Saturday, March 28, 2009
Is Necessity Contingent upon Being Necessary?
The God arguments I have previously discussed in the last couple of posts are guaranteed to bring head aches. This is part of the great unfairness of atheists. I'm not sure we can really blame atheists totally, but they don't do anything to help create understanding. The problem is when people can't answer an argument legitimately they will start clutching at straws. Some of those straws are quite illegitimate.
One of the arguments atheist often latch on to (on CARM HRG argued this way, recently my foray on Theology web several of them did it) is try and make the power of God a separate entity from God and thus contingent upon God. Since some aspect of God is contingent, then all of God must be contingent. I regard this is as nothing more than pure sophistry> it's just playing with words to score a cheap victory they can't win using real logic.
Here's my own parody of it. In order to be necessary God as to exist. So that means that God's necessary nature is contingent upon God's existence. Thus God is really contingent because his necessity is contingent upon his existence. Or you could say "God is contingent upon being God." This is just idiotic. It stems from the your sentences are organized. Only they did it with God's power to create the universe. That is contingent upon God being God, thus God's creative power is contingent, but without that creative power God can't be God so therefore God is contingent. The arguments all depend upon God being necessary. So in their little juvenile sophist minds the arguments are beaten.
We could say based upon this same kind of thinking that the concept of necessity is itself contingent upon being necessary. Thus there is no such thing as necessity. On the other hand contingency is the lynch pen upon which contingent things exist, thus contingency is necessary to contingent things, so contingency is really necessity. But wait, that saves the concept of God! Hey if contingency is really necessity, and God is really contingent, that means God is really necessary!
therefore, God becomes necessary again and therefore must exist!;-)
The real answer, of course, is that one is merely constructing one's sentences in such a way as to imply qualities that don't really obtain to the necessary existent. First of all it's a fallacy to think that necessary God can't have contingent attributes. There's no law of logic that says this is not possible. God's title as creator is contingent upon God having created. But there is noting in the nature of creating that would make God either cease, or fail, or be dependent upon prior conditions.
That's really the issue in contingency is prior conditions. The reason why anything would "fail" to exist, which is only hypothetical for an existing thing, is simply becasue the conditions that produced it might have been different. Once something eixts it wont fail to exist because it already does. But it could cease to exist. While the sub atomic particles that make it up wont cease to exist, the basic mange that makes it was it is, its "essence" if you wil, will cease to exist. My molecules might become part of the soil by one means or another, after I die (as worm food or compost or whatever). But I myself will be gone and wont come back. But is that dependent upon prior conditions? Sure, because if you something with no prior conditions its eternal and can't cease to exist. But something that can cease to exist will just about always prove to have had prior conditions. So as a matter of a posotoriori truth we can say that contingency always seems to involve prior conditions.
Now how does that play in making a definition of contingency? It can't really be part of the definition. It's really an a postorioi observation about entities and objects said to be contingent. The deffinition I offer is (1) something that can cease, or fail, (2) or that depends for its existence upon prior conditions. That second part of the definition, while true is derived a prostoriori. We can then observe that these two aspects of definition overlap. Things pertaining to one seem to always be observed in the category of things pertaining to (2).
This is the kind of muddle that atheists work overtime to create. Having undermined confidence in the definitions then doubt is cast upon the whole argument. But this comes entirely from creating a sense of confusing by not understanding the definitions well enough. Of course these are complex terms because they are fist divided into logical and ontological. So you have logical necessity and ontological necessity, then you have two types of contingency.
In the final analysis all of these things are bound up together. Both types of contingency obtain the same examples because there are no naturalistic things that are not the products of cause and effect. Thus ceasing or failing to exist is an outcome of contingency type 2, and type 2 is related to type one for obvious reasons. Atheists try to make it seem as though having these subdivisions disproves the arguemnt in some way and they play off the differences to make ti seem as there is no actual definition there.
Is God contingent upon being god? thus God is contingent?
God's existence is contingent upon God existing.
God's power is contingent upon God being God,.
God is contingent upon his power.
I've seen atheists argue all of these and nothing could be more inane. That's like saying the cause of an effect is the effect of the previous cause, therefore, there's no such thing as cause. This all a matter of language. God can have contingent aspects such as being creator, and still be necessary in his essential being. Secondly, we can speak in a different way.
God's attributes are not ad on qualities that God has in addition to being himself, They are part of who he is. Just like being real is not an added on quality to me, it's part of who I am. I am a real person, I am not fictional. We are not adding a spare quality to me to say that I'm real. This is merely addition information. God's title of creator is conditional upon God having created. But that is part of God's essential nature, that's just adding information about God.
Of course you can't say God is contingent upon being God, unless by that one were to say God's title as "Lord" is contingent upon God's deity as creator/savior/sustianer.Again that is not God's essential essence it is merely a reference to one relationship that he has to us, as Lord.
God's power and qualities are not contingent, and possessing them does not make God contingent upon possessing such qualities. This just redundant version of the same problem which has already been solved. The attributes of God are part of God, they are not additional ad on qualities that can be taken away. They are directly part of his essential nature. They are not the result of prior conditions, they was not a time when he didn't have them. That would be like saying my consciousness is contingent upon being me. I am defined as me by my consciousness. Being me and having my consciousness are one and the same. You can't treat those realities like separated aspects that can be separated from the person.
What God does with his power is a different matter. God's actions are contingent just as his titles are contingent. But that has nothing to do with his essence. God is still the ground being whether he produces more being or not. God's own being in and of itself is being and thus fulfills the requirement as ground of being.
All of these muddling devices are quite silly and depend entirely upon the way language is used. God creates and sustains all contingent things. That sentence makes no reference to God's power as though it were separate from himself, the acts to which it refers are not part of his essence, but the working of his energies, thus the sentence is constructed in such a way that one could not make this sort of sophistic undermining argument these atheists are trying to make.