Thursday, December 26, 2019

Real Presence and primitive locational relations

According to relationalism, space is constituted by the network of spatial relations, such as metric distance relations (e.g., being seven meters apart). If these relations are primitive, then there is a very easy way for God to ensure the Real Presence of Christ: he can simply make there be additional spatial relations between Christ and other material entities, spatial relations that are exactly like the relations that the bread and wine stood in to other material entities.

It might seem contradictory for Christ to stand in two distance relations: for instance, being one mile from me (in one church) and three miles from me (in another). But I doubt this is a contradiction. New York and London are both 5600 km and 34500 km apart, depending on which direction you go.

According to substantivalism, on the other hand, points or regions are real, and objects are in a location by standing in a relation to a point or region. If relations are primitive, again there should be no problem about God instituting additional such relations to make it be that Christ is present where the bread and wine were.

In other words, if location is constituted by a primitive relation—whether to other objects or to space—there is apt to be no difficulty in accounting for the Real Presence. The reason is that we expect, barring strong reason to the contrary, primitive relations to be arbitrarily recombinable.

If location, however, is constituted by a non-primitive relation, there might be more difficulties. For instance, as a toy theory, consider the variant of relationalism on which spatial relations are constituted by gravitational force relations (two objects have distance r if and only if they have masses m1 and m2 and there is a gravitational force Gm1m2/r2 between them). In that case, for God to make Christ present in Waco would require God to make Christ stand in gravitational force relations of the sort that I stand in by virtue of being in Waco. For instance, the earth’s gravitational force on Christ would have to point from Waco to the center of the earth—but since the Eucharist is also in Rome, it would have to point from Rome to the center of the earth as well. And that might be thought impossible. But perhaps there could be two terrestrial gravitational forces on Christ: one along the Waco-geocenter vector and the other along the Rome-geocenter vector. This would require some sort of a realism about component forces, but that’s probably necessary for the gravitational toy theory. And then God would have to miraculously ensure that despite the forces, Christ is not affected in the way he would normally be by these forces. All this may be possible, but it’s less clear than if we have primitive relations.

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