What Kind of Necessary Being Could God Be?

Richard Swinburne


A logically impossible sentence is one which entails a contradiction, a logically necessary sentence is one whose negation entails a contradiction, and a logically possible sentence is one which does not entail a contradiction. Metaphysically impossible, necessary and possible sentences are ones which become logically impossible, necessary, or possible by substituting what I call informative rigid designators for uninformative ones. It does seem very strongly that a negative existential sentence cannot entail a contradiction, and so ‘there is a God’ cannot be a metaphysically necessary truth. If it were such a truth, innumerable other sentences which seem paradigm examples of logically possible sentences, such as ‘no one knows everything’ would turn out to be logically impossible. The only way in which God could be a logically necessary being is if there were eternal necessary propositions independent of human language or God’s will, such that the proposition that there is no God would entail – via propositions inaccessible to us – a contradiction. But if there were such propositions, God would have less control over the universe than he would have otherwise.

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