Imagine creating a complex video game and in this game you create a character, let’s call him Bill, who builds a video game of his own. In your original game you implant in Bill a false memory of having always existed and Bill knows everything there is to know about the universe he inhabits, including every detail of the game he created, and he sees himself as omniscient. However the problem is that everyone outside of the game you created knows Bill is not actually omniscient, in fact Bill does not even exist outside of your game, but from the perspective of Bill there’s no way to know if there is a world outside of his universe. If Bill were more reflective he would realize this.
This is the type of restraint upon the limits of knowledge for a mind which led Descartes to conclude that the baseline of all human knowledge must only be “I think, therefore I am.” Assuming for the moment this is a valid starting point for knowledge it also seems to be the limit of absolute knowledge,for all non-tautological statements, because one could never be sure what reality it is that you actually inhabit. However while Descartes tried to get out of the mind and to god which would in turn explain reality, it seems to me this same problem would apply to all minds including any proposed gods.
Just as humans could theoretically be deceived by an evil daemon into believing the world around us is real and just as someone could create a video game character who can’t know if its universe is imbedded within another universe, no mind, including any proposed gods, can know with absolute certainty that it was not the product of another entity or being totally manipulated. As I believe the above thought experiment demonstrates this wouldn’t change even if that mind knew everything about the universe it inhabited and believed it always existed. For example I can not know with absolute certainty whether or not I am just a brain in a vat being totally manipulated in the laboratory of a mad scientist but even if this were true the mad scientist herself would be in the same position. That is to say the mad scientist could not be absolutely certain that it was not itself a brain in a vat being totally manipulated (and so on ad infinitum). The only logical conclusion to this problem of the limit of knowledge for minds seems to me to be that though a mind can surely falsely believe it is omniscient it can’t actually know everything because at least this one fact can never be known. This means by definition no omniscient beings exist including any proposed gods. Finally to put this into a simple syllogism:
- Omniscience is the ability to know everything.
- For all minds there is at least one fact which can not be known, whether or not the universe you inhabit is imbedded within another universe or you are being totally manipulated.
- Therefore omniscience is impossible.
I’d love to hear some responses from believers on this problem but I’ll first anticipate a few probable objections. Some have objected to this by essentially saying “omniscience is the ability to know everything that is logically possible” or “there could still be some ultimate being who knows everything but this.” The former is an odd idea of omniscience if the god in question doesn’t know with certainty that it’s god (or for that matter the ultimate truth of reality) and the latter isn’t really a contention to my point. The fact that a being could in fact be the ultimate creator of existence or have always existed is not at issue here, my point is that any being, no matter how powerful, would be in the same position as you and I when it comes to knowing what universe it inhabits and hence can’t be omniscient. Further as I anticipate some will argue that god would really be omniscient because “it really was around at the creation of the universe” but that would be to miss the point. How does it know it actually was around at the beginning of the universe and even if it was how can it possibly know that it is not in fact a creation from another universe? Also to claim that god knows it is omniscient because it “truly knows everything” or “because otherwise it wouldn’t be god” is to beg the question. If it does know it is not the creation or dream of another being how does it know this? As we’ve established, see Bill above, merely believing that you are omniscient does not imply you are actually omniscient and merely asserting that god is in fact omniscient won’t solve the problem. Lastly to appeal to mystery no more solves this apparent logical impossibility than appealing to mystery to settle once and for all how a dog can be made of justice.
I’ll leave you with this premise in the form of a question for short responses but I invite reblogs and messages in case, in all likelihood, that more space is needed:
How can a mind know that it knows everything?
Last Edited 4/27/12