SCIENCE OR ART? : PUTTING WORDS INTO HAHNEMANN’S MOUTH!

Sarokar

Despite having high potential Hahnemann’s ‘SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURENTUR’ did not enjoy the honour of being Science. Moreover, it remained stuck merely as a concept ever since. However, it could not develop into a perfect theory of science for two reasons:

1. The ‘scientific’ prejudice that scoffed at it. This again had two reasons: (a) ‘Scientists’ find it too complicated to be understood; and (b) In case, this ‘scientific’ approach is granted the honour, quite few ‘fundamentals’ of science are exposed to vulnerability and the scientists are reluctant to be blamed for the same.

2. Out of sheer enthusiasm to explain and defend Hahnemann, the incompetent admirers of Hahnemannian prescribing, added fuel to the fire. For, ill conceived as their notions were, they often declared homoeopathy to be an ‘ART’ and not the ‘SCIENCE’. It is surprising to note that they maintained it was Hahnemann who had proposed that at the first place.

“…If the physician clearly perceives what is to be cured in the diseases, that is to say, in every individual case of disease (knowledge of disease, indication); if he clearly perceives what is curative in medicines, that is to say, in each individual medicine (knowledge of medicinal powers); and if he knows how to adapt, according to clearly-defined principles, what is curative in medicines to what he has discovered to be undoubtedly morbid in the patient, so that recovery must ensue – to adapt it, as well in respect to the suitability of the medicine most appropriate according to its mode of action to the case before him (choice of the remedy, the medicine indicated), as also in respect to the exact mode of preparation and quantity of it required (proper dose), and the proper period for repeating the dose; if, finally, he knows the obstacles to recovery in each case and is aware how to remove them, so that the restoration may be permanent: Then he understands how to treat judiciously and rationally, and he is a true practitioner of the healing art.” ((Samuel Hahnemann: ORGANON, Translated from fifth edition by R. E. Dudgeon, Reprint edition 1984 (§ 3, page 31), B. Jain Publishers; New Delhi, India.))

Such is the clarity of vision in the above doctrine that it finds an easy way in to any of the medical practitioner’s back of mind. Nevertheless, once the identity of its propagator is disclosed, it embarrasses many of them. For, they have strong bias against Dr. Samuel Hahnemann and his medical system. They refuse to grant the grace to the philosophy of ‘similia similibus curentur’ as being scientific. Following lines from Richard Hughes put the case in point only too frankly:

“…Not thus did Hufeland & Brera and Trousseau & Forbes write of the new method and its author. But the first-named of these made a remark, which is full of significance: He said that if homoeopathy succeeded in becoming the general medical practice, it would prove the grave of science.” ((THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY: Reprint edition 1994 (page 21), B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India.))

Hecker is their all-time leader. For, he was never shy of misquoting Hahnemann – even to the extent of putting into his mouth the things, which he never said and thus fabricating the evidence to make his own case stronger while arguing against the philosopher. That, Hahnemann settled the scores on merits and upon the grounds of knowledge and moral strength is just another story.

There is another class of Hahnemann’s critics who preferred to mock at him. They did this because they failed to mark a single point in his similia theory, which was new to the contemporary science. Again, Hughes portrays their frame of mind in the following:

“…One (Anstie) calls it: metaphysical; another (Ross): geometrical; a third exclaims: how curious, how ingenious, how interesting! ((THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY: Reprint edition 1994 (page 27), B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India.))

Be that as it may, Hughes seems to be more than pleased with the ‘grave of science’ criticism of homoeopathy:

“…Now this I make bold to claim as an unintentional compliment.” ((THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY: Reprint edition 1994 (page 21), B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India.))

He has reason (for his pleasure) to offer:

“…It describes our system as being true medicine, which is not science, but art. This is a truth very much forgotten now a day.” ((THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY: Reprint edition 1994 (page 21), B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India.))

However, had there been nothing in Hahnemann’s similia theory that was new to Science, it manifested itself in the only logic, which maintains that what Hahnemann proposed was already known to exist (either directly or otherwise) in the books, which belonged to Science.

Notwithstanding that, in no uncertain words Hughes is critical of the opinion that found ‘nothing new’ in Hahnemann’s doctrine.

“…His (hahnemann’s) doctrine of the three relations between drug-action and disease ((1st. The knowledge of morbid state; 2nd. The knowledge of medicinal powers and 3rd. The knowledge how to choose and administer the remedy. (Richard Hughes: THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY, page 18)) seems too simple to certain minds…And (the above mentioned opinion) seems to indicate that in so designating it he excludes the possibility of its conformity to Nature.” ((THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY: Reprint edition 1994 (page 27), B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India.))

At this point, Hughes has a query:

“…But why should it not have these features and yet be true? What other alternative is possible?” ((THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF HOMOEOPATHY: Reprint edition 1994 (page 27), B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.; New Delhi, India.))

Now, if I am asked to guess whether Hughes would be getting a pat on his back (for this ‘noble’ service) by Hahnemann; I am afraid, the master philosopher would be shy of accepting him as his true disciple. The reason is as plain as a pikestaff – Grave misinterpretation!

For, at no point did Hahnemann convey that what he was going to propound was short of making a mark on any of the scales of Science, save against Nature! On the contrary, in the preface to the second edition of organon one could read his mind:

“…In the pure sciences of experience, in physics, in chemistry and medicine, merely speculative reason can consequently have no voice; there when it acts alone, it degenerates into empty speculation & phantasy and produces only hazardous hypotheses, which in millions of instances are, and by their very nature must be, self-deception and falsehood.”

I wonder if drawing one’s attention to two subtle factors in Hahnemann’s above statement would cause a digression. These are as follows:

(a) He grants ‘medicine’ the status of Science – parallel to Physics and Chemistry and
(b) He particularly deprecates ‘incompetent speculation’.

Against the above sounding board, a careful and unbiased reading of the first four aphorisms of Hahnemann’s organon of medicine makes it obvious that:

(a) ‘cure’ was his lone mission.
(b) ‘quality’ was his sole concern.
(c) To achieve his highest objective, he was particular about selecting his tool.
(d) ‘physician’ was the tool of his choice and he was to invest in it as much he could, in order to sharpen it to his personal satisfaction.
(e) Whatever he was going to propose (thereafter) would be offering enough reason to his tools (physicians) for a peregrination. Thus in order to rid them off the temptation of flying wide of the target, at the very point of raising the curtain (making his mind public) he was issuing the note of caution – loud and clear!

Moreover, though after the first full-scale reading of Hahnemann’s organon the cards were open (that he had proposed to found a ‘new school’ of medicinal science) he refrained from identifying the first four aphorisms with any of the system of medicine, save homoeopathy (which was nonexistent until then). In simple terms, those are universally true to any of the systems (of past, present and future as well), which practice medicine – scientifically.

Nothing can be farther from truth. At no point, Hahnemann had proposed that his philosophy was ‘Art’ and not ‘Science’. One is yet to find an example whereupon Hahnemann faintly hinted that his ‘system’ was unscientific. Moreover, ‘conformity with nature’ is the backbone of Hahnemann’s ‘similia theory’.

Hahnemann after all, was the first medico-scientist who mulled over the ‘why’ mechanism of medicine and directed his thoughts towards it. Thinkers before him were only engrossed in ‘what’ and ‘how’ mechanisms. ‘why’ is a much profound preposition; the Hahnemannian answer to which is ‘similarity’ in every possible respect.

Revealing demonstration of hitherto unknown hazardous properties of substances and exploiting them to the benefit of suffering humanity manifests itself on the premise of Science. Nobody could question that. Thus, whether the philosopher proposed it directly or not, if one chooses to claim that Hahnemann’s ‘similia’ mechanism is ‘not’ in obvious conformity with Nature, to propose its true bearing otherwise is one’s own burden. None had succeeded in that as yet, though.

However among others, the prevailing state of Science in general and Medical Science in particular might have offered Hahnemann the ground to insist rigidly the ones who believed him and his ‘similia’, on not to go into the name(s) or cause(s) of the disease(s). Hahnemann considered it to be consisting nothing more certain than a medley of doggedly held opinions. He was, it seems to me, advising his followers not to get caught in this situation. For, the lack of understanding of the truth invariably leads to such ‘nomenclatures’ of the ailments in question as also the ‘search for the cause(s)’ of the same that were based on falsehood and hence is bound to reflect upon the determination of the remedy, adversely.

The philosopher’s prohibition to venture into reasoning ‘similia’ should strictly be observed in above context. It is highly recommended provided it is restricted within the judicious limits of the specific motive, which reads:

After being introduced to the unquestionable properties of substances, the homoeopathic physician should rise above such fruitless search for the name(s) and/or cause(s) of the disease(s).

Nevertheless, an extension of the same beyond the above limit is bound to be negative and harmful and even self-defeating in its purpose. I pause here to gather what objections an open mind has taken to my position in reading Hahnemann’s back of mind. I expect none. There could be none either.

(31 August 2013)

References:
[Unless mentioned otherwise, all references to Organon, Aphorism(s) and Footnote(s) to aphorism(s) be referred to organon of medicine by Samuel Hahnemann, translated from 5th & 6th edition by R E Dudgeon, 1984 reprint, B. Jain Publishers, New Delhi, India.]