Potentiality

When speaking of possible versus impossible, one needs to remember that “possible” and “impossible” are semantic constructions; they are contrived human thought forms that do not have any basis or even any meaning outside of human meaning. That is not to say that such concepts are not useful or accurate: to the contrary, statements of possibility and practicality are important to our ever-evolving understanding of and interaction with the world. However, impossible and possible are forms, and as such they may not apply to other realities, and they certainly can not apply to God or absolute reality.

To say that something is impossible is to say that said thing does not fit within the logical confines relegated to the concept called “possible,” but does fit within the defined parameters of the concept called “impossible.” Anything that cannot fit neatly within the conceptual boundaries demarcating “possibility” must necessarily transcend any notion of possible or impossible. Such things do exist. We shall call candidates for possibility “objects” and we shall say that the object is “potential” if it occupies the realm of possibility and “non-potential” if it is not contained within the set of objects defined by possibility.

Often times there are objects that simply do not adhere to the semantic “dress code” of possibility, and therefore make it a moot point to argue for or against that object’s possibility. To illustrate one case of this, I will introduce an example object as follows: “is it possible to sing with all the voices of the mountains?”* It is not clear which realms of meaning we should use to interpret this object; it is an expression of thought that is irrelevant to possibility (by which I mean all notions of possible vs. impossible). Consequently, this object is non-potential. Here is another object that is non-potential: “is it possible to paint with all the colors of the wind?”* (Remember that, though these phrases are non-potential, they may nevertheless hold a great amount of meaning and utility.)

Incidentally, many such non-potential arguments are commonly made against the existence of God. For example, one asks, “can God devise a math problem so hard that even He cannot solve it?” Well, if we were talking about a man (Joseph), then this object would surely be potential; yes, Joseph can write out a semi-random string of numbers, variables, and operators into an equation that can be solved, but not by poor and uneducated Joseph. However, we’re talking about God…which makes things tricky because God does not adhere to the normal properties and limits appropriated to sentient beings. As He is defined, God has certain attributes which are fuzzy on the edges—the boundary of omniscience is not well-defined—and, since human understanding is limited, has a nature which a priori cannot be completely delineated by humans. Therefore, many statements or [questions about God] make good examples of non-potential objects: they cannot be contained within the semantic perimeter of possibility, so they are non-potential. The above question about God’s math problem is one such non-potential object.

Aside from semantics, there is another aspect to potentiality, and that is actuality. For an object to be potential, it must actualize. Potentiality and actuality are both forms and do not apply to God or absolute reality because neither have form, but in our experiential reality a potential object must have actuality. In other words, for something to be possible it must have an actualization, and impossibility is the lack of actualization. Non-potential objects do not require actuality; in fact, actuality becomes completely impertinent—any notion of happening or not happening is irrelevant. For example, evil is non-potential because the occurrence or non-occurrence of evil is nonsensical: the concept of evil (or goodness, love, calculus, light, etc.) is independent of its actualization.

Basically, potentiality is another way of looking at possibility. It is to say that, if something does not happen, then it is impossible for that thing to have happened. Potentiality is necessarily relative to a given context or situation. Take the example of Joseph winning the lottery. If we somehow know that Joe is not going to win the lottery, we could posit that it is impossible for Joe to win the lottery. That does not account for all Joe’s in all universes and all levels of reality; it is merely to say that if a particular context-specific object does not actualize, then that object (Joe winning the lotto) is impossible.

However, one can (quite rightly) argue that everything exists, whether in a superposition of all states or the summation of all realities, and that all potential objects have an actualization. Because of this, literally everything is possible.

*>>Pocahontas

>>Some assorted questions about God.

>>I’ll refer to this in another post more specific to God, but if you’d like read more about disproving God using dubious semantic arguments, check out Abrahamic God Does Not Exist.

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One Response to Potentiality

  1. blakerivers says:

    Sorry about the missing hyperlink; I haven’t posted the referred [questions about God] article yet.

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