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Wednesday, June 29, 2011


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Hi BV,

Interesting. This is quite a difficult problem. The following thought occurred to me.

If things genuinely go out of existence, their existence must be contingent at every moment. For if their existence is not contingent at every moment, how could they ever go out of existence or be annihilated by something else?

For instance, consider a fly that I annihilate with a muscarium out of annoyance. I take it that the annihilation of the fly is brought about by the fly-swatter's acting upon the fly at its final moment of existence. If the fly could not not-exist at its final moment of existence, how could the fly-swatter annihilate it? It would seem rather that the fly simply popped out of existence at approximately the same time it was touched by the fly-swatter, if that were the case; but I think if we assume the universe is rational and knowable, we must rule out this kind of "chance" explanation unless absolutely necessary. Thus, if the fly-swatter is the cause of the annihilation of the fly, then the fly's existence was contingent for at least that period in which it was affected by the fly-swatter (and I assume for the rest of its existence; if the universe has a minimal level of rationality and intelligibility, it would seem that if x's existence is contingent at some moments, it is contingent at all moments). Thus the going-out-of-existence of objects entails their contingent existence.

That's good, Steven.

So did we solve the problem we we were discussing in Tempe? Can we now claim to know that there are contingent beings?

What is interesting here is that, although what make a contingent being contingent is not its existing at some but not all times, we can infer modal contingency from existing at some but not all times.


Do you know Duns Scotus, inspired by Avicenna, wrote that it is uprovable yet evident that some being is contingent, and that those who deny it should be tortured to concede that they may be non-tortured? See his Opera Omnia, Vives ed., vol. 10, pp. 625-26, http://www.archive.org/stream/operaomni10duns#page/624/mode/2up

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