Philosopher Russell Blackford on “the hopeless Argument from Contingency”

Philosopher Russell Blackford efficiently dissects David Hart’s recent claim that God is the one logically necessary being that makes all contingent beings and things (including the universe as a whole) possible:  

Much of the rant consists of an attempt to defend the hopeless Argument from Contingency. All things that we see are contingent: i.e., they might not have existed. Sure, there might be causal explanations for their existence, but if you trace those causes back far enough, you still come to something that (logically speaking) might not have existed, so eventually (it’s claimed) you need to postulate something that “necessarily exists” in order to explain the whole shebang. This is God, or so the argument runs.

But that’s nonsensical reasoning. For a start, even if God does exist he (logically) might not have. Turning this around, it’s logically possible, even in a world where God exists, that he mightn’t have existed. There’s nothing self-contradictory about a description of a world with no omnipotent, omniscient, angry, wine-loving, shellfish-abominating being. (Note: by “world” here we don’t mean “physical universe”; we mean the entirety of reality including whatever spooky, non-physical ontology it might have.) The concept “God”, however exactly we define that concept, is not instantiated in the actual world as a matter of logical necessity any more than the concept “neoconservative wanker” is (the world just happens to contain a lot of neoconservative wankers; as far as logic is concerned, it might not have).

Here’s a photograph that I took of Russell Blackford with Jerry Coyne at an atheist conference in Burbank back in October of 2009. They are both doing good work on behalf of reason:


About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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