Martin's Blog

Logic and omnipotence

Posted by Martin Orr on Wednesday, 20 September 2006 at 16:51

This is something I have considered before from a mathematical logic perspective, but never really from a theological one. In consideration of the existence of pain in a world created by a loving God, it is often asserted that this is an inevitable consequence of free will (or at least of having multiple agents of free will). However why should it be inevitable? If we assert the omnipotence of God, then we must accept that God is capable of creating a world in which there are multiple agents of free will and no pain.

However that's not really the question I am interested in. This is: Is God bound by our conceptions of logic? In mathematical logic, we make a few basic rules called axioms such as:

If (A and B) is true, then A is true.

Facts are then accepted as true if they can be deduced using these axioms. By starting with different axioms, it is possible to create different systems of logic; for example, some people reject the law of the excluded middle which says:

Either A is true or (not A) is true.

Nevertheless, in trying to proof facts about what makes these logical systems different from each other, we are forced to fall back on our intuitive rules and especially on modus ponens:

If A is true and (If A then B) is true, then B is true.

When I claimed above that believing "Multiple agents of free will implies pain" is a restriction on divine omnipotence, I was creating such a restriction myself by assuming that God was bound by something at least vaguely resembling the logic we are used to.

Does the above: prove that omnipotence is possible; prove that omnipotence is a paradox; contain unsound reasoning; or avoid properly answering the question?

-- Martin

no comments Tags philosophy

On the uses of signatures

Posted by Martin Orr on Friday, 08 September 2006 at 21:19

What is the use of a signature? The basic function seems to be to confirm the identity of the author of a document - you can't after all attach a photographic ID card. However I am not convinced that they are much good at this: it cannot be terribly difficult, with a little practice, to produce a reasonable copy of someone else's signature. And in order to verify a signature, you would have to compare the doubtful copy with other, genuine, copies of the same signature. However, I know that each time I make my signature it is slightly different, and if people checked too carefully very few signatures would be trustable.

This does not mean that a signature is completely useless - it is still indicates the status you assign to a document. For example, the most recent form I remember signing was to purchase insurance. If I had not signed the form, it would just have been a collection of information; putting my signature there indicates that I have accepted the terms and conditions, and turns it into an instruction to the insurance company to send me a policy. But it is not really any better for such purposes to add a signature than to tick a box labelled "I accept the terms and conditions."

BTW, the photos from my trip to Germany and Italy are online; sorry it took me so long to post the link.

-- Martin

no comments Tags identity