This should be quick. I was thinking about modality as a constraint on epistemology recently, and I ran into the following issue. First, what I mean by modality as a constraint on epistemology is simply that if something is not logically possible (alternatively, that there is no logically possible world in which some ‘X’ obtains), then we ought not concern ourselves with it. If there is no logically possible world in which ~(2+2=4) then we ought to simply dissolve those cases of Cartesian scepticism which are likewise not logically possible. I think that this broad approach to epistemology is promising and I hope to further develop it into a thesis or at least a good paper later.
Where does this run into trouble? Well, apart from raising significant questions about what constitutes a meaningful proposition (if a proposition such as 2+2=5 is logically false, and thus not logically possible, is it really impossible in the same sense as 2+2=Red?), one problem was brought to my attention recently. Consider one philosopher who says “There is a logically possible world in which only God exists”, that is to say a world in which no created being exists, and only God exists. If this were truly possible, then what it would mean is that God is a feature of a logically possible world (even if a necessary feature). However, if a logically possible world is an aggregate of properties (or at least some kind of aggregate) I have trouble understanding the meaning of a logically possible world which consists in no relations, and indeed no intelligible properties. I don’t think this is what we mean by a world – a scenario, or picture of things as they might be. Precisely because this picture doesn’t involve ‘things’. Indeed, if we accept that God is not merely a thing (but can only be referred to as a ‘thing’ by analogy) then we run into a complete mess at this point.
However, if this problem is without a solution, then does that mean alternatively that “it is not logically possible for God to not create a world?” Something surely is wrong, not only theologically but also philosophically, with this conclusion. In reflecting on this problem I thought perhaps the conclusion was backwards. Maybe it’s not that it is logically impossible for God to fail to create a world, but rather that logic as such can only exist ‘in a world’. That would seem at first to make logic dependent on creation in such a way that “logic is created”, but I don’t think it necessarily does. Rather, Logic (as the art of reasoning well, and particularly as the art of relating two or more relata so as to stipulate true propositions or draw sound conclusions from some ‘argument’) is only possible given God, and our use of Logic participates in God, but logic would not exist without a world, as logic is an analysis of things. Similarly sentences could not exist without a language. So then, logic exists because the world provides logic its vocabulary, though perhaps not its authority or its essence. Is there a problem here? Perhaps, and perhaps not, I’m not sure yet.
As a final unrelated note, coming back to Spinoza, I would like to point out that his philosophy doesn’t account for contingency at all. It cannot account for contingency as he is a strict determinist. However, this seems reason enough for him to disregard contingency. I think, however, that contingency is not only definitely true, but that any world view or philosophy which denies (at bottom) contingency denies also modal logic, and thus divests itself of any hope of being Rational. If this is true, this insight yields not only a good argument against Spinoza, but also a good argument against various Atheistic worldviews, such as strict physicalism so long as it is deterministic. One problem I foresee, however, is that by this argument almost all of the famous rationalists of the 17th century do not qualify as ‘rationalists’ – or at least it becomes much harder to see in what way they do qualify as rationalists.