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Understanding omnipotence


An omnipotent being would be a being whose power was unlimited. The power of human beings is limited in two distinct ways: we are limited with respect to our freedom of will, and we are limited in our ability to execute what we have willed. These two distinct sources of limitation suggest a simple definition of omnipotence: an omnipotent being is one that has both perfect freedom of will and perfect efficacy of will. In this article we further explicate this definition and show that it escapes the standard objections to divine omnipotence.

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Rogers Albritton (1985) ‘Freedom of will and freedom of action’, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 59, 239251.

Harry Frankfurt (1982) ‘The importance of what we care about’, Synthese, 53, 257272.

Richard R. La Croix (1977) ‘The impossibility of defining “omnipotence”’, Philosophical Studies, 32, 181190.

David Lewis (2003) ‘Finkish dispositions’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 47, 143158.

William E. Mann (1977) ‘Ross on omnipotence’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 8, 142147.

C. B. Martin (1994) ‘Dispositions and conditionals’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 44, 18.

Gary Watson (2004) ‘Volitional necessities’, in Agency and Answerability: Selected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 88122.

Erik J. Wielenberg (2000) ‘Omnipotence again’, Faith and Philosophy, 17, 2647.

Edward Wierenga (1983) ‘Omnipotence defined’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 43, 363375.

Bernard Williams (1993) ‘Moral incapacity’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 93, 5970.

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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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