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Omnipotence is Not Disproven by Paradoxical Questions

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/1/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 813 times Debate No: 72735
Debate Rounds (3)
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There are questions/statements such as:

"Can an omnipotent being create a square triangle?"
"Can an omnipotent being make an object smell like yellow?"
"Can an omnipotent being create an object so large that even it cannot move it?"
"Can an omnipotent being create a being more powerful than itself?"

The purpose of these questions is to refute the concept of true omnipotence through paradox. Questions like 1 & 2 are self-contradicting or create logical paradoxes. Questions like 3 & 4, submitting either a "Yes" or "No" answer demonstrates a limitation in an omnipotent being's power, thus, disqualifying it from being so.

I will argue that these statements do not disprove or invalidate the concept of omnipotence. I shall not posit the argument that an omnipotent being can defy logic. Burden of proof is on me for my claim.

Omnipotence: The quality of having unlimited power.

Round #1 is acceptance
Rounds #2 and #3 shall not follow a specified structure.


Omnipotence is a concept of the mind; a human invention, which could never exist in a physical, changing world. When this concept is trialled by logic, it's shown - in an albeit quite complicated way - that omnipotence doesn't truly work in a system of concepts either. There are, as I will argue, paradoxes that highlight the impossibility of omnipotence as a working concept. (I hope you don't mind my strong leaning towards a concept that works in relation to other concepts - clearly, I can conceptualise omnipotence, because you've just defined it and we're having a debate about it, but that doesn't make it in my mind possibly real.)

To disprove something is usually impossible. Bertrand Russell used the argument that you can't prove there isn't a China teapot floating around in space between Earth and Mars, but that doesn't mean you should believe there is - you just have to accept the possibility there may be, and then recognise the chances of it are almost nothing. Paradoxes can be a little different, and can actually show (not suggest, but actually blow out of the water and defeat) that a statement is logically self-contradicting. I'm not entirely certain how the burden of proof can be on my opponent, since they only need to demonstrate that I've failed, but I'm sure that will become apparent.

My final introductory point will be that many bad paradoxes don't mean that every paradox is bad and won't work. To take the example of question 4, I heartily agree this paradox does not work and does not disprove the existence of an omnipotent being. Of course something of infinite power cannot create 'infinite plus 1', as there's no concept for this. But that doesn't mean that other paradoxes are also wrong. I hope to show very clearly that concepts that work in isolation, such as that of an omnipotent being (oh, and good luck to us in agreeing on the definition of that!) do not necessarily function as they're described to when applied to real situations.

My good wishes for an interesting debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I am in agreement with pretty much everything you have stated. I tried to make this issue as pointed as I could for the reason that I've see many people cling to these statements as solid reasoning as to why omnipotence is impossible. This debate is specifically intended to address the literary aspect of this and was not intended to address the concept of omnipotence in other ways. I was actually expecting an opponent who would stand by the validity of these statements but, nonetheless, I'm happy to hear your arguments!

Anyhow, as I am sure you will agree, words in of themselves have no meaning. We are trained to associate meaning and ideas to words (spoken or written). This can be demonstrated in a few ways, one of which is by the examining the variety of languages that humans possess; if a given word held meaning, such as "dog", when spoken to another person who does not speak English, the person would understand. However, since that person must be trained to associate the idea with that word, it is not understood, demonstrating that the meaning lies within an individual's associated meaning of the word.

Spoken or written words are intended to communicate with others by constructing an idea or concept in the recipient's mind based on the presumption of a common understanding of the meanings of the words that are used. If the idea is communicated and understood accurately, then the transmission of the idea from one mind to another was successful.

Words are powerful tools that we employ for communication, in that, we can combine multiple words that each represent concepts, or modifications thereof, into more complex ideas. We can choose a collection of words that most accurately represent an idea and then assemble those words (i.e. a sentence) and present them to another capable mind in order to communicate the original idea. If successful, the recipient will hold the same or at least a generally similar idea in their mind. However, if the words are arranged in a non-cohesive manner, then an idea or concept cannot be formed by the recipient.

We have the ability to create new ideas by combining or modifying existing ones, which is made substantially more possible my means of language. For instance, everyone can conceptualize the word "dog"; virtually every English speaking individual will immediate recall their associated meaning for that word to form a general mental image of a dog. Similarly, the descriptive [modifier] word "blue" will form the concept of a visual appearance of that color. We can combine these words, "blue dog", to form the idea of a dog that is of the color blue, even though we have likely never experienced such a thing, before.

However, words can also be assembled in a non-cohesive or contradictory way. For instance, the statement, "large blue", is composed of two descriptive words, and although each of them is understood individually, the presented concept is not a valid idea because there is no subject to which to apply these, thus, no idea can be formed it the mind with interjecting our own subject. Using the tools of our language, we could infer that there is a subject in the statement, "a large blue", but since neither of those words form an idea that can be conceptualized as a subject, one still fails to form an idea.

If an idea or concept is not formed by the understanding of a assembly of words, it can neither be deemed possible or impossible, because the idea or concept doesn't exist. It is similar to a situation in which someone flips a coin and tells you to call "heads" or "tails" and you do not call anything. You are neither right, nor wrong, because you have submitted nothing that can be judged as such.

Paradoxical statements, such as those examples presented in Round #1, do not form coherent and complete ideas or concepts in one's mind, which is the nature of a paradox, and thus, are not subject to being possible or impossible. Because of this, they are not valid arguments to disprove the concept of omnipotence. These sentences are assemblies of words formed in such a way that they merely *appear* to form a singular idea, when they do not. For clarity, I shall explain why each of those sentences are faulty.

#1 - "Can an omnipotent being create a square triangle?"
The point of fault in this question lies obviously with the contradicting words "square" and "triangle". Not only are their associated meaning contradictory, both of those words are descriptive words, similar to the previous example, "a large red". If we try to imagine a square or triangle, we automatically imagine some subject that fits the description of that shape. This sentence has two failing point that prevent it from being formed into an idea.

#2 - "Can an omnipotent being make an object smell like yellow?"
The point of fault in this sentence lies in the incompatible words "smell" and "yellow". The word "smell" indicates that a following descriptive word will apply specifically to the sense of smell. Since the word "yellow" represents a color, which is inherently specific to the sense of vision, no concept or idea can be formed, and is thus, neither possible or impossible.

#3 - "Can an omnipotent being create an object so large that even it cannot move it?"
This one is a little more complex in that the sentence forms two separate concepts (each of which is valid) and then attempts to combine them into a single idea. The two ideas that are presented are contradictory, and thus, renders the ultimate concept invalid because it cannot be formed into a singular idea. The deception here is that we can easily form an idea of the components of this sentence. As a whole, this sentence conveys no idea or concept.

#4 - "Can an omnipotent being create a being more powerful than itself?"
There is a conceptual contradiction in this statement that prevents this from forming an idea or concept. The word, "omnipotent" is defined as being of unlimited or "infinite" power. The term "infinite" is a imaginary, valueless term. The term "more" indicates an increase in value, and because "infinite" is a valueless term, these words are contradictory and thus, fail to form an idea.

Side note: The arguments and thoughts above are entirely mine, and I wish to subject them to criticism (in the form of this debate) to see if my understanding is correct or incorrect. Thank you for assisting my efforts!


Your arguments are very imaginative and well argued. However, I still believe (for the purpose of this debate, anyway) that they are fallible, as the first two rely on the idea that we 'can not' conceptualise these ideas in our minds. This is certainly true for a human understanding, and a human brain... But shouldn't an omnipotent being always be able to do, always 'can' and never 'can't'? To suggest that something is impossible to conceptualise is to suggest that for an omnipotent being, there is something not possible. Regardless of the idea that this makes no logical sense to us, total power has to overcome logic by brute force, or it wouldn't be total.

One alternative is that an omnipotent being can make square triangles and yellow a scent, but he (or she, of course) chooses not to. If they had chosen to, we wouldn't question it, or consider it at all unusual. But this argument leads us to the thorny issue of how an omnipotent being makes choices, and the crux of my argument. If an omnipotent being is choosing to not break the rules of logic, even though they can (which is, I believe, the only explanation that leaves the concept of omnipotence intact) then they're an active, choosing, rational being. Essentially, they change. They contain within themselves the possibility for all changes and all actions, and in order to preserve this infinite potential, they can only make temporary choices - such as 'today squares and triangles are different, but somehow with my infinite power, I may make them the same tomorrow.' Otherwise, if they made an irreversible change, that would be equal to them not have the power to change something. This rationally allows the concept of omnipotence, and allows statements 1 and 2. (With both 3 and 4 I will happily concede that they show nothing about the existence of an omnipotent being.)

.... But it implies, or rather, shows that an omnipotent being would have to exist within time. Otherwise, how could it use it's power in some things (such as making, say, the Universe or a cup of tea) but not in others - the very fact that an omnipotent being has the power and the potential to do everything shows that it has future possible actions it could take. And all things that have a future must therefore be within time. This leads you to the infinite difficulties of 'what has a beginning must have began', or the problem that something must have created infinite power. And, more significantly, the issue that omnipotence can't exist in the physical world, but also can't exist out of it.

To sum up this argument, an omnipotent being must be able to create anything he wishes even if logically impossible. However, this would require him to make time-involved choices that he could only make if he existed within the frame of time. That would make him a physical concept, but omnipotence can't be physical because the physical world is never infinite or total. This is what I would call a true paradox.

I hope it's clear how I have moved from your argument to mine, and why I believe your argument is good, but not water tight. I'm also trialling out these ideas, and just seeing where they take me.
Debate Round No. 2


Once again, I agree with very much of what you are saying. This is some the reason I specifically stated that I would not use the argument that an omnipotent being is beyond logic. (Too easy, and just ends the argument.)

The point of my argument is that such a thing as a "square triangle" or the "smell of yellow" cannot exist conceptually using our current definitions. The nature of each concept is paradoxical in that, there is a direct contradiction between the intended definitions which renders it impossible to form the idea. This is not referring to ideas that are too complicated or difficult to conceptualize, but rather, those that form undeniable paradoxes.

If no idea can be formed, then the concept does not exist as a tangible thought. Hence, there is nothing in mind that can be subject to being either possible or impossible. Any meaning that such a statement could hold only exists in the literal words used, but then, words have no meaning in of themselves.

In order for an omnipotent being to create a "square triangle" or the "smell of yellow", the being would have to literally redefine those words so that an idea could be create that IS subject to possibility or impossibility. Language cannot be relied on to determine a valid concept. For instance, if a spoke word means two completely different things to two different people (i.e. another language), then an omnipotent being could not satisfy both people at once. If one relies on literary use to foil omnipotence, one may as well use gibberish: "foowhith teapol dcrt, can an omnipotent being do THAT!?".

For an omnipotent being, nothing is impossible. If anyone was to hold a singular concept in their mind WITHOUT the use of language (basically visualizing it), then we could not come up with a concept that such a being would find impossible to accomplish. The strong requirement is that the concept is not pictured in fragments, but as a whole. No one can conceptualize a square triangle given the current definition of those words.

Thank you very much for accept this debate with me!


AwfulMusicFan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by tejretics 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF. Con, therefore, could not refute that a logical contradiction cannot exist as a tangible thought. The logic-defiance arguments were not refuted by Con, whose logic was unlimited power *is* unlimited, viz. a being with unlimited power, that is, omnipotence, should not be limited by logical contradictions but *is* limited by logical contradictions. Pro's counter-rebuttal was simple and adequately defended Pro's position: a logical contradiction is incoherent, and, therefore, intangible; it cannot be imagined, and therefore, does not exist within or without any limit simply because of non-being even subjectively. Pro's arguments struck perfectly at Con's rebuttals, allowing for Pro the victory.