Many skeptics of omnipotence, when faced with the concept, at first try to appeal to the supposed fact that any compound of the ontologies of ‘all’ and ‘power’ necessarily results in a concept of power which stands in adversarial relation to all ontologies, including to the ontology of power.
They think that if an omnipotent entity can be shown to be able to undermine itself, then this shows that omnipotence cannot coherently be defined, and, therefore, that omnipotence is an irrational object which is constructed by a sort of superstitious mind which fails to be consistent with itself. So, the position of these skeptics is that omnipotence shows that omnipotence is incoherent.
But, if one maintains the supposedly ‘initial’ position that the necessary conception of omnipotence includes the ‘power’ to compromise both itself and the possibility of knowledge, and if one concludes from this ‘position’ that omnipotence is epistemologically incoherent, then one implicitly is asserting that one’s own ‘initial’ position is incoherent. So, in fact, this ‘conclusion’ is simply a description of that ‘initial’ position.
Moreover, such an ‘initial’ position already presupposes that the omnipotent entity is, prior to any ‘task’, in a state of coherence both with itself and with the possibility of knowledge. This is why the skeptic tries to test the concept of omnipotence in terms of tasks which compromise that state, rather than in terms of what it may be supposed that the omnipotent entity already is doing.
But, once the skeptic admits that his own supposedly ‘initial’ position may well be unjustifiable, he appeals to the logically neutered concept of logically possible tasks: there are many logically possible tasks which nevertheless are incapable of being accomplished by an omnipotent entity without compromising its omnipotence. A favorite such task is that of producing a mass which its producer cannot lift. A human can produce such a mass, since a human is not omnipotent.
“So,” the skeptical argument goes, “if an omnipotent entity cannot produce a mass which that entity cannot lift, then there is a logically possible task which that entity cannot accomplish.” But, there is an inconsistency in this skeptical appeal to logically neutered logically possible tasks: it is logically possible for a human to increase in strength, whether in direct strength or in augmented strength, and thereby lift a mass which that human once could not lift. So, unless the skeptic allows the omnipotent entity the same possibility (to increase its strength and thereby lift that mass), then the skeptic’s appeal to logically neutered ‘logically possible tasks’ is inconsistent on its own neutered terms.
Given that all minds most implicitly conceive omnipotence as that which is initially in a state of inherent coherence both with itself and with the possibility of knowledge, there is the question of whether:
1) to posit that identity and, thus, knowledge is superior to, and independent of, the power of an omnipotent entity;
2) to posit that identity and knowledge is most truly and uniquely inherent in an omnipotent entity.
The skeptic of omnipotence is determined to find any and every means by which to seem to himself to justify his favoring of 1). And, in fact, given the extent to which it is logically possible for a synthetic, contingent knower to reason incoherently, there is virtually no limit to the ‘logical’ resources by which he can confirm to himself the seeming soundness his foolish bias.
In short, the complexity involved in understanding omnipotence is a function of the fact that there exists a host of variably complex things which omnipotence is not.
‘OMNIPOTENCE VS. KNOWLEDGE’
Many atheists today think that the concept of omnipotence is irrational and incoherent.
But, it seems that the concept of omnipotence is compulsory per our knowledge of limited concrete entities: we humans, who are knowers, in knowing that even ourselves are concretely limited, we presuppose an entity which is not limited by other concrete entities. I’m referring here to the natural initial concept of omnipotence.
But, to understand omnipotence as the ontological contrast to limited entities, we must take into account the means necessarily by which limited entities are limited. Both skepticism against, and superstitious favoritism for, omnipotence all-but-ignores these means, by preferring to focus on tasks which an omnipotent entity, by its initial defined state, is supposed to be able to accomplish.
So, in fact, it is by the natural initial concept of omnipotence that it even is possible for anyone to disagree as to what the concept of omnipotence implies: what is its relation not only to all other concrete objects, but to the possibility of knowledge? Is knowledge, and, thus, identity, superior to, and independent of, the power of an omnipotent entity? Or, instead, does truest identity, and truest knowledge, inhere uniquely in an omnipotent entity?
But, from a skepticism which is out to prove, by rational means, that omnipotence is an irrational concept, it may, at first, appear that the most deliberately narrow-minded of ‘rational’ definitions of omnipotence is entirely coherent or rational: the ability to accomplish any task which, without regard for any definition of entity of which the task is required, may coherently be defined as a task. This definition of omnipotence seems, by its own explicit terms, to strictly preclude logical explosion. It therefore constitutes the attempt to construct, as a rational object, a definition of omnipotence for the purpose of demonstrating that any rational definition of omnipotence necessarily leads to showing that the natural initial concept of omnipotence necessarily is an irrational object, that is, a superstitious construct of the mind which does not otherwise exist.
Strictly within this skeptical explicit definition of omnipotence, an omnipotent entity is that which can accomplish any genuine task without regard for any natural rational implications of omnipotence, such as that omnipotence is logically irreducible and concretely inviolable. Thus, the omnipotent entity, as skeptically-but-‘rationally’ defined, is one which concretely is allowed not only to exceed or reduce any limited entity, but to exceed or reduce even itself. It may not make a square circle, but it may create a rock too heavy for it to lift; it may not make infinity identical to finitude, but it may cause both itself and all concrete objects forever to cease to exist. So, such a definition of omnipotence is the attempt to show that, even within entirely rational constraints, the initial concept of omnipotence is irrational or superstitious.
The problem with this ‘simple’ skeptical-but-rational definition of omnipotence is that there is a question as to the inviolability of the definition on its own terms. Does the definition, either given or despite its explicit form, inherently implicitly preclude logical explosion? For example, once the omnipotent entity creates a rock which it cannot lift, does the definition no longer hold? In other words, may the omnipotent entity at some point acquire the power to lift that rock? Such is a logically possible task, since even a human, who is a limited entity, is able to increase in power, such as by lifting weights or growing up, or by augmenting its power by making machines that do most or all of the lifting.
So, unless this skeptical-but-rational definition of omnipotence holds no matter what the omnipotent entity does in relation to its own power, then there is question as to whether the definition is coherent to begin with, or, instead, is ultimately arbitrary, and immediately specious and ad-hoc. In other words, what, in terms of all rational objects, is the initial state of the omnipotent entity so defined? Because, if that explicit definition is inconsistent with the natural initial conception of omnipotence, then that definition misrepresents an omnipotent entity as a limited entity, by mentally—and at first inconsistently—subsuming the omnipotent entity to the identity/definition of a limited entity.
But, even when it is admitted that this simplest ‘rational’ of skeptical definitions of omnipotence is incoherent in terms of the natural initial conception of omnipotence, it becomes natural to imagine that at least a deliberately irrational definition of omnipotence will hold up under at least its own irrational terms: logically explosive power.
But, the ‘first’ problem with ‘defining’ omnipotence as logically explosive is that there is then allowed no way actually to define the initial state of omnipotence in terms of its relation to rational, identifiable objects: just in the case that an entity in which inheres logically explosive power exists, there is for that case no such thing as a rational object, including its own initial state, since a rational object is defined as being inviolably knowable to be what it is, even if, like all synthetic entities, it may be such a thing as to be concretely violable/reducible: a given limited concrete entity, whatever shape, or whatever quantity of parts, it is, may be demolished. So, is omnipotence a rational object? Because, if it is not a rational object, then it is not co-extensive with ‘logic’, and thus its only rational definition is that it is logically explosive even in its initial state: it cannot be defined at all to begin with, despite that its definition is logically compulsory as the contrast to limited entities. It is, in short, anti-identifiable. This is what ‘absolutely irrational power’ means.
But, the deeper problem with ‘defining’ omnipotence as irrational, logically explosive, or anti-identifiable, is that this means that in order for it to be valid on its own terms, the very idea of ‘all identities’ must include even the negation of given positive identities (in which these negations as irrational objects), else it is allowed that such negations are proper states of affairs (proper objects) that are ontologically and epistemologically independent of their respective positive identities/rational objects.
But, most importantly, the motive for re-defining omnipotence as logically explosive is that the possibility of knowledge is felt to constitute a genuine, inviolable privilege of power which the skeptical knowing creature may withhold from being effected by the omnipotent entity, and therewith seeming to demonstrate that omnipotence is impossible. This, despite that the knowing creature admits that itself, along with its knowledge, may be caused to cease to exist. The question, then, is whether this creature deems it possible for an omnipotent entity to cause all knowers to cease to exist, because there is the matter of whether to deem an omnipotent entity, as such, to be a knower. Because, if an omnipotent entity, as such, it is not a knower, then it does not know what power is in any sense, nor that itself is supposed to have the power of logical explosion.
But, if an omnipotent entity is deemed to be a knower, and if also it is deemed to have logically explosive power, then what can the deemer really say that that entity knows? Does it even know what a limited entity is, much less the means necessarily by which a limited entity is limited? Because, given the preceding thoughts. the limited, knowing, creature seems easily not to know even that much, except phenomenally. And, phenomenal knowledge does not equal knowledge of anything which is necessarily, inviolably true. In fact, if all knowers are synthetic to the things they know, then the concept of non-phenomenal knowledge is as irrational and incoherent as what many atheists think the concept of omnipotence is.
The truth about that of which we are made, and of what entity it is that made us, is not our need to plumb, but to enjoy and live by. The depth of the complexity of all that we are, and of all that which is not ourselves, is a gem of the most exquisite sparkle and coloration; not to be smashed for its real, much less seeming, flaws, but to be faceted and polished. There is much error. But, that which points out an error must not itself be another error, else a small theft be the rationalization for a much greater theft. Not all computer files are written by the same program, for the same details of purpose, so not just any arrogant program can read or correctly display a given file. When something seems amiss to us fallen creatures, part of what it is that is amiss is ourselves. The hand was made not for pointing accusing fingers, but for work and worship and love. Judgmentalism is the friend only of misjudgment.
According to http://www.ovrlnd.com/Questions/Godandthebigrock.hml, irrational objects cannot be rationally discussed. But, even if irrational objects cannot be rationally discussed, their origins in human cognitive psychology certainly can be rationally discussed. The pages of this blog are an attempt to rationally discuss those origins.
A person is behaving cognitively lax to assert that omnipotence must, as a particular compound of power and all-ness, include power which stands alien to the possibility of knowledge, that is, to the ‘logic’ or ‘law’ of identity-and-mind. So, a person is cognitively even more lax to assert that a single entity with such so called power exists: an entity which can make anything to be identified as anything, such as a square which is a circle, or any normally contingent or trivial fact to be a different fact without the matter of the fact being changed.
Now, a person who asserts only the first is more able to see the laxness of the person who asserts the second than to see his own laxness. But, when this relative laxness is pointed out to him, he may begin to see the workings of his own laxness. And, you can be sure that those workings are far more organized, and explicable, than may appear to anyone who first takes up the task of explicating it to him.
To start with, we conceive the idea of omnipotence, divine or otherwise, as immediately coherent. In other words, the concept of omnipotence initially obtains in our minds as a rational object or construct.
Only by posing irrational challenges, skeptically or otherwise, to the rational object of the initial concept of omnipotence may it seem to us that that object itself casts an irrational shadow: the potential of an omnipotent agent to make irrational objects.
In only somewhat sensing the immediate coherence of the concept of omnipotence, some people wonder if an omnipotent agent has so much power as to exceed, or otherwise compromise, its own power. Of course, such thinking is even possible only because the thinker knows of the logics, the descriptions, of limited agents. But, without recognizing the owners of those logics, these people then think that for an agent to meaningfully be omnipotent, that agent must subsume logic. But, the accurate description of this subsuming of logic to omnipotence is that the omnipotence is being subsumed to the logic. In short, irrational reconstructions of the concept of omnipotence are the cognitive act of subsuming the concept of omnipotence to irrational objects.
Given the complexity of the Cosmos, and of the contingent observer, it is axiomatic that the obverse of the law of identity includes a complex reverse: a thing not only is only what it is, it also is not all those things which it is not. But, given the possible combinations of knowledge and ignorance regarding a given topic, any number of various conflations of the two sides of this axiom is possible regarding that topic. Further, given the extent of ignorance possible regarding a topic, the extent of this conflation can be so deep that a person may have a virtually unlimited body of ‘logic’ upon which to seem to confirm the ignorant ‘soundness’ of a favored position. One of these topics is omnipotence.
So, the complexity in understanding omnipotence is largely a function of the fact that there is a host of things, and, thus, of logics, which omnipotence is not.
Beyond that complex reverse of identity, there is the concern of us limited cognizing agents for cognitive efficiency, with the aim of maximizing our favored ideas while minimizing our disfavored ones. Enter the notion of power as the mere idea of ‘something bringing something about’, or ‘simply power’.
The mentally most simple, cognitively least demanding, idea of power is that of the ability to bring about a particular state of affairs that does not obtain prior to the act of bringing it about. This idea of power is a fully generalized abstraction from actual kinds of powers. We abstract it similar to how we abstract generalizations in math. Whether we add two pair of shoes, or one pair of shoes and one of socks, there is a particular sense that stays the same: four objects. Similarly, whether we observe a hammer as it strikes a nail, or the nail as it goes into wood, the most singular sense is always the same: something brings something about: ‘simply power’.
But, ‘simply power’ is the fully ambiguated, or logically indifferent, sense of the idea of power. It doesn’t say anything that we don’t already know: It can’t tell us that tornados cannot blow 2+2 up into 5, nor that human wishful-ness cannot cause tornadoes to cease. In fact, ‘simply power’ says much less than we already know if we think that it is sufficient to understanding any act of power: It can’t tell us that the logical potential to accidentally trip and hit your head is not strictly an example of power, but of a lack of the cognitive power to coordinate a less-than-perfectly-coordinated body sufficient to prevent accidents. Moreover, ‘simply power’ cannot tell us that the ontology, the concrete essence, of power is concretely neither the idea of ‘potential’ or the concreteness of action; so, it can’t tell us what we most implicitly know about power: that power is an agent, and that there is, in fact, nothing which is not an agent. So, simple ‘power’ cannot tell us that the kind of agent that a particular agent is is what determines what powers it has, or, rather, is.
So, to use the idea of ‘simply power’ as the singular metric for identifying potentials and actions of power, while being consistent on its own terms, nevertheless is ‘epistemologically adverse’: it is logically indifferent to the nature of the relations between results and their causes. It then becomes nothing but the idea of ‘effect’. So, to say that ‘power is defined in terms of its effects’ is to define power essentially as an adversarial relationship to the constitution of entities, rather than as a kind of entity in itself. In fact, if the ontology of power were ‘simply power’, then power would not be anything in itself, but would consist purely in the fact that something changes. This, in turn, would mean that nothing could be held a priori exempt from being changed, including mathematical sums and other kinds of logical entailment.
So, the idea that power is ‘simply power’ is the idea that power is identified purely by empirical observation that something has changed. This idea of power is, in effect, the idea that power is merely the idea of power, or of blind change of (mis)fortune, with no real source.
‘Simply power’ is logically indifferent. So, this notion of power can seem logically all-purpose. But, it is logically no-purpose, because it is epistemologically passive: it cannot tell us the nature of the relations between causes and their effects, nor the nature of causes as agents. At worst, this notion of power is nothing but the idea of ‘effect’, making it the seemingly perfect attack dog of the sort of atheists who are novices in matters of philosophical and cognitive logic.
Now, ‘simply power’, or simple agency, is the root of the paradoxical intuition about omnipotence, by which omnipotence is ‘proved’ to be irrational. But, such ‘proof’ is nothing but a description of this irrational re-conception of omnipotence.
Simple agency, or ‘simply power’, constrains our notion of omnipotence to be formulated as an agent which must be anti-identifiable except in terms of simple agency. But, this means that, for the anti-identifiable conception of omnipotence to be valid on its own terms, the very idea of ‘all identities’ must include even the negation of given positive identities, else it is allowed that such negations are proper states of affairs that are ontologically and epistemologically independent of their respective positive identities.
One may think that the idea of an omnipotent agent exceeding its power to lift things means ‘logic’ is subsumed to omnipotence. But, actually it means omnipotence is subsumed to the description of the nature of (the ‘logic’) of limited agents.
Limited agents are so not in the merest fact/idea that they are so, but in the causes of their limitations: contingence, synthesis, and mutually dependence. They each are made of other, limited agents; the mutual bonds of which are not immutable; and the whole of which, as its own kind of limited agent, depends for its maintenance on a specific relation to an environment comprised of a host of other agents each of which is in some ways more powerful that it. This is how limited agents can multiply themselves, and can make other agents which are in some ways more powerful than themselves.
So, Curly plays Robin Hood’s sidekick: Grabbing for an arrow, he gets two at once without realizing it. Oblivious to having two, he nocks ‘the arrow’ to his bow, releasing ‘it’, and seeing one hit the Bull’s Eye while the other goes into the grass. In all his ‘observational acuity’, he says, ‘Hey, Mo! The target just split in half!’
The immediate coherence of the concept of omnipotence is what gives the sense that omnipotence is paradoxical: its immediate coherence is felt to pose an external, or otherwise genuine, constraint on the power of an omnipotent agent. But, such a ‘constraint’ allows us to conceive omnipotence in the first place, because the possibility of definitions is the possibility of knowledge. What is most telling is the motive behind why anyone would think that omnipotence must be, at once, dominative and subordinate in relation to their own ‘omnipotence of thought’.
But, if this dichotomy between omnipotence and its own logic is false, then why would anyone so mistake them? I think the reason is simple: an anthropomorphic, and even male-omorphic, projection of dissatisfaction with the kinds and amounts of power which oneself has in this disharmonious, and ultimately fatal, world. In fact, aside from their conclusions that there is no such thing as an omnipotent agent, these sorts of atheists seem implicitly to argue in favor of a fanciful entity which effectively exercises power exactly as they could wish. Since this ‘omnipotent’ agent is supposed both to be superior to all things, whether rational or irrational, and, by its own agency, to be logically subject to all logics, then this entity essentially is subordinate both to any rational thing and every irrational thing. I get the impression that these sorts of atheists wishe to have, or otherwise to access, a power that arbitrarily could get rid of the problems in their lives: if such an entity existed, then perhaps it could be persuaded to do their bidding, even to save the world from the consequences of its own wrong thinking while swiftly punishing anyone who refuses to abide their own version of right thinking.
In seeming to find it epistemologically required that the logic of the immediate coherence of the concept of omnipotence be viewed in dichotomous, or adversarial, relation to the concept, some atheists find it natural to actually pit power and logic against each other to see which one wins. But, any genuine contest requires a neutral, or otherwise common, standard, and, since no such standard is forthcoming for this contest, one or the other fully ambiguated contestants (logic and power) is presumed to serve as judge. After all, if some neutral or common standard were presumed to exist, then there would be some doubt, to say the least, as to how to determine the winner, much less how to convince anyone else that the winner has, indeed, won.
But, only if power, as such, cannot be identified to exist can power rightly be thought not to be co-extensive with ‘logic’ in any sense.
If an omnipotent agent already is more powerful than itself, so as to create a stone out of…nothing that’s too heavy even for it to lift, then it already is just that powerful, meaning its power to create that stone is identical to its power to lift that stone. This doesn’t make complete sense, but the point is that even in the process of ‘proving’ that the concept of omnipotence is immediately incoherent, one actually concludes that it is immediately coherent, and that the only difference is that this process is forced to this conclusion by a perfectly irrational route to its own unwilling end, with a perfectly unwelcome set of things included in that end.
Now, what is the metaphysical set called ‘omnipotence’? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on omnipotence asks:
If there are states of affairs that an omnipotent agent is powerless to bring about, then how is the notion of omnipotence intelligibly to be defined?
But, what is this thing called ‘states of affairs’? What, exactly, is a state of affairs? How is it defined? Try this definition:
Let a and b be mutually contra se. Therefore, ab (a+b) is not a state of affairs. Further, let a be a logically or ontologically necessary state of affairs. Therefore, b is not a state of affairs.
This definition of the term ‘state of affairs’ is a definition-by-negation. That is, it shows what a state of affairs most essentially is not.
But, in attempting to define omnipotence by posing kinds of tasks for it to perform, many people assume that an instance of its power must be in producing non-states-of-affairs. The initial error of such attempts is the assumption that the contra se of either logically or ontologically necessary states of affairs are, themselves, states of affairs. They are not.
But, there is a deeper hypocrisy in these attempts than in treating non-states-of-affairs as states of affairs. Namely, that, while the power of omnipotence is presumed to be pure agency, the right is reserved to take for granted that empirically identified powers have qualities beyond that they are agents. You see, if real powers were mere agency, then, any real power would have every imaginable quality of power over all kinds of states of affairs. For examples: a bird, as an agent, could pick worms out of philosophy of metaphysics problems; a tornado could blow 2+2 up into 5; a hammer could pound the dents out of one’s own erroneous reasoning.
So, in defining omnipotence, a typical strategy of atheists (and more than a few domineering-ist theists) is to identify power in terms of negating states of affairs, while at the same time implicitly granting that known powers are not, themselves, negations of themselves. The definition of omnipotence arrived at, while being consistent up to a point, may be called negative power, or negative omnipotence. The intuitively sensible view, of course, is that omnipotence cannot be subject to being compromised, whether by other powers or by itself.
But, some narrow-mindedly ‘logical’ thinkers insist on pointing out that, if omnipotence is qualified as ‘lacking the power’ to bring about a state of affairs in which its power is exceeded or compromised, yet humans undeniably do have the power to exceed or compromise their own powers. Such thinkers find this contrast to be (yet another) telling proof that omnipotence is logically impossible. But, this is like ignorantly misassembling a bicycle and then, when it fails to function as expected, concluding that bicycles, by their very nature, cannot work.
The short answer to the seemingly paradoxical contrast between God’s power and our power is that we are synthetic agents, in a synthetic environment of other agents, and we are not the most powerful agents in every way in our environment. This is how you can make something which is, in some ways, more powerful than you are. You can make a dead-fall that’s so heavy that, if you were to be under it when it fell, you would not be making any more dead-falls. You can make a two-wheeled machine that can acclerate so fast by its internal power that, if you were to be riding it when it accelerated to its maximum, you’d best be very firmly attached lest you polish several dozen yards of the road with your butt.
Now, in presuming that omnipotence must be negative power, it is not realized that a true, or consistent, mental modeling of such power precludes all tasks: nothing can be posed as a legitimate task upon it since, if such a power existed, then, from it’s own point of view, there would ‘already‘ be no such thing as legitimacy; no such thing as se, and, thus, no contra se. No before-and-after. No cause-and-effect. No you-or-me. No ‘sense’, and no ‘nonsense’. No ‘act’ and no ‘lack of action’. Neither ‘greater’ nor ‘lesser’. No ‘some’, no ‘all’, and no ‘all-is-one’. Whatever is identifiable in any terms, it means nothing to this…all-‘power’.
So, in other words, any supposed identification of negative omnipotence in terms of power is an implicit self-contradiction on the part of the person who thinks to so identify it in the first place. It is like an act of seeing a series of positive whole numbers the order of which places them in a line that goes off into an ‘unseeably great distance’, and then subtracting as many of these numbers as you have the nearsigthtedness to see. The key question is just how far that line of numbers really goes? The answer is that it ends much closer than people think. Right under their noses.
In short, logic cannot identify negative omnipotence in terms of anything at all, including in terms of power as a state of affairs.
For us limited cognizing agents, abstraction is the neurological function of allocating the least possible explicit knowledge of, and, hence, the least neurological energy to, the correspondence between the abstraction and the complex of facts from which the abstraction is abstracted. In other words, our thoughts and ideas, including our processes of forming ideas from percepts, is a matter of efficiency in the use of limited active cognitive resources.
In so far as a given depth of a priori knowledge requires little, if any, cognitive energy to apply either to concepts or to practical and empirical pursuits, a priori knowledge is ignored or forgotten by the conscious mind. This is like having become such a proficient driver that we no longer even remember what it was like for us to learn to drive.
But, in a world of so many pressing concerns, a priori knowledge can be forgotten to such an extent that, upon being consciously introduced to it through various words and their psychological baggage, a person may fail to recognize it as a priori. When this happens, the particular a priori knowledge easily is viewed as useless, trivial, or even arbitrary. In other words, a person can be as much as completely insensible to some aspect of his own most implicitly important knowledge. And, this means that the most a priori knowledge can be difficult to prove to someone who has become predisposed against its conscious forms, not because he lacks this knowledge on an implicit level, but because he possess it only so subtly compared to all his other, far more energy-intensive, and promising, concerns.
Imagine your bicycle is omnipotent. ‘But,’ you may say, ‘what could an omnipotent bicycle do? It’s just an inanimate object with wheels.’ Right, just like an omnipotent roll of toilet paper, but much better at getting you down the road. The point is, it’s possible, in a sense, to imagine omnipotence without at the same time imagining that the thing which is imagined to be omnipotent is animate.
A basic question is whether an omnipotent bicycle can do anything in the first place? Even a notebook computer, which has no wheels, can at least do math problems once you turn it on. A bicycle just sits there unless someone makes it move.
But, what about that computer? If a computer were omnipotent, what could it do? Could it roll down the road? Could it even roll away from you in the bathroom? Of course, it can do math, but does that mean it can make 2+2=5? Can it retrieve that roll of paper for you? In other words, does an omnipotent computer know when something is amiss? Or, maybe it already knows that 2+2 equal 5. And, maybe it knows that you don’t need any paper despite that you know you do. After all, it’s omnipotent, so it can simply make it so, right?
But, forget your bicycle. I have a motorcycle. It’s a speed bike. When I throttle it, it’s all I can do just to hang on. It’s so powerful, if I’m not careful, it could treat me to an ‘all-you-can-eat asphalt buffet’.
What if my motorcycle were omnipotent? It already has a motor, so it’s a lot more powerful than your pedal bike. If my motorcycle were omnipotent, what would happen when I turned it on? Could it be turned off? Could I drive it down the road at infinite velocity, and if so, could it allow me to stay on it? If it really is genuinely omnipotent, can it make 2+2=5? Can it have a sense of humor? Does it, by virtue of being omnipotent, already possess omnipresence? Why not? It’s omnipotent. It can do anything, right? It can already know everything, right? Why not? Does it know that omnipotence is (according to some people) logically impossible? What really all is implicitly included in the concept of omnipotence?
In questions of omnipotence, it’s typical to define power in terms of the generalization of actual powers: simple agency. Simple agency is the ability to effect something, to change a state of affairs. But, that’s an abstraction of power, not an actual power. When omnipotence is thought of in terms of simple agency, the kind of conception of omnipotence which is constructed is one of negation: an agent capable of effecting exhaustively every sensible thing, including itself (hence, such an agent is not sensible: an incoherent abstraction, two mutually exclusive abstractions under one vanity plate).
But, in the real world, people reserve the right to assume that real powers have real kinds of qualities beyond simple agency. If simple agency were the fullest essence of power, then any kind of agent could effect anything in any way and to any degree: a tornado could throw 2+2 up into a billion; a hammer could pound the ‘dents’ out of your inconsistent thinking; and a roll of toilet paper could roll away from you at infinite velocity, causing itself to laugh it’s head off.
Interestingly, if power is defined as the ability to change a state of affairs, and if our ignorance about something is a state of affairs, then by what power is our ignorance changed to knowledge? Answer: by the power which is knowledge itself. Knowledge is a kind of power. Literally. Without some knowledge to begin with, you can’t tell truth from fallacy, consistency from contradiction, joy from pain. But, you can, so you, yourself, are a kind of power.
You are a knower, not just a learner. You don’t just sit there being spoon-fed information, like a computer being programmed. You actually know things to begin with, things beyond what you are told. You actually learn things beyond the actual forms of the input. In fact, you know essential kinds of things. To begin with. That’s how you can have a sense when something is amiss.
But, getting a sense that something is amiss does not preclude mixing things up. The task is to know exactly what is amiss from what is not amiss, so that you divide up a problem in such a way that you keep the errors separate from the truths. Even the simplest problems are complex, because any given thing implies other things which are not stated.
Imagine there’s a sign up the road that says, ‘Have power. Will challenge.’ An arrow below the sign points down a driveway. At the end of the driveway is a hulk of a man. He’s standing there looking angry, waiting for anyone to accept his offer to being challenged. You go down there and challenge him to a game of chess. He laughs at you and says, ‘Ok’. You sit down at a bench and begin to play chess. You end up winning, and just as when you’re calling checkmate, he grabs an enormous metal bar from behind him and smashes the chess board, shouting, ‘I win!’ When you object to his notion of how to win at chess, he walks over to his truck and, to your astonishment, picks it up over his head and drops it on the chess board, which, along with a now-very-smashed bench, disappears under the truck.
The realm of knowledge is like that chess board, and the realm of…’power’ is like that man. But, since knowledge itself is really a kind of power…
…omnipotence is not simply ‘power’ in the mere, synthetic physical way that we most naturally imagine. Omnipotence is also…
So, omnipotence is like that radio talk show guy whose face you ever see only after you’ve become familiar with his voice, so that, when you finally do see him, he doesn’t look much like you imagined. Omnipotence is like that; it doesn’t look much like it sounds.
If knowledge really is a kind of power, then omnipotence naturally includes every kind of knowledge. So, what about your bicycle? It’s not a knower to begin with, so if it were omnipotent, could it know anything? Why not? If omnipotence is exhaustively all kinds of power, then there can be no exceptions as to what kinds of power it includes.
So, if your bicycle were genuinely omnipotent, then it would be able to roll down the road by itself, whenever it chose, and never fall over. And, if it chose, it couldn’t be stopped. Even if you cried your eyes out. Omnipotence implies that the omnipotent object knows things. It knows that gravity tips over bicycles which roll by themselves. It knows that 2+2=4. It knows that it is not really a bicycle at all, since it can do anything that’s logically possible to do, without regard for the ‘fact’ that it is a bicycle (it’s in no sense limited to what a bicycle can do).
So, the basic question about omnipotence is not a generic ‘What is omnipotence?’, but rather, ‘What is this set called “all power”? But, if simple agency is the definition which must be used to define “all power”, then how is omnipotence allowed to be less than every last thing that there is which has any power at all? If you claim to know that in order for a power to be genuinely omnipotent, it must include the power to change essential knowledge, then I call your claim and raise you one: it’s not “all” power if it’s not every instance of every thing that has any kind of power at all. That’s by your rules.
In short, if you claim such a thing about omnipotence, then you don’t know all the cards in your own deck. And, you’re so near-sighted that even when you do see the face that belongs to that radio voice, you see it only as a perfectly ambiguous blur. And, I’m not done showing you all the cards, so sit back down.
So, again, what, in the real world, is this set called ‘omnipotence’? Is it an empty set, a rational equivalent to a Circular Firing Squad?
Or, rather, is omnipotence every kind of power, every kind of agency, and each in indefatigable amount?
And, whence the procession of time? Does time simply proceed, of its own? Or, by contrast, does time proceed from something else, by some (other) power? Time expands, inexplicably, one moment after another, from seemingly nowhere. Like an endless series of rabbits out of a hat, or doves out of a sleeve.
If time is quantized, then out of what, or by what power, are more of them continually appearing? Or, if time is infinitely divisible, then the same question obtains. The answer, in either case, seems to me the same: out of the ever-present, everywhere-present, timeless, spaceless, massless, singularity. In other words, there is a genuine ‘nothing’, and through it all power flows, from God, into what is. Ex Nihilo.
If omnipotence must be defined as a negative, then it cannot be consistently defined. In other words, there is no such thing as negative agency. It’s an entire, pure contradiction: people who think that omnipotence includes the power to change itself, its own qualit(y)(ies), are contradicting themselves. That’s because there is such a thing as power. Power really does exist, so it’s a positive, not a negative. It has qualities beyond a generalization of agency. If it didn’t have actual qualities, then a knowledge of what power is could never tell you, say, that birds cannot pick worms out of misconstrued concepts, much less thereby correcting the kind of thinking which misconstrued them.
It’s possible to imagine omnipotence without at the same time imagining that an omnipotent being must be a being which knows things. But, omnipotence naturally implies that the omnipotent being has the power to know things. Everything. So, if we are to know all of that which is implicit in the concept of omnipotence, then we must ask what it is that makes possible our own power to learn. Essential knowledge is a real kind of power.
But, knowledge is not just any kind of power. There are different kinds of power, and it makes no sense to say that your knowledge that two plus two equal four constitutes the power to fly to Jupiter. In fact, not all kinds of knowledge are the same, either. Some are qualitatively greater, deeper, more important to the big picture. Even so, there’s no real good in sacrificing a foot in order to preserve a narrow-minded view of the whole body. You can’t walk well on only one foot. Your whole frame will suffer, and become ever more imbalanced and debilitated.
Why do humans tend to think of God’s omnipotence as a kind of ‘strong man’, to be pitted adversely against anything that could be thought to resist? We say that God is so powerful that he can lift any stone no matter how big it is. We say that he can create the world out of nothing, or be everywhere at once without seeming to be anywhere.
The notion that God’s omnipotence is strictly a kind of ‘strong man’ leads to questions that pose God’s power against even the rational set that we call ‘logic’: Does God have the power to create a rock so heavy that not even he can lift it? Can God make evil into good, and good into evil? Can he cause himself to cease to exist? Can he create an omnipotent being that’s even more omnipotent than himself? People tend sincerely to ask how omnipotence genuinely can mean anything at all unless it is power which is in incontestable opposition to exhaustively all meaningful things. After all, isn’t that what the ‘all’ in ‘all-powerful’ means? How can there be exceptions?
But, it’s entirely rational to ask why people think of omnipotence as essentially a ‘strong man’. So, it’s entirely rational to ask why people so readily pose omnipotence in opposition even to logic. Are people being merely and neutrally rational in such thinking??? Or, by contrast, are they being motivated to think this way by something else—–something less-than-wholesome? Something that makes them think they can indefinitely extend their lives if they experiment enough on animals, and oppress people enough, like in that movie, Freejack.
So, there are different kinds, and levels, of power, both as to general quality and as to their relative importance. But, what, if anything, is the most important kind of power? I say it’s love.
So, here’s your money back which you lost by betting me to a card game I never wanted to play in the first place. In other words, I hate philosophy and logic and intellect and all that other heady stuff. Especially when it’s imposed at gun point. If you must know, I’m just a woodsman, and I can’t stand the smell of gunsmoke. Watch the current take of the Human Target TV series, starring Mark Valley (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0885090/)
So, to hell with reason and your money. Adam had none of either to begin with, and he owned the entire planet. A generic ‘power of reason’ cannot tell you that love is a kind of power, a kind of agent. And, money can’t buy you eternal life, no matter how much technology you think possible for extending it. Love can change things
and not for the worse like that chess board. Omnipotence includes love.
So, now, the face that belongs to that radio voice looks very different.
Does an all-powerful God know that ‘God is love’? If God exists, then God is the very essence of love, and we’re just reflections. Even if there is no God, we clearly have some issues. But, say there is a God. Is the transcendent essence of God’s love in that God is consistent with himself? In other words, is God consistent with omnipotence? Because, if it means anything worth knowing, then omnipotence is transcendence—the very kind of transcedence which is the one thing we most naturally, most implicitly, identify with.
…if God created the cosmos, then what sort of cosmos is it? And, for what cosmological reason did he make us to find so much pleasure in mere acceleration? Like a tiny baby cradled on its back by a huge hand, and lifted up to meet the face that belongs to that hand. How much distance, really, is there between an infinite Creator and a finite creature? Between God and a biker? The blissful road is endless.
Again, it’s entirely rational to ask why people think of omnipotence as essentially a ‘strong man’? Why do people so readily pose omnipotence in opposition even to logic? Are people being merely and neutrally rational in such thinking? Or, are they being motivated to think this way by something else? Something less than wholesome?
In a world of toil, and of disease, death, and theft, we tend to think of power as something that, by sheer ‘muscular’ force, can fix the problems in our lives. Our laundry is piling up, so we wish to snap our fingers and make it magically get done by itself, like the magic broom in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Our timid son is getting beat up in school, complete with bruises, so we buy a karate bag and teach him to punch. Our morning paper is missing from the porch, and we already saw our rude neighbor’s kid steal yesterday’s paper, so we feel like stomping up his parent’s porch and forcing him, out of our sheer anger, to admit that he stole this morning’s paper as well. We are failing our own hated college math class, so we daydream of inventing a way to upload our smart phone’s math app into our brain.
So, to us, the idea of power suggests things like magic, martial prowess, commandeering, and programming. It rarely suggests to us anything even somewhat more gentlemanly or personable. So, we’re tripped up when we wonder how omnipotence can genuinely be exhaustively all power if it doesn’t include power against every last meaningful thing. We don’t notice that the idea of ‘all power’ can genuinely be exhaustive without it necessarily being adversely opposed to real things. It’s as if we’re trying to identify an elephant for the first time but dislike any of its individual features while nevertheless adoring the simple idea of an elephant. So, we wish to think that none of its features has anything to do with an elephant:
We notice the huge flappy ears, but, since huge flappy ears are not, in themselves, an elephant, we think that the ears have nothing to do with an elephant. We next notice the trunk, but we think the same of it. And, so on, until we’ve eliminated every possibility of identifying what an elephant really is. We then naturally conclude that an elephant has no features whatever, and thus either that there is no such thing as an elephant, or that an elephant is, by its very nature, unknowable.
That elephant example shows that any initially positive concept which incorporates the notion of inexhaustibility can be formally misconstrued as being identifiable principally by a process of elimination or negation. Omnipotence, when thus misconstrued, can be termed ‘negative omnipotence’. This is a term which is in reference to the algebraic logic of set theory, similar to the concept of ‘negative number’.
In disputes over what omnipotence genuinely means, it sometimes is brought up that the dictionary definition of power is something like ‘the ability to change, or effect, a state of affairs’. In other words, that power is agency. But, agency presupposes an actual agent. One does not imagine an inanimate object moved by a force without imagining that there is a force that has moved it. So, agency is not the essence of power, an agent is. The power to learn presupposes the power which is knowledge, and knowledge presupposes a knower. Both the knower and his knowledge are the agent, while the learning or creating is the agency. The agent is a state of affairs which, compared to his agency, is purely in and of itself.
The concept of agency commonly is used to defend the position that omnipotence, to be consistently or genuinely all-powerful, must include the ability to change or defy even the state of affairs called logic. But, logic is not a real state of affairs, it is merely an abstraction from real states of affairs. Logic is not what’s immutable about logic, rather, logic a mental reflection on the fact that something real must be immutable. Something real must be the pure agent, the uncaused cause. Logic, as an abstraction in the creature’s mind, is not that cause.
Note that agency is merely the simplest definition of power. It is not the entire definition. This is because agency is a generalization. In fact, it’s a tautology, or synonym, of power. If agency were the entire definition—that is, the most complete essence—of power, then we could expect that any kind of agent would have every imaginable kind of agency over every imaginable thing. A soldier could use a hammer to pound 2-plus-2 into five. A tornado could blow my best argument apart and deposit it’s pathetic remains in the next county. You, merely by taking thought of yourself, could become an ethical superhero who’s loved by everyone except your currently most hated enemies.
As seen by the fact that actual agents have actual kinds of agency, power is not best defined as simple agency. This is because the simplest notion of power cannot identify any actual kinds of power to begin with. It can’t tell you, for instance, that a bird cannot pick a worm out of a philosophy-of-ethics problem. Nor can it educate you as to what sort of agent a bird is by which it can pick worms out of things. Only by knowing actual kinds of things, and thus actual kinds of agents, can you even begin to know what to do with a relatively straight-forward question like ‘If my motorcycle were omnipotent, could it, without a rider, attain infinity velocity before falling over?’
But, without consideration of the topic of omnipotence, the ability to effect genuinely every mutable thing can only sensibly mean to possess exhaustively every real kind of power. After all, power means something only in the face of what really can be effected. So, if power is the ability to effect a state of affairs, then it is entirely rational to think of omnipotence as exhaustively every kind of power, and each kind to inexhaustible degree.
To assume that logic is above God, or vice versa, is to assume, at least in effect, that logic is a real thing entirely in itself. Part of logic is the existence of whatever things do exist. This applies both to contingent and to necessary things, since, for any thing to exist, it cannot also not exist at the same time. In short, existence is not non-existence.
But, if existence is not non-existence, then does the law of identity logically precede existence? In other words, existence is identifiable, and so, it is identifiably the opposite of non-existence. But, then, so is the ‘law of identity’ identifiable. What is going on here? Is there a separate ‘law of identity’ that pertains strictly to the ‘general’ ‘law of identity’, and thus precedes the ‘general’ one?
If logic is a thing in itself, then so is existence a thing in itself, since both logic and existence are, in fact, merely rationally necessary abstractions of actual things. The same goes for quantity, and for a host of other rationally necessary abstractions. In fact, if we suppose that quantity is a thing in itself, then, to be consistent with that supposition, we also must suppose that quantity is ontologically more real not only than things in general but than things which exist necessarily.
To posit that an ontologically necessary entity exists does not mean that the ‘property’ either of its existence or of its necessity exists independently of that entity. Existence is not a thing in itself; it is an observational abstraction of, a mental imagery in the mind of, knowing agents, including you and me. The existence of an existing rock is not separate from the rock itself, as if both are mere-and-distinct ingredients in a stew. There is no such thing as ‘existence’ as existing apart from something that does exist. Rather, the very notion of existence is a notion that exists by being in rational opposition to the sometime non-existence of a mutable state of affairs.
At least part of the reason that it is possible for non-omniscient knowing agents to abstract existence as a ‘property’ of actual things is because such agents know that something may come into, or go out of, existence, whether in form or in apparent substance. In other words, for contingent knowing agents, their observation of contingencies is, at least partly, the basis of their abstracting the ‘property’ of existence. For a non-contingent knowing agent, it may be supposed that its imagination, combined with its creative power, is what allows it to abstract the condition of existence, and thus of non-existence, from actual things.
But, let the condition that ‘existence is a thing in itself’ be called ‘meta-existence’ (Existence is one of many elements in the abstract rational set called ‘logic’). If meta-existence exists, then how can we tell whether an ontologically necessary entity exists independently of meta-existence? In other words, if there is such a thing an ontologically necessary entity, and if existence exists independently of that entity, then how not may that entity not exist? Further, if meta-existence exists, then how not may an ontologically necessary entity not exist, cease to exist, or, if it ceases to exist, return to existence? Still further, if meta-existence exists, then is not there yet another existence, or ‘meta-meta-existence, which exists independently of, and causes to exist, meta-existence?
When I imagine that meta-existence exists, I find most natural further to imagine not only that ontologically necessary entities are not ontologically necessary, but that meta-existence is not ontologically necessary, since meta-existence is a precedent for an infinite regress of meta-existences: meta-meta existence,…meta-meta-meta-meta-meta-meta-meta…-existence.
So, in asking whether God can do the logically impossible, such as create another instance of Himself, or create even a greater power than his own omnipotence, what in the world are we really thinking?
Creatures give pride-of-place to abstractions over personal empirical knowledge, through a motive of which they typically are unaware: Abstraction is the neurological function of allocating the least possible explicit knowledge of, and, hence, the least neurological energy to, the correspondence between the abstraction and that from which the abstraction is abstracted.
So, again, what is power? The answer which some people give to this question is an answer which actually is as ambiguous as meta-existence. They say that power is agency: the ability to effect a state of affairs. But, to say that agency is the most meaningful definition of power doesn’t say anything that we don’t already know. In fact, it says much less. This is because our concept of agency is actually a generalization from actual kinds of powers. We abstract this generalization similar to how we abstract generalizations of math. Whether we add two pair of shoes, or one pair of shoes and one of socks, there’s a particular sense that stays the same: four items. Likewise, whether we observe a hammer as it strikes a nail, or the nail as it goes into the wood, the most singular sense is always the same: something brings something about. Simple agency.
The nature of ambiguity is in the context of having a deeper knowledge of the objects involved. The face-value of any expression, say, ‘birds can pick worms out of things’, is a limited, or non-exhaustive, expression about the various objects represented (actual birds, actual worms, and the abstractions of ‘things’, ‘pick’, ‘out’, ‘of’, and ‘can’). Only by having a deeper, or more meaningful, knowledge of its objects can a person know that the normal usage of the words in such a statement makes the statement ambiguous (even the meaning of the word-form, ‘pick’, which in itself can mean a farmer’s tool, an object for cleaning teeth, or the act of selection, is not expressly defined by the statement, but is left to be inferred by the total statement-form). It’s this ambiguity that allows the construction of absurd syllogisms.
Consider this syllogism: ‘A bird can pick worms out of things. Math problems are things. Therefore, a bird can pick worms out of math problems.’
All words and statements are abstractions of knowledge. In other words, natural language is inherently ambiguous. But, natural language can normally well afford to be inherently ambiguous, because natural language is the natural language of entities which have common sense in face of the general task of learning more about the world and about concepts. We normally don’t think about the fact that the word ‘things’, when used in the statement, ‘birds can pick worms out of things’, can alternately be used to express both concrete and abstract things. Only in disputes, say, as to the facts involved in apparent agreements between people (or between premises) does the inherent ambiguity of natural language become a problem.
An example of the problem of natural language would be if, while one person has sufficient common sense to see the direct absurdity of the above syllogism, a second person had only enough common sense to feel that the respective face-values of the premises were their exhaustive meanings. This second person, while sensibly denying that birds can pick worms out of math problems, nevertheless would have a shallow kind of ‘certainty’ that the conclusion is simply, but paradoxically, the conceptual reality.
By some accounts, logic requires that omnipotence be defined as including the power to do the logically impossible. In other words, according to such accounts, it is logically incoherent to think that omnipotence includes only the power to do the logically possible, that such a power is not genuinely or meaningfully omnipotent.
But, suppose we accept that omnipotence does include the power to do the logically impossible. Then, in order to be consistent with that definition of omnipotence, we must allow that, from an omnipotent being’s own point of view, nothing can have any necessary qualities to begin with (including power, all-power, impotence, omni-impotence, existence, locality, sequentiality, simultaneity, cause-and-effect, logical hierarchy, quantity, contradiction, the principle of excluded middle, infinity, finitude, ultimacy, ideality, sense, nonsense, greater, lesser, etc.).
Naturally, in order to have an objection to a given position, one first must have a position of one’s own, even if only implicitly. And, in order to have a valid objection to a given position, one’s own position must be coherent. If one holds the initial position that the logically necessary conception of omnipotence includes the power to overrule logic, and if one then concludes that this omnipotence is incoherent and thus impossible, then one is allowing—no, stating– that one’s initial position is incoherent.
So, while such a power can, by definition, create a rock that it then cannot lift, every quality of that rock task, including the result that that power is unable to lift the rock, is meaningless to that power. Such a power cannot care about what, from its own point of view, are just so many petty problems of logical consistency and reality, because, for such a power, there already is no such thing as a logical contradiction. If such a power is posited to exist, then, to be consistent with that position, one also must posit that this power is meaningless even to itself (power). So, if it is to be required that this power create a rock too heavy for it to lift, then that rock’s very quality of being too heavy for it to lift is indistinguishable from any other outcome (cause-and-effect). In shorter, there is no outcome as far as this ‘absolute’ power is concerned (sequentiality). When all this is pushed far enough, it can be seen that this conception of omnipotence dissolves into a Great Big Precisely Nothing.
Now, it is possible to arbitrarily posit a power that can do only the logically impossible. We naturally find that such a power’s tasks are meaningless. If such tasks are meaningless, then what makes them meaningful when we posit yet another power able to accomplish such tasks?
Let’s posit a power that can do everything that’s logically impossible and only some things that are logically possible. Does even that definition of that power cause the logically impossible tasks to be meaningful? No. So, how, then, does positing a power that can do both everything that’s logically possible and everything that’s logically impossible cause the logically impossible tasks to be meaningful? The answer is that it doesn’t. Such tasks are inherently meaningless, which is precisely why it is most naturally taken for granted that such a power cannot exist. The only sense in which logically impossible tasks are meaningful is in the sense that we can imagine them to be meaningful. And, the reason we can so imagine them is because they are comprised of various meaningful things, such as birds and worms and math problems.
An irrationally ‘absolute’ notion of omnipotence is merely the means by which logically impossible tasks are most naturally initially imagined to be meaningful. But, if such a notion of omnipotence is meaningful as such, then such a power cannot be proved not to exist. But, it is proved not to exist, by observing that the meaningless (illogical, irrational) half of its powers are meaningless. There is no such power as the power to do the logically impossible. In other words, such a power is logically impossible.
So, for God to be above logic, or vice versa, logic would have to be a thing in, and of, itself (its own, and exclusive, set). But, just like presence, or existence, or quantity, logic is merely an abstraction from, or observation about, actual things. Numbers don’t exist prior to things, else numbers would be more concrete (Platonically) even than things which are not purely number.
From rocks to atoms, things as we find them can be taken apart: they can be caused to fail to cohere. Of course, a failure to cohere on our own parts is undesirable: our health, wealth, and our very lives depend on our maintaining a basic degree of individual and collective coherence. …Einstein only looked like he was incoherent.
But, our ability to live and prosper depends also on our ability to reason how to take things apart—and how to put them together. Whether making machines or governments, or even growing food, we need to see how things cohere and discohere in terms both of their states and their processes. This means that our minds tend to reason in dissociative and synthetic terms: any thing that can be identified can be taken apart into more basic things, so that these more basic things together identify that thing in a more basic way. This is similar to how you identify mixed-fruit juice by how it tastes: you know the taste of at least some of the fruits individually.
But, there must be something which can be found as-is which cannot be taken apart into more basic things. This is true even if the only thing which is not made of more basic things is the infinity of an infinite regress of constituents of a given thing. For example, if a tree is made of an infinite regress of ever more basic constituents, then a tree is an infinite thing. But, if a tree is not an infinite regress of more basic things, then only an infinite number of trees would make trees infinite. In other words, infinity is not made of a limited number of things. In fact, if a tree is an infinite regress of more basic things, then any limited part of the whole tree can be removed from the tree and there would still be an infinity both in that part and in the rest of the tree. In other words, infinity cannot be taken apart into more basic parts. In order for it to be what it is, infinity cannot be identified by more basic constituents: by definition it cannot be made of more basic kinds of numbers.
Of course, to view infinity as if it were a tree is, in one sense, still synthetic: A tree can be divided into parts. So, if a tree is an infinity of ever more basic parts, then, since a tree can be divided, a tree would be an infinity of infinities. In any case, whatever is the thing which makes up and, or, causes to exist, all other things, that thing must be omnipotent. The reason it must be omnipotent is because it is the one thing which gives power to everything else.
If rocks, trees, and atoms each are finite in their parts, then omnipotence either would be the sum of all things (including the endless future existence of things), or would be a single infinite thing by which all other things exist. This is because, if each thing is an infinity of constituents, including each given finite duration of time, then there must be a single infinite thing which exists apart from it all and which makes all other things infinite in number of parts: a dimensionless, durationaless, point. Because, if this point does not exist, then, at some arbitrary finite degree of division of parts into parts, the division ends: things are quantized. And, if things are quantized, then something entirely apart from all other things makes them so.
But, a dimensionless, durationless point cannot exist of itself, because it is made of nothing at all. This means that it cannot make anything else to be what anything else is. So, whether trees and rocks are infinite things, or are finite things, there must be something which exists apart from them, and by the power of which they subsist.
And, whatever that thing is, we may not be able to identify it directly. We may be able only to see that a practice of denying it’s existence—including of it’s actions within history—results in various undesirable failures on our parts to cohere.
There once was a hunter who was out to prove that a certain large carnivore did not exist. And, he was very clever, the hunter was. So, just in case the animal really did exist, the hunter wore things on his feet that made huge tracks like what he was convinced the animal must make. This would prevent the animal from detecting him by his own boot tracks. So, off he went, looking for signs of the animal. Soon, he saw his own tracks, but mistook them for those of the animal. Finally, when he found that the tracks led nowhere, he concluded that the animal did not exist. Yet, he continued to believe that the tracks had been made by the animal. So, he was even more convinced that he knew what sort of tracks the animal made. He was so proud of his accomplishment that he brought other hunters to see the tracks, telling them that these were the tracks to look for since they did, in fact, lead to nowhere. Some of the hunters believed him. The others insisted the animal was invisible, so that, of course, it could not be found…
…but, they all knew that it was a carnivore.
It certainly is possible to attempt to define the principle object, say, an elephant, by a process of binary elimination: a huge, flappy ear is certainly not an elephant. But, such an attempt necessarily fails to identify with any empirically testable dimension of the principle object. The result of such an investigation, while logically necessary within the terms of the investigation, begs the question of why, by what motive, such a tack is taken in the first place. That question is one of history, in terms both of one’s own person and of a past, and otherwise surrounding, humanity. And, while the purely human answer to the question has a pessimistic ring, namely that the human experience begs for a satisfaction which is not, in itself, guaranteed, the other logically possible answer is surprising in every dimension: love is an actual kind of power, and by no means a feeble one.
Since the clever hunter of the wild omnipotence has, in his own mind, already proved that an omnipotent being is impossible, he looks on the central Christian statement that ‘God became a man, and died, and rose again’ as doubly impossible. Just as this hunter applies the simplest concept of power to the question of omnipotence, he applies the simplest and most ‘powerful’ concept of ‘became’ to the Christian notion that ‘God became a man’. In observing the absurd result, he concludes that the Christian statement necessarily represents a belief which, in fact, is incoherent nonsense. Some down-to-earth examples of this nonsense are: ‘A dog became a tree’, and ‘A bushel of fruit become a whale’. But, this is not a necessary sense of ‘become’, as anyone should know from their own common usage of the term. For example: ‘I learned, and became an idiot’, ‘What became of you?”, and ‘The neon sign suddenly became green.’ Of those three examples, the last one is the most obvious as to its primary category: the neon sign. Similarly, to posit a transcendent Creator is to posit that the Creator is alone the primary and originating category. So, to state that ‘God became a man’ cannot actually mean that an infinity had traded itself for a finitude. Rather, it must mean that an infinite had added to itself a finitude…
…And, it must doubly mean that an imperceptible door, in an otherwise impenetrable mile-wide wall in total darkness, has become luminous gold.