Sunday, March 9, 2014

Explaining the necessary with the contingent

It may seem initially slightly surprising, but there are necessary truths that are explained by contingent ones. For instance, it is a necessary truth that Obama is president or 2+2=4. And this necessary truth can be explained by the fact that the majority of the electoral college voted for Obama, or, perhaps even better, by facts about the way the Democrats and Republicans campaigned. Another necessary truth that can be explained in the same way is that it is or is not the case that Obama is president.

That the necessary can sometimes be explained with the contingent is, I think, a rather more trivial claim than that the contingent can be explained with the necessary.


Unknown said...

I think it's very important to keep in mind here that the contingent truth explains why the necessary truth is *actually* true, it doesn't explain why the necessary truth is *necessarily* true. If one keeps that distinction in mind, the claim isn't that surprising.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's a very nice point. Yes, that makes it less surprising.