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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K059-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Traditional theism understands God to be the greatest being possible. According to the traditional conception, God possesses certain great-making properties or perfections, including necessary existence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and omnipotence. Philosophical reflection upon the notion of omnipotence raises many puzzles and apparent paradoxes. Could an omnipotent agent create a stone so massive that that agent could not move it? It might seem that however this question is answered, it turns out that, paradoxically, an omnipotent agent is not truly all-powerful. Could such an agent have the power to create or overturn necessary truths of logic and mathematics? Could an agent of this kind bring about or alter the past? Is the notion of an omnipotent agent other than God an intelligible one? Could two omnipotent agents exist at the same time? If there are states of affairs which an omnipotent agent is powerless to bring about, then how is the notion of omnipotence to be intelligibly defined? Yet if the notion of omnipotence is unintelligible, then traditional theism must be false. Another obstacle to traditional theism arises if it is impossible for God to be both perfectly good, and omnipotent. If an omnipotent God is powerless to do evil, then how can God be omnipotent?

Citing this article:
Hoffman, Joshua and Gary Rosenkrantz. Omnipotence, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K059-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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