"A truth is necessary if it cannot be avoided, such as 2 + 2 = 4; by contrast, a contingent truth "just happens to be the case", for instance "more than half of the earth is covered by water". In the most common interpretation of modal logic, one considers "all possible worlds". If a statement is true in all possible worlds, then it is a necessary truth. If a statement happens to be true in our world, but is not true in all other worlds, then it is a contingent truth. A statement that is true in some world (not necessarily our own) is called a possible truth."

-- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Defining Contingencies
Closely related to the concept of consequence is that of contingency. In broad terms, contingency means that one thing is dependent on the other or something happens because of, or as a result of the other. It identifies the causal relationship that exists between two things, one flowing into or from the other. In this sense, contingency is very close to consequence, although the two terms are not exactly the same.
A dictionary definition of "contingencies" would point to words such as uncertainty, possibility and probability. When ethicists use the word, they would hint at these various concepts but they would also include more. In applied ethics (as in logic), an event or action is said to have been contingent when it was not a necessary event or action.
Necessary events or actions have direct, identifiable causes and they must be structured the way that they are and could not have been otherwise. Contingent events or actions, however, are much more variable and these things could have been otherwise. Contingency planning in business is a kind of risk planning that tries to predict the likelihood of events when it is understood that not all events will be necessary ones. So, life is made up of both necessary and contingent events and actions.
In applied ethics, contingencies being what they are, a given situation might be judged differently given one set of contingencies rather than another set. For example, some hold that abortion is wrong, while others say it is wrong except in the cases of rape or incest. Under these two contingencies, some will temper and change their judgment about abortion (although there are others who will not).
Using Contingencies
The lead contingencies-based question in a VCR analysis is:

Are there any contingencies involved in the issue, problem, or dilemma,

and, if so, what impact will they have?

In making ethical judgments, then, professionals need to ask about the contingencies of the ethical issue, problem or dilemma that they may be faced with and need to resolve. Some prefer to ask about the given
situations that are made up of contingencies. "Situational ethics," a contemporary theory about ethical decision making, claims that the context of an action -- the situation in which it occurs -- plays a role in whether we judge that action to be ethical or unethical. In this light, it is wise to understand the contingencies, the context or situation in order to come to understand the potential variables in ethical decision making.
Because contingencies are always relative to situations, this category of the VCR approach to ethics is a highly controversial one that is often referred to as ethical relativism.
For a good discussion and overview of these matters read "The Truth in Ethical Relativism" by Hugh LaFollette in the Journal of Social Philosophy. Go to:
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