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necessary/contingent

david blumenfeld


Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


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Necessary truths are ones which must be true, or whose opposite is impossible. Contingent truths are those that are not necessary and whose opposite is therefore possible. 1–3 below are necessary, 4–6, contingent. 1. It is not the case that it is raining and not raining. 2. 2 + 2 = 4. 3. All bachelors are unmarried. 4. It seldom rains in the Sahara. 5. There are more than four states in the USA. 6. Some bachelors drive Maseratis. Plantinga (1974 , p. 2) characterizes the sense of necessity illustrated in 1–3 as ‘broadly logical’. For it includes not only truths of logic, but those of mathematics, set theory, and other quasi-logical ones. Yet it is not so broad as to include matters of causal or natural necessity, such as 7. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light. One would like an account of the basis of our distinction and a criterion by which to apply it. Some suppose that necessary truths are those we know a priori. But we lack a criterion for a priori truths, and there are necessary truths we don't know at all (e.g. undiscovered mathematical ones). It won't help to say that necessary truths are ones it is possible , in the broadly logical sense, to know a priori, for this is circular. Finally, Kripke (1972 , p. 253) and Plantinga (1974 , p. 8) argue that some contingent truths are knowable a priori ( see a priori knowledge ). Similar problems face the suggestion ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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