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Could An Omnipotent Being Prove It?

October 4th, 2010 · 54 Comments

Ned Resnikoff ponders the question. It seems to me that the answer is clearly “no,” but for a reason Ned doesn’t actually offer: It would require a good deal less than omnipotence to make a human perceptual system experience any demonstration of omnipotence you might care to suggest. So we might imagine God zipping you back to the dawn of creation so you can watch him summon all the galaxies into existence, then mold the earth and breathe life into the first humans, and so on. The trouble is that if you’re aiming for parsimony, the simpler explanation will almost certainly be that you’ve encountered a being capable of simulating all these experiences to your primate nervous system. That is, of course, a hell of a trick—a being who can do that is certainly pretty potent!—but still pretty far short of complete mastery over all space, time, and matter. Even assuming that problem away, the tests would be limited to those feats observable by (and comprehensible to) humans. Maybe God’s almost omnipotent little brother can do just about anything, but could never get the hang of performing a 12th-dimensional loop-de-loop with whoozits sprinkles, which isn’t even on our mental menu of stuff-a-really-awesome-entity-could-do.

Ned ends with this thought:

So perhaps the only way to directly experience the existence of an omnipotent God is to be that God.

Actually, this strikes me as posing some parallel epistemic problems—as illustrated, by the by, in a delightful bit of short fiction from Robert Nozick.  Suppose you’re God: How can you be sure you’re omnipotent? Perhaps you can accomplish anything you can imagine in your own corner of reality—a lucid dreamer can say that much—but there’s some greater reality you’re not even aware of in which, like the dreamer wakened, you’d have no such power. Or maybe even within reality as you know it, there are gaps in your power you aren’t aware of because you can’t even think of the relevant tests. The obvious response is that you’d know all these things because you’re omniscient—but of course, the same problem arises. How do you know you’re really omniscient? At most, there might not be any questions you’re aware of being unable to answer—but that’s hardly the same thing. The subjective feeling of omniscience might in fact be a symptom of a profound ignorance—being unaware even of the existence of those domains of knowledge you lack. How, for that matter, do you know the answers are right? This is a particularly thorny problem when combined with omnipotence: If reality is whatever you decide it is, does it even make sense to speak of true or false beliefs? Beliefs, after all, are supposed to be true or false of an independent reality.

I am not, of course, a believer, but if I were, I’d prefer to imagine a deity occasionally plagued by these thoughts—an agnostic God who sometimes doubts Himself.

Tags: General Philosophy · Religion


       

 

54 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dan // Oct 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    If there exists a being that is significantly closer to omniscience or omnipotence than I am, any thoughts I have on the logical possibilities that constrain it are pretty irrelevant. Omnipotence and omniscience are really incoherent concepts to any human, but for all I know a really really smart being could define them perfectly and get around all the holes we see. That said, Godel’s incompleteness theorem and a few other things suggest to me that omniscience is impossible under our principles of logic (but our principles of logic, again, might just be stupid primate principles. Millennia of mathematicians were wrong about incompleteness before Godel; do we really think Godel’s theorem is the final universal word on the subject?).

  • 2 Gabe // Oct 4, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I’m sure this is a Philosophy 101 question, but why can’t any question of the form “Could an omnipotent being do x?” be answered in the affirmative simply by the definition of ‘omnipotent’?

  • 3 Ben // Oct 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Should omnipotence be taken to mean the power to do everything or the power to do anything?

  • 4 Ben // Oct 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    To be clear, by everything, I mean “the power to do everything that is doable,” so god could be omnipotent without being able to make a “square circle” or something.

  • 5 MBH // Oct 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    One way to approach this is to consider whether or not the concept “omnipotent” has a sense. That is, could it simply be gibberish?

    So, there’s actually a relatively easy way out: omnipotence implies a concrete metaphysical understanding of the world. But if metaphysics-as-concrete-understanding is nonsense, then so is omnipotence. Insert Wittgensteinian arguments about the incoherence of materialism, idealism, solipsism, etc. and you can dissolve the question entirely.

    You might say this approach is a cop-out. But that would mean a criterion of sense is a cop-out, and that would just be weird… and, quite literally, nonsense.

  • 6 finzent // Oct 5, 2010 at 6:35 am

    @Gabe:

    If the question is instead formulated as “could any being do x?” this bother is avoided.

  • 7 Alejandro // Oct 5, 2010 at 7:03 am

    The omniscience problem might be solved if we postulate something like Spinozism and say that ultimately, there is no contingency: all true propositions are necessary. Then it is concievable that for an infinitely powerful mind, all true propositions become as self-evident as 1+1=2 (including the true proposition that there are no other true propositions to be known). We can even allow for contingency with a Leibnizian modification: all true propositions are either necessary or dependent on God’s will. Then God knows everything contingent because he has made it so directly, and knows there is no other contingent stuff he has not made because the uniqueness of God and the dependency on all contingent things on him are necessary propositions.

    I myself don’t believe in strong metaphysical necessities of the kind needed for these philosophical systems, but I must allow they are elegant and at least epistemically possible.

  • 8 jre // Oct 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    The way I know that I am not omnipotent is by thinking of stuff I can’t do — and only one counterexample is required. Conversely, if I can’t think of any counterexamples, then in an epistemological sense I am just as omnipotent as God. Therefore, I reckon, the key is to restrict my imagination until it contains only things I know I can do: “defining omnipotence down”, if you will.

  • 9 MBH // Oct 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    @Alejandro, I’ve never read Spinoza, but the Kantian objection would be that those arguments are merely true by definition — they’re only analytic a priori judgments. They necessarily don’t hold any bearing on the world. These systems may be seemingly elegant, but they’re not epistemically possible. Epistemic propositions depend on coherence and sense. But mere analytic a priori judgments are made irrespective of sense. Any claim made irrespective of sense is nonsense. And nonsense is not epistemically possible.

    That argument, as understand it from Kant, is more elegant than any metaphysical system. It’s just much less pleasurable: it doesn’t release endorphins like metaphysical propositions do.

  • 10 Alejandro // Oct 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    @ MBH: Oh, I agree that Kantian or post-Kantian conceptions of necessity make much more sense. But I was using “epistemically possible” in a ver weak sense: I can’t be 100% sure that these metaphysical systems are wrong (i.e. assign a Bayesian probability of zero to them). If we had an oracle who could reveal us the truth on these matters, would you be willing to bet an arbitrarily large amount of money against Spinozism being true? If not, then you assign some nonzero epistemic probability to them in the sense I mean.

  • 11 MBH // Oct 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    @Alejandro, I can certainly feel the pull of Spinozism. I’m more familiar with the metaphysical system of Schopenhauer which is truly beautiful. But the problem with these systems is not whether or not they’re true, but whether or not they could be true or false.

    A Wittgensteinian approach here would be to assign zero epistemic probability to them — not because they’re extremely unlikely (their superficial grammar seems possible if not probable), but because no truth-value can be assigned to them at all. Every judgment of the world is necessarily made through language, in one form or another. Metaphysical judgments require a perspective outside language. That’s necessarily not possible, and so what you might believe is a possible system is actually mere nonsense.

    To tie it back together: the concept “omnipotence” requires a perspective outside language. We can’t make sense out of that perspective. And so we can’t make sense out of “omnipotence” even if we believe we can.

    The only way around this, that I can see, would be to identify language with god: language-as-organism-that-is-god. And that may be fine, but the meaning of “omnipotence” would be highly unconventional.

  • 12 ppnl // Oct 6, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Silly rabbit, Proof is for mathematics. The real world is empirical. You cannot prove that the earth is round. What if an Omnipotent being is just making look as if it is round?

  • 13 Jarrett // Oct 6, 2010 at 5:43 am

    If there is a being that can create the material universe out of nothing [materially], than I think that would show one’s omnipotence. It wouldn’t even make sense to postulate that there is more one being that could do such a thing [I guess we can always hide behind our brains being too feeble to even begin to understand some of the more far out things that might be capable of being done].

    Also, who is God trying to prove it to that he’s omnipotent. Himself? To you? To me? For example, I can prove 2 + 2 = 4 to myself, but will have a heck of a time proving it to a one year old. One could simply say it’s possible God could alter our brains so we are no longer skeptical of the fact that there is the possibility that God can’t do some far out, bizarre thing.

    I noticed posters above talking about God and propositional knowledge, but classical theism also teaches that God knows more than just propositional knowledge. God also knows non-propositional knowledge, self knowledge. For example, God would know that he’s God, instead of the fact that there is a necessary being. Now, if you’re a molinist, God also knows counterfactuals. Then the debate comes down to can you ground counterfactuals. Still, even if God doesn’t know counterfactuals, that wouldn’t mean God isn’t omnipotent/omniscient [if it's shown you can't ground counterfactuals].

  • 14 MBH // Oct 6, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    @Jarrett,

    If there is a being that can create the material universe out of nothing [materially], th[e]n I think that would show one’s omnipotence.

    Still the question remains whether or not your antecedent is nonsense. You’re making the metaphysical judgment that this world is necessarily material. How do you get that? Quantum mechanics would say otherwise. Plenty of monotheistic philosophers would say otherwise. It’s not clear what it means to say that the world, independent of our language, is material. Try making that claim without any form of language.

    Then the debate comes down to can you ground counterfactuals.

    Incorrect. The debate comes down to whether or not “knows non-propositional knowledge” has a sense. That is, is it in the nature of the concept “knowledge” to be independent of language? Tell me how that goes without using any form of language. You can’t. It doesn’t make sense. None of this means there isn’t a God; only that God would have to be language itself.

    @ppnl,

    Silly rabbit, Proof is for mathematics. The real world is empirical. You cannot prove that the earth is round.

    Proof is for mathematics, but you could argue that mathematics is, among other things, for philosophy. You can prove that the concept “round” applies to the earth. The function: for every x, x is round, could use earth as the variable. That’s proof.

    What if an Omnipotent being is just making [it] look as if it is round?

    Since it’s shown that metaphysical propositions are nonsense, that would necessarily be an epistemic proposition. But if thought itself is channeled through language, and language comes from a community of people sharing a form of life, then the concept “round” is outside each individual’s head. And so the concept “manipulating roundness” would depend on metaphysical propositions — which are nonsense. Your skepticism is nonsense.

  • 15 Jarrett // Oct 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    @ MBH,

    Yes, one will use some form of language to prove such things to be true. However, I don’t know how one can hide behind quantum mechanics to say the universe isn’t necessarily material. How would you separate the fact that there is something immaterial that is not dependent [mutually exclusive] of a material something?

    I don’t understand why you’re asking one to try making that claim without any form of language. One is going to use some sort of language, symbol, even mathematically, (or any other type of communication) to show something is true.

    Are you saying that the metaphysical proposition, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing comes nothing) is nonsense?

  • 16 MBH // Oct 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    @Jarrett,

    Yes, one will use some form of language to prove such things to be true.

    Then it doesn’t make sense to talk about “non-propositional knowledge” if all knowledge is necessarily expressed through some form of language, and all metaphysical language is necessarily propositional. You’re looking in the wrong direction. The question is not whether some being could have non-propositional knowledge, but whether “non-propositional knowledge” has a sense in the realm of metaphysics.

  • 17 Jarrett // Oct 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    @ MBH,

    We could argue that God, as a maximally excellent cognitive being, as Christian theism teaches, would know all non-propositonal knowledge of himself. Then we could argue God’s knowledge (both propositional and non) would be non-propositional in nature, but we [finite cognitive humans] would represent God’s knowledge (again, both propositional and non) as propositional knowledge. This line of thought is from William Alston and William Lane Craig.

  • 18 MBH // Oct 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    @ Jarrett, the problem still remains that if we can’t make sense of non-propositional knowledge in the metaphysical realm, then it doesn’t make sense to talk about it as if it’s coherent nonsense. There’s no such thing as coherent nonsense. This line of thought is from Ludwig Wittgenstein and Cora Diamond (see “Throwing Away the Ladder”). She would accuse you of “chickening out” and “rounding on yourself”. You can’t at time 1 say “this is nonsense to us” and at time 2 say “this is sensible to god”. You’ve already granted that x is nonsense; it’s gibberish. So the form of your second proposition is “rabble rabble rabble is sensible to god”. But you’re not saying anything substantial, even if you believe you are. It’s gobbledygook.

  • 19 Jarrett // Oct 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    @ MHB,

    I’ve never acknowledged that any such thing is nonsense. It is you who say it is. You made the statement, “… metaphysical propositions — which are nonsense.”

    I’m saying we humans would simply represent God’s knowledge as propositional knowledge. It all comes down to how we access the knowledge. God accesses his knowledge indirectly, while we would access it given our individual essence. An example, God would know what it’s like to be God. We, as humans, would then give attributes/descriptions of this self-knowledge, in propositional form.

  • 20 MBH // Oct 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    @ Jarrett,

    I’ve never acknowledged that any such thing is nonsense.

    You don’t have to for it to be nonsense.

    God accesses his knowledge indirectly, while we would access it given our individual essence.

    Huh?

    God would know what it’s like to be God.

    If I’m not mistaken, the opposite is exactly Julian’s point. If you can imagine God, then you can certainly imagine God not knowing that he’s God.

  • 21 Jarrett // Oct 7, 2010 at 12:14 am

    @ MBH,

    I agree that something can be nonsense w/o one acknowledging it, just you did say that I granted something was nonsense, when I didn’t.

    If I make the proposition that you’re MBH, this would be directly grasped by you, but indirectly grasped by me. The opposite would be true if you said to me that I’m Jarrett. This too would be true based off of the propositions we express to God and how we [God and humans] grasp them differently. One directly, the other indirectly. This is from Jonathan L. Kvanvig’s view of indexicals.

    I think it’s possible to imagine God, but much more difficult to fully comprehend what we’re imagining. Since quantum mechanics has already been brought up, we can create mathematical theories for quantum mechanics, but we don’t fully comprehend these theories (for example, we don’t know which interpretation is correct). This might not be a perfect analogy, but good enough. We can give attributes and descriptions to God, but we don’t fully understand these descriptions and how they are fully applied. We can say God is all knowing, but be uncertain if God knows all tensed facts, because we might be unsure if God is timeless or temporal with creation. So, we can imagine, but not fully understand.

  • 22 MBH // Oct 7, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    @ Jarrett,

    If I make the proposition that you’re MBH, this would be directly grasped by you, but indirectly grasped by me.

    That’s not right though. I may directly grasp what’s entailed by me being MBH, while you indirectly grasp what’s entailed. But the proposition itself is grasped equally by both of us. Again, the criteria for meaning is outside your head. It’s only the case that it would be indirect for you if meaning only existed inside your head. But, that’s nonsense.

    Since quantum mechanics has already been brought up, we can create mathematical theories for quantum mechanics, but we don’t fully comprehend these theories (for example, we don’t know which interpretation is correct).

    I think that’s wrong too. David Bohm’s interpretation is correct insofar as his mathematical propositions account for both the subatomic measurements of quantum theory and the data produced by general relativity. And he does this, in part, by avoiding metaphysical propositions.

    We can give attributes and descriptions to God…

    Not if they’re nonsense.

  • 23 Jarrett // Oct 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    @ MBH,

    Yes, both us and God would grasp the propositions given, but simply differently. The propositions we use would contain personal indexicals. God doesn’t have to rely on us to come up with propositions to know things of himself, or anything else for that matter, but we [humans] would.

    I think all the interpretations are correct insofar that they all match-up with the math. However, there are several (at least ten, some indeterminate and others fully determent, like the Bohm’s interpretation) interpretations of quantum mechanics and for one to say I know this is the correct one and to combat all others would be quite a task. There’s no consensus on which one is the right one.

    That’s where the questions lies. Is it nonsense give descriptions to God. There are ontological arguments that give descriptions and attributes to God. Robert Maydole’s ontological argument, for example.

  • 24 Proof of God | The League of Ordinary Gentlemen // Oct 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    [...] Sanchez thinks the answer is no: It would require a good deal less than omnipotence to make a human perceptual [...]

  • 25 MBH // Oct 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    @ Jarrett,

    There are ontological arguments that give descriptions and attributes to God.

    And these “ontological” arguments depend on materialism, idealism, solipsism, etc. And none of those can be properly argued for. Each one falls into an infinite regress as it tries to justify its correctness.

    So if every ontological argument falls into an infinite regress, why the hell should I consider what you’re saying? I reject materialism, idealism, solipsism, and every other -ism because the arguments for them depend on other arguments, which depend on other arguments, which depend on other arguments, which depend on other arguments, which I’m sure you’ll give me. And then I’ll tell you that those have to be justified by something further. And you’ll give me something further, which will also depend on something further.

    Nonsense.

  • 26 Jarrett // Oct 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I too reject materialism and solipsism. However, we can introduce properly basic beliefs into the mix to halt the regress.

    Your logic goes for all things. How can we know that Earth revolves around the Sun? One will state why. The other guy will reply why do we trust that, then again one will state why, and again why trust that… ad infinitum. This is extreme skepticism.

    With properly basic beliefs there would be no need for an argument to substantiate them.

  • 27 Pithlord // Oct 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Then it doesn’t make sense to talk about “non-propositional knowledge” if all knowledge is necessarily expressed through some form of language,

    I see a fallacy. “Knowledge can only be expressed through language” only implies “there is no non-linguistic knowledge” if all knowledge can be expressed — which seems wrong to me.

    Also, I might be able to express some kinds of knowledge non-linguistically, by showing you how to do it, for instance. But even if you count that as linguistic, you still haven’t gotten anywhere near non-linguistic knowledge. At most, you’ve shown I have to remain silent about it.

  • 28 Eli // Oct 7, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve always imagined the reasonable response to such an entity would be, “OK, so how does he do it? (or, possibly more interesting, why?)”. At which point we’re back to square one, trying to understand the science behind it all.

  • 29 MBH // Oct 7, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    @ Jarrett,

    With properly basic beliefs there would be no need for an argument to substantiate them.

    I agree. But I disagree that those basic beliefs can be metaphysical. They can only be conceptual. That rules out any positive ontological claims.

    @ Pithlord,

    “Knowledge can only be expressed through language” only implies “there is no non-linguistic knowledge” if all knowledge can be expressed — which seems wrong to me.

    Did you have a counterexample in mind? I don’t know if you want me to tell you how it should seem exactly…

    I might be able to express some kinds of knowledge non-linguistically, by showing you how to do it, for instance. But even if you count that as linguistic, you still haven’t gotten anywhere near non-linguistic knowledge. At most, you’ve shown I have to remain silent about it.

    Yeah, I would certainly count things like pointing-your-finger as part of language. I see no reason not to. And in that sense, words are on equal footing with “objects”.

    Why I am supposed to get to non-linguistic knowledge? I think all knowledge can be articulated. Whether it ought to be or not is another story. And in a lot of cases, it’s better that it not be articulated. For instance, an athlete shouldn’t articulate his muscle memory. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t developed over time through physical measurements and concepts.

  • 30 Jarrett // Oct 7, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    @ MBH,

    There’s people that argue believing in the self and the existence of God are properly basic, metaphysical beliefs.

  • 31 MBH // Oct 8, 2010 at 2:26 am

    @ Jarrett,

    And there’s people that argue health care reform consists of death panels.

  • 32 DivisionByZero // Oct 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Of course, the answer is no. The question is complete nonsense. I get what the question is going for but it’s a category mistake. Existence isn’t a formal system and thus you can’t prove anything that exists. If the author meant something a little looser like when we use “prove” to talk about empirical facts, the question of God’s Omnipotence (almost wrote Impotence :)) is no more interesting than the question of the earth’s roundness. That’s to say the truth or falsity of the answer in most cases has little to do with whether one believes it. In both cases the person’s persuadability is the issue and that’s not change by bringing proof into the game.

  • 33 Jarrett // Oct 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    @ MBH,

    Yes, people argue all types of things. Especially philosophers!

    The question is do you think believing in the existence of the self is not a properly basic, metaphysical belief? Many philosophers do.

  • 34 MBH // Oct 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    @ Jarrett,

    I think a belief in the self is a basic belief. I think that belief can be proper so long as one recognizes that the self is an ability — not a metaphysical substance. I also believe in the soul, but I don’t use metaphysics to get to it.

  • 35 Jarrett // Oct 8, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I’m no philosopher, I just play one on the Web. I’m having difficulty understanding the distinction of an ability and a metaphysical substance.

    Would you agree with any of the following: the belief in the reality of the past, the existence of the external world, and/or the presence of other minds are properly basic, metaphysical beliefs?

  • 36 MBH // Oct 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I’m having difficulty understanding the distinction [between] an ability and a metaphysical substance.

    Think about it this way: an ability is the potential to do something — it’s action centered — you can describe action without touching what the world is in its essence; metaphysical substance necessarily describes what the world is in its essence.

    Would you agree with any of the following: the belief in the reality of the past, the existence of the external world, and/or the presence of other minds are properly basic, metaphysical beliefs?

    They’re properly basic; they’re improperly metaphysical. You don’t grasp them by considering the essence of the world. You grasp them through the very use of language. That we use language and language comes from a community — sharing a form of life — makes it impossible to even doubt those concepts. You could only delude yourself into believing you doubt those things. And that may be helpful in thought experiments, but only insofar as you’re aware of your own deluding.

  • 37 Jarrett // Oct 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    @ MHB,

    In short, you don’t believe in any metaphysical statements, beliefs, propositions, and so forth? I’m uncertain on how you view metaphysics. Do you try to avoid using metaphysics, but isn’t what we’re doing here metaphysics? Do you think metaphysical statements are neither true or false, and therefore making it meaningless? Or the weaker form which argues that metaphysics is simply beyond our intellect, for it to be useful?

    I apologize for the interrogation, I’m just curious. This is pretty much the center piece of what we’ve been talking about. How we differ on the meaningfulness, or lack thereof, of metaphysics.

  • 38 M.B.H. // Oct 9, 2010 at 2:10 am

    @ Jarrett,

    Do you try to avoid using metaphysics, but isn’t what we’re doing here metaphysics?

    No, I don’t think it is. I think language and logic tells you all you need to know about the world. And I think it tells you all you can know about the world. I argue (well, my version of lots of other folks’ argument) that skepticism about other minds, for example, is nonsense. Here’s one way to get there without metaphysics.

    (1) “Are there other minds?” is a question asked through language.
    (2) Language derives from the communal activity of sharing a form of life.
    (3) “Are there other minds?” is a question derived from the communal activity of sharing a form of life. [From (1) and (2)]
    (4) A communal activity of sharing a form of life necessarily implies multiple minds.
    (5) “Are there other minds?” is a question that can only be asked with the (however distant) presence of multiple minds. [From (3) and (4)]
    (6) A question that necessarily implies its own negation is nonsense.
    (7) “Are there other minds?” implies its own negation. [From (5) and (6)]
    (8) “Are there other minds?” is nonsense. [From (6) and (7)]

    Now: does that mean that I’m making the metaphysical proposition “There are other minds.”? No. I don’t have to. All I have to do is show that doubting it doesn’t make sense. (8) is not a metaphysical proposition and yet you might get the sense it tells you something very deep about the world. Actually, it’s just clearing away the confusion about how you can and can’t use language. That’s all.

  • 39 MBH // Oct 9, 2010 at 2:20 am

    If that’s not clear enough, here is the train of thought I’m trying to channel.

  • 40 MBH // Oct 9, 2010 at 4:27 am

    A couple mistakes in the argument above. (6) and (7) should read:

    (6) A question that necessarily implies its own negation or confirmation is nonsense.
    (7) “Are there other minds?” implies its own confirmation.

    My bad.

  • 41 Egypt Steve // Oct 10, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Does omniscience require consciousness? One problem with that is that “consciousness” as we understand it is a time-bound phenomenon, and the Deity ought to be independent of time.

    On the other hand, if we for the sake of argument reject the existence of transcendent beings, then the Universe contains all knowledge within itself. Possibly that is “omniscience.” The Universe contains all possibility of action. Possibly that is “omnipotence.” If the Universe is uncreated by an external deity, then it’s eternal.

    An uncreated, impersonal Universe strikes me as a pretty good candidate for “God”!

  • 42 Arun // Oct 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Is this Sanchez’ paradox – Any being that is omnipotent cannot prove its omnipotence to a human being; and as there is something it cannot do, it therefore cannot be omnipotent?

  • 43 Lymis // Oct 10, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    If the question is proving apparent omnipotence to humans, really, you don’t need much more than the technology of Star Trek and a good PR team.

  • 44 JohnEMack // Oct 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    The possibility that an omnipotent being might not know whether He was omnipotent is problematical. Suppose you can do anything. Then one thing you can do is create an algorithm to determine whether there is anything you are unaware of that you can’t do. It is for reasons like this that I think that omnipotence implies omnicience and vice-versa. If you know everything, then you know how to do everything, and if you know how to do something, or see that it gets done, then by definition, you can to it. If you know everything, then one thing you know is whether there is anything you are ignorant of.

  • 45 Can God Prove God? « City of God // Oct 11, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    [...] is a pretty interesting discussion. Julian Sanchez wonders if God would doubt that God exists even: “The subjective [...]

  • 46 buzz // Oct 12, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Someone (Voltaire?) once said even God could not change history. My question is, how would we know?

  • 47 Could An Omnipotent God Know It Is Omnipotent? – Camels With Hammers // Oct 12, 2010 at 7:46 am

    [...] Juan Sanchez, inspired by a little Robert Nozick, explores some problems for the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient God: Suppose you’re God: How can you be sure you’re omnipotent? Perhaps you can accomplish anything you can imagine in your own corner of reality—a lucid dreamer can say that much—but there’s some greater reality you’re not even aware of in which, like the dreamer wakened, you’d have no such power. Or maybe even within reality as you know it, there are gaps in your power you aren’t aware of because you can’t even think of the relevant tests. The obvious response is that you’d know all these things because you’re omniscient—but of course, the same problem arises. How do you know you’re really omniscient? At most, there might not be any questions you’re aware of being unable to answer—but that’s hardly the same thing. The subjective feeling of omniscience might in fact be a symptom of a profound ignorance—being unaware even of the existence of those domains of knowledge you lack. How, for that matter, do you know the answers are right? This is a particularly thorny problem when combined with omnipotence: If reality is whatever you decide it is, does it even make sense to speak of true or false beliefs? Beliefs, after all, are supposed to be true or false of an independent reality. [...]

  • 48 Drew // Oct 17, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Julian: trying to bring philosophy into theology will only end in tears.

    This is the classic problem of Satan as deceiver though: we don’t need to assume an all powerful God to image a being powerful enough to _seem_ like a God to _us_. Nor can we possibly ever trust the motives/goodness of a being that’s to any significant degree more powerful than us.

    Heck, if we brought a human being from 200 years in the past into the future, I have little doubt that even just us modern humans, with a fair bit of modern technology, could convince them of almost literally anything.

  • 49 Vern // Oct 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    As a theist, I always ask Physicalists, monists, etc. what sort of proof could possibly work for you to accept dualism, to accept a deity?

    To be accepted as “real” the proof would have to be physical – testable, verifiable, etc. But if was physical, then it need not have a dual nature to explain how it came to be, and thus would not in fact be proof of a deity or that any dualism was required.

    In short, your set up of the question is just a circular restatement of your assumption. I.e. if “only the physical” is real, then there’s no need to explain the physical with something non-physical.

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