Monday, July 08, 2024

Answering the counter apologist on contingency argument

This article, by the "counter Apologist" (CA), appears to be an attack upon the form of cosmological argument known as "argument from  contingecy" which would include the modal argument. He does mention this but that's not what it's about.He also gives the principle of sufficient reason a glancing blow but it's not about that either. It's really using the Trinity as an example of various conceptual problems of contingency.[1] This involves necessity and contingency which will designated as "N/c."

He wants to set a ground rule that what is necessary cannot be based merely upon assertion so that contingencies can't be jacked up into necessities.[2] Two examples: God is necessary and God is Trinity thus aspects of God that make God  Triune  must be necessary.God is necessary but that would mean being the same in all possible worlds. However,  the aspects that spell out Trinity are cointingent such as consciousness and number, there must be three members of the godhead by why is three necessary?

This is pretty easy for me to illustrate for theists with an example. If an atheist pointed to the physical universe and our best description of the laws of nature - ie. the relatively short equation describing quantum field theory and then they said “well this is the description of the necessary entity unwriting all of reality”, the theists would object and say “that’s ad hoc!”.But why? Well because it’s not hard to conceive of those equations being slightly different, and the atheist can’t offer any formal, logical derivation showing the necessity of those equations.

All of his arguments are contingent (no pun) upon this point. But here his argument is very mistaken.He assumes we can assign contingency to some aspect like personality based upon our understanding of the thing itself. Personalities as we know them are contingent, yet that is relationship-derived.In other words human personalities are contingent because humans are contingent. Since we live in a world of contingencies any idea we use will be rooted  in that modal operator. We ask how can God have personality when God must be necessary? Not to argue God does have a personality but for the sake of argument I use this concept.

Personalities are contingent when they are human personalities. That does not mean that God could not have a necessary personality, one that can't change in any possible world, not because personalities are themselves necessary but because a personality belonging to God would be necessary since it is an aspect of the divine. By the same token. while God is necessary ontologcally there are divine attributes which are contingent. For example God being my saviour is contingent upon my accepting God's rescue and salvation.But that does not mean God is contingent nor does it make me necessary.That is a conceptual attribute not an ontological one.
Simply put, it’s out of line to draw a neat little circle around the description of what appears to be contingent and then call it necessary.  This doesn’t really provide any explanatory advantage, all it does is arbitrarily call something necessary. My contention is that this is exactly what theists do when they posit god as a necessary being that provides an explanation for all of reality.
This is exactly what we don't do.`` draw a neat little circle around the description of what appears to be contingent and then call it necessary." Christians base the necessity of divine attribute upon God's eternal nature not upon how things look in themselves.We base it upon its relationship to divine essence.

N/c have a causal dimension to their meaning, a contingent being (a being such that if it exists, it could have not-existed or could cease to exist) exists. This contingent being has a cause of or explanation for its existence. ... Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.Jul 13, 2004 Cosmological Argument (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)[3]

 This means that it relies on our experience of the world--beyond the tools of ... that some things are caused to come into existence by other things, and that ... Aquinas supposes that not everything can be contingent in this way, ...[4]

Here is how Aquinas defines N/c

A contingent thing is one that either in fact exists, but might not have, or one that does not in fact exist, but might have. For example, Alumni Hall exists, but it might not have (we can imagine that they just never built it); so Alumni Hall is a contingent thing. Unicorns, on the other hand, do not in fact exist, but it seems possible that they might have; so unicorns are contingent things. There are lots of contingent things: you, me, your parents, my parents, etc. In contrast, a necessary thing is one that in fact exists, but is also something that could not have failed to exist. In other words, it is logically impossible that a necessary being could have not existed. Many people think that numbers are necessary things--i.e., that the world could never have been such that numbers did not exist. Of course, relevant to our present discussion, many think that God is similar to numbers in this way--that is, that God could not have failed to exist, and hence, is a necessary being.[5]
Here we see the causal dimension to the idea:
In the Third Way, Aquinas claims that if we look at the world, we will find that there are contingent beings all around us. We realize that not everything is something that must be, for we observe things before they come into existence, and then see them go out of existence. Aquinas supposes that not everything can be contingent in this way, for he thinks that if everything need not have been, then at one time there was nothing. But, he continues, if at one time there was nothing, then there wouldn't be anything now; for things cannot come into  existence by themselves, but must have been brought into existence by something that is already in existence. Thus, it must not be the case that there are only contingent beings. It must be that there is a necessary being, on which the existence of all other contingent beings depend. For Aquinas, this necessary being is God.[6]
Conciousness,to stay with the example, is neither contingent nor necessary in and of itself. It is either one depemdimng upon it's relationship to the devine essence. Gods coscciousness is necessary becausse it is part of somethinng uncreated and eternal. Human consciousness is contingent because it depends for its exstence upon it's relation to creatioon as a product of creation.

CA says:
I’m going to start with a great example from my Christian friends. After all Chrsitians will posit god as a “necessary being” but then also describe god as a trinity. The idea that god is three persons in one being, which frankly sounds incoherent - but they make a large amount of metaphysical assumptions about the nature of being and personhood so as to avoid those logical contradictions....The problem with this is that by all rights a “trinity” appears to be a contingent property, especially once we grant the assumptions necessary to avoid it being contradictory in the first place. After all, why is god only 3 persons and not 2, 4, 5, or any natural number?
When he says "The problem with this is that by all rights a 'trinity' appears to be a contingent property, especially once we grant the assumptions necessary to avoid it being contradictory in the first place" he's making the flip side mistake he acuses Christians of makimg. He bases contingency upon appearance rather than relationship to the divine. As for the number of persons in the Trinity there could be a reason. Even assuming no meaningful reasoon it is not and not a brute fact; God is the only true higher pupose thus can't be a brute fact.

CA takes on an argument by someone called "the Dray Apologist" and that is based upon the Dry person's concept of the Trinity. Thus ideais heeretical from a Christian perspectio e becauseit posotops a Trimmity in which the second person is created: "God is supposed to exist without limit, but then when the second person in the trinity is created the will somehow increases? If god was already supposed to be the maximal being, how could its will increase?" Yet he claims this id a problem for all Christians,


[1]The Counter Apologist, "Countering the Contingency Argument & Defending Brute Facts," The Counter Apologist blog, (February 14, 2022)

[2]Ibid."First I want to draw some boundaries around what both sides should consider to be “off limits” in terms of how we argue about necessary things. It should be considered improper to draw a neat little circle around an entity and a description of its attributes and then simply say “well this thing is necessary."

[3]Bruce Reichenbach, "Cosmological Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = . Jul 13, 2004 Cosmological Argument (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Copyright © 2022 by

Bruce Reichenbach Professor Emeritus of Philosophy after teaching philosophy for 43 years at Augsburg reichen@augsburg.eduK

[4]Megan B Wallace, "the Cosmological Argument: Contingent vs. Necessary"(2008)

Megan B Wallace Visiting Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Oberlin College. I recently received my PhD in Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

[5]Ibid. [6]>