmetic. Counting is not thinking. Counting is not understanding. Counting is not learning. And so on for all sorts of mindful attributes and facilities -- all sorts of well-known facts about ourselves which persons "who accept the computational theory of mind" must ignore in order to assert their silly anti-theory.
(*) Mind you, I'm making a moral assertion about (lack of) intellectual honesty; I'm not calling them stupid.
(**) I'm a computer programmer -- I really like computers, I really like automating mental work. And, in case it's not obvious, I have nothing but scorn for any fool who attempts to assert that a computer program is in any way comparible to the human mind, especially when said fool is in the computer science or mathematics fields.
It is the axiom "a book that lists all non-self-referential books in my library".
Division by zero does not produce an infinite number! It is undefined because it allows for an inconsistent arithmetic and using it you can prove any two numbers equal each other. This point is discussed at length in the book "Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea" by Charles Seife. This is also why the IEEE floating-point standard has the constant NaN (not a number) and integer division by zero throws an exception on most computers.
Completeness and inconsistency are linked with each other the following rephrasing of the second theorem:
If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within itself, then it is inconsistent.
That's why book B is in error.
The idea of applying Gödel's incompleteness theorems to persons is not original thinking on my part. Gödel himself proposed the idea in 1961 as a way to falsify the computational theory of mind which he thought was false!
You are projecting you feeling onto my conditional statement about the computational theory of mind. Since I don't know what mind is, I can not make definite statements about it.
So Alan Turing, Marvin Minsky, Hilary Putnam, Valentino Braitenberg, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Fodor and others who agree with them are all intellectually dishonest because they disagree with your perceptions about truths about humans?
When you say the "Truth", what is it, what proof do you have, and what would it take to get you to change your mind?
On the division by zero question, I'm going to post the response on my own blog. I'm still writing up the post, by I expect that by the time this post is visible on Mr Feser's blog, I'll have it complete. It's here: Division By Zero
[psst: it's ILÍON, not LLION]
So Alan Turing, Marvin Minsky, Hilary Putnam, Valentino Braitenberg, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Fodor and others who agree with them are all intellectually dishonestReplyDelete
Well, Dennett is; or at least Fodor and Searle seem to think so. Searle and others also disagree but not merely "because" they disagree. cf. The Chinese Room.
Ilíon, sorry about the misspelling they look roughly the same in the font used by the site in Chrome.ReplyDelete
TheOFloinn, Searle doesn't agree with the computational theory of mind so it makes sense he has issues with Dennett. The annoying part of Searle is that he's a materialist who seems really inconsistent with his views of conciousness. Fodor seems to have issues with everyone including Searle and lately biologists.
I might as well finish the library analogy.
At this point a burning bush appears in my library and offers me a book called "The Book of All Knowledge." The book is miraculous and contains an uncountably infinite number of pages and could contain what it claims. The first page reads "This book contains all that is knowable, contains no errors, and proof of its claims."
I accept the book, but I'm unsure if this book is like A or B and wonder how to solve this problem? The book is not only uncountable infinite, but so are many of its chapters. For example chapter 3 contains the entire set of real numbers. I can't analyze the book in an infinite number of steps and I don't have that much time. Is there a possible short cut?
The book's claims strike me as similar to the second theorem "If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within itself, then it is inconsistent." So if the computational theory of mind is correct, and the book contains what it claims, then the book is inconsistent like B and is in error.
Omnipotent: being able to perform any possible actionReplyDelete
Omniscient: Knowing everything
Can God, being omnipotent, create a question to which he does not know the answer? If Yes, then he is not omniscient. If no, then he is not omnipotent.
Note, this falls into the realm of being able to perform any possible action, as creating a question to which you don't know the answer to is a possible action that even you and I can do. So this paradox is not the same as appealing to the "Can God create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?" type question. This is a genuine paradox, I think, and disproves the possibility of a maximally great being.
That's a real paredox, all right!ReplyDelete
"Can a person who knows everything not know something?"
Actually this contains the same flaw as the question 'can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift'
Such rock cannot exist more than a square circle. The same goes for the 'question' your argument.
We can ask questions we cannot answer and make things we cannot lift because we are LIMITED and those things are limited as well.
God however does not have our limitations.
So a question who's answer is unknown to a being that knows everything is like a square circle (ie. a contradictio in terminis).
" This is a genuine paradox, I think, and disproves the possibility of a maximally great being."
This only proves you do not understand what 'omnipotence' is.
You write, '“Sure God can bring S about, since, being omnipotent, He can even make contradictions true!”'. While an interesting response, it still does not fully answer the God omnipotence paradox. Why? If God can make contradictions true, then He still can't bring S about, which He should be able to do since He is God! But there is something else more troubling about the idea that God can contradict Himself, and that is because God is also omniscient, therefore He would never need to contradict Himself, and this brings us nicely to the answer for the seeming God omnipotence paradox.ReplyDelete
Remember, God is both omnipotent and omniscient. We therefore ask the question, "Can God create a rock that He cannot lift?" As omnipotent God, He would certainly be able to, but as omniscient God, He would know that He would never have to lift the rock! Where logicians saw paradox using only the concept of God's omnipotence, no paradox exists when God's omniscience is introduced. God would know that He would never want to lift the rock, nor ever need to lift the rock!
Dean Michael Jackson
Continuing from my last comment on the God Omnipotence Paradox, it has just occurred to me that, in fact, there is one thing God cannot do and that is to contradict Himself. Why? Because God is omniscient and therefore would never want nor need to contradict Himself since He has perfect foresight. It's interesting that theists would counter the God Omnipotence Paradox by saying God can do everything including contradicting Himself, when contradicting Himself is the only thing God cannot do due to His omniscient nature!ReplyDelete
I think Dawkins' argument makes sense. Let's say God wants to do A or B equally (both options can be done at the same time, they are not incompatible, God just doesn't want to both in this scenario). He predicts the future, and finds out he will do B. Later, he changes his mind and does A. But that would mean he was wrong. So let's say he can't change his mind. If he can't do that, then he isn't all powerful. It's not logically inconsistent to change his mind, he can be wrong about the prediction and that would be perfectly logical. He can prove his own prediction wrong. Arguing that God is outside of time makes no sense. Time is part of the universe. If you are outside of the universe, how can you affect it? How can you do stuff without time or space anyway? Movement is distance over time, neither of which apparently exist with God according to you. Also, if God is omnipresent, then he has to be in the universe, and therefore in time and space.ReplyDelete
If you are outside of the universe, how can you affect it?ReplyDelete
If Shakespeare is not in the play "Hamlet," how can he affect what happens in it?
Easily explained. That is a different scenario, so your example is irrelevant. A play is not the same thing as the universe. You see, a play is part of the universe, and so is Shakespeare, therefore Shakespeare can affect the play. If Shakespeare is outside of the universe, then he cannot affect the play. The universe encompasses your example, you can't compare anything to the universe. The universe can be defined as everything that exists. If you are somehow outside of that (you can't be, but let's say you can hypothetically), it is impossible to affect anything inside without being inside yourself.Delete
Perhaps you are unclear on the concept of "analogy." There used to be a section in the College Boards consisting of analogy questions and analogical thinking was actually taught in school. The section was dropped because too many of one group of test takers consistently scored lower than the other group.ReplyDelete
In particular, back in the day, we learned to avoid the error of confusing analogy with equivalence.
A:X::B:Y does not mean X=Y. It is the relationships that are being compared.
Hope this helps.
No, my argument stands. The analogy doesn't work because they are not the same or even comparable. A play can't be compared to the universe even in analogy because of what I explained. It's like comparing eating an apple to eating nuclear waste and concluding that nuclear waste is safe because you can eat it like an apple. An apple is not comparable to nuclear waste in a day that is relevant. You can compare the eating but not the safety. Likewise you can compare Shakespeare and a play to god and the universe, in terms of having a being and something to influence. You can't say that the same thing will happen in both scenarios just because of this. The apple is healthy, nuclear waste is not. The play can be affected from outside, the universe not.Delete
Richard Dawkins says, “If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.”ReplyDelete
It’s not that God can’t change His mind, it’s that God would never want to nor need to change His mind. In other words, it’s a moot point Dawkins is raising, and in raising the moot point, has misunderstood God’s omnipotent nature!
And now I would like to make an announcement:
The proof for God’s existence…
First, how the proof came to me and a digression:
The proof came to me after I was pondering Pontius Pilate’s inexplicable behavior towards Jesus during the judicial Q&A session between the two, that is, why didn’t Pilate immediately arrest and execute Jesus even three years earlier when Jesus was causing mob scenes in Judea? Arresting and executing troublemakers and deluded Messiah types was Roman policy. This question has itself remained unasked by Christianity for 2,000 years. Why? Well, the answer to that particular question can wait for another day, but I will answer why Pilate refused to arrest and execute Jesus when Jesus first entered his jurisdiction three years before Passion Week. The reason Pilate refused to execute Jesus is because his intelligence network, which was naturally monitoring Jesus, informed Pilate that Jesus was indeed a Jewish deity, and that explains Pilate’s reluctance (until pressed by the Jewish Elders of Jerusalem three years later, and even then Pilate was trying to get Jesus off the judicial hook!) to arrest and execute Jesus.
Now, back to the proof for God's existence…
Recall Pilate asking Jesus ‘what is truth’? Well, believing Jesus couldn’t answer the question, Pilate leaves the audience hall and goes outside to address the crowd there. Well, if Pilate had waited, Jesus would have proved the existence of God by using the concept of truth. How?
This is how:
Proof of God's Existence (broken down), 101:
- Are there truths out there (physical laws of nature such as gravity or the laws of thermodynamics, etc., not moral/ethical truths) that haven't been discovered by man yet? If you say no, then read no further. If you say yes, then continue reading...
- Do such truths need to be assessed by an observer to be recognized as truths? If you say such truths don't need to be assessed by an observer to be recognized as truths, then read no further. If you say such truths do need to be assessed by an observer to be recognized as truths, then continue reading...
- Who is the observer?
Proof of God's Existence, 102:
Man discovers truths of nature, that is man discovers physical laws of nature. Now, what of those truths that haven't been discovered yet? They exist, but how can they exist as truths without being recognized by an entity with cognition to recognize them as truths? The existence of a truth first demands cognition that there is indeed a truth here. That entity with cognition must be God.
Faith & Proof/Knowledge:
So, Jesus did provide man with the proof for the existence of God, but that proof could only be discovered when man 500 years ago began discovering the physical laws of nature.
Some say that religion is based on faith, but I never accepted that proposition especially since Jesus Himself contradicted that proposition when after His resurrection He revealed Himself not only to Mary, Joseph and the remaining disciples, but presented Himself to 500 witnesses (actually closer to 2,000 witnesses, since Jewish custom of the day didn’t count women and children). If faith alone was deemed sufficient enough to accept Jesus as the Messiah, then there was no need for Jesus to present Himself to 2,000 witnesses.
Of course, we know that the Jesus witnessed by the 2,000 wasn’t an imposter, since an imposter would have been immediately spotted by Pilate’s intelligence network and subsequently arrested.
The “Proof for God's Existence” structurally laid out (see my comment directly above):ReplyDelete
(1) The universe is [the universe];
(2) “True” means there is cognition;
(3) The universe is also true;
(4) Since “true” means there is cognition, and the universe was true before corporeal life existed, then there was a cognitive entity that knew the universe was true before corporeal life existed.
Just as there are many more "truths" to be learned about the universe, so the universe is "true" as we currently know it and was "true" before corporeal life existed in the universe. "Truth" requires knowing and knowing requires cognition, therefore who was cognizant and knew the universe to be true before corporeal life existed in the universe?
The proof that this cognitive entity, that existed before corporeal life existed in the universe, created the universe:
My proof affirms that there was a non-corporeal cognitive entity (a spiritual entity, not physical) that knew the Universe was true the moment it came into existence after the Big Bang. What this means is that there was a cognitive spiritual entity in existence at all points where there was a physical reality. Well, since this spiritual entity was there always alongside physical reality within all the minute realities of the Quantum universe, and those complex Quantum realities were true, then the cognitive entity knew such complex Quantum realities were immediately true upon their origination, but in order to know immediately such truths of the Quantum universe are indeed true, the spiritual entity would had to have created the Quantum universe.
In other words, truth = creation = God, which brings us back to what Jesus was prepared to tell Pontius Pilate, but Pontius Pilate walked out of the audience hall after rhetorically asking Jesus ‘what is truth?’
Amendment for the purpose of clarification of the Scientific Proof for God's Existence (see my previous comment above for initial posting of the proof):ReplyDelete
The Scientific Proof for God's Existence:
(1) The universe is objective and exists independently outside of the mind of man;
(2) The makeup of the universe is true;
(3) “True” means there is cognition; and
(4) Since “true” means there is cognition, and the makeup of the universe was true before corporeal life existed, then there was a cognitive entity that knew the makeup of the universe was true before corporeal life existed.
When an objective entity exists outside of the mind of man (in this case the universe, unlike numbers that man’s mind created) then anything discovered about that entity already existed. Therefore, when man discovered the "true" nature of the universe, that discovery was also "true" before man made that discovery. So who knew the "true" nature of the universe before even corporeal life knew it was true?
In other words, was the makeup of the universe true (or a fact; a fact also requires cognition) before man discovered the true (factual) makeup of the universe? Yes, of course the makeup of the universe was true (a fact) before man discovered it to be so. Then who knew the makeup of the universe was true (a fact) before man did?
The proof that this cognitive entity, that existed before corporeal life existed in the universe, created the universe:
My proof affirms that there was a non-corporeal cognitive entity (a spiritual entity, not physical) that knew the Universe was true the moment it came into existence after the Big Bang. What this means is that there was a cognitive spiritual entity in existence at all points where there was a physical reality. Well, since this spiritual entity was there always alongside physical reality within all the minute realities of the Quantum universe, and those complex Quantum realities were true, then the cognitive entity knew such complex Quantum realities were immediately true upon their origination without having to thing about them, but in order to know immediately such truths of the Quantum universe are indeed true without thinking about them, the spiritual entity would had to have created the Quantum universe.
In other words, truth = creation = God.
The play can be affected from outside, the universe not.ReplyDelete
So not only do you fail to grasp analogy, but you fail to grasp the fallacy of begging the question, aka "circular reasoning." Whether the author of the universe can effect the universe in a manner analogous to the way in which the author of a play can effect a play is precisely the issue. You cannot simply assert the conclusion as one of your premises.
(Yes, "effect," not "affect.")
Dr Caffeine said ...ReplyDelete
Quoting: Nov 25th 2012
"Dean Jackson said...
Amendment for the purpose of clarification of the Scientific Proof for God's Existence ....
(1) The universe is objective and exists independently outside of the mind of man;
(2) The makeup of the universe is true;
(3) “True” means there is cognition;
Nope - stop there. 'True' doesn't mean (or require) cognition. But testing of truth does require it. You're in the box with Schrödinger's cat there. The point about the universality claims of scientific truths are that they are observable by anyone with the right kit and opportunity. It doesn't require that all possible observations are being made all the time in order for the truth to be universal. A full-time observer of all things is precisely the notion of a god. There is no reason (.. reason ..., requirement of logic) to assert such a thing. The world demonstrably goes on perfectly well without one. Whether some humans think they can;t get along without the idea is no more that that ... what some humans think.
I find this whole discussion quite amusing. Giving and delineating attributes to god as though you know what his nature really isReplyDelete
I am curious where do you guys get your information ?
if god knows everything, why does Jesus tell us to pray for salvation and why do theologians keep saying we have free will? and what need do we have for a god, when he's already made up his mind about what will happen to each and every one of us? since already knows what will happen in the future, we can assume that all of our faiths are already sealed in his eyes. he sees me praying today, but he knows i'll sin so badly in the future that he'll have to send me to hell. this does not add up, this whole free will and pray for salvation business.ReplyDelete
Jesus Christ as a person can not lift up a stone more that 100 kg (220 lb). But Jesus Christ as Creator created every stone and can lift up any stone.ReplyDelete
I'm not going to try and pick apart little semantic catch 22 instances. I've always found the question of whether god could make a rock so heavy that not even he could lift it--thus proving or disproving somebody's point. That's just crap. My question on omnipotence has to do more with the Christian end of times and the war between heaven and the forces of hell, as my mother believes she will be raptured and taken to heaven before such events transpire but transpire they will.ReplyDelete
My question is how could beings created by an omnipotent being, who know his power, not just have faith like mortal humans can, but really KNOW--how can they war against an omnipotent god? If a being is all powerful, why would such a being even need armies of angels? It all seems rather futile and really too human a perspective to be anything supernatural in origin.