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Suppose an existing being has its existence in danger, but miraculously becomes omniscient, could this being save its existence? Or is there any case where this is impossible?

My main motivation for this question is the thought that one might have the motivation to gain knowledge on the assumption that this will give one more power.

EDIT: I acknowledge that there can exist an ambiguity, and thus different answers, depending on whether we are talking about the properties themselves (if one property entails another) or the properties applied to a being (if one property in a being entails another property in the same being).

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    Even if this being could use omniscience to save itself how is this supposed to amount to omnipotence? An omnipotent being would never be in danger in the first place because it can make itself invincible. And if one is standing next to an exploding nuclear bomb suddenly becoming aware of how everything in the universe works is not going to save them.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 8:59
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    @random_user I'm sorry if I underestimated your question. The point is that some knowledge can make one more powerful, but having knowledge of everything doesn't equate to omnipotence. I would find it impossible to run a mile in under ten minutes- knowing everything would not change that. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 9:06
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    IMHO there is a cause for confusion: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all hold that their Deity is omniscient and omnipotent, and no other being is either omniscient or omnipotent. So the two ideas are linked, even in the mind of an atheist. I wonder about Hinduism: I expect that Trimurti is also considered omniscient and omnipotent. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 4:36
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    I’ve voted to reopen this question. I don’t think it needs substantial revision as it has a clear answer - a rarity in PhilSE!
    – Paul Ross
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 7:41
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    This question might be related. And see here for the converse.
    – user64708
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 11:01

4 Answers 4

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It may be impossible to save oneself. An omniscient being would know that. So omniscient and yet not omnipotent.

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  • That answer goes well with your name ;-) Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 20:14
  • @cmaster-reinstatemonica, 😁. The Oracle: Omniscient. Agent Smith: Omnipotent. Neo/The One/Mr. Thomas Anderson: Omnibenevolent.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 2:13
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Omnipotence is about power while omniscience is about knowledge. I may be all knowing but powerless to do anything with this knowledge. So to save myself I would need some power depending on the circumstance and omnipotence guarantees my ability to save myself.

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  • The claim that omniscience presents a paradox that makes it incompatible with free will is controversial.
    – LarsH
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 21:24
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In discussing theology questions with other theists, I almost always find that they undervalue omniscience. Omniscience is AMAZINGLY powerful. A few examples of what omniscience implies:

a) One can persuade anyone of anything. IF one knows to the Nth degree the psychology of another individual, and has total mastery of communication skills, then one will be able to find psychological leverage points, and means to use them to convince -- IE that individual WILL be persuadable by an omniscient entity.

b) Likewise, leverage of the physical plane can be optimized. TINY inputs can be used to create macro-scale outcomes. A few specks of dust could be redirected, and be used to nudge a comet ever so slightly near its apex. 100,000 years later, it can intersect a planetary orbit as the planet passes. A bit of water could be slightly concentrated on a slope, and suddenly the drop in static friction leas half a mountainside to let go.

c) Even more drastically, theoretical physicists have discovered that one can do ANYTHING by adding or subtracting terms from quantum equations! As with the minor tweaks above, these can be very low or eve NO energy inputs! All one needs is the power to "put fire in the equations". Add a term locally, in just the right spot, for a nanosecond, and any threat could decorrelate, or collapse into a black hole, or find itself at the other end of a wormhole, or one of innumerable other "tricks" that I have not heard of, or modern physicists have not yet discovered.

So, an omniscient entity, with even limited power, so long as its power allows it to manipulate physics locally on demand, should be able to maintain itself forever against any threat.

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  • Your points are really interesting. The only philosopher I could find who talks about power and knowledge is Foucault but with a more political focus. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:02
  • A quick thought experiment suggests you are right even if that omniscience is not instantaneous. Suppose you have the power to rewind time with your mind reversing the state of everything including your body with the exception of your memories. This gives you a mechanism by which you can learn enough about a person to convince them to do anything or even, Groundhog Day style, fall in love with you of their own free will. Per point b, you could endlessly tinker with initial conditions until you found the desired outcome by brute force alone. (cont)
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 17:16
  • Time travel is much more overpowered than generally represented in fiction, because if represented accurately an effective wielder would become godlike and there wouldn't be much of a story.
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 17:17
  • Shouting does not make an argument more convincing. Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 21:12
  • @Andy -- yes combine time travel with knowledge of the minor leverage steps one needs to accomplish a change, and it becomes exceedingly powerful. However, for human scale time travelers, we DON'T know the leverage points to accomplish a change, we can only guess at them. Time travel "contest/war" stories remain stories by using the failures of human scale comprehensive understanding, combined with an assumption of the basic stability of history over multiple options, to frustrate the competitors plans.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 16:26
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If an omniscient is an entity made up of something mortal one might say that an omnipotent excels an omniscient. But if one could go one step higher he would never say so. An omniscient can never be mortal.

You can ask yourself this question: “In the absence of the omniscient who/what would be there to be the consciousness/knowledge/wisdom of the omnipotent?” That means omniscience entails omnipotence.

"... miraculously becomes omniscient, could this being save its existence?"

If it is omniscient it must know how to save its existence.

"is there a case where this is impossible?"

Yes. If that omniscient is considered as a separate entity made up of something mortal. Then only it cannot save itself.

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  • "An omniscient can never be mortal" My other two questions were examples, I'm really interested on that point too Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 17:16

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