Winter 2005

Who Are the Real Aristotelians? A Response to Edward J. Furton

Adrian J. Walker

"The real bone of contention . . . is whether or not there is anything like an Aristotelian nature."


In a defense of Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming (OAR) that recently appeared in the pages of The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly,1 Edward Furton, the journal’s editor, replies to what he regards as “some ill-conceived objections to this proposal raised by the editors of Communio.”2 In particular, Furton singles out my essay “A Way Around the Cloning Objection Against ANT?”3 which he roundly criticizes on three counts: (1) it is a polemical attack on the supporters of OAR; (2) it betrays an erroneous understanding of the science underlying OAR; (3) it reflects an anti-scientific obscurantism whose commitment to shady philosophical a prioris translates into disregard for experimental evidence. I respectfully submit that he is both wrong on all three of the charges that he brings against me and that he has missed the point of my argument. In the present essay, then, I would like to offer a reply to his attempted rebuttal of me (section 1), followed by a brief restatement of my diagnosis of what I think is the conceptual flaw inherent in OAR and, indeed, in every conceivable form of ANT (section 2). In the course of my argument, I hope to make it clear that my objections to ANT-OAR are serious questions formulated from within a commitment to the very Aristotelian-Thomistic natural philosophy from which Furton wrongly accuses me of departing.4



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1. Edward J. Furton, “A Defense of Oocyte-Assisted Reprogramming,” The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly (Autumn 2005): 465–468.

2. Ibid., 467.

3. Adrian J. Walker, “A Way Around the Cloning Objection Against ANT? A Brief Response to the Joint Statement on the Production of Pluripotent Stem Cells by Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming,” Communio 32 (Spring 2005): 188–194.

4. Referring to my supposed obscurantist apriorism, Furton writes that my “appeals to a mysterious realm of ontology appear to be little more than obfuscation. For those who follow the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, there can be no knowledge in the mind except that which first comes through the senses. To reject the evidence of the senses is to reject the epistemological tradition of the Church” (Furton, “A Defense of Oocyte-Assisted Reprogramming,” 468).