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Conceivability and Possibility

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  • Conceivability and Possibility

    It has been suggested by some, that a things being conceivable provides proof for its possibility, which I accept. However, I don't know if I am willing to say that a things inconceivability provides proof of a things impossibility. For, God is inconceivable, but then he would therefore be impossible, however, God exists. Thoughts?

  • #2
    This is an interesting question. I think a distinction needs to be made between two types of inconceivability. Something can be inconceivable because it's a logical contradiction--try to conceive of a square circle or a non-existing object that exists. In both cases the object possesses a pair of contradictory notes: square and circle, existence and non-existence. But there's also another type of inconceivability which is due to a weak epistemic relation between the subject and the potentially known. For instance, a goldfish is limited by its primitive intelligence and cannot know man. It cannot grasp the nature of man, what is means to be a man, it cannot conceive of man in the abstract. God being inconceivable may fall into this latter category. We cannot know God directly in this life because of a weak epistemic relation hampered by our finitude, fallibility, and corruptibility.

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    • #3
      "I cannot conceive X" obviously is not the same as "I can conceive of ~X". Someone who takes conceivability to be a good guide to possibility will generally do so by being impressed by the prima facie consistency and epistemic seemings one can get from positively conceiving of a thing. *Not* conceiving it is different. Some few people might think everything conceivable is possible, but a lot fewer would think everything possible is conceivable.

      That being said, I take conceivability to provide defeasible evidence of possibility. Since it is defeasible, it can be defeated by stronger considerations.

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