What is different between 'accidental' and 'contingent'?

I thought that accidental contains intentional notation while Contingent does not. But there could be an intentional action that turns out to be accidental. For example, I intentionally went to the park and accidentally met my high school teacher.

However, it seems that we can clearly define 'contingency' as "not necessary".

Please tell me what could be the pertinent definition of 'accidental'

(Sorry for my grammatical error, if there are. Please ask me if my question is ambiguous)

2 Answers 2


See : Maritain https://books.google.fr/books?id=PzUnH4Z0APsC&pg=PA146&lpg=PA146&dq=predicamental+accident,+predicable+accident&source=bl&ots=7_S9XmZBDc&sig=ACfU3U0xIdTJyZSafykCrGLFt7oPpB6NYA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjv-uz2wcHlAhXO0eAKHYtZBgYQ6AEwAnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=predicamental%20accident%2C%20predicable%20accident&f=false

In traditional aristotelian philosophy, the term " accident" belongs both to (a) the theory of predicables and (b) to the theory of "predicaments" or categories.

Being a predicable accident of X means not to be the genus, nor the specific difference, nor the species, nor the " proper" of X. A predicable accident is by definition contingent.

For example: Socrates is courageous. Being courageous does not belong to the essence of Socrates, he is acccidentally courageous, but he is essentially a rational animal, that is a man.

Being a predicamental accident means not to be a " substance", but being " in a substance" ( " in" expressing "inherence"). Some predicamental accidents of a substance are contingent, some are not.

The quality of being human is a necessary predicamental accident of Socrates.

The relation " being Plato's master" is an accidental predicamental accident of Socrates.


Colloquial meanings of the two words are pretty close, accidental is "occurring unexpectedly or by chance", contingent is "subject to chance; occurring or existing only if (certain circumstances) are the case; dependent on". If there is a shade of difference, it is that contingent may well be expected as a possibility, albeit along other options, whereas accidental is something more of a "completely" unexpected. A coin landing on either heads or tails are "contingent" events, while landing on an edge is a "freak accident". But colloquial usage does not follow strict rules or suffers precise definitions.

But in philosophy they are used in different contexts, and in opposing pairs: essential/accidental, necessary/contingent. "Essential" applies to properties of objects that makes them what they are, indispensable to them. The rest are accidental, The terminology goes back to Aristotle, and was revived in modern times by Kripke, see SEP, Essential vs. Accidental Properties. The distinction is controversial. We would normally say that being a man is essential to a man, and having a scar isn't, but it is unclear if this has significance independent of personal or cultural context, some might consider their scars essential to who they are.

Essential properties are those that an object would presumably have in all possible worlds where it exists at all. Necessary must be present in all possible worlds, period. That is Kripke's modern distinction in modal logic, see Kripke on the necessary a posteriori by Speaks. Contingent is that which is neither necessary nor impossible, something that is lacking in some possible worlds and present in others. Also, while essential/accidental is usually applied to properties (or relations), necessary/contingent is usually applied to propositions. So the essential is closely aligned to the necessary, and accidental to the contingent, although essential properties can be, strictly speaking, contingent, if their object is itself contingent.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .