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A lot of debate in the "omnipotent being" or "omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, etc." being debate revolves around the definition of the terms. I consider the "strong form" of omnipotence to involve the ability of an omnipotent being to do both logically possible and logically impossible things.

My Question Is:

Can you split up the analysis of strong omnipotence into parts of "able to do all logically possible things", and "able to do all logically impossible things", and analyze these two categories separately?


Some Example Cases To Consider


If God Can Do Anything, is He Unknowable?

The leading answer to "Is the definition of God consistent?", for example, claims a strong form of omnipotence, that God can truly do anything, but then goes on to claim that as a result, God is unknowable.

I agree that the part of God which is able to do illogical things would be unknowable, but can't we separate our analysis of that part (suspend judgment, if you will) and still gain knowledge about God in the areas where he does interact with the universe and/or us on a logically consistent basis?


Is Plantinga's Free Will Defense Limited to "Weak Omnipotence"?

Coming from the other direction, Plantinga's Free Will defense assumes a logically consistent definition of the omni-being, including what I term "weak omnipotence", which is limited to the ability to do anything which is logically possible.

By the same token could you argue that this defense would apply to the subset of an omnipotent being which entails "all logical power that exists", without having to address any superset of additional powers? Or would that defense be limited only to omnipotent beings who are defined as 100% confined to the logical realm?

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    What is the question you believe is answerable in an SE format? There's a lot of words here and several question marks, but I'm not parsing what you're asking that can have an objective answer. – virmaior Dec 31 '15 at 0:41
  • Fair enough - I reformatted to make the core question clear and split this rest into "cases to consider". – LightCC Dec 31 '15 at 0:58
  • An omnipotent God that's still bound by the rules of logic does not have to be unknowable, as a result. Just because he could do anything doesn't mean he would exhaust even a fraction of the possibilities of what he might do, if it isn't in accordance with his temperament or character. – carb0nshel1 Jan 1 '16 at 17:07
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You can do something like that if you are willing to give up classical logic. Paraconsistent logics can withstand honest contradictions (sentences that are both true and false), called dialetheias, without collapsing into triviality, see Dialetheism. Sentences like "God can create a stone he can not lift, and then he can lift it" are somewhat similar in nature to the Liar sentences like "I am not true" , which are considered leading candidates for dialetheias. In a paraconsistent logic you can split sentences into pure truths, pure falsehoods and dialetheias, and the first would presumably cover the "logically possible things" that God can do, while the third would cover the "logically impossible things".

It is worth pointing out that "strong omnipotence" is not a majority position among Catholic theologians, the official teaching of the Church follows Aquinas in asserting that God is bound by the laws of (classical) logic. However, not being susceptible to them does not put God beyond "any form of reason", or make him "unknowable". He may well be humanly unknowable due to our many limitations, but it is not because of inconsistency alone. Mathematicians use paraconsistent logics to reason about inconsistent arithmetic and analysis for example, and know quite a bit of interesting results about them.

Plantinga's free will defense assumes quite a bit more than logical consistency, namely Molinist understanding of free will and God's foreknowledge, which is again a minority position among Catholic theologians. In particular, the argument explicitly requires that creatures act identically in identical circumstances, and that foreknowledge of their choices be part of God's "middle knowledge". But as Felt writes in Impossible Worlds this posits a "determinate outcome of a free agent’s acting while excluding the acting", and thus creates "metaphysically inconsistent fictions which cannot form an object of anyone’s knowledge, not even God’s". But without them Plantinga's "transworld depravity" simply becomes meaningless, and without limitations imposed on God by classical logic it can not do its work of theodicy.

As for splitting off the "impossible" part of God, I don't think it can work for theodicy either. The whole point of it is presumably to justify God to humans, if it can not do so in a comprehensible way it becomes pointless, same as it does if it can not justify all of God. If the consistent part could not exclude evil due to consistency, why didn't the inconsistent part do it? If this is beyond our comprehension then why bother with theodicy in the first place.

  • Thanks, very nice answer, well references, especially first half. Thanks for the links to go learn more. A few quibbles that I think will need new questions for clarification in the second half, but still thorough. By the way, wasn't asking from a particular theological point of view, but if you are going to pick one, Catholic is as good as any. – LightCC Jan 1 '16 at 9:32
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What you call "strong form" of omnipotence contains a self-referential absurdity.

  1. If God can do the logically impossible, then He isn't bound by the rules of logic.
  2. If He isn't bound by the rules of logic, then the law of non-contradiction doesn't apply to Him.
  3. If the law of non-contradiction doesn't apply to Him, then He both can and can't do the logically impossible.

In other words, it's like asking, "Can God make Himself not exist and still exist?" Once you throw out non-contradiction, nothing makes sense.

  • Check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraconsistent_logic – Moritz Jan 9 '16 at 10:44
  • I appreciate the analysis, but you didn't answer the question! While your comments may be true from the point of view of logic, if the illogical does exist, then why would it make sense to attempt to analyze it or constrain it by the rules of logic? Isn't that itself self-referential absurdity? – LightCC Jan 9 '16 at 12:03
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    You're exactly right. It would not make sense to constrain the illogical to the rules of logic. But that means that we couldn't talk about it, because anything we could say about it would be meaningless. – Ben Jan 9 '16 at 15:53

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