A Conversation for How to Be a Philosopher

Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 1

Marcus Aurelius

smiley - smiley Hello Otto Fisch,

Your post on How to be a Philosopher is well written and brilliantly percieved. Of course, this is my personal opinion, and not neccessarily the absolute 'Truth'. smiley - winkeye I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and you gave me a clearer understanding of what it is to be a philosopher, so thank you! smiley - biggrin

I wanted to comment on the question that you posed as an example of philosophical debate: Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Your arguement so far runs:
Proposal: God is omnipotent.
Can God create a stone he can't lift?
Either he can create the stone, or he cannot.
If he can, he's not omnipotent, because he can't lift it.
If he can't he's not omnipotent, because he can't.
Therefore God cannot be omnipotent.

I considered this and would like to propose the following:

The arguement above is a question of paradox versus omnipotence. The context of the stone leads us to the paradox but does not answer it. The context of the stone is also flawed as it creates misleading impressions which hinder the question of paradox versus omnipotence. Let me explain.

The argument above creates the illusion that the question is actually about God's power being limited in relation to mass. This question of mass is answered by the proposition of omnipotence and is therefore self-resolving. smiley - smiley This is displayed in the proposal that...

*If God cannot create a stone so large and heavy that he cannot lift it, it is either because (A)he cannot create something so immense, or because (B)he is only able to lift objects under a certain size.
*Omnipotence suggests infinite, unlimited power.
*(B)Perhaps God is not able to create something that he cannot lift simply because his power is infinite and therefore nothing is beyond his power to lift.
*(A)The arguement of omnipotence also implies that his powers of creation are also infinite.
*Therefore if God is omnipotent there can be no boundaries on what he can create, nor on what he can manipulate.
*The very limitlessness of omnipotence negates the argument when concerned with mass.
*The Stone context is thus irrelevant.

Therefore the problem remains as this: Is God Omnipotent? Does the concept of Omnipotence create a paradox?

Do you agree? And do you want to have a go at the paradox question as I've run out of time!? smiley - biggrin

Marcus Aurelius

PS - How do you do those flashy bullet points? smiley - winkeye


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 2

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Hi Marcus,

Sorry for the delay in replying - I've been away and only had occasional internet access. Thanks for your comments - I'm glad you liked the entry. I think you're right about rehtoric - I ought to have said something about that, and I'll consider it for the next update. I'm not sure that I'm the person to write a whole entry on it, though!

As regards the stone paradox, there's three standard responses that I'm aware of. The first says that God can't do the logically impossible (eg create a square circlue), but is omnipotent apart from that. The second is to say that omnipotence is just beyond this, and just because we can't find an answer doesn't mean that God can't (which I think is something like your response ???), or to say that God could create a stone and then remove the power from himself to lift it, but doesn't want to - ie God could become non-ominpotent if he wished. This assumes that God is subject to time, though....

TTFN

Otto smiley - schooloffish


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 3

Marcus Aurelius

Hi Otto,

Thanks for the reply. I see you don't want to be baited into that particular arguement. smiley - winkeye So how about you propose one for me to try? smiley - smiley Also, how about letting me in on the mysteries of the bullet points? smiley - tongueout

Marcus


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 4

Charityplayer


IF JESUS COULD TURN WATER INTO WINE,
AND LOT'S WIFE COULD TURN INTO A PILLAR OF SALT,
THEN GOD CAN TURN GOD INTO AN OMNIPOTENT STONE,
A STONE THAT GOD WILL NOT BE ABLE TO LIFT

BUT IT WOULD PROVE NOTHING, BECAUSE WOT CAN YOU PROVE TO A STONE



Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 5

combattant pour liberte

Anyone can turn water into wine. Its just slow and involves yeast and grapes. And sunlight turns into wine all the time (i.e. the sun fuels photosynthesis, which grows the grape plant...)

And its not necessarily physically impossible to turn water into wine very quickly, under the Uncertainty Principle--which seems to say that its possibly (but very unlikely) that tha atoms and protons will all re-arrange themselves and...voila...wine!

Can God create wine he can't drink?


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 6

Charityplayer

PLONK


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 7

spook

i think the questions themselves are flawed.

'can God create a stone he can't lift?'

that question has the big flaw in the fact that God is a spirit, not a physical entity.

also, the answer to the question would be very simple - the question is a contradiction in itself. God has the power to do anything, therefore he can lift anything. if he can lift anything, it is impossible to create something God cannot lift, because he can lift anything.

the contradiction doesn't disprive God being op...(can't remember how to spell it).

spook


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 8

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


"God has the power to do anything, therefore he can lift anything. if he can lift anything, it is impossible to create something God cannot lift, because he can lift anything."

So God can't create something that he can't lift, and therefore isn't omnipotent, or have I misunderstood? Or can't God do the logically impossible?

I don't think it makes any difference whether God is a spirit or a physical entity.

Otto


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 9

spook

well, it depends really. God could create a stone who can't lift. Christianity, Jesus is God and Man, holy trinity. Since Jesus was a man, there would be stones he couldn't lift, so god could create a stone he couldn't lift.

spook


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 10

combattant pour liberte

omnipotent (all-powerfull)


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 11

tality

Hi there Otto,

I am studying Philosophy at Kings College London and was thus interested to read your entry. I found it both entertaining and interesting and am wondering what kind of background you yourself have in Philosophy?

As for the stone argument, I understand how the problem is created, but I believe that the apparent contradiction can be explained in the following way. If we recognise that un-liftableness is not a quality that the stone can possess in the same way that it possesses the qualities 'round' or 'grey', we can realise that whether the stone is liftable depends purely on the power of the party lifting it. Because unliftable is not a physical quality, God cannot assign it to the stone, and being omnipotent, no matter how heavy the stone is (as discussed by a previous person) he will always be able to lift it.

Would be good to hear what you think anyhow!

tality


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 12

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Hi Tality,

Thanks for your message and welcome to H2G2! smiley - smiley My academic backgroundis a BA in Philosophy and English and (fingers crossed) an MPhil in Political Philosophy, subject to a viva in three weeks. My thesis is on John Rawls' difference principle and the arguments used to justify it in "A Theory of Justice". I've also done a bit of teaching to politics undergraduates.

I think you're right to say that liftable is a different property to grey, but I'm not sure that this solves the problem.

The question is: Can God create a stone such that he cannot lift? Although "liftable" is not a property of the stone alone, it is a property of the relationship between the lifter and the lifted in some way. I don't think that it is soley a property of the lifter, which I think is your argument.

All that God has to do to create a stone that I cannot lift is to create one that is too heavy for me, given my strength which is knowable by God. (another way would be to reduce my strength, but I'd rather He didn't do that smiley - smiley).

So all God has to do is to create a stone that is too heavy for him to lift, given his strength, which God also knows. If he can't do this, then he's not omnipotent, and if he can, he's not omnipotent because he can't lift the rock.

I'm not an expert on this area of philosophy by any means, though.

Otto


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 13

spook

Otto - i believe you are wrong there. 'lift' is a physical quality which us humans experience here on Earth. God, on the other hand, is not a physical being, but a spiritual being, or something else, and is therefore not subject to things such as lift. also, how can there ever be a stone anyone cannot lift? lift is a physical force being created against gravity to cause the upward motion of an object. lack of gravity, anyone can lift anything. yet there would be no lift there.

If God created our universe he created the objects and it's physical laws. he is not subject to them as he is a higher being. therefore, the question itself is at fault as it canot apply to God.

can God do anything?

yes!

can God create a stone he can't lift?

lift is a physical propert God created that does not apply to God, so the question i at fault since he is not subject to it.

is God 'omnipotent'?

yes. God is not suject to physical laws, he is above them. if he so desired to could change them. our universe is the art, God is the artist. God can do anything in that piece of art. however, he is not subject to the art. he is always all-poerful. he is always in control.

spooksmiley - aliensmile


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 14

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Hi Spook,

I'm not sure how the view that "lift" has no meaning for God helps the argument. Surely the argument isn't that God can't lift anything at all?!

God is not subject to physical laws, that's true, but if he can't *make* himself subject to physical laws, then that's something that he can't do and therefore he's not omnipotent.

You may be right, though, when you say that the question is at fault. I think there's two reasonable respones to this.

One is to just deny that it matters. Who cares if there's one or two thing that God can't do - he's still *really* powerful. Just as we say that the universe is infinite (even though it isn't) so might we describe God as omnipotent (even though there may be some things that he can't do, but wouldn't want to...)

The second (which I think is related) is just to say that omnipotence does not include doing what is logically impossible. Just as God cannot create a square triangle, or a married bachelor, so he can't become omnipotent because then he wouldn't be God, because God implies omnipotence in the same way that triangle implies shape with three sides. Opinion is divided over whether God can do the logically impossible.....

Otto


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 15

spook

Otto - i think you are at fault, partly. God could create a square triangle, howeve, to do that, he would have to change the physical laws he created. like i said before, 'lift' is something God created, and he can quite easily take it away. he cannot create anything he can't lift, yet he cannot create anything he can lift, yet he can do both, as he can remove lift entirely if he wanted to.

"Opinion is divided over whether God can do the logically impossible"

i think you are thinking to much of our universe. God exists on a different plain. God created logic, so why should be break it? God can do anything, but he only does certain things. God created lift and logic etc for our world from the beginning, knowing he would never break them as he is all knowing.

i disagree with people thinking miracles are unexplainable by science. Miracles are things God does using the tools he created for his artwork. at no point culd God create a stone in the art he can't lift, as God is bigger then everyhting in our universe. God could lift our universe and turn it into a square triangle if he wanted to.

"God is not subject to physical laws, that's true, but if he can't *make* himself subject to physical laws, then that's something that he can't do and therefore he's not omnipotent."

God can make himself subject to physical laws, shown by Jesus being on Earth. at that point, God had both the heavenky power to lift everything, but the physical power of a man for there to be a stone he couldn't lift. this is solid proof that God can do anything.

spook


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 16

Marcus Aurelius


Hi Tality,

Well said. I think the whole question is a matter of rhetoric, not philosophy. Language has basic flaws and this sometimes leads to confusion as with this question. To follow the arguement......

God (if you believe) can create an object of infinite size and weight.

God can "lift", move or indeed remove any object regardless of size and weight.

In both categories he is beyond measurement. There are no limits. Just as humans have trouble concieving of the scope of infinity, so language cannot cope with the seeming contradiction. Why? Because our language was not formed with concepts of the infinite in mind.


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 17

gareis

Here's my take on the situation:

In order for God even to attempt lifting a stone, he must create a body for himself in order to lift the stone. Moreover, he must make a much larger stone nearby such that the mass of the first stone is little oh of the mass of the second (that is, the mass of the first stone is tiny in comparison). Then God can create a body large enough to propel the first stone away from the second in a lifting motion. But he could make the first stone the largest thing in the universe, and therefore nothing could lift it, any more than a human could lift the earth.

But anyway, God never lifts any stones first hand. There's always a body involved. You meant to say "Can God create a stone so large that he cannot *move* it?" The answer to that, of course, is no. That's like asking if there's a brick so red that I can't lift it.


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 18

Machiavelli

Surely If indeed the character of god created all this then in our eyes on this planet with our short 'T-rex' grasp on infinity then how big is a stone. As big as table mountain, As big as Everest? If God created the universe then it should have no trouble shifting, playing or otherwise engaging in moving anything, of this world or not, then I started thinking this poses the bigger question for me why would it bother, I think someone else said what would God have to prove to a stone? and thereafter what does god have to prove to anyone or thing. The followers will still follow. So I think it could but why would it ever want to thus meaning in a roundabout way that God wouldn't intervene by testing itself after xx billion years. If I was stoned this reply would be so much more poignent!!!


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 19

Telvis78

This one is for Spook,

I don't think that God created physical laws, but rather that physical laws like gravity and optics have always existed. I don't think that God created logic either. He is bound to it for the simple argument that he cannot contradict himself. Think about this: Prepostion: There is a black box

God says to me: This box is black
God says to you: This box is white
God contradicts himself, he becomes a liar, since the box is either black or white
God ceases to be God, since he can't be God and a liar at the same time.


I agree with you though in that he is omnipotent. But he is still bound to laws. It seems for us that he is above these laws, but that is mainly because we only know a fraction of the laws that God operates by. Think of it this way:

Take a man from somewhere around 1000AD, and give show him a computer. He is likely to be very afraid of the things this box can do. He doesnot understand about CPU's, RAM, Disks, Software, Electricity, Bits and Bytes and so forth. We understand that there is an electric current that runs into the power supply gets converted and then distributed to perform simple calculations and load data or do other things that we are aware of. He will very likely call us god-like since we can manipulate and understand these things.

It is the same thing with God. He knows and lives by a lot more laws than we do. That enables Him to sometimes do things that we think are contradictory to our laws (like walk on water). But they are just simply based on His understanding of a Higher Law. One day, I believe we will be told how all that works, and then we will be grateful that he didn't tell us sooner...
Telvis78


Can God create a stone he can't lift?

Post 20

gareis

'I don't think that God created physical laws, but rather that physical laws like gravity and optics have always existed. I don't think that God created logic either. He is bound to it for the simple argument that he cannot contradict himself.'

Logic is his nature, certainly. Identifying the source of logic is asking 'Whence God?' and is a useless endeavour.

'God says to me: This box is black
God says to you: This box is white
God contradicts himself, he becomes a liar, since the box is either black or white
God ceases to be God, since he can't be God and a liar at the same time.'

To be anal retentive, replace 'box' with 'zebra'. As for lying, I seem to recall him telling his prophet, 'Tell the king, "You will live", but he will surely die." What makes you think that God always tells the truth? Nowhere in the Bible does it say that lying is wrong; it's preferred, especially to questions such as 'Does this make me look fat?' or 'How's dinner?' The commandment is 'Do not bear false witness against your neighbor' -- accept blame when you should, be honest when someone might possibly be hurt by a lie.

If it is impossible for God to lie, then whatever he says is the truth. If it wasn't before he said it, it is once he has said it.

'I agree with you though in that he is omnipotent. But he is still bound to laws.'

That is a contradiction. His only laws are those which he creates for himself.


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