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Necessary being

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K052-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Many think that God is perfect, or free from defect, and that being able not to exist is a defect. These infer that God is not able not to exist – that is, that God exists necessarily. Some add that what makes God perfect also makes him exist necessarily, and so trace his necessity to his immateriality (Aristotle), eternity (Plotinus) or simplicity (Aquinas). Others trace God’s necessity to his relation to creatures (Ibn Sina, Anselm). Spinoza and Leibniz held that what makes God necessary explains his very existence.

Many have thought that if God exists necessarily, there is a sound ontological argument for God’s existence, or that if there is a sound ontological argument for God’s existence, God exists necessarily. But both claims are false. Some have used philosophical views of the nature of necessity – for example, that all necessity is conventional, a matter of how we choose to use words – to challenge God’s necessary existence. But the theories which best support these challenges have fallen from favour, and in fact, even if one accepts the theories, the challenges fail.

Citing this article:
Leftow, Brian. Necessary being, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K052-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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