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Metaphysical Thoughts: Part 1, Chapter 3.
Concerning those things which are Necessary, Impossible, Possible, and Contingent.

What is here understood by the Affects.
    The nature of being as being having been explained we would next consider some of its affects. It may be remarked here, that by affects we understand what Descartes termed attributes (Pt. 1. Prin. Phil. Art. 52). For being, considered merely as being does not affect us as substance. Wherefore it must be explained by some attribute which is recognized only by reason. Wherefore I cannot wonder enough, at the extreme subtlety of those who, not without deleterious consequences to truth, try to find some middle ground between being and nothing. But I will not delay to refute this error, seeing that it fades into their own vain subtlety when they attempt to give a definition of the affects.

Definition of the Affects.
    We then take up the matter at once and say: The affects of being are certain attributes under which we come to understand the essence or existence of every single thing, which attributes, however, are only distinguishable by reason. I shall attempt here to explain certain things about these (for I do not assume that all understand this thoroughly) and to separate by proper terms those things which are not the affects of being. First I shall discuss what is meant by necessary and impossible.

In how many ways a thing may be said to be necessary or impossible.
    There are two ways in which a thing may be said to be necessary or impossible, viz., in respect to its essence or its cause. In respect to His essence we know that God necessarily exists. For His essence cannot be conceived without existence. From the implicated essence of chimeras they cannot exist. In respect to their cause, things, i.e., materials, are either impossible or necessary. For if we merely regard their essence, it is possible to clearly conceive of that without their existence. Therefore, they cannot exist by the power and necessity of their own essence but only by the power of their cause, viz., God the creator of all things. If, thus, it is the divine decree that something should exist, it exists from necessity, or if less than this, it will be impossible for it to exist. For it is a self-evident fact that that which has no cause, internal or external, for its existence, cannot possibly exist. And an object under this hypothesis is so conceived that it cannot exist by the power of its own essence, by which I mean an internal cause, nor by the divine decree, the one external cause of all things. Whence it follows that objects under such condition cannot exist at all.

A chimera is rightly called a mere verbal being.
    It should be noted: 1. A chimera because it exists neither in the intellect nor in the imagination is rightly called a mere verbal being; for we can only express this idea in words. For example, we use the words "a square circle," expressing it in words, but we are by no means able to imagine it, much less to understand it. Therefore chimera is only a word and cannot be numbered among the affects of being.

Created objects derive their essence and existence from God.
    2. We must remember that not only does the existence of all created things depend upon God's decree, but their essence and nature as well. This will be clearly shown in Part 2. below. Whence it follows that created objects have no necessity in themselves, for their essence is not self derived. No more do they exist by their own power.

The necessity in created objects is derived from their cause, and relates to their essence or existence. In God these two things are not to be distinguished.
    3. Finally, it should be noted that the necessity of created objects, such as we find there from the power of the cause, is either in respect to their essence or to their existence. These two must be distinguished in created objects. The one depends upon the eternal laws of nature, the other upon the series and the order of its causes. In God whose essence and existence are the same, necessity of essence is equivalent to necessity of existence. Whence it follows that if we conceive of the whole order of Nature we will find that many things cannot exist whose nature we conceive clearly and distinctly, that is, whose nature is such of necessity. For we find that it is equally impossible for such things to be, as for example we know that it is impossible for a great elephant to pass through the eye of a needle. Nevertheless the nature of each is clearly conceived.

    Therefore things of this nature do not exist except chimeras, which we are able neither to imagine nor to understand.

Possibility and contingency are not affects of things.
    So much concerning necessity and impossibility; to which it seems best to add a few remarks concerning what is possible and what is contingent. For by some, these two terms are considered affects of things, although, in truth, they are nothing more than defects of our intellect. This I shall clearly show after I have explained what should be understood by these terms.

What is possible, what is contingent.
    A thing is said to be possible when we understand its efficient cause, but do not know whether it is determined. Therefore, we may consider that to be possible which is neither necessary or impossible. If now we attend merely to the essence of a thing and not to its cause, we say it is contingent; that is, when we consider any things between the extremes God and chimeras. This is true, for from a part of their essence we find no necessity of existence in these things as in God, nor impossibility of existence as in chimeras. If any one wishes to call that contingent which I call possible and possible what I call contingent I shall not contradict him. For I am not accustomed to dispute about mere names. It will be sufficient if it is only admitted that these arise not because of something real, but only because of defects of our perception.

Possible and contingent only signify defects in our understanding.
    If any one chooses to deny this his error may be pointed out with little trouble. For if he will consider Nature and how it all depends upon God, he will find nothing contingent. That is, he will find nothing, which, from a part of the object is able to exist and not exist, or, as it is generally expressed, the contingent is the real. This is evident, also, from what was said in Ax. 10, Pt. 1. namely, that no more power was needed to create the world than to conserve it. Therefore no created object does anything by its own power for the same reason that it did not begin to exist by its own power. From which it follows that nothing has been created except by the power of the Cause which has created all things, namely, the power of God, who by His concurrence procreates everything every single moment. And since nothing exists except by divine power alone, it is easily seen that the world as produced by God's decree is such as he wished it to be. So, too, since there is no change or inconstancy in God (per Prop. 18 and Coroll. Prop. 20, Pt. 1.), those things which He now produces, He has decreed from eternity that they should be produced. Then since nothing more is needed for their existence than God's decree that they should exist, it follows that the necessity of the existence of all created things has existed from eternity. Nor can we say that these things are contingent since God might have decreed otherwise. For since in eternity there are no effects of time neither a future nor a past, it follows that God did not exist before that decree, so that he was able to decree something else.

The reconciliation of our Freedom with predestination of God's will surpasses human understanding.
    Whatever pertains to the freedom of the human will, which we have said is free (Schol. Prop. 15, Pt. 1.), that also is conserved by the concurrence of God. Nor is there any man who wishes or does anything who does not do as God has decreed from eternity that he should choose or act. In what way this is possible, human freedom being preserved, man is unable to understand. Since we clearly conceive this, our ignorance of how it can be should not lead us to reject this truth. For we clearly and distinctly understand, if we consider our nature, that we are free in our actions, and we deliberate about many things simply because we choose to do so. And on the other hand if we consider the nature of God in the way we have indicated, we see clearly and distinctly that all things depend upon Him and that nothing exists except as it has been decreed from all eternity. In what way the human will can be thus procreated by God so that it retains its freedom, we do not know. Indeed, there are many things which surpass our comprehension, and yet we know that they are so ordained by God; as for example, that there is a real division of matter into indefinite parts, which was sufficiently proven in Proposition 11, Part 2. although we do not understand how such a division can be. These two notions, viz., possible and contingent, which we use in place of the thing known, only signify a defect of our knowledge about the existence of the given object.
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