An Ochkamish Nominalist argument

1.) God is omnipotent.
2.) Omnipotence = can do all that is logically possible.
3.) Therefore, all that is logically possible is really possible.
4a.) If things have essences, then some things that are logically possible are not really possible.
4b The proof) Let some thing with an essence perform all actions that are logically possible. At least some are not real possibilities since essence, if it does anything, imposes limit on possible actions.
4c.) And so if some thing has an essence, then to perform all logically possible actions would have to both be done and not be done by the thing, which is a contraction.
4d.) Therefore, either no thing has an essence, or some logically possible actions are not real possibilities.
5.) But all logically possible actions are real possibilities.
6.) Therefore, no thing has an essence.


This argument fails to distinguish what is possible with respect to the absolute power of God from what is possible for creatures considered in their finite existence. As finite, it is analytic that the creature is limited in his powers to act. Distinguo 4b and deny conclusion.


Where a possibility is really absent from a subject, it is impossible for it to come to be by any power, whether human or divine. Therefore the problem remains.

Objection 2

God is the source of the existence of possibilities, and so if he were to cause some things to come about by divine power, we simply judge that he also causes a possibility to come forth also.

Response 2

I concede the argument, but deny that such a possibility can be introduced into any finite essence, since to introduce a possibility into a finite essence against this essence would be to make an essence that both can and cannot do something. Example: if it is of the essence of brute animal that it not reason, it is impossible that a brute animal reason. Yet brute animals can reason by the absolute power of God, as is clear from Balaam’s ass. Thus the argument remains.


1 Comment

  1. jacmcm said,

    February 11, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I find 4b) unconvincing. While it is true that essence imposes limits on possible actions this is only the case when the essence of a thing is distinct from the the existence of a thing. This entails that beings who’s essence is distinct from their existence (i.e humans) are not omnipotent. God however is purely simple and therefore his essence is not distinct from his existence. This also has a bearing on 4c). If God has an essence then all possible things could be done by him. This in turn refutes 4d) as God having an essence means he can do all that is logically possible.

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