Organon F

Volume 30, February 2023, Issue 1, Pages 32–52

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article | Special issue on Times, Events, and Logical Specification

Fulfilling Russell’s Wish: A.N. Prior and the Resurgence of Philosophical Theology

David Jakobsen


Wolterstorff (2009) provides an important explanation to the question: What caused the surprising resurgence of philosophical theology that has occurred over the last 50 years—a resurgence that rivals its zenith in the Middle Ages? This article supplements that with a more fine-grained answer to the question. Recent discoveries in Arthur Norman Prior’s correspondence with J.J.C Smart and Mary Prior, between November 1953 and August 1954 on the possibility of necessary existence, demonstrates the importance of Prior’s discussion of the Barcan formulae in Time and Modality (1957) for the resurgence of analytic theology. The correspondence establishes that Prior’s discovery of tense-logic, and his discussion of quantified tense-logic constituted the perfect opportunity for him to challenge key anti-metaphysical assumptions in analytic philosophy, from which four important consequences can be drawn for the resurgence of philosophical theology. First, Prior’s discussion of time and existence challenged the idea of Russell (1945) and Findlay (1948) on the logical status of a necessary existing being. Second, the discussion challenged the Analytic school’s view of analysis and gave Prior the opportunity to introduce a different perspective on the relationship between logic and metaphysics. Third, it gave Prior a good opportunity to demonstrate that the then-prevailing attitude towards medieval logic was wrong. Fourth, it made it possible for Prior to demonstrate that the highly surprising metaphysical conclusions of quantified tense-logic brings modern logicians into a discussion with the theologically minded medieval logicians.


A.N. Prior; analytic theology; the ontological argument; quantified tense-logic.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


David Jakobsen


Aalborg University


Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark


About this article


24 August 2022


15 December 2022


4 January 2023


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Jakobsen, D. (2023). Fulfilling Russell’s Wish: A.N. Prior and the Resurgence of Philosophical Theology. Organon F30(1), 32–52.


Jakobsen, David. 2023. "Fulfilling Russell’s Wish: A.N. Prior and the Resurgence of Philosophical Theology." Organon F 30 (1): 32–52.


Jakobsen, D. (2023). Fulfilling Russell’s Wish: A.N. Prior and the Resurgence of Philosophical Theology. Organon F, 30(1), pp. 32–52.

Copyright information

© David Jakobsen

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