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  #1  
Old Aug 25, '08, 9:44 am
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Is God a contingent being?

According to classical theism, God is absolutely simple. What this means is that there is absolutely no composition in God; His essence is identical in substance to His knowledge, His will, His justice, His mercy, and all of His other attributes and powers.

Now, imagine other possible worlds with a different set of contingent beings (or no contingent beings). These could only occur because God willed them so. But since God's will is different in these worlds, that means His essence is also different, which means it is a different being, a different God, in these worlds. Which means that the God in this world is not a necessary being, but a contingent one, since the same God does not exist in all possible worlds.

Or, alternatively, one could posit (although contrary to classical theism, which posits God's freedom in creation) that this world is the only possible one. This would save God being a necessary being, but at the cost of every other being also being a necessary being.
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  #2  
Old Aug 25, '08, 12:22 pm
cpayne cpayne is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

Perhaps not. One of the meanings of contingent is "dependent upon something else for its existence."

So let's say that perhaps God's will would have been different in creation for any possibly existing world; however, this world is the only one that "actually" exists, not "possibly" exists. Does that fact in itself make everything in this world "necessary"? I don't think so, since all the objects of this world would still be dependent upon something else for their existence.

Wouldn't this still hold true even if this world were the only manifested expression of God's will in creation?
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  #3  
Old Aug 25, '08, 12:43 pm
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by cpayne View Post
Perhaps not. One of the meanings of contingent is "dependent upon something else for its existence."
But that's not the relevant meaning of "contingent" here - in modal logic, a "contingent" being means one which may or may not exist - it does not exist in all possible worlds, but only in some. The opposite of this is a "necessary" being - one which must exist and therefore exists in all possible worlds. If this is the only possible world, all beings in it are necessary. Of course, if a necessary being is dependent on something else for its existence, that something else must also be a necessary being.

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So let's say that perhaps God's will would have been different in creation for any possibly existing world; however, this world is the only one that "actually" exists, not "possibly" exists. Does that fact in itself make everything in this world "necessary"?
No, not in itself. However, either God is contingent or everything in this world is necessary. Note that saying "God's will would perhaps have been different" is exactly the same thing as saying "God would perhaps have been different" since God's will and God are identical, according to simplicity.

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I don't think so, since all the objects of this world would still be dependent upon something else for their existence.

Wouldn't this still hold true even if this world were the only manifested expression of God's will in creation?
Again, this isn't the right definition of "necessary being". If a is logically necessary, and a entails b, then b is also logically necessary, even though b depends on a.
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  #4  
Old Aug 25, '08, 3:22 pm
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Verbum Caro Verbum Caro is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by SeekingCatholic View Post
Now, imagine other possible worlds with a different set of contingent beings (or no contingent beings). These could only occur because God willed them so.
When you say "occur" do you mean they could only be actual if God willed them so?

Does your problem hinge upon the actual reality of possible worlds? Or are you taking that as a given?

Where's David Lewis when you need him?

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  #5  
Old Aug 25, '08, 3:25 pm
Genesis315 Genesis315 is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

This is probably why St. Thomas posited the unity of the universe--there is One God and one created universe. Similarly, in each person there is one soul governing one body or there is one Church governed by one Supreme Pastor, etc.
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  #6  
Old Aug 25, '08, 3:56 pm
tobias tobias is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by SeekingCatholic View Post
According to classical theism, God is absolutely simple. What this means is that there is absolutely no composition in God; His essence is identical in substance to His knowledge, His will, His justice, His mercy, and all of His other attributes and powers.

Now, imagine other possible worlds with a different set of contingent beings (or no contingent beings). These could only occur because God willed them so. But since God's will is different in these worlds, that means His essence is also different, which means it is a different being, a different God, in these worlds. Which means that the God in this world is not a necessary being, but a contingent one, since the same God does not exist in all possible worlds.

Or, alternatively, one could posit (although contrary to classical theism, which posits God's freedom in creation) that this world is the only possible one. This would save God being a necessary being, but at the cost of every other being also being a necessary being.
I'm confused as to why your preoccupation with the possible mekes the actual disconserting to you.In what way does the possible negate the actual in what is known? Can this be demonstrated?
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  #7  
Old Aug 25, '08, 6:19 pm
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by Verbum Caro View Post
When you say "occur" do you mean they could only be actual if God willed them so?
Yes, under the hypothesis God as necessary being, all other contingent beings exist because He wills them to, in every possible world.

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Does your problem hinge upon the actual reality of possible worlds?
No.
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  #8  
Old Aug 25, '08, 6:22 pm
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by Genesis315 View Post
This is probably why St. Thomas posited the unity of the universe--there is One God and one created universe. Similarly, in each person there is one soul governing one body or there is one Church governed by one Supreme Pastor, etc.
This isn't really much help here. If I am a contingent being, there is a possible world in which I don't exist. The trouble is, the God that exists in this world wouldn't exist in that one. There is therefore a possible world in which God doesn't exist, which makes His existence contingent as well. ("A" God may exist in the other world, but not "The" God that exists in this one.)
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  #9  
Old Aug 25, '08, 6:33 pm
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by tobias View Post
I'm confused as to why your preoccupation with the possible mekes the actual disconserting to you.In what way does the possible negate the actual in what is known? Can this be demonstrated?
Yes.

The God that exists in this world exists necessarily (by the traditional definition of God).

Therefore, if it is possible for God not to exist, then He does not exist (trivial to prove in modal logic: "it is possible for God not to exist" means there is at least one possible world in which He does not exist; that contradicts "God exists necessarily" which means He exists in all possible worlds).

There are possible worlds where I do not exist (by definition assuming I am a contingent being as hypothesis).

There are therefore possible worlds where God does not exist (proven above - there may be a creator in these worlds but it is not the same God as exists in this one - because His will to create me is different - which means the "Gods" existing in the different worlds are different beings)

Which means it is possible for God not to exist, which means He does not exist. Put another way, "God" does not exist necessarily, but only contingently.

The logic is airtight. The only way out is to deny that there are possible worlds where I do not exist. Which means, I am not a contingent, but rather a necessary, being.
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  #10  
Old Aug 25, '08, 6:54 pm
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Verbum Caro Verbum Caro is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

SC,

Can you help me out a bit more? If God wills these contingent beings in other possible worlds, wouldn't they in fact exist?

Do you believe that other possible worlds actually have being (i.e. like David Lewis)? Or do you think that "our world" has ontological distinction from other possible worlds?

VC
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  #11  
Old Aug 25, '08, 8:32 pm
cpayne cpayne is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by SeekingCatholic View Post
Yes.

The God that exists in this world exists necessarily (by the traditional definition of God).

Therefore, if it is possible for God not to exist, then He does not exist (trivial to prove in modal logic: "it is possible for God not to exist" means there is at least one possible world in which He does not exist; that contradicts "God exists necessarily" which means He exists in all possible worlds).

There are possible worlds where I do not exist (by definition assuming I am a contingent being as hypothesis).

There are therefore possible worlds where God does not exist (proven above - there may be a creator in these worlds but it is not the same God as exists in this one - because His will to create me is different - which means the "Gods" existing in the different worlds are different beings)

Which means it is possible for God not to exist, which means He does not exist. Put another way, "God" does not exist necessarily, but only contingently.

The logic is airtight. The only way out is to deny that there are possible worlds where I do not exist. Which means, I am not a contingent, but rather a necessary, being.
Let's see if this is a way out of the problem as posed: It seems that "possible worlds" has very close to the same meaning as "contingent" worlds, in the sense you are using the term.

In that case, every possible world is a contingent world, whether or not it actually exists; every contingent world still requires the necessarily existing cause, or Cause.

So let's say in another contingent world, which does not actually exist, I do not exist either. But God's essence would not necessarily change in that possible world, since God still wills my contingent existence, along with the existence of everything else that exists in this present world. The only difference is that my contingent existence does not take place in that world.

In other words, God wills my existence in this world; the difference is not in God, but in my existence. In that contingent world, I (contingently) do not exist, as a result of God's unchanging will or essence; in this contingent world, I (contingently) do exist, again as a result of the same unchanging will or essence.

I see and acknowledge your previous point, that saying "God's will would perhaps have been different" is the same as saying "God perhaps would have been different." So I am trying not to say that in this response; in fact, I am saying the opposite: Of necessity, I possess a contingent existence in THIS world because that is God's will for me in ANY possible world in which God exists.

Of course, I'm using the term "world" here, as I assume you are as well, as meaning all reality, not just the physical universe. God wouldn't exist "in" this physical universe, at least not in a spatial sense. If He exists "in" this universe in a causal sense, then I am saying that His will for me to exist in this universe would be the same no matter what possible worlds He may also inhabit. Anywhere and always, He causes my existence here.

I think it's bedtime for Bonzo; see you tomorrow, God willing.
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  #12  
Old Aug 26, '08, 5:21 am
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by Verbum Caro View Post
SC,

Can you help me out a bit more? If God wills these contingent beings in other possible worlds, wouldn't they in fact exist?

Do you believe that other possible worlds actually have being (i.e. like David Lewis)? Or do you think that "our world" has ontological distinction from other possible worlds?

VC
No. "Possible worlds" is a mere hypothetical construct, about what might have been or might be. But if you imagine a hypothetical world in which I don't exist, the "God" who exists in that hypothetical world is a different being than the one who exists in ours.
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Old Aug 26, '08, 5:30 am
SeekingCatholic SeekingCatholic is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by cpayne View Post
Let's see if this is a way out of the problem as posed: It seems that "possible worlds" has very close to the same meaning as "contingent" worlds, in the sense you are using the term.
Not quite, but it isn't relevant to the discussion. "Contingent" is normally applied to beings, not worlds.

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In that case, every possible world is a contingent world, whether or not it actually exists; every contingent world still requires the necessarily existing cause, or Cause.
Every contingent world would hypothetically require the necessarily existing being, assuming one exists, yes.

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So let's say in another contingent world, which does not actually exist, I do not exist either. But God's essence would not necessarily change in that possible world, since God still wills my contingent existence, along with the existence of everything else that exists in this present world. The only difference is that my contingent existence does not take place in that world.
How can God will your contingent existence, and yet your contingent existence not take place? He does not will your existence in that world.

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In other words, God wills my existence in this world; the difference is not in God, but in my existence. In that contingent world, I (contingently) do not exist, as a result of God's unchanging will or essence; in this contingent world, I (contingently) do exist, again as a result of the same unchanging will or essence.
But the will or essence is different in the two contingent worlds.

Quote:
I see and acknowledge your previous point, that saying "God's will would perhaps have been different" is the same as saying "God perhaps would have been different." So I am trying not to say that in this response; in fact, I am saying the opposite: Of necessity, I possess a contingent existence in THIS world because that is God's will for me in ANY possible world in which God exists.
If you are saying that it is necessarily God's will that you exist in any possible world in which God exists, then you are saying that you are also a necessary being.

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Of course, I'm using the term "world" here, as I assume you are as well, as meaning all reality, not just the physical universe.
Correct.
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  #14  
Old Aug 26, '08, 5:52 am
rwoehmke rwoehmke is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

Isn't it the essence of being hypothetical to not have existence, except as a mental construct, therefore neither you or God could exist, except as a mental construct, in a hypothetical world.
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Old Aug 26, '08, 7:52 am
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Verbum Caro Verbum Caro is offline
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Default Re: Is God a contingent being?

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Originally Posted by SeekingCatholic View Post
No. "Possible worlds" is a mere hypothetical construct, about what might have been or might be.
Ok, thank you. I just wanted to be clear on what you held, because although in general "possible world" denotes a hypothetical construct, my understanding is that is not the exclusive view among theorists of modality.

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But if you imagine a hypothetical world in which I don't exist, the "God" who exists in that hypothetical world is a different being than the one who exists in ours.
Wouldn't that depend on whether or not God has some sort of knowledge of all contingent beings, including those that are hypothetical (i.e. in possible worlds)? Could His knowledge of both actualized and hypothetical beings be the same no matter what possible (or actual) word you looked at?

Anyway, thank you for the clarification on what you were getting at. I suspect, however, that this topic (although certainly in the right sub-forum!) would be more fruitfully engaged in academic circles. Good luck though.

VC
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