Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism Knowing the Difference Between Contingent vs. Necessary Truths Share Flipboard Email Print AnasiZ/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Other Religions Belief Systems Atheism and Agnosticism Logic Ethics Key Figures in Atheism Evolution Atheism Myths and Misconceptions By Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. our editorial process Austin Cline Updated February 24, 2019 The distinction between contingent and necessary statements is one of the oldest in philosophy. Truth is necessary if denying it would entail a contradiction. A truth is contingent, however, if it happens to be true but could have been false. Example Cats are mammals.Cats are reptiles.Cats have claws. The first statement is a necessary truth because denying it, as with the second statement, results in a contradiction. Cats are, by definition, mammals, so saying that they are reptiles is a contradiction. The third statement is a contingent truth because it is possible that cats could have evolved without claws. This is similar to the distinction between essential and accidental qualities. Being a mammal is part of a cat's essence, but having claws is an accident.