Why can there only be one necessary being, as opposed to two or thirty seven?



I was reading about apologetics the other day and read as part of the causal argument for God's existence that there cannot be more than one necessary being (cause), meaning that there is only one God, for a being that is so perfect to the point of being necessary must be wholly perfect. I also read that Avicenna (I think) said that a necessary being is pure existence, meaning that existence is the only thing there is to its being, and that multiple necessary being would be identical and, therefore, one.

However, I've still been struggling for solid couple months to understand why the fact that there is only one God follows from the fact that first causes, or beings, are necessary. What is the connection between there existing only one God, necessity and identity of multiple necessary causes, if multiple? Why would multiple necessary beings need to be identical and, therefore, one? I've looked into the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Roger Scruton's lectures, William Lane Craig's works and just plain Google, and couldn't find the answer. A similar but slightly more general question was asked here, but the answers were related to simplicity of argument, questioning its validity, or about things we encounter contingent things in everyday life, none of which actually helped me.

Thanks in advance!


Bernardo Trindade

Posted 2017-06-18T01:47:53.443

Reputation: 211

Possible duplicate of Aquinas' Third Way: Why Argue For Only One Necessary Entity?

– virmaior – 2017-06-18T13:51:00.087

I actually looked at this thread before posting mine, but by asking the question in the context of Aquina's third way, the author of the question led to a broader discussion related to the existence of contingency beings and unfoldings of Aquina's third way. Because that question is broader, an answer to the question I asked was one of possible answers and , in fact, wasn't there. Should I have stated my question there as a comment, instead? I, personally, still find my post useful given the amount of essays I've read that discuss other parts of that thread but not specifically my question. – Bernardo Trindade – 2017-06-19T14:42:53.590

No, you are fine, we are not that hasty. If he was sure this was a duplicate, it would have been a 'close' vote, instead if a comment for you to consider. (Even then multiple people, usually from 3 to 5, should agree that the post did not add anything of interest before someone actually closes it.) – None – 2017-06-19T15:23:07.987

Oh, sounds good. This was my very first question posted here, so I'm glad I didn't screw up :) – Bernardo Trindade – 2017-06-19T17:41:27.200



If you had two necessary things, their identities would depend upon their distinction from one another. Both of them would then be contingent upon one another, and neither would be absolutely necessary.

The distinction can clearly still exist: God has three persons. But it would not be part of the definition of the necessary thing.

This is not an analysis particular to Christianity, or even to monotheisms in general. Hinduism remains polytheistic but also has a unified necessary Godhead. Likewise, Plato spoke of a single God, but included prayers in his works to different Greek gods.


Posted 2017-06-18T01:47:53.443


1I wonder how one relates your first sentences to the concepts of yin and yang. Those two seem different enough that they might be a counterargument. – Cort Ammon – 2017-08-12T03:00:43.160

@CortAmmon And they are part of a larger whole. – None – 2017-08-12T17:09:55.307

The interesting question is whether that greater whole us something that can be talked about. After all, the Dao that can be talked about is not the eternal Dao. – Cort Ammon – 2017-08-12T19:26:20.663

@Cort Ammon Yin and yang would not be a final distinction,. The distinction is transcended in metaphysics (and experience). – None – 2017-08-13T10:29:21.423

@jobermark You are making the false assumption that in order for there to be two of something, that there need exist a criterion by which they can be distinguished. This is factually false and has been known to be false for a long time with regards to many actual physical objects such as elementary particles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identical_particles) and hence it is not a logically necessary statement but merely a misguided notion of human intuitive belief. Ultimately the claim that there cannot be two or a thousand necessary beings is not logically necessary at all.

– MM8 – 2017-08-13T12:29:58.563

Besides that, if A is contingent on B, but B is necessary, to what extent is A really contingent? – Canyon – 2017-08-13T17:31:19.373

@Canyon To the degree it is contingent. If something is red, to what degree is it red? Well, to the degree the first half of the sentence means anything at all... – None – 2017-08-14T16:57:32.447

@TimonG. It does not matter whether we can discern them, they are in principle distinct, or we would not consider there to be two. If they really are not different, they are not two things. Simply having a field twice as strong does not constitute two things. When we measure a power of two Watts, we do not consider the two Watts distinct energies. It may be convenient to say there are two electrons in a space where there is a field strength twice what would ordinarily accompany one of them, but by any normal ontology, perfectly overlapping waves, are a single wave. – None – 2017-08-14T19:30:11.687

No, that is false. They are not in principle indistinguishable making your claim that a criterion must exist by which they can be distinguished simply plain false. Also, you are derailing yourself completely into unstudiable metaphysics which is plain and simply a claim you're making with nothing to back it up. Your Watt analogy is completely misguided too and your overlapping wave statement is pseudophysical gibberish too. You should actually study up on the subject of Quantum Physics or leave it be as a field you don't know enough about to make philosophical statements about. – MM8 – 2017-08-16T02:32:58.423

Take two spatially sufficiently separated electrons. Your classical "normal ontology" will try to argue that these are distinct because they are distinguishable by their spacetime separation. This is not a true distinction, however, it's merely an illusion. Factually, if the two electrons were exchanged instantaneously, it is in principle impossible to distinguish the state prior to this exchange from the state after this exchange. In other words, the spacetime separation does not allow you to distinguish between them without additional, logically not necessary assumptions. – MM8 – 2017-08-16T02:51:36.930

Of course I meant "They are in principle indistinguishable" in my first sentence there. Apologies, there is an edit time window. – MM8 – 2017-08-16T02:57:19.503

@TimonG. Some actual content would establish this is not simply browbeating. Unfortunately there isn't any here. I suggest we not communicate if you are just going to insist that I am uneducated, instead of making arguments. Two perfectly reinforcing waves in any medium are in fact a single wave twice as strong. Two waves with different frequencies or centers are distinguishable. This is a reasonable analogy to the quantum model that you should not declare completely misguided without addressing it in some way. If metaphysics is to be purged from the argument you are in the wrong forum. – None – 2017-08-16T19:05:00.753

You used analogies that completely fail to understand the physics behind indistinguishable particles. It wasn't intended as rude, it's simply that you're conceptualization of the physics is false. There is no nicer way to put it. I didn't ban metaphysics but unstudiable metaphysics. You cannot make completely unverifiable, unstudiable claims and pretend they are logically necessary unless you can demonstrate that they actually are necessary. You didn't, you just made non-necessary assumptions about space and time and then derived a preferred conclusion from those. – MM8 – 2017-08-17T05:54:16.573

I did already address it. I made it clear with my example of spatially separated electrons above that your example was cherry picked to suit your view. If you pick a general scenario, then you can have a situation where there are clearly, undeniably two objects which are in principle indistinguishable (unless you make non-trivial assumptions about spacetime which you can't make if you want something to be necessary - that was my whole point). I do agree that we shouldn't continue this, it is not productive. – MM8 – 2017-08-17T05:58:03.240

@TimonG. If a pair of particles ever separates, at all, at any point across their entire lifetimes they are separable. I do not need to be able to tell which is which when for the logic of the argument to apply. I just need for the two of them to have definitions at any single point in time that are not entirely logically equivalent. – None – 2017-08-17T16:54:05.687

That leaves only objects that never separate, that are for their entire lifetimes indistinguishable, which would appear to an observer who was not biased enough to choose to label electrons, for instance, differently from the way we label everything else in the universe as a single particle with twice the mass, charge, etc. You are treating a bias of the normal way of handling the theory as if they were facts of ontology. – None – 2017-08-17T16:54:28.037

You're making logically non-necessary assumptions about physics, space and time. Then you use those to attempt to constrain that which you call the necessary being to only being one instead of infinitely many or zero or two. It's cherry picked to fit your preferred conclusion. It's not a logically necessary deductive argument, which is what it has to be in order to be relevant for this question here. You started your argument with "If you had two necessary things, their identities would depend upon their distinction from one another." and that's simply not a logically necessary thing. – MM8 – 2017-08-18T14:53:22.370

The very fact that it's consistently conceivable means your argument about distinction of two entities is not logically necessary. My only point this entire time is to show that your argument is not logically necessary, which it has to be in order to matter for this question. You have not demonstrated that there cannot be two necessary beings, you've made assumptions and then derived it from those. These assumptions are not logically necessary themselves and in fact are wrong but the latter is inconsequential. This means your argument that there cannot be 2 necessary beings fails. – MM8 – 2017-08-18T14:56:45.503

Another thing you've consistently ignored is that it is not true that "contingency" on necessary things makes another thing contingent instead of necessary. This is simply false as well. The fact that a logical statement "depends" on the truth of another, does not make the second contingent if they are both necessary. Two necessary beings could exist contingent of another and this would still preserve their necessity since being "only contingent on things that are necessary" is the same as being necessary. Your argument simply isn't deductive, it's just gunning for a preferred conclusion. – MM8 – 2017-08-18T15:03:42.293

For example, assuming the Peano axioms, 1=1 is necessary and 1+1=2 is necessary. Just because 1+1=2 "depends" on 1=1 does in no way imply that 1+1=2 is suddenly no longer a necessary statement. Within Peano axioms, assuming either of these to be false destroys the other yet both are necessary. So contingency on necessary statements does not prevent something from being necessary. So not only is your assumption wrong, your conclusion "Both of them would then be contingent upon one another, and neither would be absolutely necessary." is also wrong even if your assumption was correct. – MM8 – 2017-08-18T15:09:26.577

The Peano axioms are axioms, they are not necessary. The distinction between 1 and 2 is not logically necessary, and it is highly dubious whether those actually exist, or whether they are convenient fictions. The arguments about space and time are injected entirely by your choice to make a flawed counterexample in terms of physics. If you have a real answer, give it. Meanwhile, I am done responding. – None – 2017-08-18T18:40:53.383


The connection is a theological necessity to get from 'the universe has a cause' to <insert preferred god-belief here>.

I have yet to find a compelling logical reasoning to support that jump, beyond biblical references and unsupported claims that it MUST be so. Ultimately, I find the claims that whatever cause was behind our universe must be a personal, sentient, omniscient being unconvincing.

It's all well and good to hypothesize at what might have been, but people are notoriously bad at acknowledging where the facts stop and the guesswork starts.

immortal squish

Posted 2017-06-18T01:47:53.443

Reputation: 1 423

Thanks for the answer! I'm no philosopher and may be missing something important, but I'm having a hard time seeing the connection between a necessary being being automatically one, and it being personal and sentient.

About your second point, are you referring to Kant's argument that says that reason tends to go beyond our realm of experiences, which is limited to out temporal-spacial nature, and that anything beyond that it a guess? – Bernardo Trindade – 2017-06-19T19:15:16.337

11.) I agree, and find there is no real logical justification for that 'necessary' being being a single one. The original forms of this argument (ala Plato/Aristotle) had this 'prime mover' as part of a pantheon of deities, and usually not a particularly notable member; 2.) I tend to tackle philosophy from a science-based, logical angle. Part of that is noting where the provable, tested evidence is, and being very careful where rhetorical/logical arguments attempt to justify things the original evidence doesn't actually speak to. – immortal squish – 2017-06-19T20:18:15.417

1This is not related to the question, so it is not an answer. This logic is part of 'the universe has a cause', and before the jump to which you object, or you would not say 'a cause', you would presume only that there are 'causes'. Your objection is reasonable, but it is not related to this particular argument at all. – None – 2017-06-19T22:18:20.363

1Thanks for the feedback, but I disagree on this answers applicability. The claim of there being only one creator stems from the same theological ties that causes the jump from a undefined 'cause' for the universe to a sentient god agent. Those logical leaps are present because the outcome of this exercise must lead to a god consistent with their already held beliefs. Because this is apologetics we're talking about ;) – immortal squish – 2017-06-19T23:28:30.047

1I think what jobermark meant is that the question was about the argument as opposed to its validity. Even though the arguments for God being necessary and sentient are related to the notion of causation, they are in two separate branches, if you will, trying to prove two different things, although interrelated. – Bernardo Trindade – 2017-06-20T22:21:58.273

1I can see that. I'll leave my answer for (negative) posterity, and see if I can whip it into something more inline with what's actually being asked at a later time. Thanks to both of you for the advice. – immortal squish – 2017-06-21T04:11:20.650

Thank you for taking the time to write to me! This was my first time posting here and I was really happy with the quick replies. – Bernardo Trindade – 2017-06-22T02:32:02.710


An answer to this question may be found by defining the fundamental conceptual abstraction the existence of God is likely to represent. Consider the following passages from an article entitled A Biblical Model of Human Dignity: Based on the Image of God and the Incarnation by John Roskoski PhD.

The question of the relationship between an individual and the group has existed since antiquity. One could say that a form of this question is the basis for the thought of the original Philosopher, Thales (c. 600 BC), who framed the problem of the “one and the many”. This is the problem of identifying the Ultimate Reality (One) that underlies all things and how the many entities relate to and derive from the Ultimate Reality.


Theologically, this resonates in the words of Revelation 1:8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and who was and is to come. . .” This deals with the totality of time and the natural world. The consistency of the “Kalam” model and the Revelation text with the name of God, YHWH, revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:14) must be observed. Following W.F. Albright, most scholars accept that the rendering of the Divine Name as denoting the “cause of all existence”. In this Name, we see the concept of this totality emerging.

The common theme in these two passages relates to the possibility the origin of God as a concept is a purposeful abstract representation of the totality of all existence as a single entity which includes both the known world and all things unknown or as of yet unexplained; a method for the examination of existence to determine the unity of reality or the one true existence. These references are undeniable in their emphasis of a singular empirical model.

Please find A Biblical Model of Human Dignity: Based on the Image of God and the Incarnation at http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2013/10/23/A-Biblical-Model-of-Human-Dignity-Based-on-the-Image-of-God-and-the-Incarnation.aspx for further reading.


Posted 2017-06-18T01:47:53.443

Reputation: 11

1Hello and welcome to philosophy.se! Do you think that you could expand this answer? The most well received answers on this site are the ones that have more than a few sentences to say, especially when they contain references and quotations to support what they say. Has any philosopher argued for what you are saying here? How would you contextualize what you're saying into a larger discussion containing the ideas you're arguing for as well as the opposite view? How would that relate to the OP's question? In general, short answers are not received well in terms of voting. – Not_Here – 2017-08-12T03:42:51.033

Post has been edited based on the suggestions by the commentor. – Starrdaark – 2017-08-13T09:16:02.997


There is only one necessary being because there is only one concept of "necessari-ness," to which the necessary being belongs, by virtue of its being "necessary," and in which it logically and ontologically partakes.


Posted 2017-06-18T01:47:53.443

Reputation: 227


As jobermark notes above, logical analysis determines that only one entity can be necessary or absolute. This is not a religious claim but a formal metaphysical one. To claim that this one entity is God would require an additional argument.


Posted 2017-06-18T01:47:53.443