The miracle of the Eucharist is that in Holy Communion the substance of the bread and wine is removed and is replaced by the substance of Christ's flesh and blood. Coextensive with this, the sensory accidents of Christ's flesh and blood are removed, and the accidents of the bread and wine (their color, taste, odor, smell, and feel) remain. The miracle then consists not merely in the replacement of the substances of bread and wine with the substances of Christ's flesh and blood but also in the removal of the sensory accidents of Christ's flesh and blood and the substitution of the sensory accidents of bread and wine. These sensory accidents of bread and wine are unsupported by any substance, for if they were supported by the substances of Christ's flesh and blood that they now conceal, then those substances would be bread and wine. In Aristotelian terms, this involves two miracles. The first miracle is the existence of the substantial forms of Christ's flesh and blood without their sensory accidents, and the second miracle is the presence of the sensory characteristics of bread and wine separate from their substantial forms and, moreover, separate from any supporting substantial form at all (see form, substantial).
There is also the big-little problem. How can a large volume of Christ's body occupy the space of a small piece of bread, and Christ's blood occupy the small space of a bit of wine? On the other hand, how can the small volume of Christ's body and Christ's blood be enough to occupy the large quantities of consecrated bread and wine required when many people are given communion at the same time?
Descartes argued that the Aristotelian physics of substantial forms and accidents is nonsense. He wrote to Mersenne that “there will be … no difficulty in accommodating theology to my way of philosophizing because there is nothing to change except for transubstantiation, which is extremely clear and easy according to my principles” (AT III 295–96, CSMK 172). Mersenne did not take the hint to construct a Cartesian explanation of the Eucharist, so Descartes did it himself.
Le Grand was a Franciscan Recollect friar in Douai, France. He was sent on the English mission to Oxfordshire where his Latin works on Descartes were translated into English. He had disputes with John Sergeant (1623–1707) and Samuel Parker (1640–88). His major work is An Entire Body of Philosophy According to the Principles of the Famous Renate des Cartes (1694). It was very popular and went through many editions.
Le Grand presents the cogito and the innate ideas of God, mind, and body, plus the eternal truths as the foundations of all knowledge. Descartes’ mechanism explains all bodily interactions and rules out the occult powers of Aristotelian matter. But even though Cartesians have certain knowledge of first principles and eternal truths, the application of these principles and truths to the material world is hypotheticodeductive, and the results are only probable. Thus, experimentation is important in Cartesian physics. A great deal of An Entire Body of Philosophy is devoted to detailed explanations of natural phenomena. Later, expositions of Newton often followed Le Grand's plan.
Le Grand provides a Cartesian ontology of things and modes to replace Aristotelian categories, but he keeps one substantial form, the Cartesian mind. All bodily properties derive from quantity, figure, and motion, and all action and passion in bodies are reducible to motion. The Aristotelian notion that there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses is absurd according to Le Grand because we have innate, general ideas of God, mind, and body.
Le Grand's Entire Body of Philosophy was extremely popular in England, and the third book on The Want of Sense and Knowledge in Brute Animals was a topic of inexhaustible parlor conversation and theological debate in the late seventeenth century. Le Grand undertook to show in great detail how all animal behavior is mechanically generated by bodily interactions in the material world. With respect to bodily interactions generally, Le Grand was a thoroughgoing occasionalist (and reads Descartes as one too) and presents several arguments for God as the true source of causal interaction between bodies (see cause).
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