Contingent vs. Necessary Truths

close up of cat's claw
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The distinction between contingent and necessary statements is one of the oldest in philosophy. A truth is necessary if denying it would entail a contradiction. A truth is contingent, however, if it happens to be true but could have been false. For example:

Cats are mammals.
Cats are reptiles.
Cats have claws.

The first statement is a necessary truth because denying it, as with the second statement, results in a contradiction.

Cats are, by definition, mammals - so saying that they are reptiles is a contradiction. The third statement is a contingent truth because it is possible that cats could have evolved without claws.

This is similar to the distinction between essential and accidental qualities. Being a mammal is part of a cat's essence, but having claws is an accident.

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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Contingent vs. Necessary Truths." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2016, Cline, Austin. (2016, August 28). Contingent vs. Necessary Truths. Retrieved from Cline, Austin. "Contingent vs. Necessary Truths." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 22, 2018).