Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-888d5979f-6thx7 Total loading time: 0.236 Render date: 2021-10-26T00:34:53.060Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

12 - Impossibility Arguments

from Part II - The Case against Theism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2007

Michael Martin
Affiliation:
Boston University
Get access

Summary

Among the most telling atheistic arguments are those to the effect that the existence of any being that meets standard divine specifications is impossible - that there not only is not but could not be any such being.

All such arguments depend crucially on sets of divine specifications. A core traditional notion of God is one that specifies him as necessarily existent, omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect. God is also standardly conceived of as being a free creator, and is often spoken of as immutable or transcendent. Some impossibility arguments attack a single attribute - attempting to show that the notion of omniscience is logically incoherent on its own, for example. Others attack combinations of attributes - arguing that it is not logically possible for a being to be omniscient and a free creator, for example. If either form of argument succeeds, we will be able to show that there can be no God as traditionally conceived.

Because the arguments at issue operate in terms of a set of more or less clear specifications, of course, it is always possible for a defender of theism to deflect the argument by claiming that the God shown impossible is not his God. If he ends up defending a God that is perhaps knowledgeable but not omniscient he may escape some arguments, but at the cost of a peculiarly ignorant God. The same would hold for a God that is perhaps powerful but is conceded to be less than omnipotent, or historically important but not literally a creator. If the term ”God ” is treated as infinitely redefinable, of course, no set of impossibility arguments will force the theist to give up a claim that “God ” in some sense exists. The impossibility arguments may nonetheless succeed in their main thrust in that the “God ” so saved may look increasingly less worthy of the honorific title.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×