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Hallmarks of Human Existence Chapter 7 Humans and Organization Defining the Hallmarks of Human Existence R eturning to the discussion of Gazzaniga’s work and the question of inference in the previous chapter, it is clear that any conclusion regarding the ontological status of the embryo will proceed from observed data to a conclusion regarding the cause of what is observed. As already noted, while such a cause will be observed only through its accidents, the procedure we are using is not in itself problematic and is a central element of any scientific investigation. Scientists conclude that some sequence is not merely orderly, but ordered, on the basis of observed evidence; in the case of the embryo we will attempt to isolate the necessary and sufficient observational evidence for concluding whether an entity is an embryo. Importantly, the search for the appropriate observational evidence is a search for the causa cognoscendi of the embryo (i.e., how we know what the embryo is), not the causa essendi (i.e., what causes or makes the embryo be what it is). Just as Benjamin Franklin was not made Franklin by inventing bifocals, a human is not ultimately made human by possessing certain traits—the traits are only a sign or hallmark of the 177 178 Hallmarks of Human Existence underlying cause, of what we have identified in previous chapters as the substantial form. While inference from observation to the cause of what is observed is common to all science, the case of the embryo is complicated by the fact that, on the assumption the embryo is human, the thing to which the data points is itself engaging in a developmental process. While fully human, a human embryo would not be a human in a mature state; hence, the hallmarks of human personhood will not be the ones typically associated with a human in a mature state. We must look instead for definitive evidence of a human qua developing; what might such evidence be? Proper Accidents and Classification In all cases of classification of things into their species, one looks for some trait or combination of traits uniquely associated with members of that species—the “proper accidents” of the previous chapter. The difficulty in the case of developing entities is that the proper accidents that mark out the adult of the species may not be fully operational—or even operational at all—at embryonic stages of life; a human embryo will never speak or laugh, while still an embryo. One possible solution to the dilemma is to “wait and see” how the embryo develops, and this evidence is important, but when taken alone it is insufficient to answer our question. The later manifestation of the requisite proper accidents that point to the specific difference tells us what the entity is at the time the accidents are operational, but this by itself does not demonstrate that the entity was a member of that species when it was an embryo. Determining whether an embryo is a human person, while it remains an embryo , involves three distinct elements. First, are the developmental activities and associated structures observed in the embryo directed to a determinate or indeterminate end? The embryo as such is clearly incapable of reasoning. However, are the developmental activities observed in the embryo unambiguously directed toward a being that will be capable of reasoning, once the developmental process is complete? The presence of a determinate, uniquely Hallmarks of Human Existence 179 human developmental trajectory would be clear evidence that a distinctly human final cause is at work. Second, if determinate, is the developmental trajectory something initiated and sustained by the embryo, or by something ontologically distinct from it? Is it through the agency of the embryo itself that the trajectory progresses? Third, if the trajectory is initiated and sustained by the embryo, can we establish that the embryo is ontologically identical with the being that will exhibit rational activity in the future, or is there evidence of ontological discontinuity at some point or points in the developmental process? In other words, we are looking for evidence of humanity along all lines of causality. Is the embryo a materially contiguous entity (material cause), possessed of the necessary structures (formal cause) and engaging in the necessary activities (efficient cause) to unambiguously direct itself toward the determinate end (final cause) of becoming an adult human? Conversely, if development involves a series of materially distinct entities (entia vialia), then one could not conclude that a human being was...


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