Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Aristotle on This-ness: Materialism and Genetic Manipulation

Harold W. Baillie Ph.D..

The humanities should shape the future in a combination of resourcement and creativity, rethinking the past to capture its insights and limits in the emerging possibilities of the present.
My presentation will illustrate this claim by an examination of Aristotle's analysis of materialism and its metaphysical inadequacy (esp. Metaphysics, Zeta, ch.3). Aristotle' position re-affirms his interest in the separability and this-ness of things and strongly suggests that a materialism leads to a kind of forgetfulness.
A materialist has no knowledge that comprehends the significance or completeness of things as things, sine a materialist for Aristotle finds no things as things real; things are epiphenomena of under-lying material processes to be forgotten in the pursuit of the material. By contrast, Aristotle wants the this-ness of the thing appreciated as a reality itself, affected by underlying material processes but also having an existence that stands apart from those processes. Applying this analysis to genetic manipulation opens a path for a discussion that enhances and protects the human life world, particularly its enmattered serendipity. By enmattered serendipity, I mean the capacity of humans to surprise, to act in ways unexpected and possibly creative. Preserving this ability to surprise in the face of claims to material determinism or manufacture is the crucial concern in a proper evaluation of genetic manipulations. Such a discussion avoids forgetting and eventually losing the human in the cauldron of material commensurability


Harold W. Baillie Ph.D.  (United States)
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
University of Scranton

Harold W. Baillie has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Scranton for 25 years. He received his education at Yale University and Boston College, and specializes in metaphysics, political philosophy, and bio-ethics.

  • Aristotle
  • Genetic Manipulation
  • Human Nature
  • Serendipity
  • Metaphysics
  • Ethics
  • Genetic
  • Engineering
  • Materialism

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)