P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 90
29th August 2004
I. 'In Pursuit of Buber's Unity of Being' by Sheldon James Martin
II. 'Determinism and Philosophical Hygiene' by Jurgen Lawrenz
III. 'Osteopathic Philosophy: The Metaphysical Medicine' by Walter
Following the announcement in the last issue of the German translation, by Ute
Sommer, of the International Society for Philosophers web site, I am pleased to
announce the launch of German AND Italian versions. The Italian version is by
Angelo Bottone, a PhD student at University College Dublin.
This is still work in progress. If you would like to have a look for yourself,
go to the ISFP index page http://www.isfp.co.uk and click on the 'German
version' or 'Italian version' links then click 'Enter'.
We are keen to find more translators, for other European and also non-European
languages. If you are bi-lingual or multi-lingual and confident in English, and
you would like to do a translation hand, please write to
firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
In this issue, articles on three very different philosophical topics. Poet and
Pathways contributor James Martin writes about the difficult topic of
Solipsism. Pathways Mentor Jurgen Lawrenz in his article on Determinism,
questions the popular view of the human brain as similar in function to a
computer. There is also a fascinating insight into the world of Osteopathic
philosophy by Pathways student Walter Llewellyn McKone.
I. 'IN PURSUIT OF BUBER'S UNITY OF BEING' BY SHELDON JAMES MARTIN
Main Entry: solipsism
Pronunciation: 'sO-l&p-"si-z&m, 's-
Etymology: Latin solus alone + ipse self
: a theory holding that the self can know nothing
but its own modifications and that the self is the
only existent thing
The best story I can tell regarding relationship and how it may affect the
subjective solipsistic nature is through a working illustration (although
comedic and hence exaggerated) that comes out of one of the episodes from the
Jerry Seinfeld Show from the 1990's. The comedian encountered many women
relationships during the nine years and 180 episodes - but none stands out so
well as the time Jerry met his match. Their attraction was immediate and the
conversation the couple fell into was alarmingly self-gratifying for the most
part. It seems their overt personalities were quite similar at first blush:
they 'saw' things in the same perspective, both trivial and major perceptions
were not uncommon. Their physical reactions were also similar. And beyond the
exterior or personality veneers lay an also-sameness so close to the narrow
ledge of a blade that neither could stand together too long before falling off
into the an awaiting abyss. Or at least, it seemed heading for a certain
conclusion. What first was the electric meeting of two minds or hearts - their
commonality of personality, mannerisms, phrasing and even similar-sounding
inflections - came to an immediate but not instant recognition that two
personalities may be one and the same. Jerry had found his mind and mannerism
double somewhere after their first date and before their third. Yet, the
in-tuneness he initially felt such rapture for, and was intrigued
by...including their sameness of 'walk and talk' eventually - or else somewhere
in the middle of the episode, became reason enough to realize the one he had
fallen in love with ever so briefly - was also someone he really could not
tolerate too much longer. Every response she made, every inflection intended
and gesture performed, began to remind him, ever so often now, even to the
point of repulsion, that the one nature contained in both, the self-awareness
of recognizing that just perhaps a parallel reality does exist in the 'other'
was the very point of departure and rejection of his so-called soul mate. One
solipsist at a time please!
And what's more, from that time forward, each time their eyes met in a midtown
Manhattan restaurant booth, it became almost disgustingly obvious from his
startled humor reactions to his mirror image across the booth: he couldn't
stand 'himself' - because he realized he didn't want to live each day with a
partner who was his mind-a-like double, (although she was female). The
corresponding natures of Jerry and his girlfriend were consistent in fact right
down the line: from metaphor to who's-a-whore ...they mirrored the other. So who
is the solipsist here? From the time when Jerry realized he was like her - the
same mind and consciousness in a male and female body - doesn't he self-admit
that it is difficult or even impossible to 'see' oneself so fully and
completely as 'the another', especially when that other is a potential lifetime
What that little episode told me is how seemingly impossible it is to live with
one we believe or consider to be much like ourselves in personality, manner,
motivations and even similar to in awareness of perceptions. That is, if we
can't tolerate ourselves in the body and mind of another then we must recognize
the importance of dissimilarities between each. The idea that the ideal
solipsist cannot imagine anyone but his own consciousness lingering day by day
seems to make little empirical sense when we realize in fact, the 'other' is
out there as long as there is two individuals left on the planet. And when we
come 'close' to seeing another with the same outward mannerisms and gestures,
how can we assure we are 'in them' and they 'in us'. Another legitimate theory
that the self is not the only thing that can be recognized, known and verified,
is to state simply: "how do we know our self" when that one constant stream of
conscious and shifting atoms of which we are composed hardly stands still for
an exacting absorption and analysis. When we go looking into our own natures,
what do we turn up? Or what can we admit is there, even to our private selves?
I think what the solipsist may really be looking for is someone who understands
'him' in his own nature and skin - thereby verifying his primary reality. Isn't
that what ultimately we attempt in argument, criticism, and war?... and how we
spend our days eliciting opinions we hope will ultimately point to the either
the acceptance or rejection of or view or views of this and that? And finally,
someone, somewhere will accept, at least support our view of ourselves - accept
us, again, for who we think we might be. Not quite one who perceives his reality
only as solipsist? when the need for approvals large and small stands in the
humid, wavering air of recognition by other. In this argument, the
anti-solipsist is more like to prevail - rather than the idealized
version-in-waiting who wonders aloud if anyone has a conscious nature beyond
Perhaps it became obvious to the story line that to fall in love with ones own
'self' is intolerable. Even disgusting when the "I" must be shared even from
accidental circumstances by another random individual. Looking past the coffee
and creamer to discover the unique nature we attributed to our own image also
existed in that persona just a few feet away can be much too much to absorb.
The definition of the solipsist that incorporates the idea that the self is the
only existing thing for Seinfeld may have been too much to acknowledge even to
himself. The world of "I" is no longer subjective when it must be shared with
someone else - the mirror "I". Or so it seems. That uniqueness of the
subjective "I" was threatened by another subjective "I" apparently in the form
of the subjective nature of another who happened to be a woman. And that
implies a mere intimacy of association on the part of the two subjective "I's".
Therefore it seems somewhat appropriate to examine the elements of the
solipsistic nature in situations where over time the existence of more intimate
relationships has its place in philosophical inquiry. It also seems rather
natural when we recognize that over a lifetime, the way we respond to family,
friends and spouses who we owe or offer up more of our personal emotional
selves in relating,-- comes closer to defining or using considerably more
intellectual and emotional energy than more formal sets of relationships found
outside these realms of behavior. That's where Martin Buber' I and Thou comes
into the picture: in hopes of informing us in subjective or even objective ways
of how we may relate to other by virtue of how first we relate to ourselves.
I cannot argue with the thought that human existence may well be defined by the
way we engage the other in words, ideas, and other forms of dialogue we reach
for in human intercourse and conversation. That fundamental precept ignites the
fuel that flames our very communicable conscious selves at all levels and ages
it appears. Walter Kaufman, in the I and Thou prologue wrote eloquently by
making a case for the complexity of precisely defining the I and Thou --"Man's
world is manifold, and his attitudes are manifold. What is manifold is often
frightening because it is not neat and simple. Men prefer to forget how many
possibilities are open to them" . He further tells us in more finite language
that 'man' would rather choose between two options, one always being the
superior one. "Mundus vult deipi - the world wants to be deceived. The truth is
too complex and frightening; the taste for the truth is an acquired taste that
few acquire." It seems Kaufman is preparing us for Buber to color our world as
endless perceptions that we must encounter 10,000 times each and still not
summon the courage to call forth that the clear answer is not for everyone. Or
even many. Without viewpoint, comment, credential, or compassion, some may seem
more like madmen babbling in Times Square or Trafalgar Square, being quickly
passed by the embarrassed throng, or being followed by a ridiculing few who
would rather harangue the insanity then recognize an authentic core in its
Yet the I/Thou word play that gives life to Buber's masterpiece of complex
relationship metaphor - through the combination sets so crisply laid out in the
first few pages of Kaufman's prologue - is fundamental in relationship to the
subjective levels in which the individual interacts with others:
I-I I-It It-It We-We Us-Them... and I/You
Keep in mind as we examine these sets of potential intimacies of language and
their intimations of higher-lower levels of human usefulness, what we are doing
is confounding ourselves in an attempt it seems for some purpose or the other...
most likely, a hierarchal distinction of the more intimate (or not) levels of
communication we establish between and among our fellow man in our conscious
lifetime. Buber early on establishes 'basic word sets' as a way in which each
of us relates to all others.These word pairs become their own 'mode' of
existence for Buber. And in as much as Buber is working the foundations of word
intent here, he does so by establishing up front the notion that word choice is
in itself the foundation of or for the intent that follows. That is, the
perception of ourselves and how we relate to the other is a matter of the word
pairs used in the act of 'relating'. Through the mereness of words comes what
is to follow: the intent of one to relate or speak to the totality of the other
in degrees of authenticity - or in another way spoken - each of these word pairs
tend to represent how we perceive the 'other' in relation to ourselves. (If we
hold a low opinion of ourselves, or lack self-esteem in sufficient quantity,
how do we then begin to assign a word set that is in proportion to these
variable of metaphoric symbols?)
Who is this "I" of Buber's you might ask? What is the nature of that psyche in
which he dwells in relation to all others with whom he establishes his own
model of personally engaged dialogue? - and can or should one man define the
nature of Unity itself through the use of dialogue? Or is it the task for each
of us to take Buber's lead? to simply recognize language does establish intent
in degrees of formality, intimacy and unity? What system of ethic, morality or
sociability allows us to determine the at "I" is the I our lives too - that we
begin our relationship to other by coming to terms with the fundamental nature
of who "I" happens to be. Yet, we seem to be safe in pursuing the "Thou"
reference, ultimately safeguarded for Buber's notion of God. The mythologist
Joseph Campbell once said in order to get to God we had to go past God. In
other words, not get stuck on the metaphorical reference that God is 'this or
that' - "God is a reference whose center is everywhere" Campbell would often
say in radio and television interviews until his death in 1987. Buber seemed to
be more in touch with the ultimate metaphor: God. Using the first person to
begin his journey of relationship and connection with the ultimate divinity
seems to imply that in relating, the "I" holds some sense of divinity already,
and actually complements the Godhead.There appears to be god-like
characterizations in the first person if you consider its connection with the
ultimate form of consciousness.
The idea that I-Thou encounters eliminate the viewpoint that awareness in the
consciousness-spiritual sense is fragmented, random and semi-meaningless gets
lost most often because God is the object or goal to reach in this personal
dialogue form. With God as the Thou-goal, how can we go wrong? in its name and
pursuit... the relationship ends now - doesn't it? We have arrived. I-Thou is
the complement we are seeking in dialogue with a selected few. We just have to
continually open our conscious selves every time we meet and greet new people
and friends. You are my I-Thou because I seek you, search for you, look for you
every hour. And when I find you, I will not let go. You are my Bliss. My Thou. I
don't need to search for God when I can treat you without reserve as equal. The
mutuality and reciprocity between I-thou does not represent separateness and
detachment as I-It. I can give over my whole self and will not suffer for it.
(Does that include giving over my sexuality - it's so hard to draw lines in the
sand when you are taking in the whole desert.) Especially when you are giving
over your whole self to a Thou. It ain't easy, is it? But doesn't that beat the
other relationship forms which represent distance, elemental isolation of ideas,
and the 'other its' of less than personal dialogue and language? The I-Thou
attitude and relation of subject-to-subject keenly focuses in on our awareness
of each other, and therefore a unity or more purposeful event is taking place
because we are sharing our whole selves with the other, who is also sharing
their whole self with us.
There is humanity is this dialogue. God-like to be sure. The openness, the
fearlessness, the reciprocity of it all makes me weep. In fact, it does.
Exposing our humanity to another is a big deal. And it does appear to revolve
around accepting the humanity of another at the same time. But how is this
self-exposure on both parts of the dialogue going to be accepted by the other?
With gratitude, revulsion, curiosity... will it be a turn off, or a turn on? Or
will we ever know until we engage in the I-Thou its results in terms of one
person attaching to the other? Or does it really matter at all? Perhaps simply
entering into the dialogue of personal engagement sets an uncharted course, but
it beats thinking of the other as an 'It' or as a element of some isolated
experience that carries no real exuberance in the moment and for the future.
And is the 'Thou' of you and the 'I' of me each needed to complement the other?
After we explain who we are and what we feel, what's left? Or can we greet the
other for all time knowing 'Thou' and 'I' gave it all we had in order for
mankind's common ground to appear without establishing a physicality of sorts
vs. solely the 'spiritual'?
Buber's call to the Thou is more closely an attempt at direct dialogue toward a
more spiritual essence. Yet, we must ask, what is the 'spiritual' unto Buber,
and how is it manifested from him to us? How should we 'see it'. How do we
identify with it if our spiritual nature is so entwined as part of our
(c) 2004 Sheldon James Martin
Poet Series: http://www.sheldonjamesmartin.com
II. 'DETERMINISM AND PHILOSOPHICAL HYGIENE' BY JURGEN LAWRENZ
Perhaps it will be granted me, provisionally, that the notion of Free Will is
not an idle conceit, but reflects an insight gained from the self-contemplation
in which humans engage from time to time. It is a convenient point of departure;
and not least because it is actually very difficult to speak of, say, justice or
responsibility unless this is granted. Eventually, we may come to re-examine
this 'provisional' perspective more closely.
I would also toss into the bargain, if I may, a certain psychological
disposition called 'human caprice'. It may seem capricious at first blush, but
consider that human individuality is partly enshrined in it. Without it, one
may have difficulty accounting for a great number of human acts which (let me
be charitable) owe little to ratiocination, despite the pride we take in our
Taken together, these two notions are apt to illuminate the virtues and vices
of that rather quixotic 'philosophy' which goes by the name of determinism.
Equally, however, they serve our interests in the philosophical hygiene to
which my title alludes; though to deliver on this promise I will first have to
explain why and in which respect I find it imperilled.
Here is a thought experiment of the most trivial kind. Suppose I own a bus and
paint it so that it looks like a poor counterfeit of HMS Queen Mary. This task
accomplished, I drive it down to the beach and straight into the water.
Well-meaning friends who manage to bring me back to safety offer the jest that
I must have been very drunk. I wasn't. I just took a pun the wrong way. Happens
in the best families.
In fact, it happens all the time, even (heaven forbid) in science! Just a few
days ago, a friend of mine - coincidentally a physiologist - wrote complaining
of the historical folly of science of always comparing the brain with whatever
device happens to represent the acme of technology. Once upon a time it was the
pocket watch; then a steam engine; later still a telephone exchange; and now we
have to contend with computers. Well!
I'm glad he didn't mention philosophy. I might have been compelled to hide my
head in shame. For in the philosophy of the present day, this folly is
absolutely rampant. But is that a crime, an offence against the hygiene of
thinking? After all, what's wrong with a bit of harmless terminological
confusion, i.e. with importing the valeurs of "hard wired", "software", "sense
data", "memory bank" etc. into the philosophical vocabulary?
My friend might have said: the terms disseminate false information. We might,
for example, get used to calling certain behaviour, e.g. murder, "hard wired",
and end up exculpating the murderer on the assumption of the existence of
something between his ears which in plain fact is not there.
On this consideration we should recognise that we have slipped into the domain
of determinism. If this "ism" had truth to it, complaints of unsanitary
vocabulary would hardly matter. "Hard wiring" and its terminological siblings
can be false, or pernicious, only in relation to a non-deterministic,
free-will-conducive doctrine. The intrinsic nature of that problem, however, is
not always stated unambiguously. Therefore it is worth dwelling on for a few
moments to gain a perspective on the reductionist methodology which is
implicated in both determinism and the brain-as-computer suggestion.
A good initiation into these problem is provided by the ever-popular example of
chess play. I'm going to give you an example which is typical, and quoted and
re-quoted ad nauseam together with its little smattering of fallacies.
Suppose I reach an average type of unclear position after 32 moves. Two
promising lines of play suggest themselves. One, inaugurated by a bishop move,
foreshadows the contours of an attack; the other, involving a pawn move, simply
bides times or enhances he stability of my setup. After lengthy deliberation I
decide on the bishop move.
Suppose the outcome is a draw. Am I satisfied? Well, suppose by an
extraordinary chance, the identical position appears on the board in my next
game. Will I play the same move again? That depends on many factors, for
(a) My opponent is stronger than yesterday's; it's too risky.
(b) My opponent is weaker than yesterday's and I mishandled the attack. Should
find something stronger.
(c) My opponent is the same as yesterday; he's obviously discovered a hidden
(d) It's too hot for such exertions as yesterday. What's more, I have a
headache; the cat ate my breakfast; my chance of winning a trophy is nil; and
Manchester United are on TV in an hour.
On Point (d) you can play as many variations as you please. The point in all
Points is that the choice of my next move is not a foregone conclusion.
What of a chess playing computer?
Well, consider these two criteria: First, the computer is not a knower.
Therefore (second) it has no opponent. Accordingly it not playing. None of the
above Points have any meaning. There is simply an algorithm running on hardware.
In other words, a computer program is software devised by a human designer
which executes numerical computations. A move is simply an introduced value,
requiring a new computation, whose result represents (to the human observer!) a
'move'. If the designer of the algorithm did not deliberately include a
randomising factor to avoid exact repetition, the computer would indeed play
the move of today on every subsequent occasion with exactly the same
Can we learn anything from this example?
If nothing else, then this: my physiologist friend has a point. A very strong
point. Vocabulary is not innocent. It posits suppositions and insinuates
realities simply by being used. So a casual phrase like, "the computer between
your ears", when it comes dressed up as a seriously intended statement, cannot
claim membership among the resource of merely "colourful metaphors". It posits.
And in philosophical vocabulary - where words and terms should be weighed as on
a gold-balance - a firm discrimination between casual metaphor and determinate
denotation should be mandatory.
Now if there were some hint in phrases of this ilk that they are, after all,
only insider jargon, the technobabble of scientists' pub talk, even (let's be
generous) the figments of Hollywood script writers, then complaints might wear
a more than faintly ludicrous aspect. But no - it ain't necessarily so at all.
This vocabulary is in deadly earnest. The brain-is-a-computer and the
bric-a-brac of surrounding terms are becoming axiomatic, disseminable items of
'research' knowledge, bolstered by all the prestige of science.
You ask: How can this be possible? How can scientists assert the factuality of
something that would be contradicted by the simplest of all methods - taking a
Let us try to understand this. Although baffling, this circumstance is not
quite what it purports to be. We need a slightly different angle on it.
For example: You know what a fish is. You might not, at a pinch, be able to
furnish a scientifically cogent explanation, but instead you can catch and eat
one. Thereby you prove at least that it's an organic creature. But without
going this far, you know without caviling about it that the fish on your screen
saver is not a fish, and that Pisces in the sky is not a fish. The thing and its
metaphor have some clearly discernible disparity.
You also know what a brain is. Again you have the option of consulting; you
know that sheep and birds and fish all have brains and some of them you might
eat, too. But without going this far you know there is no brain in your fax
machine, motor car, thermostat or CD player. It is true that for some bizarre
reason we have become used to calling certain collections of chips and wires in
a computer its "brain", but again (what's in a name?) we remain pretty much
aware that this is mere hyperbole.
Now I went this way simply to show that this is not the way to go for
clarification of our context. Rather, the key to the dichotomy is this: if some
Descartes or other held up a live fish by its tail and pronounced to you, above
the flapping and lunging of the desperate creature: "This is a machine!", then
we would have a severe problem on your hand.
I suggest that those people who denounced Descartes' proposition as a
pernicious doctrine have more than just the bare facts on their side. They
perceived readily enough - as you and I do - that its implication is of a
soulless apparatus which, as a matter of logical principle, is incapable of
emotion and a sense of pain. Accordingly I think the aye's have it: it is
pernicious. And having said this, what shall I now say to exonerate the
I think the answer is obvious enough for me not to have to spell it out.
It is not merely that all biological facts contradict the proposition. The lame
excuse that the brain is a "parallel" rather than serial computer; the claim
that "in an extended sense" everything that looks like an algorithmic process
might be terminologically so subsumed doesn't wash. The brain cannot, in plain
biological fact, compute; its processes resemble a computer's activity less
than they resemble the twitching of a frog's leg.
Determinism has swung like a drunken sailor in and out of philosophy for ages.
Its denial of free will relies entirely on insubstantial arguments of the sort
which Hume dismantled hundreds of years ago and accordingly have never been
proved, being intrinsically unprovable. From Descartes to Laplace, from genes
to computers, the substitutes for free will form a sorry roster of pretended
solutions to the predicament of man. This suggests that determinism is at
bottom nothing more than the inflation of a psychological problem - the
persistent inferiority complex of our race, which has sought in innumerable
fata morganas the security and stability that life unfortunately does not offer.
Free will is as obvious as the blue of the sky and the sour taste on your
tongue; as obvious as the inspiration of the 9th Symphony and the passion for
climbing Mount Everest. Under scientific scrutiny, these colours, tastes,
inspiration and passion reduce to the gambolling of atoms, to magnetism,
radiation and chemical balance. What of it? Can't determinists see that their
very arguments reduce to infinite regress? I mean: are atoms, radiation etc.
not also determined? Where does this lead us? Not perchance to a self-defeating
Plainly so. - I found a sentence in Dennett's books once with which I could
agree: "We see colour, therefore there is colour in the universe." We enjoy
free will. Fill the rest in yourself. If you prefer, you might even write,
"free will is an emergent property of complex brain states."
The outcome of a deterministic frame of mind, as much as of the human-machine
doctrine, is an unphilosophical fatalism with the effect of demeaning and
diminishing the human agent. But the whole idea of philosophy is to put a
concept of value into the universe, which appertains to humans, and by
extension to all life forms. Thus philosophical hygiene also refers to the fact
that Free Will is manifest and omnipresent in all living things, whereas
determinism is an unproved supposition that lacks even the quality of being
In the Bible, the phrase "it is written" denotes the inscrutable design of God.
Yet this vengeful divinity had no compunction punishing departures from his
'omniscient' plan. You see the conceptual predicament. It doesn't add up. It
still doesn't today, millions of words later and despite the transparent
subterfuge of 'concessions' by the divinity or (today) the concessionary prose
of compatibilists. The latter have merely enthroned quantum events on the seat
of God, where their forerunners had placed first Freudian, later Skinnerian
psychology and eventually genes, each with as little transparency as the
burning bush itself; though trumpeting forth with the same high pretensions as
the dormitory principle and cognate forms of humbug. Very unhygienic.
In the final analysis, the presuppositions of determinism, in whichever form it
presents itself to us, can be collapsed into a single prejudice: that the hot,
throbbing, vivacious, multifarious, individualistic and anentropic
characteristics of creature life offend and discomfit by their incalculability,
unpredictability and therefore unreliability and should be replaced by the
closed-circle, mechanistic teleology of cause-and-effect mechanisms, though it
be at the cost of the freedom of mind that is the essence of philosophical
striving. Yet in that same final analysis we can't get away from the fact that
free will is manifest, an inalienable attribute of creature life; whereas of
the book in which "all is written" as well as the centuries-long
pseudo-scientific clatter of determinism, it has yet to be shown why we should
not regard them all as fictions.
1. The number of moves already played is usually omitted. That's a first, very
serious defect. The argument in the text does not work unless the players have
gone past the point where openings textbooks may still be consulted.
2. I call it extraordinary because this would be the equivalent of two
consecutive royal flushes. Chess literature does not record any such
duplications except in a few cases which, as below, urge deliberate contrivance.
3. It is useful in this context to recall James Mason's definition of a move as
"the certification of a judgement" and contrast this with the computer's "result
of a computation".
4. This 'randomisation' is especially needful in the opening phase, where a
'best move' is not attainable by any manner of evaluation or calculation
(unless the opponent blunders). - Parenthetically it may be noted that computer
chess was originally introduced with the desire to study the process of human
decision making. So much for good intentions. For that simple and legitimate
target has long been lost sight of, when the desire to compete animated
programmers, in part obviously to attract attention and research funds. In the
outcome, computers became cheats: they were loaded with more and more memory of
the best games by the strongest masters and thus infringe the rules which
prevent human masters from playing with an open chess book at their elbow. The
objective of assessing judgement formation in humans is, under those
circumstances, a self-evident irrelevance: humans don't think that way; and
therefore nothing can be learnt from chess programs, least of all anything of
pertinence to free will. The situation is the same as if one were to introduce
a crane into Olympic weight lifting. I think the athletes would quietly point
to their temples; and that's about the only useful response today to the idea
of a computer "playing" chess.
(c) Jurgen Lawrenz
III. 'OSTEOPATHIC PHILOSOPHY: THE METAPHYSICAL MEDICINE' BY WALTER
"They (osteopathy, surgery and dentistry) are directly
related to those mental operations which are developed in
the philosophy of Phenomenology, itself a post-Cartesian
outlook. Relating this method to current philosophy of
science, it cannot be judged in any way less powerful than
Cartesian science, for while the latter has no verification
procedure, relying upon falsification alone, Goethean
science entails both falsification and verification, and
thus might even be said to be more complete than Cartesian.
Again, the only real problem with the approach the author
sees is the fact that very few know of its existence."
Towards a Man-Centered Medical Science. Forward by Rene
Dubos, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York. 1977.
Osteopathy is a historicity and has to be understood in the context of
nineteenth century science and philosophy. Since the beginning of the twentieth
century osteopathy has been fragmented and the focus has been on the end i.e.
manipulative technique, cranial, structural etc. rather than the beginning, the
mode of consciousness of the osteopath. It is the osteopath that is the
instrument not the patient or the learned technique, drug or manipulation. As a
consequence it has moved from a practical philosophy of health to a physical
therapy. Osteopathy has become a philosophical orphan and a schizophrenic
To understand osteopathy is to understand the coming-into-being of an idea.
Once this is written or practised it is the end of the idea. Dr. Still did not
want his students to watch him work, "I did not want you to mimic me" (Booth,
This short paper is an introduction to the reclamation, development and
application of osteopathy from its nineteenth century roots into the modern
setting, within the space available.
The Modern Scientific Movement
Modern scientific thought started with the Jesuit educated Rene Descartes
(1596-1650). He had trouble coping with the death of Galileo Galilei
(1564-1642) and wanted to continue his work, ordering the world by using the
tool of God, mathematics particularly geometry, hence Cartesian geometry
(Toulmin, 1990). He altered mathematics to "decode" the book of nature. Numbers
imposed an order but the true immediate order came with the use of the "=" sign.
The top line is God and the bottom line is all outside the soul (Jonas, 1966).
The result of the mathematics would lead to a New Order delivering us from the
chaos of Nature.
Modern science derives from a religious methodology and is still performing the
work on earth (universe) that God began. Today scientists have forgotten they
are performing God's work and have forgotten what science actually means.
Instead they strive for "facts" or certain knowledge about the world, which is
very well when building a car but is weak when involved with natural phenomena.
This style is known as the hypothetico-deductive method, championed by Sir Isaac
Newton (1642-1727), which squeezes natural phenomena into pre-set criteria and
is then called "research." This kind of research or "fresh look" is a Spanish
Inquisition style of inquiry. We take it for granted that the objective/
subjective experimental approach is the only way, this is habit not proof.
The hypothetico-deductive approach has taken theory (originally from theoria -
to see) and placed it before the encounter with the phenomenon. So our "seeing"
or "palpating" is already formed becoming a second hand experience. Osteopaths
practice this approach in the teaching of osteopathic manipulative technique.
For this reason A. T. Still did not teach technique, as "the tail would wag the
dog." It is therefore theory-laden, before the experience of the phenomena,
resulting in seeing and palpating what has been conditioned to think-sense, not
what is there (Hanson, 1958). As Henri Bortoft (1999) says, "it's a bit like
trying to find milk by starting with cheese."
'The paradigm of modern scientific method is Kant's
"appointed judge who compels the witness to answer
questions which he has formulated." Science believes itself
to be objective, but is in essence subjective because the
witness is compelled to answer questions which the
scientist himself has formulated. Scientists never notice
the circularity in this because they believe they hear the
voice of "Nature" speaking, not realising that it is the
transposed echo of their own voice' (Bortoft, 1996).
Nineteenth century North American philosophy and science
The development of science as a practical and historical influence in North
America is attributed to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Johann Wolfgang von
Goethe (1749-1832) (Richards, 2002; Walls, 1995 and Walls, 2003). 'The problem
of the knower in the perspective of the modern understanding was formulated
over and over again from the beginning of the modern university dispensation by
the man, not a member of the German university, who, along with Kant, most
influenced it - Goethe' (Bloom, 1987). Goethe was known as the first modern man
(Cromphout, 1990) and his influence gave rise to the Transcendentalist movement
as a way of seeing Nature. The Transcendentalists took their name from
transcendental, to reason beyond the senses, from Kant's Critique of Pure
Reason. The most famous of the Transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803-1882), Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), and Sarah Margaret Fuller
(1810-1850). Emerson's Nature should be the osteopathic manifesto and is a
reflection of the works of Goethe.
Post-American Civil War saw the formation of the Metaphysical Club; the most
famous members were Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), William James
(1842-1910), John Dewey (1859-1952) and Charles Pierce (1926-1999). Between
these men arose the philosophy of pragmatism, knowing through doing, and the
educational style of pedagogy, literally hands-on (Kuklick, 2001). Dr. Still
knew of these men and kept company with their members.
William James, the psychologist, read Goethe on a summer convalescing in
Germany from a bad back and was one of the most open minded to the new
sciences. Menand, 2002, wrote:
'He (James) used hypnotism regularly in his work as a
psychologist... and publicly defended mind-cure
practitioners, magnetic healers, Christian Scientists, and
osteopaths when the Massachusetts Board of Health proposed
a bill making it illegal to practice medicine without a
Osteopathy - The Metaphysical Medicine
Why a metaphysical medicine? Metaphysics is attributed to Plato and his
two-world approach. One world is the Real world of Ideas and Forms and the
other world is that of the senses which is not to be trusted. The other
approach to metaphysics is that of Aristotle. For Aristotle has a two-fold
world metaphysics. It is the Platonic approach that dominates today. Reading
the work of Dr. Still in a Platonic way leads to contradiction. Read in the
Aristotelian manner it leads to a dynamic poetic movement of thought. It is due
to this Platonic approach that metaphysics is commonly confused with
Due to this Aristotelian approach the word "Osteopathy" is a metaphor. 'He (Dr.
Still) always spoke in metaphors, he was hard to understand' (Booth, 1905) and
'Still's religious discourse was also a bit more rambling and inconsistent,
which allowed his followers to read increasingly material meanings into his
theories of medical etiology (Fuller, 1989). The nineteenth century natural
philosophers/ scientists saw bone as the last tissue to degenerate after death;
therefore, it was the most harmonious with nature. To read the form of the bones
is to come into direct sympathy/ empathy with nature, hence the word pathology
(Walls, 1995). This is a primal understanding developed by Goethe, calling it
the Urphanomen. Dr. Still was well aware of this naturphilosophie approach. As
Booth, 1905 wrote, 'Primal nature was an essential environment for the
independence necessary to accomplish his (Dr. Still's) work." Without the
Goethian-Stillian philosophy osteopathy has no meaning.
Recognition of bone as the central tissue reflecting Nature through mammals,
including human kind, came directly from Goethe. The University of Jena
(Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat) houses Goethe's collection of bones, including
skulls with arrows showing the direction of cranial movement. It is because of
the Goethian word morphology that Dr. Still has his head held back while
looking at the femur; it is the total form he is trying to take in. As Dr.
Still said, 'I wanted to call my science osteopathy, and I did not care what
Greek scholars said about it' (Booth, 1950). Osteopathy does not mean
bone-disease. For Dr. Still "Osteo" was the form of Nature to be read, in a
"pathy" or sympathetic/ empathetic mode of consciousness.
Osteopathy, as a philosophy, would use a psychology similar to William James;
this is published by Dr. John Martin Littlejohn in Lectures in
Psychophysiology, 1899. And here Littlejohn criticises the mind-in-the-brain
movement and mentions the famous Phineas Gage. This is combined with the hands
and is based on the surgical (meaning handcraft) approach to health as a first
hand experience participating with the patient. This is why Dr. Still said,
"anatomy, anatomy, anatomy." Today osteopathy has been reduced to a second hand
objective-subjective biomedical-biomechanical treating the body as a dead
machine. Hence the word soma from sema meaning coffin, grave or tomb for the
Osteopathy is not yet dead, as some have professed. It is alive, well and
sleeping in every osteopath. All that needs to take place is a formal teaching
of the Goethian-Stillian philosophy of science in health care. It is the mode
of consciousness and the worldview of the osteopath that makes osteopathy a
philosophy and a physician centered health care system. The word physician
means to return to normal and is participation between practitioner and
patient. This is why osteopathy is a complete system.
Lastly, be aware of osteopaths selling quantum mechanics as a philosophy of
osteopathy. This is a Platonic two-world experience of waves and particles.
Bloom, A. (1987) The Closing of the American Mind. A Touchstone Book, New York.
Booth, E. R. (1905) History of Osteopathy and Twentieth Century Practice. The
Caxton Press, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Bortoft, H. (1996) The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe's Way of Science. Floris
Bortoft, H. (1999) Dialog on Leadership: Interview with Henri Bortoft.
Cromphout, G. V. (1999) Emerson's Modernity and the Example of Goethe.
University of Missouri Press, Columbia.
Fuller, R. C. (1989) Alternative Medicine and American Religious Life. Oxford
University Press, New York.
Hanson, N. R. (1958) Patterns of Discovery. Cambridge University Press,
Jonas, H. (1966) The Phenomena of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology. A Delta
Book, New York.
Kuklick, B. (2001) A History of Philosophy in America: 1720-2000. Clarendon
Menand, L. (2002) The Metaphysical Club. Flamingo, London.
Richards, R. J. (2002) The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and the
Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. University of Chicago Press.
Toulmin, S. (1990) Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. The University
of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Walls, L. D. (1995) Seeing New Worlds: Henri David Thoreau and
Nineteenth-Century Natural Science. The University of Wisconsin Press,
Walls, L. D. (2003) Emerson's Life in Science: The Culture of Truth. Cornell
University Press, Ithaca.
Bortoft, H. (1997) Goethe's Organic Vision. Network. The Journal of the
Scientific and Medical Network. P. 3-7. Also at
Buell, L. (1995) The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and
the Formation of American Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Gower, B. (1997) Scientific Method: An Historical and Philosophical
Introduction. Routledge, London.
McKone, W. L. (2001) Osteopathic Medicine: Philosophy, Principles and Practice.
Merchant, C. (1980) The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific
Revolution. Harper and Row, San Francisco.
Miller, D. ed. (1988) Goethe: The Collected Works - Scientific Studies.
Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Walter Llewellyn McKone, DO, is Senior clinical practitioner, the children's
clinic, the British School of Osteopathy, London, U.K.; member of the
International Society for Philosophers, based at the Department of Philosophy,
Sheffield University, Sheffield, U.K., his interest is in metaphysics; author
of Osteopathic Medicine: Philosophy, Principles and Practice, 2001, published
by Blackwell, Oxford and his forthcoming work is The Metaphysical Medicine: The
Rise and Fall of American Medical Reformation. Founder of the Osteopathic
Philosophical Society at http://www.osteopathicphilosophy.com.
(c) Walter Llewellyn McKone 2004
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