The paradox of omnipotence, and Mackie`s solution Essay

Omnipotence is inexhaustible, unlimited power. The attribute of omnipotence (being all powerful) is generally a quality of the God of monotheistic religions. There exists an argument, however, that the concept of an omnipotent being is paradoxical, meaning that it is logically impossible that an omnipotent being can exist. One of the more well-known renderings of this paradox goes: Can God create a rock that would be too heavy for him to lift? What this question is asking is essentially “can God can create something that he cannot subsequently control?

This question presents a dilemma.

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If the answer is yes (because God can do anything, after all), it would mean that he is not actually omnipotent, for how could there exist something that an omnipotent being cannot control? If the answer is no (because how could God not be able to lift a stone—he’s supposed to be all-powerful), then he is not actually omnipotent, because here is something he cannot do after all (he cannot create something that he cannot control).

Thus, with either answer, the conclusion is that God is not omnipotent. In his answer to this problem, John L. Mackie says that if an omnipotent being creates an uncontrollable thing, then controlling this thing would mean controlling an “omnipotently-made-uncontrollable” thing, which is logically impossible. Thus even the omnipotent being will not be able to control it, and his failure to control it would actually be an affirmation rather than a refutation of the his omnipotence.

Rigid designator and non-rigid designators The concept of rigid and non-rigid designators is somewhat akin to the concept of proper nouns and common nouns. A rigid designator is a term in philosophy that “designates [or defines] the same object in all possible worlds in which that object exists and never designates anything else” (LaPorte, 2006). Inversely, a non-rigid (or flaccid) designator is a term that does not refer to the same object in all possible worlds.

For example, the sentence “Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon” contains both a rigid designator (Neil Armstorng) and a non-rigid designator (first man on the moon). If events had been different, Neil Armstrong might not have been the first man on the moon, but Neil Armstrong (not just as a name, but as it refers to the man himself) will always be who he is.

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