Necessity, in a general way, denotes a strict connection between different beings, or the different elements of a being, or between a being and its existence. It is therefore a primary and fundamental notion, and it is important to determine its various meanings and applications in philosophy and theology.
In Logic, the Schoolmen, studying the mutual relations of concepts which form the matter of our judgments, divided the judgments or propositions into judgments in necessary matter ( in materia necessaria ), and judgments in contingent matter ( in materia contingenti ). (Cf. S. Thom., I Perihermen, lect. xiii.) The judgments in necessary matter were known as propositiones per se ; they are called by modern philosophers "analytic", "rational", "pure", or "a priori" judgments. The propositio per se is defined by the Schoolmen as one the predicate of which is either a constitutive element or a natural property of the subject. Such is the case with primary truths, metaphysical, and mathematical principles. (Cf. S. Thom., "in I Anal.", lect. x and xxxv; "de Anima", II, lect. xiv.) It is by ignoring the last part of this definition and arbitrarily restricting the concept of analytic judgments to those of which the predicate is a constitutive element of the subject, that Kant invented the false notion of synthetic- a priori judgments.
Considered under its metaphysical aspect, being in its relation to existence is dividend into necessary and contingent. A necessary being is one of which the existence is included in and identical with its very essence. The different beings which we observe in our daily experience are subject to beginning, to change, to perfection, and to destruction; existence is not essential to them and they have not in themselves the reason of their existence ; they are contingent. Their existence comes to them from an external efficient cause. It is from the real existence of contingent beings that we arrive at the notion and prove the existence of a necessary being-one that produces them but is not produced, one whose existence is its own essence and nature, that is at the same time eternal, all-perfect, infinite, viz., God (see CONTINGENCY). And so in relation to existence, God alone is absolutely necessary, all others are contingent.
When we consider the divers beings, not from the point of view of existence, but in relation to their constitution and activity, necessity may be classified as metaphysical, physical , and moral.
Again, in relation to the means necessary to salvation theologians divide necessity into necessity of means and necessity of precept. In the first case the means is so necessary to salvation that without it (absolute necessity) or its substitute (relative necessity), even if the omission is guiltless, the end cannot be reached. Thus faith and baptism of water are necessary by a necessity of means, the former absolutely, the latter relatively, for salvation. In the second case, necessity is based on a positive precept, commanding something the omission of which, unless culpable, does not absolutely prevent the reaching of the end.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online