God’s Omnipotence examined more in depth. (Part 1)

In this post I will give 2 different ways to understand the claim that God is omnipotent and evaluate each one. I will give two this post and I will do two more ways next post.

The first way to understand Omnipotence is to understand God as “completely” or “absolutely” omnipotent where God’s being omnipotent is formulated as follows:

1.)”God can….” will be true however you fill in the the blank, provided only that the result is a grammatical sentence.”

This way of understanding omnipotence is obviously problematic. The sentence “God can make 2+2=5″ is a grammatical sentence as well as “God can make a sentence of the form P & Not-P true”, thus this formulation will allow for impossible states of affairs. There is a sense in which God literally could do the impossible on this formulation which is obviously incoherent. This way of understanding omnipotence is rarely endorsed for this problem as well as others.

The second way of understanding omnipotence is as follows:

2.) God can perform every consistently describable feat (where a consistently describable feat is defined as a feat that satisfies the following condition: there is a possible state of affairs in which someone performs it.)

This formulation does not suffer from the problems of the previous formulation since it is believed by most philosophers that the laws of logic and mathematics are necessary truths thus there is no possible state of affairs in which anyone performs such feats as making two and two equal five or anything like that. But, there is a possible state of affairs in which God could then sin under this formulation thus, if you are a traditional theist (whom hold that God is essentially F, where F are Gods attributes that make him God) then this is a problem since you would hold that there is no possible state of affairs in which God sins. Now, if you are a non-traditional theist and you believe that God is merely contingently God then you may think that this formulation is fine but let us consider some more things God would then be able to do: There is a possible state of affairs in someone admires Hitler ( in fact this has actually happened), this means there is a possible state of affairs in which someone admires someone that God doesn’t admire. Thus, God could admire someone that God doesn’t admire.
Now, the non-traditional theist may say “Aha, I believe God is contingently God thus this formulation still doesn’t affect my belief” but if we use the tetragrammaton as a rigid designator (a way of picking out the very same being in every possible state of affairs) then we could replace God in the previous statement with YHWH and say that “YWHY could admire someone that YWHY doesn’t admire” and it would be a consistently describable feat. Thus, this is still a problem for both the traditional and non-traditional theist.

Preview: The next formulation will say “For any possible state of affairs, S, God can bring it about (i.e. ensure) that S obtains.” Try to think ahead for next week and come up with your own problems or objections to this view.

A Priori Justification: Defeasibility

I want this post to be a discussion about something of which I am unsure of. I want to know whether there can be a hierarchy of defeaters.

Let me give you a background story, I was discussing a priori justification with a group of my peers and we were talking about the fact that some experiences can defeat a belief you hold by some other experience (remembering you left the keys on the kitchen table only to find out you didn’t leave them on the table when you actually go to look for them…etc.). One of my peers argued that this “inconsistency” amongst experience based beliefs is a problem thus his formulation of a priori justification leaves out even the possibility of being defeated by experience.

I, on the other hand, argued there is a sense in which we have a hierarchy of what beliefs defeat others. I proposed that direct sensual perception will end up defeating all other experience based beliefs (testimony, memory, etc.). I even offered an example of experience defeating a possible a priori belief. The example I offered was of Hesperus and Phosphorus (the evening and morning star). Now, it was the belief of ancient astronomers that this one star was actually two stars. So, depending on how you justify a belief a priori, it seems that one can say that it is a priori justified to believe that one star can exist without the other (the morning star existing while the evening star does not). It would be analytic and it would be a necessary truth that one can exist without the other so it would a be hopeful candidate for being justified a priori according to those two non-epistemic conditions (which are quite popular in epistemology). But, it seems that if one actually flies into space and just looks at the star and realizes it is both the morning and evening star then one might say the belief that one star can exist without the other has now been defeated by experience.

In response I was offered an example of a person who holds the ability to see two completely different visual fields and not a blend of both eyes. It could be the case that if this person’s eyes malfunctioned they may see something being in two places at once (or some sort of contradiction of temporal objects) if you were to see some sort of contradiction occur, my peer asserts, you would not belief it. Instead you would realize by the logical law of noncontradiction that the belief is false. Since logical laws are a good candidates for being a priori knowledge it may be the case that an a priori belief could defeat the belief justified by experience.

So does the hierarchy of potential defeaters put experience at top? Or does it put a priori beliefs at the top?