Ha Jolly Ha

Friday, September 22, 2006

Aristotle and Natural Medicine

The insidious errors of Cartesian philosophy underly most conventional medicine. Although New Age hippies and pagans now claim natural medicine for their own, the basic principles of alternative methods are actually in greater conformity with the Aristotilian(and thus Thomistic) understanding of human nature.

According to Descartes, the human body is a complex machine, inhabited and used by the soul, but not informed by it. In other words, he denies that the human soul is the act of the body, which gives it life and makes it be a human person, and not merely a human body. Instead, he posits a mechanistic explaination for the life, or operations, of the body. Such an account rejects the Aristotilian understanding of nature and of the essential unity between the body and soul.

According to Aristotle, everything that exists possesses a nature, a principle of motion or rest within itself, which determines its existence as this or that kind of thing. In living things, we call this principle the soul. The soul organizes the matter of the thing toward the specific operations of a specific kind of thing. In other words, it directs the body toward an end. Now, for living things, part of that end is health. Thus, living things have a natural inclination toward health.

The principles of conventional, modern medicine reflect the Cartesian model. Unlike traditional medicine, which recognizes the intrinsic power of the body to heal itself, modern medicine treats the body like a machine. When it malfunctions, the problem must be artificially corrected by external intervention which generally precipitates new problems of its own. In contrast, natural medicine seeks to preserve health by preventitive measures - avoiding the causes of disease - and by stimulating the body's natural healing forces. Furthermore, conventional treatments usually address the symptoms of the illness, rather than its root cause. Traditional medicines, on the other hand, approach illness holistically, concerned with the long-term health of the entire person (mind, body, spirit) and generally have no negative side effects. One simple example - painkillers. This is not a grave issue, but it is a common one. In the face of a headache, most people immediately reach for Advil, IBProfen, etc. These are anti-inflammatory drugs which relieve symptoms without addressing their cause. Many are unaware that they are also terribly bad for the kidneys. If you suffer from frequent headaches, natural medicine might recommend one or several of the following:

Less caffeine,
Food allergy testing
Exercises relieving eye strain
More water

While some of the suggestions above require a sacrifice (e.g., giving up coffee) and none of them promise immediate relief, they are certainly more conducive to overall health and to the virtue of temperance than popping 2 or 3 Advil and continuing in habits harmful to the body.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home