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Metaphysics Matters Epilogue Metaphysics Matters I n this work, we have laid out a hylomorphic framework for considering the ontological status of the embryo. We have demonstrated that without this framework, it is impossible to explain how human beings change over their lifespans while remaining fundamentally the same individual. We have addressed a number of arguments against the humanity of the embryo: that immediate hominization presents an ontological or factual contradiction, that delayed hominization is better supported by the facts, and that “humanity” is an arbitrary designation applied at our discretion. In contrast, we have then argued that organization is the hallmark of human existence and laid out criteria for distinguishing developing humans, abnormal or defective developing humans, and non-humans of human origin. Finally, we have applied these criteria to some difficult cases presented to us by nature and produced by us in the laboratory, illustrating that the distinction between what is and what is not a human being turns largely on the precise scientific details. The underlying ontological nature of the embryo is revealed by discovery, and is not merely a matter of declaration. At the very end of the last chapter and elsewhere, we have made mention of Mortimer Adler’s book The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes. The work is based on a series of lectures Adler gave at 259 260 Metaphysics Matters the University of Chicago in 1966 and, as aptly indicated by the book’s title, its objective is twofold. The first is to determine how or whether man is unique among animals and the second is to determine what difference, if any, such a difference might make—in moral matters and in law, for example. To oversimplify for the sake of brevity, Adler argues that if man is not radically different from other animals, then he is not deserving of radically different treatment: men should be treated as animals, or animals as men. The undercurrent running throughout the work is that ontology—metaphysics—matters. However esoteric it may first appear and however far removed it is from everyday life, metaphysics matters in ways profoundly important for living a truly human life. The same undercurrent also runs through the present work. The debate over embryos and our treatment of them is about many things— the biological facts and the limits of democratic law, to name just two. But underlying it all is a debate concerning metaphysics and its implications . To return to a theme from the introduction, if being a morally relevant human—or “truly human”—is at bedrock a matter of designation (fiat), then in the end we have complete freedom to decide how we shall treat our fellow humans, be they embryos or adults, sickly or in perfect health, young or old, similar to us in appearance, or not. On the other hand, if true humanity is a matter of discovery, then we are bound to abide by the consequences of that discovery wherever and whenever it is made. Either way, the question is a metaphysical one, and only a metaphysical analysis of the facts provided by both biology and common experience will render a satisfactory answer. It is our sincere hope that we have made a positive contribution to that effort. With all this in mind, we wish to conclude by offering a handful of very brief metaphysical observations, most of which have been at least alluded to in the text. Form is real. As was well-rehearsed in chapter 1, form is at one and the same time both essential for understanding why any given thing is the way it is and also the item most easily overlooked. While we can (perhaps) explain how some thing comes to be without an explicit appeal to form, no explanation in terms of efficient causality can explain why something is the way it is, right now. That some thing is the way it Metaphysics Matters 261 is seems to be an obvious fact, it is nevertheless a fact requiring explanation , and only an explanation in terms of form is satisfactory. The explicit acknowledgement of form carries with it the implicit acceptance of another important point, namely, that there is an immaterial principle immanent in the physical things of our experience. Form, as such, is simply not the matter of some thing, as the example of the horse-shaped block of granite makes clear. As was stressed throughout the text, this fact does not render form occult or a “ghost” lurking...


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