Transubstantiation II

In my previous post on transubstantiation, I proposed that the consecrated elements in the Eucharist been seen as “one substance” with the risen Christ in a way analogous to how “the divine and human natures of the Incarnate Word, interrelated as Chalcedon taught, form that one substance or hypostasis which is God the Son himself.” That is an argument from the analogia fidei. On such a proposal, the nature of bread and wine remain in the consecrated elements, just as the human nature of Christ remains undiluted and unmixed by union with his divine nature. But in the long, ensuing discussion, from which I greatly benefited, there emerged two main lines of objection to such a proposal. In this, the second installment of a series I plan for developing my proposal, I shall endeavor to answer those objections.

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Do artefacts exist?

Baylor philosopher Alex Pruss argues that they do not: “There are no artefacts, at least not in any metaphysically serious way.” After reading his whole post, I remain puzzled.

Clearly, we can say that artefacts “exist,” or that “there are artefacts,” if we’re talking existence in the sense of the existential quantifier.  I take it Pruss would not object to saying that there are chairs, if by that all one means is that something is a chair—or more formally: where ‘C’ stands for ‘…is a chair’, (x)Cx. In that case, we would have to admit chairs into our “ontology,” i.e. the universe of discourse over which we allow our logical quantifiers to range. The same would go, presumably, even for elusive and deceptive entities such as mirages. Is it not true, in the present sense, that there are mirages? But Pruss’ sense of ‘…exists’ is evidently weaker than that sense which would allow us to say that “mirages exist.” I’d like to hear more about that. I realize there’s a vast literature on this topic, as on virtually every other topic in philosophy, especially the more technical ones. But surely it would not take a lengthy perusal of the VL to get at what Pruss means. He can speak for himself, or perhaps a tiny selection from the VL would clarify what he’s getting at.

As is typical with me, I’m interested in this question because of the different implications that different answers would have in theology. For instance, I am endeavoring to give an account of transubstantiation according to which the sense of ‘substance’ in which bread and wine count as substances is to be specified partly by their being artefacts. If artefacts don’t exist, I can’t make that move.

Just what is transubstantiation, anyway?

Fr. Al Kimel recently wrote a post that got me thinking about transubstantiation again. Its title is a question: Is Transubstantiation Bodily Enough? The long discussion sparked by that post over at De Cure Animarum stimulated anew my thinking about this topic. As with such questions as “Were you a zygote?“, which Scott addressed in the previous post here, much hinges on how we understand the hoary metaphysical concept of “substance.” As a simple matter of fact, there is no one metaphysical concept of substance that all philosophers, even all Catholic philosophers, agree on; so, the question arises which concept of substance, if any, is best. In order to understand Catholic dogma to the extent it can be understood, some account of substance can and ought to be given; for a certain understanding of substance, however hard to pin down, underlies said dogma. That’s what I want to bring out here.

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