Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Paradox of the Stone


One of God’s defining properties is that he is omnipotent. But it has been argued that the concept of omnipotence is paradoxical or logically incoherent, and therefore it is impossible for any being to be omnipotent. The Paradox of the Stone is an argument that claims that God cannot be omnipotent. This is not an argument for atheism, but for the reform of theology (i.e. redefining the concept of God). If it succeeds, it shows that any God defined as having the property of omnipotence cannot exist.


The Argument

Can God create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it? If God can create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, there is something that he cannot do, namely lift the stone in question. If God cannot create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, there is something that he cannot do, namely create such a stone. Either way, there is something that God cannot do, and if there is something that he cannot do, he cannot be omnipotent.

(1) One of God’s properties is omnipotence (definition)
(1) God either can or cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it.
(2) If God can create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it,
then God is not omnipotent.
(3) If God cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it,
then God is not omnipotent
(4) God is not omnipotent
(5) If God exists, then God is omnipotent
Therefore:
(6) God (as here defined) does not exist


Solution

This paradox is easily solved. Since God is omnipotent, he cannot create a stone which is too heavy for him to lift, because he can lift every stone that can be created. It is not logically possible for God to make a stone which is too heavy to be lifted by an omnipotent being, i.e. a being that can lift up anything which it is logically possible to lift up. Hence, the fact that God cannot create a stone which is too heavy for him to lift shows no limitation in God’s powers.


Conclusion

The Paradox of the Stone does not show that God’s powers are limited or that he’s not omnipotent. The fact that this argument fails does not mean that we have proven that God can be omnipotent; we have just shown that this argument has no power, but not that all such arguments are powerless. There are arguments that are far more persuasive (see: Omnipotence)


Reference:

Everitt, N. (2004). The Non-Existence of God. New York: Routledge.

1 comment:

  1. As far as religion is concerned I am confused. I neither believe nor disbelieve in an all powerful being.
    I once asked a priest about this paradox. He told me. "Yes God can create a stone that he cannot lift, and yet he can lift it at the same time."
    The limit is not in God's power, the limit is in the power of logic.
    Logic is an invention of the human mind, yet we regard it as always providing a pathway to the truth - whatever that is.

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