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  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: December 2014

Fourth reflection - Concerning the distinctness and certainty of which the fundamental principles of natural theology and morality are capable



Firstly, distinguishing one thing from another is easiest and most distinct if the thing in question is the only possible thing of its kind. The object of natural religion is the unique first cause; its determinations are such that they cannot easily be confused with those of other things. But the greatest conviction is possible when it is absolutely necessary that these and no other predicates belong to a thing. For in the case of contingent determinations it is generally difficult to discover the variable conditions of its predicates. Hence, the absolutely necessary being is an object such that, as soon as one is on the right track of its concept, it seems to promise even more certainty than most other philosophical cognition. In this part of my undertaking, all that I can do is consider the possible philosophical cognition of God in general; for if we were to examine the philosophical theories relating to this object which are actually current, we should be taken too far afield. The chief concept which here offers itself to the metaphysician is that of the absolutely necessary existence of a being. In order to arrive at this concept, the metaphysician could first of all ask the question: is it possible that absolutely nothing at all should exist? Now, if he realises that, were absolutely nothing at all to exist, then no existence would be given and there would be nothing to think and there would be no possibility — once that is realised, all that needs to be investigated is the concept of the existence of that which must constitute the ground of all possibility. He will develop this idea and establish the determinate concept of the absolutely necessary being. I do not wish to become involved in a detailed investigation of this project, but I shall say this much: as soon as the existence of the unique, most perfect and necessary Being is established, then the concepts of that Being's other determinations will be established with much greater precision, for these determinations will always be the greatest and most perfect of their kind; they will also be established with much greater certainty, for the only determinations which will be admitted will be those which are necessary.

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Theoretical Philosophy, 1755–1770
  • Online ISBN: 9780511840180
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