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Sunday, January 10, 2021


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What if we take 'self-existent' to mean 'depends on nothing for its existence'? Even here, it seems to me that if something is self-existent in this manner, then its existence must be part of its nature. So, if x actually exists, and x exists by its very nature, then it seems to me that x would be a necessary existent and so could not exist contingently. Does that make sense and do you agree?


I don't understand what you are saying. Are you agreeing with me or disagreeing with me?

I'm agreeing with you. I'm saying that it makes no sense to say that "X exists contingently and also has self-existence", where 'self-existence' just means 'depends on nothing for its existence'. And I'm wondering if you think this is correct.

I recall the cosmologist J. Richard Gott saying that a eternal time loop can set up the conditions where the Universe (though contingent) is its own mother (i.e., self-causing). That is the only example I heard that is prima facie plausible. It involves some highly speculative (and controversial) assumptions to be sure, but it is a proposal that a leading cosmologist has put forth. I haven't thought too much about it but something seems fishy.

Nonetheless, even if true, it does not explain why there is something rather than nothing. For a eternally, but contingently existing and self-causing universe, still summons an explanation for why anything exists at all.



Hi Dr. Vallicella,

I have a related question about necessary existence. You have said many times that God is identical to His existence *and* to Existence. Is it important that He is identical to both and not only one of them? Is it even possible for an entity to be identical to is particular existence without being identical to Existence itself and vice versa? Does the answer have to do with the idea that Existence is self-exemplifying, or that God could not be truly necessary without being identical to both? I know this question deviates from the article a bit but I hope you will allow it. Thanks!

And what if we have a loop in time?

Jason J,

Excellent comment. See my addendum to my original post.



Dr. V,

Sad to hear about Quentin Smith. I did not know he passed. Must have been recent? He was an honest and adroit interlocuter. Anyway, thanks for references to your and Smith's articles. I just read them both. A few more impromptu thoughts on this contingency question below.

The issue goes beyond causation. For it strikes me as metaphysically possible that an infinite, eternally persisting, and causeless universe to exist but still instantiate contingency. That is, even if the sub events in that universe instantiate causal relations, it does not follow that the universe (as a whole) is the result of an external cause. However, if the universe is contingent then (by definition) it is contingent upon something else. If it is not contingent, then it is either necessary or impossible.

Now consider The Big Contingent Fact, which is the set of all contingency (this may include just the universe or a multiverse, or all contingent reality-whatever that may be). And suppose this set is infinite, eternal, and without a cause. It has a brute existence (in the causal sense). But if it is contingent (i.e., neither impossible nor necessary), then the question is what it is contingent upon, and what type of relation. You cannot go infinite-regress style since, as I said above, it is the infinite set of all contingency. And this is the case despite The Big Contingent Fact being an infinite chain of causes within the set, or if the infinite set (as a whole) is without an external cause.

I think this infinite, causeless, contingent whole still calls out for an explanation (by explanation, I do not mean in the epistemological sense but the PSR "reason" sense). So, even if The Big Contingent Fact has a contingent brute causeless existence, it does not follow that it is brute simpliciter. Thus, The Big Contingent Fact's existence would depend upon a necessary existent of some kind. Moreover, if the relation is not causal, then something like grounding, ontological dependence, supervenience, or a metaphysical analogue to logical entailment is what relates them.

Bottom line, even if we could dispense with causation at the broadest levels of contingent reality, something like PSR seems warranted. Of course, you can say that the universe is a necessary being. But even still, some necessities are grounded, in some sense, upon other necessities (Think, the necessary fact that, "2 is the only even prime number" because of the necessary fact, "There are prime numbers". I take the "because" here not to be in the causal sense of the term, but something like grounding or logical dependency. Or one could deny the PSR, but that strikes me as an ad hoc move to avoid the conclusion that some type of necessity grounds contingent reality. But whether the PSR is false or whether the universe is itself a necessary existent, in any meaningful sense, is for another time and another discussion.

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