Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-5sfl8 Total loading time: 0.582 Render date: 2022-12-05T11:26:39.360Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Omnipotence and other possibilities

Winner of the 2012 Religious Studies Postgraduate Essay Prize

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2012

Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, Box 201, 221 00 Lund, Sweden e-mail:


The notion of omnipotence has proved to be quite recalcitrant to analysis. Still, during the last three decades or so, there has resurfaced a clever argument to the effect that, whatever omnipotence is, it cannot be exemplified in God: an allegedly impeccable and all-perfect being. Scrutinizing this argument, however, I find it less than convincing. Moreover, and more importantly, I venture a positive account of my own: a non-technical and distinctively metaphysical definition of omnipotence which, if true, sidesteps quite a number of well-known pitfalls. Also, by way of introduction, I review some earlier attempts.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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.)


Anselm (1995) ‘Proslogion’, in Anselm: Monologion and Proslogion with the Replies of Gaunilo and Anselm, Williams, T. (ed., tr.) (Indianapolis IN: Hackett Publishing Company), 91117.Google Scholar
Aquinas, Thomas (2007) Summa Theologica, Fathers of the English Dominican Province (tr.) (New York: Cosimo).Google Scholar
Brümmer, Vincent (1984) ‘Divine impeccability’, Religious Studies, 20, 203214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, W. R. (1985) ‘Impeccability revisited’, Analysis, 45, 5255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cowan, J. L. (1965) ‘The paradox of omnipotence’, Analysis, 25 (supp. 3), 102108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Divers, John (2002) Possible Worlds (London & New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
Everitt, Nicholas (2004) The Non-Existence of God (London & New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
Flint, Thomas P. & Freddoso, Alfred J. (1983) ‘Maximal power’, in Freddoso, A. J. (ed.) The Existence and Nature of God (Notre Dame IN: Notre Dame University Press), 81113.Google Scholar
Frankfurt, Harry G. (1964) ‘The logic of omnipotence’, The Philosophical Review, 73, 262263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Freddoso, Alfred J. (1988) ‘Medieval Aristotelianism and the case against secondary causation in nature’, in Morris, T. V. (ed.) Divine and Human Action: Essays in the Metaphysics of Theism (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press), 74118.Google Scholar
Geach, Peter (1977) Providence and Evil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
Gewirth, Alan (1978) Reason and Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
Hoffman, Joshua & Rosenkrantz, Gary S. (2002) The Divine Attributes (Oxford: Blackwell).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
La Croix, Richard R. (1977) ‘The impossibility of defining “omnipotence”’, Philosophical Studies, 32, 181190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leftow, Brian (2009) ‘Omnipotence’, in Flint, T. P. & Rea, M. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 167198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mavrodes, George I. (1963) ‘Some puzzles concerning omnipotence’, The Philosophical Review, 72, 221223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Metcalf, Thomas (2004) ‘Omniscience and maximal power’, Religious Studies, 40, 289306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morris, Thomas V. (1985) ‘Necessary beings’, Mind, 94, 263272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morriston, Wes (2001a) ‘Omnipotence and the Anselmian God’, Philo, 4, 720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morriston, Wes (2001b) ‘Omnipotence and necessary moral perfection: are they compatible?’, Religious Studies, 37, 143160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morriston, Wes (2002) ‘Omnipotence and the power to choose: a reply to Wielenberg’, Faith and Philosophy, 19, 358367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagasawa, Yujin (2008) ‘A new defence of Anselmian theism’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 58, 577596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oppy, Graham (2005) ‘Omnipotence’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 71, 5884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oppy, Graham (2011) ‘Perfection, near-perfection, maximality, and Anselmian theism’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 69, 119138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osvath, Mathias (2009) ‘Spontaneous planning for future stone throwing by a male chimpanzee’, Current Biology, 19, 190191.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Plantinga, Alvin (1967) God and Other Minds: A Study of the rational Justification of Belief in God (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
Pruetz, Jill D. & Bertolani, Paco (2007) ‘Savanna chimpanzees, Pan Troglodytes Verus, hunt with tools’, Current Biology, 17, 412417.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pruss, Alexander R. (2001) ‘The cardinality objection to David Lewis's modal realism’, Philosophical Studies, 104, 169178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reichenbach, Bruce R. (1980) ‘Mavrodes on omnipotence’, Philosophical Studies, 37, 211214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sobel, Jordan Howard (2004) Logic and Theism: Arguments For and Against Beliefs in God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
Wielenberg, Erik J. (2000) ‘Omnipotence again’, Faith and Philosophy, 17, 2647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wierenga, Edward (1989) The Nature of God: An Inquiry into Divine Attributes (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure 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 saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ 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.

Omnipotence and other possibilities
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Omnipotence and other possibilities
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Omnipotence and other possibilities
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *