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PresentPerfect


Writer, RCL co-curator, EQD prereader, dramatic reader, VA, fic reviewer. Vote for my next fic to release!


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Roblé Rotunda has the perfect thesis for his master's program. It's sure to put his name into the annals of Equestria's greatest thinkers.

He's going to prove that Princess Celestia is not omnipotent.

Cover by Kittyhawk Contrail!

Rated Worth Reading by Titanium Dragon!

Chapters (1)
Comments ( 109 )

Good luck with that, Roblé.

Good luck indeed...

~ Chapter: 13

I love stories like this. :heart:

Princess Celestia is so wonderfully OP.

That was... fucking cool. I hope this makes it to the front page, because this was the neatest little story I've read in a long time.

Eloquently written, intense without being an action story, thought-provoking without being horribly long-winded.

10/10

Now this, THIS is a thought exercise. As I type this, I still cannot fully wrap my head around this story, or the underlying principle that inspired it in the first place...

And I love it.

A challenging fic, truly. Omnipotence without omnipotence. Fascinating...

Well done.

Majin Syeekoh
Story Approver

This was pleasantly understated, and the true message got across.:twilightsmile:

It's well written (though you went a bit over the top making Rotunda so irritating). But what was the point? By definition, if she _were_ omnipotent, she could deceive him utterly and he would have no inkling he'd even been manipulated. Why would he even think asking her would gain any useful information at all?

(It proves she cares enough to make sure her deceptions are flawless. Which I suppose is a creative way to show her compassion for her subjects...but it's not like canon leaves us with any doubt she would go the extra mile if necessary.)

It might be a barbed jest about the way the human mind is not equipped to genuinely pursue truth, but given that the mind can't help being this way, it seems a bit unfair?

Whatever the point was here is lost on me. I wish it weren't, I really want to like this story. I mean, I like subtle, quirky meanings. But there's just not enough to work with here.

Edit: besides, even presuming she were honest, I don't agree with the logic of the test. An omnipotent power can define anything, including the extent of what is possible. Contracting the scope of reality irreversibly is just the ultimate demonstration of that power. Once the change has been made, it's not that "Oh, you can't undo that, so you're really all powerful". The thing that cannot be done is an innately impossible condition of the existence of everything.

It's not like there's erased data on the hard drive that cannot be recovered. The hard drive is physically changed so that data cannot exist on it.

Edit 2: The very act of creating a universe is of placing constraints and conditions on existence. We have no way of knowing if any hypothetical power had been greater than those constraints at some previous time or only exactly equal to them. We would have no way to tell the difference save by witnessing such a contraction. And even then, we wouldn't know how great a contraction had taken place.

I... I don't get it.

7894310 Don't be so coy. Share :fluttershysad: (in spoiler text perhaps?) I'm really scratching my head at this one.

Love it! Because Celestia should not only be unfathomably powerful; she should be unfathomably good.

Even Celestia has her limits, but she pushes against them with everything she has and accepts the unyielding ones with a laugh. Something there for all of us to learn.

Thank you for this. :twilightsmile:

7894351 Russel's Paradox is actually pretty straightforward in that regard. The problem asserted is that no matter how you 'solve' this problem, the very idea of omnipotence - "All powerful" - is itself a logical contradiction. If your omnipotence allows you to create the logical absurdity of being both capable of all things and yet incapable of some things, only one statement or the other can be true.

Edit: besides, even presuming she were honest, I don't agree with the logic of the test. An omnipotent power can define anything, including the extent of what is possible. Contracting the scope of reality irreversibly is just the ultimate demonstration of that power. Once the change has been made, it's not that "Oh, you can't undo that, so you're really all powerful". The thing that cannot be done is an innately impossible condition of the existence of everything.

The last bit is the usual response to the paradox, i.e., does being omnipotent necessarily require you to be logically absurd in your nature? Defining the extent of "what is possible" and then applying that definition to oneself could only prove that one used to be all-capable. It can't be done by any being who is currently all-capable (since that would prove not that they made a stone that they couldn't lift, but that they have refused to try).

Edit 2: The very act of creating a universe is of placing constraints and conditions on existence. We have no way of knowing if any hypothetical power had been greater than those constraints at some previous time or only exactly equal to them. We would have no way to tell the difference save by witnessing such a contraction. And even then, we wouldn't know how great a contraction had taken place.

How many universes have you created that you're privy to the nature of such actions? All of this is conjecture and speculation on what could be, and that's fine. But speculating about "bigger" and "more capable" means nothing without context. Creating what is beyond your capabilities is itself an act that erodes basic omnipotence.

I'll be honest, I'm flattered I inspired this but I'm a bit confused what in my blog actually did - beyond, perhaps, mentioning the God Paradox at all. The basic scenario feels a bit off to me. Does Princess Celestia really have this much of a problem with skeptics doubting omnipotence she's never claimed? Even assuming deific status, this feels a bit like taking time out of one's busy schedule to let the king of dragons know you've logically deduced that they are not a cherub. Technically correct, practically useless. I suppose that's part of the point Celestia makes by so readily carrying out the make-a-stone test, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone should want to propose it to her. I know it's part of a Master's Thesis, but what discipline is this thesis in? Religious or political philosophy? History? Architecture? Princess Celestia twice over mentions these in connection with Roble but I have no idea who he is or why he's doing this. The best I can figure based on the ending is that he in some way sees proving her not to be omnipotent will justify his own relative weakness but I'm not really sure.

The swaggering arrogance also feels a bit off. As someone who's been in and out of the church, I can say with certainty that if you believe in God and find out they aren't around, it rips you up in ways you can't explain. It's not a pretty moment. Roble seems to have the opposite response, however. Celestia's proof of her power and majesty is what strikes him, not the fact that she's incapable of accomplishing a task, which means that he was dispossessed of any belief she was omnipotent long before this point. And missing his emotional reaction of reaching that point feels weird. I'm missing a key area of connection.

I suppose what we're getting at here is that technical omnipotence is sort of a game of absurdity - does it matter if one isn't "omnipotent" when, in fact, their majesty and power do eclipse all conventional standards to the point of practically being identical? But Roble's attitude, his single-minded quest to prove Celestia isn't omnipotent, felt disconnected from that resolution. i couldn't really bring myself to square all his conflicting potential motives in my head. Is he doing this out of shcaudenfreude? Because he's just a dick? Why pursue this? What thesis in what subject is he even writing that this is relevant to?

That said, I was beyond flattered you posted this story and I did enjoy reading it. I just found it difficult to really engage with. Perhaps I'm the problem.

This would have been so much simpler if they'd just asked Celestia if she was omnipotent. She would likely have laughed at them... and then said yes, because Trollestia. :trollestia:

That was a delightfully charming little story.

From my own perspective as a contented nonbeliever, these kinds of thought experiments are honestly pretty useless, and miss the point. Because religion isn't really about the structure of the cosmos. At its best, it's about persuading people to treat each other well.

Well done, Princess.

7894351 All one needs to ask is, "If Alondro were Super God, and some pretentious douche asked him this question, how badly would he troll the douche before finally atomizing him?"

There are questions you just don't ask beings that are clearly radically more powerful than you are.

This is the BIG ONE. Because they just might prove it to you if they aren't as benevolent as they are powerful.

Artichoke here. I really want to see that spell! :pinkiehappy:

This was a really great story. You wrote Celestia just so perfectly and showed how great (and yet humble) a character she is. She knew all along what Rotunda's thoughts were and what he was driving at. While she may not be omnipotent, she is an excellent reader of character and probably a superior poker player. Ruling a kingdom (quite fairly, I might add) for nigh close to 3,000 years might make a pony a bit wise, yes?

As I said in the beginning, a great story. The friendship lesson at the end was perfect without being trite and the whole tale was just full of charm and wonder. You've done well, Present Perfect. Bravo!

7894525

I suppose what we're getting at here is that technical omnipotence is sort of a game of absurdity - does it matter if one isn't "omnipotent" when, in fact, their majesty and power do eclipse all conventional standards to the point of practically being identical? But Roble's attitude, his single-minded quest to prove Celestia isn't omnipotent, felt disconnected from that resolution. i couldn't really bring myself to square all his conflicting potential motives in my head. Is he doing this out of shcaudenfreude? Because he's just a dick? Why pursue this? What thesis in what subject is he even writing that this is relevant to?

Thank you for finding a more pointed and clear way to ask the same question on my mind.

How many universes have you created that you're privy to the nature of such actions?

I'm not sure why you're referencing Iyov (Job) here... (if you're not, my apologies)

I thought I'd made clear that we're not really equipped to analyze this scale of stuff. But that even to the degree we might be granted clarity to accommodate us as much as possible without changing our abilities or perceptions, the data wouldn't be very useful.

Creating what is beyond your capabilities is itself an act that erodes basic omnipotence.

Ah. I see where I'm getting tangled here. Jewish mysticism insists Y*VH is such a lover of order and consistency, that insofar as Y*VH projects into this universe, all decrees in this universe are binding on everything in this universe, including itself. To the extent that all miracles aren't actually performed as ad hoc decisions but are scheduled and planned from the instant of creation.

It's all about the concept of gevurah...the essence of raw power and strength that is not only the power to accomplish but the power to restrain and the power to restrain power itself. I am bemused but simultaneously amused that I've internalized their map so much just from studying it a lot. :pinkiecrazy:

I can't help hoping if there was an omnipotent agency of any kind, that it would voluntarily adopt the same attitude to lessen the gulf between it and non omnipotent critters. But I recognize that yes, this is silly to expect this much less to assume it. So you're right.

Though one thing I was trying to express but didn't manage to is that even when not deceived, if we witnessed something inexplicable, we'd have no idea if this was because of some supreme power...or to some degree a more or less limited ability. (ie, someone is resurrected from the dead. Is that just an overall ability to say "what I say goes?" or is it an ability to heal all organic creatures (and death is just an injury as far as this power is concerned) or is it a limited ability to revive what has recently died? or is it even more specifically some weird knack that only worked this time on this subject and would never work on anything else again?)

It's like looking up at a sufficiently high wall, at a certain point our eyes can no longer tell the difference between "damned tall" and "possibly infinitely tall" (well aside from the fact my physicist friend assures me physical infinite magnitude of anything is impossible as far as we can tell).

So to me, Rotunda's an educated idiot. I mean, I sympathize he feels he's got a grievance to settle (though the story leaves that murky) but like, are philosophy departments so hopeless that someone like him could get to the PhD level and not have been flunked out or taught better first....? I wouldn't know, I never really interacted with academic culture even when I was in university. (Not that I got beyond undergrad anyway).

Nicely written.

Me, I always had a problem with that particular inquiry. I feel it is a bit of daft test for omnipotence, laughably easy to work around; all one has to do is modifiy one's physical form to a desired lift capacity and create an object that exceeds that. Do-able within any reasonable scope of near-omnipotance.

Because that age-old postulation is far too simple and the universe is anything but simple, as any engineer will tell you. Try setting some boundary conditions and doing proper science, metaphorical questioner, and one might have the time of day.

(Alternatively, if one it is truly omnipotent (and one does not simply suggest that questioner go away and read what "infinity" actually means and that is it not a number), simply point out that creating an object that even passably could be within a ball prak would create a sufficient gravitation field that it would collapse the universe into a single point and destroy everything. (And again suggest the questioner does not, in fact, actually know what "infinity" means.

Though one would imagine such an omnipotent might have something better to do than disprove statements on said power - and that, for the questioner, said being is benevolent...)


Celestia, on the other hand, shows omnibenevolence, if not omnipotance; because I don't know about anone else, but the forth of fifth time I would have been asked that, I would have made an announcement to the effect that the next individual asking that question would be asked one of their own first, e.g. "can you breath in a black hole?"

7894557 If you'd written the story, I'd concede that would be a sensible reason. But Present Perfect seemed a bit more sane and less impulsive... ? :unsuresweetie:

Also, the story as written doesn't really do anything to imply Rotunda's in any danger except for the brief flicker of the sun, and Celestia doesn't act like she's trying to intimidate him...in fact that this was literally the furthest thing from her mind. I suppose she could be lying through her pearly teeth. But there's just no hint of detail to imply that?

Is Roble a Rotten individual? I mean, certainly, he seems more...sporting about it all, but then again, maybe he just had a chance to bake a piece of pretty cake.

7894774 Well, that wasn't really my point.

He knows she's not OMNIPOTENT, but she IS far more powerful than any other pony.

And his bravado and arrogance only didn't get him slaughtered because she's a nice pony. This would not have gone over so well with, say, Sombra. Or Nightmare Moon.

My point was, he was really a douche. :trollestia:

7894763

I'm not sure why you're referencing Iyov (Job) here... (if you're not, my apologies)
I thought I'd made clear that we're not really equipped to analyze this scale of stuff. But that even to the degree we might be granted clarity to accommodate us as much as possible without changing our abilities or perceptions, the data wouldn't be very useful.

...Amusingly, I wasn't intending to but kind of did. Though I don't claim any special knowledge about the creation of universes either. I more meant to say that it amused me that you categorically described what it must be like to create a universe without a priori knowledge of universe creation. (Although I think Oliver, if he shows up, will probably argue that as a technical act if either of us have ever written or constructed a story, on some level, yes, we have made a universe.)

It's all about the concept of gevurah...the essence of raw power and strength that is not only the power to accomplish but the power to restrain and the power to restrain power itself. I am bemused but simultaneously amused that I've internalized their map so much just from studying it a lot. :pinkiecrazy:

Gevurah itself is admittedly an alien notion to the very concept of 'true' omnipotence. Oliver, I think, argued that true omnipotence exists in the ability to create and destroy plot at will. If that's the case, then by definition no truly omnipotent individual can say they have access to the power to restrain themselves as a writer, only the power to restrain their impulses. I find this amusing on some level, particularly when you realize it means that any beautiful story in the universe exists only as a matter of a writer choosing not to make it ugly, and that if someone did 'author' us then I have to question their literary taste.

So to me, Rotunda's an educated idiot. I mean, I sympathize he feels he's got a grievance to settle (though the story leaves that murky) but like, are philosophy departments so hopeless that someone like him could get to the PhD level and not have been flunked out or taught better first....? I wouldn't know, I never really interacted with academic culture even when I was in university. (Not that I got beyond undergrad anyway).

Weirdly, that's something unclear. Is what he's doing directly pertinent to philosophy? We don't have strict evidence that Celestia is a deified figure in Equestria, and given the sun and moon are objects manipulated by ponies throughout time it seems to me unlikely that there's a tradition of solar worship for them to draw on and embody in her. "God-Queen" was always a fan concept first and a series concept second. Assuming that she is in fact deified by most of Equestria in this story, however, the nature of a philosophy class that could at any moment be visited by God would be quite different, I think, than most of us are used to.

7894525
Just because you can say something doesn't make it a meaningful statement.

"Create an object so heavy you cannot lift it" is not a meaningful statement in real life; there are some interpretations of it which have at least some meaning (for instance, a stellar mass black hole cannot be lifted by picking it up with your hands) but there are other interpretations (such as, say, moving an object relative to another object) to which any observable object is subject.

As is noted by the Omnipotence Wikipedia article:

Omnipotence is the quality of having unlimited power.

This is far more ambiguous than it might seem at first blush. What does it mean to have unlimited power? Is it even a physically meaningful statement? How would you go about measuring it?

In the Universe, as we understand it, there's no such thing - it is prohibited by the laws of thermodynamics. But if you could somehow create an infinite amount of power over time over an infinite amount of space, you might not even seem all that powerful - any sort of immortal, eternal being would by this definition have "unlimited power" (it would never run out, so the amount of power they generated would be infinite) and yet at any given moment in time they might not be putting out very much power at all. I don't think most people would consider that to be a satisfying answer - indeed, such a thing might appear fairly ordinary at any given point in time, and not even all that powerful relative to things around it - and yet it would satisfy the criterion of "unlimited power" and be extremely difficult to disprove.

Being next to something which is putting out huge amounts of energy will quickly result in everything around it turning to plasma, at which point it is no longer possible to meaningfully observe the object - a supernova does not produce an infinite amount of power, but if you were sitting next to one, you'd never know the difference as you'd be incinerated long before you could prove it was not infinite. The more powerful something is, the more energy it would put out, and thus the more region it would vaporize, and thus the further away you would have to be - something which was infinitely powerful in a given moment would destroy everything which was capable of observing it.

Omnipotence is not possible in our Universe because of the laws of physics (at least, as far as we understand them) but the idea that it is some sort of logical self-contradiction isn't necessarily true - it depends on how you define it, and your definition may be worthless. "What happens when an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object?" is a sentence you can construct in English, but it isn't necessarily physically meaningful, and therefore may not mean any more than "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

As noted in Newton's Flaming Laser Sword:

When I was a child, of nine or ten years of age, a particularly sadistic schoolteacher posed the question: “What would happen if an irresistible force acted on an immovable object?” My first response was that if the force was irresistible, then the object must move. “Ah,” said the teacher, who had been here before, “but the object is immovable.”

I thought about this for three days with brief periods out for sleeping. Eventually I concluded that language was bigger than the universe, that it was possible to talk about things in the same sentence which could not both be found in the real world. The real world might conceivably contain some object which had never so far been moved, and it might contain a force that had never successfully been resisted, but the question of whether the object was really immovable could only be known if all possible forces had been tried on it and left it unmoved. So the matter could be resolved by trying out the hitherto irresistible force on the hitherto immovable object to see what happened. Either the object would move or it wouldn’t, which would tell us only that either the hitherto immovable object was not in fact immovable, or that the hitherto irresistible force was in fact resistible.

From which you will infer that even at an early age I was destined for Science and not for Philosophy.

I was guessing that Celestia would move the planet while the rock stayed stationary.

7894863 I think I just made that point with less reference to supernovas.

Unless there's a specific difference in your position and mine that I can't quite otherwise parse. If unlimited power forces you to be capable of logical absurdities, it can't actually exist.

This is far more ambiguous than it might seem at first blush. What does it mean to have unlimited power? Is it even a physically meaningful statement? How would you go about measuring it?

The general understanding of omnipotence as is usually applied to deities is "capable of all things, even ones previously considered impossibilities according to general human capabilities of observation and understanding." So in fact, saying that something possesses an unlimited amount of energy is not in fact a direct 1-1 observation that it is also omnipotent, or even approaching omnipotence. When used in the context of theoretical God/gods/beings, it's measuring a matter of that being's capability as an effective individual actor to impact the world around them and ourselves. Thus while I could see an argument that a supremely capable or powerful individual might be functionally omnipotent (even if not 'truly omnipotent'), since we can't actually tell the difference, I can't quite see an argument that something possessing an unlimited amount of energy could ever be considered such if it simply expanded it slowly over time. Because generally, omnipotence is linked to capability, not simply to possession of strength.

Whether such beings exist is another story entirely.

A fun little story, with a nicely characterized Celestia, but as already stated, after six seasons of MLP the notion that anyPony [1] would consider Celestia omnipotent seems a bit absurd, considering how often she gets PWNed for reasons of plot (not that one, you sicko, the literary kind). This story would have worked better if published before the second season came out.

The rock is of course in motion from the moment it comes into existence, unless the world of Equestria is the immobile center of a non-relativistic universe.

[1] Well, if Ponies are like humans in terms of religious sentiment, there will be some Ponies which worship Celestia - after all, if some humans are willing to accept Haile Selassie as the messiah, why not Zoidberg Celestia? And, again if they think like humans, some within this group will consider all Celestia's Fails as Tests of Faith.

7894778 ...

Damn it.

I'm never going to be able to unread this now.

7894879

The general understanding of omnipotence as is usually applied to deities is "capable of all things, even ones previously considered impossibilities according to general human capabilities of observation and understanding."

The problem is that this is a statement which is based in English, while the Universe runs on math. That was what I was trying to get at with my post.


That said, I think this story is actually really focused on Roblé, not Celestia; the focus is really about Roblé and his sort of recognition of how small and petty he is, as well as him coming to question whether or not his question is even a meaningful one. He's left empty at the end because he realizes that the whole reason he was trying to do this was to make himself feel big, and in the end, even though he's "proved" that Celestia is not omnipotent (at least, in the way he understood it), that the whole argument he had been constructing was pointless.

He had tried to make himself feel special by challenging Celestia in that way, but the end reveals that not only is it a spell that anyone with enough power can cast, but that Celestia has been challenged in this particular way many times, so he wasn't even unique or special in his challenge. He wanted to feel better about himself, but watching Celestia struggle with lifting the rock didn't make him feel good.

In the end, he recognizes that his problem isn't with Celestia, it is with himself.

7894975

That said, I think this story is actually really focused on Roblé, not Celestia; the focus is really about Roblé and his sort of recognition of how small and petty he is, as well as his preconceptions about whether or not his question is even a meaningful one.

It is, but I'm honestly kind of tilting my head as to why and how he'd even entertain such a notion. His smallness and pettiness feel oddly disconnected from the figure and his attempts to prove her less significant.

I mean, if he were really small and petty, why omnipotence? Why not prove that as a leader, she's fallible? That she's made poor decisions, failed in tasks? Why not focus on those, why ask about rocks she can't lift? That's the kind of question you task theoretical deities with, not theistic monarchs. The challenge doesn't fit the circumstances.

Him realizing how little his 'proof' that she isn't omnipotent is means so much less when you wonder whether that was a sensible question he'd have asked. (or why he was writing a thesis on the subject).

The problem is that this is a statement which is based in English, while the Universe runs on math. That was what I was trying to get at with my post.

I sort of see that. I just think math's a poor medium of communication when not helped by a considerable grasp of ways to explain it. And occasionally sort of misses the core of the point. Mathematically the idea of infinite power is an absurdity all on its own.

Actually, to be honest, I'd argue that the universe doesn't so much run on math as our understanding of the physical universe is expressed through math. There are a great many right angles in nature. The existence of the universe isn't contingent on them having names, any more than it is contingent on being able to express them in relation to one another.

7895019
Sorry, I edited my post that you were responding to, but I think I answered what you were asking there. TL; DR; he wanted to feel special - proving that Celestia wasn't omnipotent was supposed to make him feel bigger. But the whole exercise only made him feel small and petty - Celestia doing her thing didn't make him feel better about himself, it scared him. The spell means that the test he was asking wasn't even necessarily a meaningful one, as other people who no one thinks of as omnipotent can do the same thing. And he wasn't even unique in asking his question, as large numbers of people had done so previously (as proved by the field of obelisks).

He was asking the wrong questions of the wrong person, and was driven by jealousy.

Can Princess Celestia magic a burrito so hot that she herself could not eat it? I'll see myself out.

To me this story illustrates the fact that omnipotence is not a case of physics, but will, and the true power lies with the capriciousness with which Celestia wields it. It is her choice, after all whether the rock resists her or she it. One hopes at this point that The Princess never proves a fickle femme fatale (as sometimes befalls a princess). Who could see a face on the surface of a sun without being blinded after all?

Roble: "do you even lift, bro?

Celestia: "Nope, what about you?"

:trollestia:


This reminds me of crash course philolsophy on youtube. good show and also the full extent of my philosophical knowledge.

On an unrelated note would Discord be considered omni-paradoxical? Could he exist without contradicting himself?

7895108 If anyone could do it, it'd be Discord.

Sorry if I'm missing something, but... uh... what's the point of the endless field of monoliths? Has she just had this same conversation over and over again or something?

Ya know, between you being you and the blurb, I was expecting to look up and see a comedy tag... but then, I guess that doesn't match the cover art that well.

...

Oh, this is great. The self-importance is positively condensing from the air around him.


"Yes, Your Highness. Mother hoped I would continue the family tradition, but my aptitudes have always trended toward academics, thought experiments, and philosophy."

Love it.

...

This did end up working as a drama as well. A good form of Celestia as teacher, and a student more receptive than he'd intended to be.

Though now I do wonder if she has many such sites, one for each version of the paradox she's been confronted with. Don't know how well the burritos would stick around, though.

Your Thesis is invalid, and also it is an invalid. :trollestia:

I've read a few arguments on omnipotent characters over the years and how difficult or impossible it is to write for them. I think SW's analysis is a good take on the troubles of writing such a character. I agree that internal conflict is what can be the key to driving the stick-shift level difficulty of the überpone story line.

Then you come to something like Bill's (From Kill Bill) analysis of such a character. How do they view the "lessers" around them? Weak? Unsure of themselves?

So how could a Pony Princess view those around her? Like children. Like their little ponies. And what does it do to your sanity? Or memory? Nothing that a few dozen cakes can't solve. :trollestia:

7894975

See, I felt dumb for not getting it, and now I feel even dumber for having it explained to me.

7894959 We don't knoooow that that's where PP was going.

But it's also PP.

I must be missing something. What's the significance of the scroll and the spell on it? Is it just to force Roble to grow his power? Is it some method for Celestia to get Roble and Artichoke to make up?

7895438
It is to illustrate a point - he wanted to know if she could create a stone so heavy that she could not lift it (which is a common thought experiment as regards omnipotence). However, the fact that it is a spell that anyone can learn makes his test even less meaningful - it is a spell that anyone with enough power can cast, and it just makes an obelisk that can't be lifted magically.

7895191
Yes, actually. Hes isn't the first to ask this question, and he probably won't be the last.

The funniest part is that proving Celestia isn't omnipotent is just a matter of asking her, although even that is unnecessary because it's fairly self-evident.

As I am sure she'd tell you, had she the power to accomplish literally anything, her sister's banishment would not have been nearly so long, or necessary at all... :pinkiesad2:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I figured I'd give it 24 hours before I started responding to comments, but that has turned out to be a poor decision.

7894351
If there's one problem with this story, it's that, yes, if she's truly omnipotent, she can make anyone believe anything, she can perform any deception, there's literally no way to test it.

But do you really think the Celestia we know would do that? This is less about the actual thought experiment and paradox, and more about the characters and the show setting. Ergo, the point of the story is that it doesn't matter if she's omnipotent, friends are important.

7894525

How many universes have you created that you're privy to the nature of such actions?

I like this comment because it's literally something gotten at in the story. :)

I'll be honest, I'm flattered I inspired this but I'm a bit confused what in my blog actually did - beyond, perhaps, mentioning the God Paradox at all.

I guess, yeah. :B I mean, it gave me the idea to apply it in the most literal way to Celestia, and this is what you get.

Does Princess Celestia really have this much of a problem with skeptics doubting omnipotence she's never claimed?

Every once in a while, somepony gets a bug up their butt and decides to take down Big Sister, maaaan.

I know it's part of a Master's Thesis, but what discipline is this thesis in? Religious or political philosophy? History? Architecture?

I guess it wasn't clear he's in philosophy. D:

As someone who's been in and out of the church, I can say with certainty that if you believe in God and find out they aren't around, it rips you up in ways you can't explain.

I have no religious background and generally cannot understand how people relate to it.

That said, I was beyond flattered you posted this story and I did enjoy reading it. I just found it difficult to really engage with. Perhaps I'm the problem.

Scarlet hates my story, time to die. ;_; tyvm for read :C

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She would likely answer with, "Well, what do you think?" and then give no committal response.

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I feel it is a bit of daft test for omnipotence, laughably easy to work around; all one has to do is modifiy one's physical form to a desired lift capacity and create an object that exceeds that. Do-able within any reasonable scope of near-omnipotance.

That's a neat solution. :)

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He is (number) one, yes. :3

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but as already stated, after six seasons of MLP the notion that anyPony [1] would consider Celestia omnipotent seems a bit absurd, considering how often she gets PWNed for reasons of plot

Well, A, not everypony has the god-like knowledge of what happens in their world that we, the viewers do, and B, I ignore things I don't agree with. :V

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This guy gets it.

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If I write a terrible sequel to this story, it will be tagged as your fault. >:V

7895191
Precisely!

7895931

Well, A, not everypony has the god-like knowledge of what happens in their world that we, the viewers do, and B, I ignore things I don't agree with. :V

A. Ah, the failures of the Equestrian press corps and educational system...
B. An important way of keeping one's doses of anger and headdesk below terminal levels.

But do you really think the Celestia we know would do that?

Thinking about Magical Mystery Cure.
Applying (B) hard.

This guy gets it.

Trufax.

That's a neat solution. :)

Not so sure there, since the added machinery of self-modification highlights the point that she can do so, and it may be less convincing that she had modified herself to her maximum capacity than that she was attempting to operate at (momentary) max power.

If I write a terrible sequel to this story, it will be tagged as your fault. >:V

You know you want to. You cannot keep from the Dark Side forever. :V
(... Come to the Dark Side. We have burritos. :D )

7895931

That's a neat solution. :)

*tips helmet*

It's the engineer's solution, I think. Or the rules-lawyer's. Or both.

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The problem is that this is a statement which is based in English, while the Universe runs on math

Also this, when applied to that said problem.

This was a wonderfully subtle read Present, thank you :twilightsmile:

7895931

But do you really think the Celestia we know would do that? This is less about the actual thought experiment and paradox, and more about the characters and the show setting. Ergo, the point of the story is that it doesn't matter if she's omnipotent, friends are important.

But that's the thing. I'm not a philosophy major. I only ever took philosophy 101. Someone gave what I was assured was a good summation of Neitzsche and I read a survey of Kirkegarde on wiki. That's it.

But even I know his question is innately pointless, not just because of the issues about logic and paradox and ontology. It's because he has no way to discern a false negative from a real negative. Even the questions of "Do I trust Celestia" and "Can I trust my answer to that question" cannot yield any useful answer once there's even a substantial emotional reason to believe she might be omnipotent.

Basically, just by exploring her potential omnipotence he's fallen down a deep rabbit hole and he doesn't seem to recognize the fact at all, despite his area of study theoretically being about equipping him to have that recognition. Maybe he's a bad student (some lack of ability or personal issue) but nothing is described in the story to establish this. (The fact he can "leap out of the rabbit hole" by a hardcore application of STEM'ish worldview and meta-theory application doesn't nullify the fact that he ended up in the hole in the first place.)

(Now, asking himself "Why do I even take seriously the prospect she could be omnipotent"could be an interesting question to explore...but that wasn't even hinted at. The closest you come is showing the idea makes him angry. But without explaining why it makes him angry.)

The spell being able to be cast by a regular mortal doesn't seem like a big point to me.

In my metaphor about "what's allowing somepony to resurrect another" even in the narrowest case (" a one time thing that only affects this particular subject") we also don't know if whatever gave them that power can give them other powers at will? The power might have an easily measured and defined parameter, sure. But we wouldn't expect it to exist. We see no other pony at all able to do it. We had no reason to believe even they should have been able to do it.

Even if other ponies could theoretically learn to also resurrect this pony (they'd have to time travel to jostle for rights to raise them in the strictest version of this scenario, but whatever, hai Starswirl) it is the emergence of an ability we didn't anticipate, couldn't predict, and aren't sure if we can create related powers or not based on our study of it.

Basically it establishes that hyper-potence or omnipotence might be at work here. Because we can't tell if this new aspect of reality exists because it was always there, or because some power changed things so its there now. Basically, to go back to my wall metaphor, we also can't tell if a wall that's really really high couldn't have been built to infinity if the builder had so wished. After a certain point, the feat is so boggling even though its technically possibly mundane, it opens up serious question if we understand reality at all. Because our explanation of how it got there is so unsatisfying.

And the feat can be boggling because of sheer power. Or because of subtlety or creativity. Like, say, writing a spell.

(There's an argument I heard once that this one joint on the primate body (knees? I think) is really weird because there's a really narrow range of forms it can take. If you start with something more crude by a fairly small degree, the joint doesn't function at all. Not "well, it bends, but not as freely as a knee". No, the joint flat out doesn't function. A mutation creating this "intermediate evolutionary step" would be a death sentence. And it's hard to imagine a mutation so profound to bridge that "derpygap" in incremental refinement of design. EDIT: I think maybe it was vertebrate knees in general now, actually.

It seems to me that's kind of in the same vein as this spell. A knee is perfectly mundane, but it could have a miraculous source. Likewise with the spell.)

It's sort of like looking at say, growth mindset. Scott Alexander has made it a pet topic, to try and find if the reasonably solid research that exists has any fatal holes in it yet. (Said research is extensive enough he doesn't feel comfortable dismissing it on account of the shoddy research). Humans discovered this. But did whoever found it only find it because they (deliberately or accidentally) petitioned a hyper or omnipotent agency to make it so? He himself keeps saying "maybe the main researcher sold her soul to the devil"!

That seems extremely unlikely, don't get me wrong. But the messed up thing is, that when something sufficiently surprising happens, it does raise the question. Because while science technically makes no formal claims of what to expect of reality, an implicit claim is "things should fit together in a pattern based on parallels and repeating motifs."

When there's a super anomalous result, yes, it could just be proof of a more subtle set of parallels or motifs (like chaos theory discerns) or it could conceivably be proof there are parts of the universe that don't fit and whose presence can't be explained, even if mortals can interact with and manipulate these aspects. (Admittedly such anomalous pieces don't necessarily require omnipotence. But given how intricate and pervasive the webs of parallelism are, it is disturbing.)

Now, I can understand if a STEM type finds this possibility totally impossible to credit and spits on Alexander as possessing bad Science-Fu to even joke about the deal with the devil thing. But your character doesn't mention what about his background in science puts him in such a camp.

I'm just saying there's an innate level of mystery to the universe. There's stuff on a super-micro scale we can't get any data on because of the minimum uncertainty in any instrument. There's stuff on the super macro scale we can't get any data on because the speed of light is finite. When we probe the limits of our ignorance, we have no idea if something entirely out of keeping with our expectations and experience might be discovered.

We can make a personal decision how we react to that mystery. And given it's such a big issue, we won't rest easy until we make a decision that's at least minimally satisfying to us. We may be unaware of our process by which we settled the issue. But he's a philosophy major, shouldn't he have that much self awareness?

If this guy's such a deep thinker, why is he missing this point and being so impressed by the spell?

Also, all the foregoing aside, his reaction is pretty muted and understated. Aside from not recognizing he learned nothing definitive and was in no position to learn anything definitive.. (and not even explicitly admitting this happened, despite his notional dedication to Truth)...he doesn't seem to really recognize these flaws of his own. Much less be truly changed by the realization. And since he's an OC we have no basis to even guess (or care) about these possible internal changes.

I'm not trying to be mean here. But I feel like the story is dominated by a kind of dumb philosophical question (either it's dumb because the answer is omnipotence can't exist for various STEM'ish reasons, mystery casting no doubts on its assumptions because of the body of predictable reliable data we have; or it can, but we have no way to test for it anyway). It sounds like you're saying "but the realizing the dumbness of the question was the point; and he does, and he's changed by the process". I'll agree you set it up so I can accept this explanation. But it has very little impact because it's too subtle and understated and because of the length we know too little about the character.

There really needed to be an earlier chapter explaining what it was about the idea of Celestia's omnipotence riled him up so. And it needs another chapter (or at least a few paragraphs) to map out how the events led him to truly make peace with whatever that was. You can say "well, not all epiphanies are explicit and obvious." But if someone is so clueless as to do their main profession as badly as he does, a subtle epiphany seems less likely than him rationalizing over and returning to his original pattern. Because that's what smart, obsessed people do very often (the whole thing that studies show most people respond to being conclusively factually disproven by doubling down on their erroneous beliefs). If he's an exception, something should sketch out why we should believe he's an exception and that he's changed.

tl;dr I feel like having had to have the joke explained to me via the frog dissection metaphor. And I think it's like that because too much effort went into the philosophical question and not enough into storytelling about the main character. I'm genuinely curious how many people are reacting like TD and MS and how many are like Jake, SW and I.

Still, I did like his moment of seeing the sun wobble and its faint faint echo of the mortification of Iyov/Job in chapter 42 (man, I never realized that book had 42 chapters till now, I wonder if that was a factor in Adam's decision in HHGTG) where he basically says to Y*VH "Forget I said anything, I'm not competent to have an opinion on this stuff, I'm so sorry!"

(Especially since ironically, Iyov's reaction is at odds with "Shall not Y*VH of the Universe do Justice?"(Abraham's challenge, which Y*VH backs down before over the matter of Sodom and the cities of the plains). Iyov had good reason to raise his questions. He never did find out this was all about HaSatan suggesting an experiment and Y*VH saying "sure, why not. just be careful not to kill the subject". ie. your character, like Iyov, is backing off from the mystery by the barking (beware of Dog G*d :trollestia: ) without actually having the ponderings to support this withdrawal as a rational reaction. Despite being in a situation where he should be insisting on rational consistency.)

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

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The only philosophy class I ever took was symbolic logic, and that's just math. :B By which I mean, you obviously have a stronger background in the subject than me, and my eyes glazed over multiple times reading this comment and I can't adequately address it. D:

Even the questions of "Do I trust Celestia" and "Can I trust my answer to that question" cannot yield any useful answer once there's even a substantial emotional reason to believe she might be omnipotent.

I think I took a lot of liberties with where he's coming from. Tried to fit some of that in, but at the same time, was not fully aware of just how headcanon-y this whole thing is. Mea culpa.

The spell being able to be cast by a regular mortal doesn't seem like a big point to me.

It's not so much that it can be cast "by a mortal". By giving him the scroll, Celestia is saying, "I can make a stone I can't lift; can you?" Very snarky and even mean for her, but at the same time, a strong point that comes through clearly to Roble and puts him in his place.

If this guy's such a deep thinker, why is he missing this point and being so impressed by the spell?

Something something ponies are inherently guided by the sun, it's more an instinctual reaction and a recognition that he's in way over his head.

Also, all the foregoing aside, his reaction is pretty muted and understated. Aside from not recognizing he learned nothing definitive and was in no position to learn anything definitive.. (and not even explicitly admitting this happened, despite his notional dedication to Truth)...he doesn't seem to really recognize these flaws of his own. Much less be truly changed by the realization. And since he's an OC we have no basis to even guess (or care) about these possible internal changes.

People have been saying the story is subtle, and I think I erred on the side of being too subtle. The very end is supposed to set up the idea that he now can change, whereas before he was stolid in his resistance to all things friendship-related. He's been humbled and made small, and he's willing to reach out to his one friend, which isn't something he would have done previously.

It sounds like you're saying "but the realizing the dumbness of the question was the point; and he does, and he's changed by the process". I'll agree you set it up so I can accept this explanation. But it has very little impact because it's too subtle and understated and because of the length we know too little about the character.

Fair enough. I was trying to use the question only to tell a story, not to actually explore the question itself. I have obviously failed at both parts. D: It was an experiment; I'll try to do better next time.

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