Religious Studies


In defence of logical nominalism: reply to Leftow1


a1 Oriel College, Oxford, OX1 4EW


This paper defends (especially in response to Brian Leftow's recent attack) logical nominalism, the thesis that logically necessary truth belongs primarily to sentences and depends solely on the conventions of human language. A sentence is logically necessary (that is, a priori metaphysically necessary) iff its negation entails a contradiction. A sentence is a posteriori metaphysically necessary iff it reduces to a logical necessity when we substitute for rigid designators of objects or properties canonical descriptions of the essential properties of those objects or properties. The truth-conditions of necessary sentences are not to be found in any transcendent reality, such as God's thoughts. ‘There is a God’ is neither a priori nor a posteriori metaphysically necessary; God is necessary in the sense that His existence is not causally contingent on anything else.


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1. I defend here a view advocated in ch. 5 of my book The Christian God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) against criticisms made by (among others) Brian Leftow in a paper ‘Swinburne on divine necessity’, Religious Studies, 46 (2010), 141–162. In-text references and unattributed references below are to this paper. Many thanks are due to Brian Leftow for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of my paper.