It Ain’t Necessarily So; Or the Contingency of Necessity

May 26, 2017

Bruce Baugh

Friday, May 26, 10:00AM–12:00PM, Room 1510, SFU Harbour Centre

Sponsored by SFU's Institute for the Humanities

NOTE: This workshop is by invitation. Please contact if you are interested in participating.


From Aristotle to Husserl, philosophers have argued that “first principles” cannot be deduced from prior premises and cannot be grasped through sensory experience (as sensory experience apprehends only what is fleeting and contingent), but are given through a type of intellectual intuition which apprehends first principles in their self-evidence (Evidenz, évidence). Faced with the self-evidence of first principles, the mind is compelled to accept them. Because they are objects of intellectual understanding, first principles can only be universal, changeless, necessary and eternal. Yet there may be other forms of experience which are just as self-evident and compelling, but which are based on experiences that are peculiar to a particular individual. As involuntary and compulsory as the logically self-evident, the self-evidence of certain affective states (anxiety, boredom, jealousy, etc.) may give rise to a truth which is valid only for the individual who experiences it. The psychological and existential necessity involved in such compelling and self-evident subjective and particular experiences even forms the basis for the experience of being to compelled logically self-evident truths. In that sense, contingent and a posteriori experiences of an encounter of a subject with some external power that forces that person to think can be said to be the basis for what are taken to be necessary and a priori truths. All necessity, in the final analysis, is a posteriori and contingent. As Deleuze puts it, “The principle of reason... in philosophy is a principle of contingent reason... there is no good reason but contingent reason; there is no universal history except contingency” 


Bruce Baugh is a Philosophy Professor at Thompson Rivers University specializing in modern French philosophy. He is editor and translator of Existential Monday: Philosophical Essays (NYRB Books, 2016) by Benjamin Fondane and the book, French Hegel: From Surrealism to Postmodernism (Routledge, 2003). He is currently working on a book on walking and philosophy that will deal with walking and philosophers and poets such as Martin Heidegger, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Friedrich Nietzsche, Andre Breton and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His most recent articles include “Deleuze, Guattari and Bergson on the Open Society,” Deleuze Studies (Summer 2016); “The Art of Good Encounters: Deleuze, Macherey and Spinoza,” in Christine Daigle and Terrance H. McDonald (Indiana University Press; forthcoming); “Private thinkers, untimely thoughts: Deleuze, Shestov and Fondane,” Continental Philosophy Review Volume 48, Issue 3 (2015): 313-339; “Tom Flynn on ‘dialectical nominalism’ and the ‘mediating third’,” Sartre Studies International (Fall 2015): 13-24; “Actualization: enrichment and loss,” in Karen Houle and James Vernon, eds., Deleuze and Hegel (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013), 76-96; “Jean Hyppolite and French Kierkegaard,” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy vol. 24 (2013): 40-68. In October 2014, he gave the key-note address to the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy, “Questioning the presuppositions of Western Metaphysics: the Critique of Reason in Deleuze, Fondane and Shestov.”