Friday, September 18, 2015

Colors and transsubstantiation

This is going to be very speculative, and I doubt it yields an orthodox account of transsubstantiation, but since there is some chance that it does yield such an account (and if it doesn't, we might get a deeper picture of transsubstantiation by thinking about why it fails), it's worth thinking about.

Let's say, as a first approximation, that an object is white at a spacetime region U provided that the object has a direct causal power of reflecting light incident on U diffusely and approximately uniformly across the visible spectrum. Observe that in this definition nothing was said about U being a region that is occupied by the object. It is logically possible for an object to have a causal power of action at a spatial and/or temporal distance, thereby diffusely and approximately uniformly reflecting light incident on a region unoccupied by the object. Now suppose that a white piece of bread is going to be destroyed, but just before it is destroyed the causal power of whiteness that it has is enhanced to work at a temporal distance, thereby diffusely and approximately uniformly reflecting light incident on a spatial region shaped like a piece of bread in the future after the destruction of the piece of bread. Then there is a sense in which the whiteness of the piece of bread persists after the destruction of the piece of bread.

It seems there are two senses in which we can say that the whiteness of an ordinary object is at a location V. One sense is that the relevant causal power is located at V and the other sense is that the object is directly causing light to be reflected whitely at V. The location of the accident of whiteness can be identified either with the location of the causal ground of the reflection or with the location of the immediate effect of that causal ground (the second matches how Aquinas understands the locations of angels: they are deemed present where they act). Normally, the two locations coincide or are very close together. So there is a a sense in which, in the scenario where the bread has the power of causing white reflections after its destruction, the accident of whiteness exists at the location where the reflection occurs, and hence continues to exist after the destruction of the bread.


StMichael said...

Wouldn't this actually happen if we placed a mirror in front of a loaf of bread, subsequently destroying it, and assuming we had a camera that videotaped at nearly the speed of light? The light would reach the mirror very shortly after the destruction, but for a very short increment, the mirror would reflect the state of affairs of the bread, whole and intact. We slow it down to normal speed and we would clearly see this. Again, light from stars make a similar phenomenon very real indeed. Consequently, it's not even that theoretical.

Alexander R Pruss said...

The causation in these cases isn't quite so direct, though.

Mark Rogers said...

Christ is not directly visible during the miracle of transubstantiation. So it seems that angels and the Holy Spirit would be in involved in such a project as angels may accompany Christ, they can not bring Christ.