Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Presence and Location

In "Experiencing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" by Cockayne, Efird, Haynes, Molto, Tamburro, Warman, and Ludwigs (whew!), they propose what they call an 'iconic' account of the real presence. As they put it, "On this understanding, Christ is derivatively, rather than fundamentally, located in the consecrated bread and wine, such that Christ is present to the believer through the consecrated bread and wine, thereby making available to the believer a second-person experience of Christ, where the consecrated bread and wine are the way in which she shares attention with him."

Contrasted with derivative location accounts, they hold are more common fundamental location accounts:

One way for Christ to be really present in the Eucharist is for him to be present in the consecrated bread and wine, and so be located in the consecrated bread and wine, and so be located at the place occupied by the consecrated bread and wine. This would then be a fundamental location account of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The most prominent such account is the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which, at the consecration, the substance of the bread and of the wine are transformed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, respectively.

One obvious problem here is that the doctrine of transubstantiation is not a fundamental location account, and the root of the problem is that analytic philosophers have a tendency to over-assimilate presence to location. (I've already noted this problem with respect to Kenny's discussion of real presence.) The idea of transubstantiation does not involve Christ taking on the accidents of bread and wine (that is a heresy called 'impanation'); rather, it implies that he manifests his presence through them, having replaced the substance of bread and wine. But among the accidents of bread and wine are those that localize it; Christ does not take these on, and therefore is not located where the accidents are. Given the distinction between fundamental location accounts and derivative location accounts that the authors use, transubstantiation is not a fundamental location account.

Consider Aquinas's discussion of this point (ST 3.76.5). He makes a distinction between presence by dimensive quantity and presence by substance. To be present by dimensive quantity requires that the thing present have a measure corresponding to the measure of the dimensive quantity of its boundary. This is literally not possible in the case of Christ's body and a little bit of Host on the altar. The dimensions of the Host are foreign dimensions, not proper dimensions, for Christ's body. Likewise, he'll go on to argue, Christ does not move when the Host moves, for the same reason.

The flow of thought in the above paragraph is quite clear: present in the consecrated elements and so located in them and so located at the place occupied by them. Neither of these and so's is as sure as it might seem. Presence is an action, broadly speaking; location is a measurement. They can come apart. We see this in things like video conferencing and phone calls, by means of which you are present somewhere that you are not located. An older example would be the presence of the soul in parts of the body. Your soul is present in your hand (otherwise it would not be a living hand); however, in a hylomorphic accounts, you wouldn't want to say that your soul is located at the place occupied by your hand. Forms, of which the soul is a special case, have no particular location. 'At your hand' is a location-measurement that, however loose and approximate, is wholly inadequate for measuring the presence of your soul. Any attempt to tie presence closely with location needs to be justified, not assumed.