Monday, December 4, 2017

Omniscience, omnipotence and perfection

Recently, I’ve been worried about arguments like this:

  1. It is always more perfect to be able to do more things.

  2. Being able to do impossible things is a way of being able to do more things.

  3. So, a perfect being can do impossible things.

But I really don’t want to embrace 3.

It’s just occurred to me, though, that the argument 1-3 is parallel to the clearly silly argument:

  1. It is always more perfect to know more things.

  2. Knowing falsehoods is a way of knowing more things.

  3. So, a perfect being knows falsehoods.

Once we realize that among “more things” there could be falsehoods, it becomes clear that 4 as it stands is false, but needs to be restricted to the truths. But arguably what truths are to knowledge, that possibles are to power (I think this may be a Jon Kvanvig point, actually). So we should restrict 1 to the possibles.


Heath White said...

Maybe it is easier to see this point if you take "do more things" to quantify over particular concrete actions (in some possible world) as opposed to descriptions of actions.

Martin Cooke said...

I guess we also want to rule out doing bad things, and so I wonder what is to good things, as knowledge is to power? Maybe it is useful knowledge, as opposed to what we might call 'knowledge for the sake of it.'

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, God's doing a bad thing is impossible, so the impossibility restriction may get rid of the bad stuff, too, depending on how one understands the impossibility.