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May 28, 2012

Comments

WisdomLover,

Thanks for the detailed response. You wrote:

Notice that it is not necessary to add "X exists" to the antecedent of the entailment, since, as you are fond of pointing out, Ben, "X chooses to make P true" already entails that X exists (as, BTW, does "X is omnipotent").

Quite so, but this does not help you. We want to know what goes on in all possible worlds, not just the actual world.

Well, item 1 from my list, is surely a true entailment:

On the contrary, the first entailment seems obviously invalid. Recall:

1. "X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true" entails "P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"

Unless you assume in advance that X exists in all possible worlds, then we must consider what happens in those possible worlds where X does not exist. Let W1 be such a world, that is, a world where X does not exist. Nothing is going to prevent P from being true in those worlds where X wants to make P true. But why couldn't Joe on the street prevent P from being true in W1? After all, in W1, X does not exist, and hence cannot assert his omnipotence there. So if P is something like, say, "Joe donates $5 to the Salvation Army," then Joe might easily prevent P from being true in W1.

For starters, note that the antecedent of item 2:

X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true

entails the antecedent of item 1:

X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true

Because X is omnipotent, X exists, as such, X does what He is essentially disposed to do and chooses to make P true.

Yup, I agree.

The upshot of this is that this entailment holds:

"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
entails
"P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"

But that does not follow. If X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that he choose to make P true, then that only means that P is true and nothing prevents P from being true in those worlds where X exists. But in W1, since X does not exist there, P might still be prevented from being true, indeed might be false.

So hopefully you can see what's wrong here. In order to make your argument work you have to deny in advance that a world like W1 is possible, i.e. you have to assert something like that X exists in all possible worlds, or that X exists in all possible worlds if X exists in any world. But of course that would be obviously circular.

But I haven't seen a reason to believe this assertion, other than, perhaps, it leads to consequences you don't care for.

Sure you have. I pointed out before that the matter of God's existence is already settled where God exists. In other words, God has no opportunity for deliberation. Deliberation is required for choice, right? Well God cannot deliberate on a matter which is already decided.

Now perhaps God can still reflect on his preference. So he can say to himself, "do I prefer to have existed, or to never have existed?" But this isn't deliberation on what God is going to do about his existence, because whenever God exists to consider his preference, the matter is already settled. His "choice" has already been made for him by circumstance.

Conversely, I have at least alluded to reasons for thinking that some self-generation is necessary if there are to be any generated beings at all. Without them, the whole chain of existence would seem to be impossible.

Your reasoning proceeds from a dubious premise, namely that God can only act at t to cause his existence at t. Recall the heart of your argument:

There's no other time at which God could act to maintain Himself at t, than t itself, but by the time He's gotten to t, the issue of existence has been settled in His own favor or against it. If against His favor, then He can't do anything at all at t. If in His favor, then what need of His doing anything.

But why think God can only act at t to cause his existence at t? Even if we grant for the sake of argument that simultaneous causation is sometimes possible, nevertheless in this case it seems patently impossible for exactly the argument you intended as an absurdity.

In other words, your argument just goes to show that God must act before t in order to cause himself to exist at t.

To put this in terms that map to your earlier comment, I see no reason not to plug in any proposition P into the argument spelled out above. So long as that proposition is logically possible. That is, I see no reason not to stick to the standard definition of omnipotence ("X is omnipotent" = "X can make any logically possible proposition true").

I don't think there is a "standard definition" of omnipotence. As for your proposed definition, it is not enough that P should merely be (broadly) logically possible in isolation. Rather, P must be such that statements like "X can make P true" are also logically possible. So for instance, suppose P is a purely logical truth like 2+2=4. On your view, God can make it true that 2+2=4, which is incoherent.

But anyway, omnipotence isn't just about making propositions true. For instance on your definition it could be the case that X accidentally makes a proposition true, which would violate our intuitive understanding of omnipotence. Rather, omnipotence is about having X's will realized.

So a better definition of omnipotence would be as follows: X is omnipotent iff X's (coherent) wishes always come true.

Regards,
Ben

Brett,
I observe that many Christians know God without the analytical machinations you describe. Your method is very good and I love to ponder precisely those things. However, I also observe that while it can be helpful, it’s not necessary. The reason is given in the Bible. Among other things, 1 John is a great discourse on Christian epistemology, particularly with regard to what we often call assurance. Our knowledge of God according to 1 John boils down to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and our obedience in faith to Him.

If we look at the testimony of Christians over and against the testimony of non-Christians with some theistic belief, we find nothing extraordinary in appearance to distinguish the Christian faith. The evidential and philosophical arguments for the Christian faith are compelling, but they are deniable by those who don’t have the Holy Spirit.

Internally, however, there is a fundamental difference. The Christian can have certain knowledge on which to place hope while the non-Christian has uncertain hope on which to place knowledge. But the conviction of these things looks the same externally. Where the testimony of the Christian holds sway is on those who have the Holy Spirit.

That’s not to say that there aren’t people who are merely cultural Christians or who dabble in Christian religiosity but have no true Christian faith. There certainly are. This is why we must test the spirits as John instructs.

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

Observation #1

Is is logically impossible for a being at t to choose his own existence at t?

One way to prove that a statement, P, is logically possible is to show that there is at least one other statement, Q that P does not imply. The reason for this is that a contradiction implies anything and everything.

Does "X chooses his own existence at t" imply "X attempts suicide at t"?

Does "X chooses his own existence at t" imply "X refrains from defending himself from destruction at t"?

It seems pretty clear that the answer to both questions is "No, those implications do not obtain." At the very least, anyone who wants to assume that they do obtain has a pretty heavy burden of proof. Infinitely heavy.

So it is logically possible for X to choose his own existence at t.

There are at least two serious problems with this approach. First of all, we are dealing with broad logical possibility, which means the principle of explosion doesn't apply. Second, even in those cases where we are dealing with strict (not broad) logical possibility, it's still not necessary to show that P implies Q before we show that P entails a contradiction. It is sufficient to show (independently of Q) that P is contradictory, and then Q will follow by explosion.

But I do not claim that it is strictly logically contradictory for God to cause his own existence at t. Rather, I claim it is incoherent (and hence not broadly logically possible), for the reasons explained throughout these comments.

The same problems apply to your observation #2.

Observation #3

With some trepidation, I'll venture to name the property of choosing one's own existence "self-realization". I have no Hindu or Freudian presuppositions built into that.

So my argument above was based on two assumptions about God:

1. "X is God" implies "X is omnipotent"

2. "X is God" implies "X is essentially self-realizing"

It carves out the middle alternatives about God based only on those two assumptions. I might define "God" as follows:

"X is God" = "X is omnipotent and essentially self-realizing".

Now the possibility question is simplified

Are omnipotence and essential self-realization compatible?

If they are, then it's a necessary truth that God, so defined, exists.

Your definition of "self-realization" is incoherent, and hence so too is any definition or question which references self-realization. In particular, your definition of God as being essentially self-realizing and your question, "Are omnipotence and essential self-realization compatible?" are both incoherent since they reference the incoherent concept of self-realization. It's a bit like asking if being a square circle is compatible with being a two-dimensional object. What the heck is a "square circle"? Similarly, I have to wonder, what on earth are you talking about when you suggest that God chooses his own existence, i.e. self-realizes? You need to make coherent sense of that notion before we can discuss what follows from it.

Regards,
Ben

Ben, your use of the word "incoherent" is incoherent.
If you want true dialogue with people being intentionally antagonistic is not the way to go about it.

It reminds me of when you called incoherent my position that certain emotions are inconsistent with certain worldviews .... and then somehow made sense of it all by stating the same thing yourself.

Ben-

I'm going to focus in on the first point. This is where your reasoning goes off the rails.

You said this:

the first entailment seems obviously invalid. Recall:
  1. "X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true" entails "P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"
Unless you assume in advance that X exists in all possible worlds, then we must consider what happens in those possible worlds where X does not exist.
I don't need to make any such assumption about X's existence in all worlds in order to support the entailment, and I don't make any such assumption.

The three claims

  1. X exists.
  2. X is omnipotent.
  3. X chooses to make P true.
have the consequences they have. These consequences include the claim that P is true. They also include the claim that no one could have prevented P from being true (X's being omnipotent and all that), with the possible exception of X himself.

It's no good saying "Well, but P might well have been prevented in a world where X does not exist."

Fine.

So what?

The premises I'm deriving my conclusion from include the existence of X (see premise 1). The entailment is based on that fact that in every possible world where the three claims shown above are true, the conclusion that P is true and unpreventable (except possibly by X himself) is also true.

Entailment-1 has nothing at all to say about situations where one or more of the three claims above is or are false. No entailment ever has anything to say about what happens its antecedent is false. Entailment-1 is not different from every other entailment in that respect.

The entailment proceeds from the antecedent to the consequent. I am not trying, in premise one, to make any point about the consequent all by itself.

Of course, the first of the three claims just mentioned is implied by either one of the other two, so that claim is actually superfluous, though it has been useful to highlight it in this comment for pedagogical reasons. But that's all. The same conclusion follows from the second two claims alone. That is to say, this entailment holds:

  1. "X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true" entails "P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"

WisdomLover,

If by "could have" you mean "could have, given that X exists, is omnipotent, and chooses to make P true," then sure, I agree that your entailment in #1 is valid. But that won't get you any closer to showing that P is broadly logically necessarily true.

Regards,
Ben

Here's a remark on one of your later comments that does not depend on you mistake about entailment-1

I pointed out before that the matter of God's existence is already settled where God exists. In other words, God has no opportunity for deliberation. Deliberation is required for choice, right? Well God cannot deliberate on a matter which is already decided.
First, this comment is the first time you've mentioned deliberation in this thread.

Second, that choice requires deliberation is probably radically anthropomorphic. It's not at all clear that any process of deliberation that we could recognize is needed for an omnipotent being to make a choice.

Third, even if what you say about choice and deliberation is true, it is not beyond God's ability do deliberate, choose and render true simultaneously (His being omnipotent, you know).

OK Ben, I didn't see your admission that entailment-1 is valid in your last note.

Now, which step in the move from entailment-1 to entailment-2 do you think is wrong?

Surely it was not the move that got us from entailment-1, to this:

"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"

entails

"P is true, and nothing except X could have prevented P from being true."

Because that move was based on the rule that if A entails B, and B entails C, then A entails C. And you wouldn't deny that.

And surely it was not the move that gave us this:

"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"

entails

"X could not have prevented P from being true."

Because X's inability to prevent P is contained in the essential disposition in the antecedent in exactly the same way that marriage isn't contained in bachelorhood.

But you've got to grant that that leads uncontroversially to this:

"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"

entails

"P is unpreventably true."

That's from the rule that if A entails the conjunction of B and C, and if A entails D, then A entails the conjunction of B, C and D. And you wouldn't disagree with that either.

So then what is it? The move from "unpreventably true" to "necessarily true"

Once we are at premise 2, it's just standard modal logic all the way to my conclusion.

Ben-

In spite of my last comment, I suspect that you still have qualms about entailment-1. Perhaps my suspicions are incorrect. I am after all just reading your remarks, and it's altogether possible that I'm reading too much into them. Forgive me if that's so.

This was the text of your admission that entailment-1 is a valid entailment

If by "could have" you mean "could have, given that X exists, is omnipotent, and chooses to make P true," then sure, I agree that your entailment in #1 is valid.
What exactly do you think I might have meant by "could have"?

You reference the three things, X's existence, omnipotence and essence as if they were somehow hidden assumptions. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Two are explicitly mentioned in the antecedent of the entailment. The third, that X exists, was implicit in my initial presentation, but my subsequent commentary could not have made it clearer that I consider it to be implicitly included.

Instead of my entailment-1, I might have started with this claim:

Given that X is omnipotent, and X chooses to make P true (and X exists), it follows that P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true.
In other words, I could have started with an exact transcript of the words in your admission.

Since these words imply entailment-1 (because A entails B just in case given A, B follows), my argument goes through exactly the same.

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

Second, that choice requires deliberation is probably radically anthropomorphic. It's not at all clear that any process of deliberation that we could recognize is needed for an omnipotent being to make a choice.

Are you saying that God's choice to exist was not deliberate? The only way I know to make sense of an nondeliberate choice is to say that a deliberate choice has unintended consequences. So for example I might choose to talk to Billy Sparks about his presuppositionalism, and this has the unintended consequence of drawing a criticism from you about agnosticism, which in turn leads to a long and drawn out argument about whether we can make coherent sense of the idea that God is somehow in control of the possible worlds where he exists. This was perhaps a nondeliberate choice on my part.

But this still involves a deliberate choice at its root, and so we have the same problem of God needing to exist before he can deliberate.

Third, even if what you say about choice and deliberation is true, it is not beyond God's ability do deliberate, choose and render true simultaneously (His being omnipotent, you know).

God cannot accomplish that which is incoherent, and to deliberate on a choice at the moment the choice is made is incoherent.

Regards,
Ben

"to deliberate on a choice at the moment the choice is made is incoherent."

Really? Argument?

I'm pretty sure that it's not incoherent for an omnipotent being to do whatever He likes with time.

Deliberation is a process of reasoning about how to act. It's possible that God simply sees how to act. I don't know. Maybe He does deliberate. Or maybe some other entirely unguessed at circumstance holds sway. I don't see why I must accept deliberation for choice in order to avoid contradiction.

(And of course, even if I do have to accept it, your contention about when the deliberation has to take place doesn't have a shadow of a leg to stand on.)

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

What exactly do you think I might have meant by "could have"?

Let's go back to your original list. Item #1:

1. "X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true" entails "P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"

Here is how I interpreted you:

1A. (X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true) ENTAILS (P is true, and for any Y which is not X, it is not the case that possibly Y has prevented P from being true)

But so interpreted, this entailment is obviously invalid. We need to add some additional stuff inside the "possibly" connective. You suggest adding that "X exists, is omnipotent, and chooses to make P true." Thus we have the following:

1B. (X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true) ENTAILS (P is true, and for any Y which is not X, it is not the case that possibly (X exists, is omnipotent and chooses to make P true, and Y has prevented P from being true))

Of course this entailment is trivial. The consequent will follow even if you don't assume the antecedent. And as I keep reminding you, this does not get you closer to showing that P is necessarily true.

Recall your latest suggestion:

Given that X is omnipotent, and X chooses to make P true (and X exists), it follows that P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true.

This is not what I described earlier. You have moved the assumptions to the left of "could have," but you need them on the right (just like in 1B the key assumptions are inside the possibly connective).

Regards,
Ben

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

Really? Argument?

I'm pretty sure that it's not incoherent for an omnipotent being to do whatever He likes with time.

Considering the competing possibilities in advance of one winning out over the others is simply part of what I MEAN by saying that a person deliberates. Is it not also part of what you mean? And deliberating is part of what I mean by choosing.

If these elements are not also part of what you mean, then I just don't know what you're talking about when you talk about God making a "choice."

Maybe that's my own failing. Just because I don't know what you mean doesn't mean you don't have something coherent in mind. But it seems more likely from my perspective that you don't have a coherent picture of what it means for God to make a choice.

But even if it really is my own failing, that still doesn't get you where you need to go. Suppose there is some relation, call it C (you can call it "choosing," or "causing," or whatever), such that God exists iff he C-relates to his existence. That still doesn't help you show that God exists necessarily. So presumably you want to endow the C-relation with some other properties. But what other properties?

Regards,
Ben

Well. I guess I was right about your still not really understanding entailment-1. The entailment you claim to be trivial is not what I said, and the entailment you claim to be obviously invalid is nothing of the sort. It's quite valid.

But it does trade on the meaning of "omnipotent". It's not just that no individual does prevent the actions of an omnipotent being. That's true, but there is more to be said. No individual can prevent the actions of an omnipotent being. A detail that you have thus far refused to acknowledge.

WisdomLover,

I agree that no individual can prevent the actions of an omnipotent being. But this does not help your argument, or make 1A valid.

It seems like you just want to assume in advance that the omnipotent being X exists in all possible worlds, which is blatantly circular. But if you consider a world W1 where X does not exist, nothing anyone does in W1 is going to prevent the actions of X since there are no actions of X in W1 to prevent!

So for instance if it is essential to the omnipotent being X which exists in the actual world that X acts to make P true, then P may still be false in W1, where X does not exist. In this case the antecedent of 1A is true but the consequent false, which means the entailment is invalid.

Regards,
Ben

Ben-

For the last time, entailment-1 does not assume that the omnipotent being exists in all worlds. It does assume that if He exists, and if He makes some proposition P true, then no other individual can prevent P.

When an omnipotent being chooses to do something, that has repercussions on which worlds even are possible. If an omnipotent being decides that there shall not be a magnetic monopole, then there just aren't any worlds with magnetic monopoles unless in those worlds, that omnipotent being exists and creates them Himself.

Now, if I may underscore one circularity in your reasoning which has infected it from early on.

What we are arguing about is whether it is the case that an omnipotent being (who is essentially disposed to choose His own existence) is necessary.

As such, you will forgive me for not countenancing any supposition that you make, for the sake of argument, where you are more-or-less saying "suppose that an omnipotent being (who is etc.) is not necessary." I agree that that supposition will undercut the conclusion I've been trying to argue for. I think it's apparent why.

So when you keep coming back to world W1 where the omnipotent being (who etc.) does not exist, you are really just begging the question. The issue is whether there is any such world.

WisdomLover,

You write:

If an omnipotent being decides that there shall not be a magnetic monopole, then there just aren't any worlds with magnetic monopoles unless in those worlds, that omnipotent being exists and creates them Himself.

That is quite false. We are free to posit a world W1 where the omnipotent being X does not exist and a magnetic monopole does exist.

Now, if I may underscore one circularity in your reasoning which has infected it from early on.

What we are arguing about is whether it is the case that an omnipotent being (who is essentially disposed to choose His own existence) is necessary.

As such, you will forgive me for not countenancing any supposition that you make, for the sake of argument, where you are more-or-less saying "suppose that an omnipotent being (who is etc.) is not necessary." I agree that that supposition will undercut the conclusion I've been trying to argue for. I think it's apparent why.

So when you keep coming back to world W1 where the omnipotent being (who etc.) does not exist, you are really just begging the question. The issue is whether there is any such world.

You misunderstand. I am not asserting that there certainly is a possible world W1 where X does not exist. Rather, I'm saying that for all we know there is a world W1 where X does not exist. To ignore this higher-order possibility is to engage in circular reasoning, which is what you've been inadvertently doing all this time.

It's your job to show that a world like W1 cannot exist, not to assume in advance that it doesn't.

Regards,
Ben

I do not assume in advance that it W1 does not exist. By the same token, I will not assume in advance that it does. It is precisely the possibility of such a world that is at issue.

Your use of it to show why entailment-1 is invalid, or to show that any other premise of my argument is untrue, is question begging for that very reason. I've given a valid argument whose premises are under debate. Your use of the denial of my conclusion to prove that any of my premises is invalid is, of course, question-begging.

It is not my job to show my premises are all true, even if a conclusion they imply is false.

That is an argumentative burden that even an omnipotent being could not shoulder.

We are free to posit a world W1 where the omnipotent being X does not exist and a magnetic monopole does exist.
Of course we are. We are even free to posit that that world is possible.

That, of course, does not make it so.

If you wanted to allow the possibility in question, the time to do so was before we supposed that an omnipotent being had acted to disallow the monopoles.

WisdomLover,

At this point you're just insisting that your argument is valid, and openly refusing to deal with those possibilities which "undercut the conclusion" you want to draw. Don't you see the problem with that approach?

Maybe I can try explaining it a different way. Consider an arbitrary possible world V. Since it is arbitrary, we do not yet know whether the omnipotent being X exists there. Let's say X exists in some other possible world A, and that it is essential to X that he choose to make P true. Obviously, in any world where we know that X exists, we know that P is true in that world. So for example, we know that P is true in A, because X exists in A.

But what about V? Is it true that P in world V? You want to say yes, but how do you know? We do not yet know whether X exists in V, right? So we cannot be sure that X asserts his omnipotence there. How, then, do you aim to show that P is true in V?

Regards,
Ben

I'm not assuming that X exists in other worlds nor will I assume that he does not.

What you are still not acknowledging is that the claim "X is omnipotent in W" has repercussions in worlds outside W.

It might turn out that because we've said that X is omnipotent in W, there are some things we simply can't assert to be true in other possible worlds.

"Omnipotent" isn't a modally neutral term like "green". Saying "X is green" seems to be logically independent of what's going on in non-actual worlds. Saying "X is omnipotent" is not logically independent of what's going on in non-actual worlds. X cannot be omnipotent in the actual world if there's even the unrealized possibility of X's being overpowered. Unrealized possibilities are inhabitants of non-actual possible worlds. Saying X is omnipotent in the actual world implies stuff about non-actual possible worlds.

If an omnipotent being exists, in fact, and, in fact, chooses to render P true, there simply aren't any worlds where someone (other than the omnipotent being) prevents the truth of P. If there is such a world, then the being in question simply isn't omnipotent.

WisdomLover,

You write:

What you are still not acknowledging is that the claim "X is omnipotent in W" has repercussions in worlds outside W.

I don't deny this. I only deny that it has the sort of repercussions you need to make your argument work.

X cannot be omnipotent in the actual world if there's even the unrealized possibility of X's being overpowered.

But I am not suggesting that X is overpowered in any possible world. I agree that is a clear violation of omnipotence. But to say that X is not overpowered in any possible world won't help your argument.

Recall the previous example about an arbitrary possible world V. We don't yet know whether X exists in V. If X exists at V, then certainly P is true at V. But if X does not exist at V, then how do we know P is true at V?

In other words, until we know whether X exists at V, how do we know that P is true at V?

If an omnipotent being exists, in fact, and, in fact, chooses to render P true, there simply aren't any worlds where someone (other than the omnipotent being) prevents the truth of P. If there is such a world, then the being in question simply isn't omnipotent.

But that's something you have to show. Asserting that there "simply aren't" such worlds won't cut it.

Regards,
Ben

Ben-

Not "is not overpowered", "cannot be overpowered".

1. Suppose V really is a possible world.
2. Suppose that X really is omnipotent.
3. Suppose that V does not include X.

By 1, V has a logically consistent world book.
By 2, X can make that world book true.
But by 3, X cannot make that world-book true, because according to that world-book, X never existed. One of our three assumptions is false.

I think, Ben, that in the end, what's bothering you is the fact that my conclusion is already contained in my premises. Fair enough. What else do you expect from valid argumentation?

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

By 2, X can make that world book true.

That is not true by any feasible definition of omnipotence. An omnipotent being X cannot make the proposition "X has never existed" true. Now, there is no apparent logical contradiction or incoherence involved with "X has never existed." Yet clearly X cannot make such a proposition true.

You suggested before that we use the following definition:

"X is omnipotent" = "X can make any logically possible proposition true"

But this is problematic for the reasons stated earlier. For instance, an omnipotent being might make a proposition true accidentally on your view, which violates a more natural understanding of omnipotence. Also, an omnipotent being cannot make pure logical tautologies true. For instance he cannot make it true that 2=2. And of course we have this additional problem where he cannot make it true that he never existed.

I suggested instead that we say X is omnipotent iff all of X's (coherent) wishes come true. This seems far more appropriate to the intuitive notion of what it means to be omnipotent.

Regards,
Ben

Now, there is no apparent logical contradiction or incoherence involved with "X has never existed."

No, no, none at all, apart from it being impossible for a being capable of bringing about any consistently describable state-of-affairs to make it true.

For instance, an omnipotent being might make a proposition true accidentally on your view, which violates a more natural understanding of omnipotence.

I don't know what this means.

Also, an omnipotent being cannot make pure logical tautologies true. For instance he cannot make it true that 2=2.

I don't see why what you're saying here is true. It would seem to be quite easy to make tautologies true. Why, I can do it.

And of course we have this additional problem where he cannot make it true that he never existed.

Which is a problem only when you start from the assumption that he is not a necessary being.

I suggested instead that we say X is omnipotent iff all of X's (coherent) wishes come true.

A definition of omnipotence of which I know only one proponent. Thomas and the broad tradition of Christian though has my definition. It is our God we are attempting to argue for, not anyone else's.

I might add that this term "coherent" as you are using it does not have a definite meaning. It's apparent that you don't simply mean "consistently describable" or some such. The closest I can get to it is that something is incoherent if it makes my head hurt to think about it.

From what I've gathered, when Ben says "incoherent" he means "I choose to dispute it".

WisdomLover,

No deity can satisfy the incoherent concept of omnipotence you have put forward. To defend it you have resorted to the claim that you can personally make it true that 2=2. This is unintelligible. You've also denied understanding what it means for something to be coherent, and what it means to do something accidentally. These moves seem very odd, to say the least.

Now if you don't like my definition, fine. We don't have to use it. But whatever definition we use, it has to at least be coherent.

In the mean time, this business of your definition somehow being the classical definition is quite false. I don't know anyone who has suggested that the definition of omnipotence is the ability to make any logically possible proposition true.

On the contrary, St. Augustine wrote in City of God that God "is called omnipotent on account of His doing what He wills." Aquinas wrote in Summa Theologica that God's omnipotence means that he "can do all things that are possible absolutely," by which he apparently means all things which are broadly logically possible. But I can find nothing in the works of Augustine, Aquinas, or any other famous theologian, about God making propositions true.

I think this conversation has run its course though. I don't feel like we're making any headway. So unless something unexpected comes up, this will likely be my last comment on the subject.

Regards,
Ben

Another thread where Ben offered his idea of omnipotence and incoherence.
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2012/03/why-does-god-let-us-suffer/comments/page/1/#comments

Just so that true views about Thomas are promulgated here:

It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely...Therefore, that which implies being and non-being at the same time is repugnant to the idea of an absolutely possible thing, within the scope of the divine omnipotence. For such cannot come under the divine omnipotence, not because of any defect in the power of God, but because it has not the nature of a feasible or possible thing. Therefore, everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms, is numbered amongst those possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent: whereas whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility.

From Summa Theologica Part 1, Quest. 25 Article 3 General Reply

Nor does the Wiki entry referencing Aquinas and Augustine acknowledge that God's omnipotence is of a whole with His other attributes, such that His omnipotence only makes sense in terms of the perfections of His omnibenevolence, omniscience, etc.
Yes, He can do as He wishes, but He wishes according to His nature.

Only God can bring someone to the realization of His Truth. Romans chapter 9 says basically that. Don't think of it in a temporal way. I apologize for butting in. You guys have been going at it for a while.

WisdomLover,

I take exception to your suggestion that I have somehow misrepresented Aquinas. On the contrary, as anyone can plainly see from reading your quote, he says nothing about making propositions true---exactly as I noted.

As far as I can tell, you're the only one here who has misrepresented Aquinas, by claiming that he is on board with your incoherent definition of omnipotence. Or did you have some other Thomas in mind when you wrote that "Thomas and the broad tradition of Christian though has my definition"?

So please don't falsely charge me with misrepresenting Aquinas. I merely quoted him, and noted that he did not mention your definition of omnipotence, much less agree with it.

Regards,
Ben

Just a couple final notes:

One

Many systems of deontic logic (the logic of moral obligation) treat all tautologies as obligatory. These same systems also uphold the principle that "ought implies can". That means that these deontic logics all countenance the idea that individuals can (and ought to) make tautologies true. Of course, this does not imply that anyone can make them false.

I suspect that not all of these systems of deontic logic are logically incoherent.

Two

When I said I didn't know what it meant to say that an omnipotent being accidentally makes a proposition true, I meant it. I honestly didn't understand what the charge was.

Since then, I think I may have hit on what Ben was suggesting: perhaps "accidentally" was being used in opposition to "essentially".

So perhaps Ben's charge is that I'm somehow committed to the idea that God's essence underdetermines His actions.

That may well be. Though I confess I don't see how.

But even if it is so, I'm not sure what the impact is. I think, in fact, that's a pretty standard view. Not every act God performs is a result of His essence. Some are free. I suppose that's somehow 'incoherent'.

In fact, if every action of God were necessitated by His essence, I think it would follow that there is only one possible world.

Nothing I've said, of course, rules out the idea that there is only one possible world, but I certainly would prefer to say that there is more than one. Fortunately, nothing I've said rules that out either.

Ben-

Please.

What sort of thing is it, exactly, that can imply a contradiction in terms?

It's a proposition, isn't it?

Besides, the key issue is not whether it's propositions made true, or states-of-affairs brought about, or events caused, or whatever.

It's abundantly obvious that every one of my arguments could have been restated, without loss, in terms of states-of-affairs, sets of possible worlds, events or what have you.

The key issue is whether the 'limit' on God's power is logical contradiction or some nebulous notion of 'incoherency'. Thomas makes it crystal clear that it's logical contradiction.

Now in fairness, you did attribute to Aquinas the view that absolute necessity is the same broad logical necessity. A view He probably would have accepted, and I certainly do. Broad logical necessity being, basically, analyticity. "X is a married bachelor" is not a direct contradiction in terms, but it is logically necessary in the broad sense.

I think Thomas would be comfortable with saying that omnipotence could not make a married bachelor any more than it could make a thing married and unmarried at the same time.

However, throughout the course of this thread you have mixed up the notions of broad logical impossibility and possibility (and hence necessity) with the notions of incoherency and coherency, which seem to be, largely, boo-hurrah terms. As such, the characterization you gave of Aquinas certainly could, in the overall context of this thread, be misleading about an essential feature of his view.

My fuller quotation of his remarks on the subject prevented that.

And, BTW, nothing in my arguments turns on the distinction between logical necessity in the strict sense and logical necessity in the broad sense.

My arguments cannot, of course, withstand arbitrary characterizations of incoherency.

Hi WL, your statement:

"In fact, if every action of God were necessitated by His essence, I think it would follow that there is only one possible world."
is one I believe is true because perfection is also essential in the nature of the Divine.

In the earlier comments about deliberation, as though God had to mull over the benefits vs. harms to decide what action to take. This would neither be omniscient nor perfection. R.C. Sproul says something that might make what I'm saying more clear, that is: "there is only one true being, all others are becoming".

When God spoke and things came into existence, in the specific way they did, no other option could have been considered. If it were otherwise, God would be different after making a deliberation, or, becoming.

Brad-

As I was trying to point out to Ben, I don't think God is like us. I don't think that God's choosing a thing requires that He take time to consider all the alternatives compare theme and decide which one to do. No time-consuming inference is needed.

For God, discovery, desire, inference, deliberation, choice and action can all be accomplished at the same moment. Indeed, when you listen to the medievals on this, in particular Thomas, all these different movements of the mind are one movement for God. I do think that some of these choices in God do spring from an essential disposition, I think the perfect rationality (and the perfect morality that, together with omnipotence and omniscience, that implies) of God requires this.

I have not argued, but I do not believe, that every action of God is necessitated by His essence in this way. Some actions are free.

One way to put this is that there might be many worlds in which God fulfills all of His moral obligations, but there can be only one of them that He actually creates. This is because the existence of more than one world implies contradiction. Remember worlds are little more than maximal consistent sets of propositions on my view. His choice of which of these sets of propositions to make true is free.

Flub in my penultimate reply to Ben:

"Broad logical necessity being, basically, analyticity. "X is a married bachelor" is not a direct contradiction in terms, but it is logically necessary in the broad sense."

Should have read:

"Broad logical necessity being, basically, analyticity. "X is a married bachelor" is not a direct contradiction in terms, but it is logically impossible in the broad sense."

Wisdom lover

Are you saying in the first part of your response to Brad that God's knowledge is more quantitative and more qualitative? His knowledge makes things what they are? It sounds similar to something I heard Bahnsen say in a lecture regarding Van Tii's perspective on Gods knowledge. If so, I agree with you. Anthropomorphic approaches to an understanding of God are usually unsuccessful. In a way, as humans we really can't help it to a certain extent. Just a thought.

Billy-

Well, I do think that God knows because He makes what He knows. That's the reason His knowledge is certain and infallible. And that is the only reason knowledge can be certain and infallible in the way that God's is. God is essentially omniscient: it is not possible for God to hold a false belief. To put it a little differently "God believes P" entails "P".

Alpha and omega?

Because He is the beginning and the end and everything in between it would have to be the case that "God believes P entails P. Would God ever believe or only always know?

I wanted to say that I found your debate with Ben to be interesting although I don't really understand much of the logic stuff. Do you think that atheist and agnostic are stances taken in contradiction to the individuals true convictions considering that the devils believe in God and tremble? People believe and try to hide behind ignorance because they are in rebellion? I don't think I have ever heard someone say, "There is a God, but I'm not gonna obey Him". Usually they say it can't be proven or it is irrational to believe.

Billy-

Certainly God knows, but knowledge implies belief. And the issue I was raising was whether God can ever be mistaken, i.e. hold a false belief. Obviously, that question is exclusively about belief.

On the issue of atheism vs. open rebellion against God, my experience is not wide enough to know what every person thinks.

The devils obviously do say "There is a God, but I'm not gonna obey Him". They are, of course, not human.

I will say that off the top of my head, I can think of a couple characters from art who say "I believe, but I won't obey".

One was in a rather execrable movie starring Mimi Rogers called The Rapture. I'm ashamed to admit that I saw that movie. At the time it was released, there was a lot of 'buzz' about it, OK.

In the final scene, the main character is standing at the threshold of heaven. The daughter she murdered is pleading with her to simply 'love God' and enter in. She refuses like the tragic hero she's supposed to be. It comes off a little more like a comic fool. (Honestly, I don't know why any shred of that movie remains in the chaotic lumberyard that serves as my memory.)

I imagine that the screenwriter of this unintentional comedy, Michael Tolkin, did find the main character's attitude somehow admirable.

Another character is from a somewhat better source: Dostoevsky's The Brother's Karamozov.

Ivan (the second of the three legitimate sons of Fyodor Karamozov), after a fulsome cataloging of evils in the world says that it is not that He does not accept God, but that he chooses to 'return the ticket' (whatever that means). The chapter in which he does this is aptly named "Rebellion".

Ivan follows that up with a short story he has composed called "The Grand Inquisitor". This is sometimes published separately from the main title. In it, the second-coming of Jesus is captured by the Inquisition and sentenced to be burnt (in an enigmatic ending, Christ kisses the inquisitor and is released). The Grand Inquisitor alleges that Christ actually gave the wrong answer to each of the temptations the Devil gave and that the church is really on the Devil's side.

Interestingly, rather than believe in Ivan's open rebellion against God, and more ambiguous siding with the Devil, most people in the story prefer to believe he is an atheist. That's also a pretty common view among readers of the book. I'm no literary critic, but I took Ivan at his word.

So it's a mirror image of the case you think is common or even universal Billy.

Of course, the book is fiction, maybe none of those attitudes are really met with in life. Unlike Tolkin, who might have agreed with his protagonist's viewpoint, Dostoevsky probably did not share in Ivan's rebellion.

The Brothers Karamozov is a masterpiece of memorable characters. It says something about our world, that the thing people remember most about the novel are those two chapters of Ivan inveighing against God. On balance, that might give credence to your view Billy.

WisdomLover

I am not familiar with either of those titles except for reading what you wrote here. They seem to be interesting story lines. I think that after God "opened my eyes" and I began to view life from a Christian perspective, I wanted my friends who were not saved to be able to enjoy the new freedom that I had in Christ. This was not met with the acceptance that I had hoped for and so the conflict that seems to arise with some people is somewhat discouraging. I have tried to understand why it is that some people believe and some don't. This verse comes to mind: John 10:26 also 2 Timothy 2:10. Apologetics is something that I want to become more proficient at, but I also feel like God has to be the "eye opener".

I thank you for the time you have taken to respond to my comments. God Bless you.

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