## Possibility and contingency

1. Logical sequences follow in due course when we have arranged the propositions thus. From the proposition 'it may be' it follows that it is contingent, and the relation is reciprocal. It follows also that it is not impossible and not necessary.

2. From the proposition 'it may not be' or 'it is contingent that it should not be' it follows that it is not necessary that it should not be and that it is not impossible that it should not be. From the proposition 'it cannot be' or 'it is not contingent' it follows that it is necessary that it should not be and that it is impossible that it should be. From the proposition 'it cannot not be' or 'it is not contingent that it should not be' it follows that it is necessary that it should be and that it is impossible that it should not be.

3. Let us consider these statements by the help of a table:

```           A.                       B.
It may be.                   It cannot be.
It is contingent.            It is not contingent.
It is not impossible         It is impossible that it
that it should be.           should be.
It is not necessary          It is necessary that it
that it should be.           should not be.

C.                       D.
It may not be.               It cannot not be.
It is contingent that it     It is not contingent that
should not be.               it should not be.
It is not impossible         It is impossible that it
that it should not be.       should not be.
It is not necessary that     It is necessary that it
it should not be.            should be.
```

4. Now the propositions 'it is impossible that it should be' and 'it is not impossible that it should be' are consequent upon the propositions 'it may be', 'it is contingent', and 'it cannot be', 'it is not contingent', the contradictories upon the contradictories. But there is inversion. The negative of the proposition 'it is impossible' is consequent upon the proposition 'it may be' and the corresponding positive in the first case upon the negative in the second. For 'it is impossible' is a positive proposition and 'it is not impossible' is negative.

5. We must investigate the relation subsisting between these propositions and those which predicate necessity. That there is a distinction is clear. In this case, contrary propositions follow respectively from contradictory propositions, and the contradictory propositions belong to separate sequences. For the proposition 'it is not necessary that it should be' is not the negative of 'it is necessary that it should not be', for both these propositions may be true of the same subject; for when it is necessary that a thing should not be, it is not necessary that it should be. The reason why the propositions predicating necessity do not follow in the same kind of sequence as the rest, lies in the fact that the proposition 'it is impossible' is equivalent, when used with a contrary subject, to the proposition 'it is necessary'. For when it is impossible that a thing should be, it is necessary, not that it should be, but that it should not be, and when it is impossible that a thing should not be, it is necessary that it should be. Thus, if the propositions predicating impossibility or non-impossibility follow without change of subject from those predicating possibility or non-possibility, those predicating necessity must follow with the contrary subject; for the propositions 'it is impossible' and 'it is necessary' are not equivalent, but, as has been said, inversely connected.

6. Yet perhaps it is impossible that the contradictory propositions predicating necessity should be thus arranged. For when it is necessary that a thing should be, it is possible that it should be. (For if not, the opposite follows, since one or the other must follow; so, if it is not possible, it is impossible, and it is thus impossible that a thing should be, which must necessarily be; which is absurd.)

7. Yet from the proposition 'it may be' it follows that it is not impossible, and from that it follows that it is not necessary; it comes about therefore that the thing which must necessarily be need not be; which is absurd. But again, the proposition 'it is necessary that it should be' does not follow from the proposition 'it may be', nor does the proposition 'it is necessary that it should not be'. For the proposition 'it may be' implies a twofold possibility, while, if either of the two former propositions is true, the twofold possibility vanishes. For if a thing may be, it may also not be, but if it is necessary that it should be or that it should not be, one of the two alternatives will be excluded. It remains, therefore, that the proposition 'it is not necessary that it should not be' follows from the proposition 'it may be'. For this is true also of that which must necessarily be.

8. Moreover the proposition 'it is not necessary that it should not be' is the contradictory of that which follows from the proposition 'it cannot be'; for 'it cannot be' is followed by 'it is impossible that it should be' and by 'it is necessary that it should not be', and the contradictory of this is the proposition 'it is not necessary that it should not be'. Thus in this case also contradictory propositions follow contradictory in the way indicated, and no logical impossibilities occur when they are thus arranged.

9. It may be questioned whether the proposition 'it may be' follows from the proposition 'it is necessary that it should be'. If not, the contradictory must follow, namely that it cannot be, or, if a man should maintain that this is not the contradictory, then the proposition 'it may not be'.

10. Now both of these are false of that which necessarily is. At the same time, it is thought that if a thing may be cut it may also not be cut, if a thing may be it may also not be, and thus it would follow that a thing which must necessarily be may possibly not be; which is false. It is evident, then, that it is not always the case that that which may be or may walk possesses also a potentiality in the other direction. There are exceptions. In the first place we must except those things which possess a potentiality not in accordance with a rational principle, as fire possesses the potentiality of giving out heat, that is, an irrational capacity. Those potentialities which involve a rational principle are potentialities of more than one result, that is, of contrary results; those that are irrational are not always thus constituted. As I have said, fire cannot both heat and not heat, neither has anything that is always actual any twofold potentiality. Yet some even of those potentialities which are irrational admit of opposite results. However, thus much has been said to emphasize the truth that it is not every potentiality which admits of opposite results, even where the word is used always in the same sense.

11. But in some cases the word is used equivocally. For the term 'possible' is ambiguous, being used in the one case with reference to facts, to that which is actualized, as when a man is said to find walking possible because he is actually walking, and generally when a capacity is predicated because it is actually realized; in the other case, with reference to a state in which realization is conditionally practicable, as when a man is said to find walking possible because under certain conditions he would walk. This last sort of potentiality belongs only to that which can be in motion, the former can exist also in the case of that which has not this power. Both of that which is walking and is actual, and of that which has the capacity though not necessarily realized, it is true to say that it is not impossible that it should walk (or, in the other case, that it should be), but while we cannot predicate this latter kind of potentiality of that which is necessary in the unqualified sense of the word, we can predicate the former.

12. Our conclusion, then, is this: that since the universal is consequent upon the particular, that which is necessary is also possible, though not in every sense in which the word may be used.

13. We may perhaps state that necessity and its absence are the initial principles of existence and non-existence, and that all else must be regarded as posterior to these.

14. It is plain from what has been said that that which is of necessity is actual. Thus, if that which is eternal is prior, actuality also is prior to potentiality. Some things are actualities without potentiality, namely, the primary substances; a second class consists of those things which are actual but also potential, whose actuality is in nature prior to their potentiality, though posterior in time; a third class comprises those things which are never actualized, but are pure potentialities.

HTML edition © created 1996/11/25 modified 2009/04/26