The Experience of Contingency

  • John J. Shepherd
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series


‘Contingent’ may be used in several different senses. It commonly refers to propositions, meaning that their truth may be denied without self-contradiction. This use will figure in later stages of the argument, but here ‘contingent’ is taken to refer to existents rather than propositions. The propriety of so doing has been denied by some, but since ‘from actuality to possibility the inference is good’ it suffices to provide objectors with a valid meaning of ‘contingent’ outside logic; and in fact they may be provided with at least five.’ As a characteristic of existents contingency may mean: (i) dependence on God; (ii) dependence on other existents in the cosmos; (iii) transience; (iv) lack of ontological self-sufficiency; (v) capacity to arouse a sense of ontological shock. The last of these requires some explanation which will be provided in a moment, and in so far as the meaning of the fourth is less than transparent it should become clearer in due course. In any event it should be possible to see already that (iv) is more basic than (ii) or (iii) for it allows for the possibility of a temporally infinite substratum of energy as the basis of all existents in the cosmos, and unlike (i) it leaves the question of the existence of God open.


Religious Experience1 Ontological Argument Valid Meaning Contingency Question Logical Contingency 
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© John J. Shepherd 1975

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  • John J. Shepherd

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