By Keith Ward
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This is presumably because it is very difficult indeed, and perhaps in some cases impossible, to know when even seemingly quite clear conceptions are coherent. The best examples of all come from mathematics, where they abound. To take just one well-known case: Goldbach's Conjecture, that every even number greater than 2 is the sum 42 THE NECESSARILY EXISTENT of two primes, was formulated in 1742. Being a proposition in pure mathematics, it is agreed that, if it is true, it is necessarily true, so its denial is self-contradictory.
But why? Because God is immaterial and contains no material properties; he is pure spirit. There is no escape by this way, however; for now God, who is supposed to contain all properties in himself, turns out to possess no material properties at all. Ah, but may he not contain them in a higher manner? If that means that he may possess a material property which is not material, it is senseless. If it means that he must have the idea (essence or nature) of material things in his mind, then it is clear that matter is only possible in God; only the idea of it, which, qua idea, is spiritual, actually exists in him.
We cannot tell if that concept has any application, but it is riot self-contradictory nor is it vacuous, since it contradicts the notion of a being which can be possible but not actual. But surely, anything which is actual might not have been actual and yet possible? That, if true, would have to be a necessary truth, and I do not see how it could be proved to be true. It is precisely what is being denied. So I think what we have to say is that we do not know whether it is necessarily true that there could be no being which could be actual but not simply possible and not-actual.