Philosophy Word of the Day — Omnipotence

“Omnipotence is maximal power.  Some philosophers, notably Descartes, have thought that omnipotence requires the ability to do absolutely anything, including the logically impossible.  Most classical theists, however, understood omnipotence as involving vast powers, while nevertheless being subject to a range of limitations of ability, including the inability to do what is logically impossible, the inability to change the past or to do things incompatible with what has happened, and the inability to do things that cannot be done by a being who has other divine attributes, e.g., to sin or to lie.”

— Edward R. Wierenga, “Divine Attributes,” The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., 240.

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4 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day — Omnipotence

  1. However, if the two omnipotent beings were always in agreement, then perhaps they could mutually co-exist. What do you think?

    • Hey Adam,

      That’s an interesting question. It still seems to me that only one of them could be omnipotent, since if they did attempt opposite actions, only one could prevail. Or, if neither prevailed, neither one would be omnipotent. I might be missing something, but that’s how it looks to me.


  2. Hi mythicsushi,

    Yes, those are interesting questions in regard to omnipotence. Just to take a quick stab at them, I don’t believe God could cease to exist or stop being God because I don’t believe God can change His own essential properties, one of which is necessary existence. That may be a limit to omnipotence, but I don’t take omnipotence to mean that God can do literally anything (e.g., do evil or make a round square).
    Also, it’s probably not possible for God to create an equally powerful being, at least in some respects. If two omnipotent beings were to exist, it would result in paradoxes where one of them, or both them, fail to be omnipotent. E.g., one wills that a stone move, and the other wills that it doesn’t. In this case, one being will fail to be omnipotent, since both conditions can’t exist at the same time (the moving and staying still of the stone). So, it seems that only one omnipotent being can exist.
    Take care,

  3. A fun question for an adherent of the idea of omnipotence is whether God could stop being God, or could self-destruct. Or make an entirely independent being with equal power/status.

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