Schools of Philosophy


Schools of Philosophy like Materialism, Idealism and Substantialism are discussed along with Hahnemann’s approach and view point….


It will be well to take a glance at the various schools of philosophy in order to be able to understand his point of view and identify the fundamental ideas and concepts out of which Hahnemann developed his system.

The various schools of philosophy may be broadly classified as materialistic, idealistic and substantialistic.

Materialism.- ” The doctrine that the facts of experience are all to be explained by reference to the reality, activities and laws of physical or material substance. In psychology this doctrine denies the reality of the soul as psychology this doctrine denies the reality of the soul as psychical being; in cosmology, it denies the need of assuming the being of God as Absolute Spirit or any other spiritual ground or first principle; opposed to spiritualism. Materialistic theories have varied from the first, but the most widely accepted from regards all species of sentiment and mental life as *products of organism, and the universe itself as resolvable into terms of physical elements and their motions.” (standard Dictionary.)

Here we should consider for a moment the meaning of the words “reality” and “substance”. The “dyed in the wool” materialist regards nothing as real and substantial which has not *tangibility. He reduces everything to the terms of physical matter, which is for him the only reality. If he use the words, energy, power, force, motion, principle, law, mind life or through, which represent intangible things, it is to regard them merely as attributes, conditions or products of matter. For him the things represented are neither real or substantial. They exist, as it were, only in the imagination. Because they are not tangible they are not real. Not being real, according to his way of looking at things, they are not substantial and therefore, are not worthy of consideration. The fact that he is compelled to act as if they were real makes no difference in his mental attitude. He refuses to admit their existence as any thing but properties of matter.

The unfortunate thing about this philosophy is that it seems to induce and foster a peculiarly irritating, skeptical, antagonistic and unscientific frame of mind toward many things which others feel and known in their in most consciousness to be very real indeed ideas which are the source and substance of their deepest convictions, highest aspirations and most illuminating conceptions. This attitude may and often does become offensive in the extreme, largely because it is so one-sided, and those who hold it refuse so obstinately to “call things by their right names” To the broader and more philosophic mind the intangible, invisible energy, power principle, law or intelligence is as real and as substantial as the material things which it creates and controls and should be so denominated in all frankness and sincerity.

Idealism.– “That system of reflective thinking which would interpret and explain the whole universe, things and minds and their relations, as the realization of a system of ideas. It takes various forms as determined by the view of what the idea or the ideal is, and of how we become aware of it. (*Vide.)

Substantialism. – The doctrine that substantial existences or real beings are the sources or underlying ground of all phenomena, mental and material; especially the doctrine which denies that the conception of material substance can be resolved into mere centers of force”. (*Vide.)

The fundamental idea of Substantialism is ancient, but the systematic development and application of it is modern.

“The predominant thought of substantialism is that all things in Nature which exist or can form the basis of a concept are really substantial entities, whether they are the so-called principles or forces of nature or the atoms of corporeal bodies, even extending to the life and mental powers of every sentient organism, from the highest to the lowest. (Hall.)

It holds, for example, that the “Wave theory” of sound is a fallacy in science. Hall experimentally established the fact that;- “Sound consists of corpuscular emissions and is therefore a substantial entity, as much so as air or odor.” He argues; – “If sound can be proved to be a substance there cannot be the shadow of a scientific objection raised against the substantial or entitative nature of life and the mental powers”. From this point of view, mind is as real in its existence as is the physical brain, which is regarded as the tangible manifestation of the form and substance of its invisible counterpart.

“If mind is the result of the motion of the molecules of the brain, of what does that result consist? If the motion of the molecules is the all of mind, then the mind is nothing, a nonentity, since motion itself is a nonentity”. (Hall.)

From nothing, nothing comes. Every effect proceeds from a cause. Effects follow causes in unbroken succession.

No substantial effect can be produced upon any subject without an absolute substance of some kind connecting the cause with the effect.

Gravity, or that which produces gravitation, is a substance, since it acts upon physical objects at a distance and causes substantial physical effects.

Magnetism is a substance, since it passes through imporous bodies, seizes upon and moves iron.

Sound is a substance, since it is conveyed through space by air waves”. It must be something substantial or it could not be conveyed.

Light, heat and (or) electricity are is substantial (They may be identical.) It is absurd to call them “modes of motion” or “vibratory phenomena”, Motion is a non-entity, the mere act of a thing in changing its position in space. Motion is nothing before and object begin to move, and nothing after it has ceased to move. Modern science teaches that light and heat are motions or vibrations of *the ether.

Physical science, therefore, tacitly teaches that the ether is substantial; has measured it; has calculated its inertia-coefficient and its kinetic energy; has pronounced it to be the primary substance of which matter as well as heat, light and electricity, is composed. If science is right in this theory then light, heat and electricity are substantial emanations from their producing bodies or substances; in other words they are each composed of ether, *varying in its rate of vibration. But physical science (materialism) does not tell us *who or *what moves the ether and determines that rate of vibration. That remains for substantialism, which teaches that Life is *a substance, having, the qualities of a real entitative being. By its agency alone organized, living, conscious, thinking, willing entities are created, maintained and reproduced. Hence, Life is intelligent, else it could not manifest these qualities.

Mind is a substance, since it acts to think or produce thoughts and things. Mind, therefore, has intelligence. Thought-the action of mind-may be called “a mode of motion of mind, acting upon the molecules of the brain”. In the last analysis *life and mind are one and identical, since they have identical qualities and attributes, and Mind (Syn: life, Spirit) is the primary cause of motion. *Life is energy, and all energy is living energy.

As regards living beings, including man, the substantialistic hypothesis is: “that within every living creature the exists a vital and mental organism, the (invisible) counterpart of the physical structure, the source of all vital and physiological phenomena, originally contributed by the Creative Will (Mind-Life Spirit) as atoms out of His own being, and which must at the dissolution of organic life return to the vital and mental fountain whence they emanated, there to mingle by reabsorption into the original source, or as in the case of those (human) lives which have received the spiritual impress of God’s image, live forever with the self-conscious ego inherited through their higher organism”. (Hall.)

Hahnemann’s Position. – Hahnemann has heretofore been assigned to the Idealists. In an attempt to be more definite he has been called a “Vitalist”, referring to the prominence given in the Organon to the doctrine of life and vital force.

In advance of the appearance of substantialism as a formulated philosophy and a name, this was perhaps the best that could be done in the attempt to classify Hahnemann philosophically. But since a definite philosophy has been formulated there can be no question that he is properly classified as a Substantialism. His position and statements in regard to the Deity; to life, mind, vital force, matter, potentization (or dynamization), infinitesimals, and the emphasis he lays upon the substantial character of these (to him) great realities do not fully agree with any other classification. Hahnemann frankly and reverently recognizes The Supreme Being, as indeed every scientific man must do who thinks logically straight through to the end. Otherwise all thought ends in negation.

Hahnemann’s constant appeal to experience, to facts of observation and experiment, and to the necessity in medicine of avoiding speculation of all kinds, establishes the practical, well-balanced character of his mind. He refused to speculate about the essential nature of things. He observed and accepted the facts of existence as he saw them. To him, spirit and matter, force and motion, mind and body, health and disease, in all their mutations and modifications, *co-exist as facts of observation, consciousness and experience. It was for him to use them in a logical and practical manner.

He was not a materialist who denied the deific origin and existence of spiritual substance or agents, and maintained that spiritual or mental phenomena are the result of some peculiar organization of matter. Neither was he an idealist in the extreme sense of one who believed, with Bishop Berkeley (and Mrs. Eddy) that all which exists is spirit, and that which is called matter, or the external world, is either a succession, of notions impressed on the mind Deity, an illusion or “error”, or else the mere edict of the mind itself as taught by Fichte.

The Inductive Philosophy of Lord Bacon. – Familiarity with the works and doctrines of the philosophers is shown in Hahnemann’s writings; but he seems to have been most influenced by the inductive philosophy of Lord Bacon. He never mentioned nor quoted Bacon in his writings, but few finer examples of the application of Bacon’s principle to the study of natural phenomena can be found than that of Hahnemann in his development of Homoeopathy.

Bacon had set himself particularly to the task of complete investigation and reformation of physical science; but his plan embraced the whole realm of philosophy, and his principle was applicable to mental and moral, no less than physical science. That principle was Logical Induction, upon which was based the inductive method of observation and experience. This is the only valid basis of conclusions and the accepted ground of modern science.

“His (Bacon’s) merit as a philosopher lies chiefly in having called back the human mind from the wrong direction in which it had so long been seeking knowledge, and setting it on a new path of investigation”, says one writer.

“When Bacon had analyzed the philosophy of the ancients, he found it speculative. The great highways of life had been deserted. Nature, spread out to the intelligence of man, had scarcely been consulted by the ancient philosophers. They had looked within and not without. they had sought to rear systems on the uncertain foundations of human hypothesis and speculation instead of resting them on the immutable laws of Providence as manifested in the material world. Bacon broke the bars of this mental prison-house:- bade the mind go free and investigate nature.” (Davies, Logic of Mathematics.)

Bacon’s fame rests chiefly on his *”Novum Organum”, the second part of his *”Instauratio Magna”, “The object of this was to furnish the world a better mode of investigation of truth: that is, a better logic than the so-called Aristotlelian or syllogistic method; a logic of which the aim should be not to supply arguments for controversy, but to investigate nature, and by observation and the complete induction of particulars arrive at truth”.

It is significant that Hahnemann in selecting a name for his own Magnum Opus chose the very word, “Organon”, used by Bacon, and before him by Aristotle, whose philosophical method, misrepresented and misapplied by the schoolmen of the middle ages, Bacon restored to its true place with improvement of his own.

State of Medicine in Hahnemann’s Time. – The situation confronting Hahnemann in the medical world was similar in many respects to that in the world of physical science which confronted Bacon. Medical theory trod upon the heels of theory as they rapidly passed across the historical field of vision, each one contradicting the other, and all alike the product of imagination and speculation. All were engaged in attempting to find a basis for the treatment of disease in speculations about the interior states, the invisible, internal changes in the organs of the body and the unknowable primary causes of disease.

Ideas which now seem absurd were then matters of the most serious moment, and in their practical working out often became tragical. Blood-letting, the outgrowth of one of these false theories, affords a good example. The celebrated Bouvard, physician to Louis XIII, ordered his royal patient forty-seven bleedings, two hundred and fifteen emetics or purgatives, and three hundred and twelve clysters during the period of one year! During the extremes to which the so-called “physiological medicine” was carried more than six million leeches were used, and more than two hundred thousand pounds of blood was spilled in the hospitals of Paris in one year. The mortality was appalling.

In Hahnemann’s time (1799) the death of our own George Washington was undoubtedly caused by the repeated blood-letting to which he was subjected. He was almost completely exsanguinated.

Medicine was in a state of chaos. Hahnemann faced the problem of creating a new science and art of therapeutics which should be constructed on the basis of facts of observation and experience, according to certain principles which he had laid down for his guidance.

Applying the inductive method which he had evidently learned from Bacon and Aristotle, the first thing Hahnemann did was to take a board view of the whole field of medicine, shake himself clear of any lingering remnant of bias or prejudice which may have been in his mind as a result of his association with the medical men and ideas of his age, and ask himself a few simple, pointed questions.

“What is the real mission of the physician? “Of what use is the medical profession? “Has it any real excuse to offer for its existence?” “Surely not”, he says, “if spends its time and effort in concocting so-called systems out of empty vagaries and hypotheses concerning the inner obscure nature of the process of life; or the origin of disease; nor in the innumerable attempts at explaining the phenomena of diseases or their proximate causes ever hidden from their scrutiny, which they clothe in unintelligible words; or as a mass of abstract phrases intended for the astonishment of the ignorant, while suffering humanity was sighing for help. We have had more than enough of such learned absurdities called theoretical medicine, having its own professorships, and it is high time for those who call themselves physicians to cease deluding poor humanity by idle words, and to begin to act, that is, to help and to heal”.

“The physician’s highest and only calling is to restore health to the sick, which is called Healing”.

“Rational Medicine”.- Scientific medicine must conform to at least three requirements; 1. It must be based on facts. 2. It must be rational, that is logical. 3. It must be demonstrably true.

It is not enough for medicine to be simply “rational”. When people believed that epidemics were sent by offended deities it was “rational” that their children should be offered as propitiatory sacrifices. If one believes that disease is merely an “error of mortal mind” it will be “rational” to adopt the methods of Mrs. Eddy. So-called “rational medicine”, since the days of Hippocrates (Whose “four humors” “humoral diseases” and “humoral remedies” still exist, masquerading under the thinly- disguised term “serum therapy”) has always been “rational” but too often neither logical, based on facts, nor demonstrably true.

What a confession of ignorance of the healing art and of blind worship of false gods is contained in the following paragraphs from a recent editorial in a prominent medical journal:

“No record in history equals the death roll of the World War and the accompanying pandemic of influenza. In these two giant convulsions *man was helpless.

“In the struggle against influenza medicine and science could salvage only a few. If we should experience a recurrence of the epidemic, either mild or severe, are we prepared to meet it?

Statistics of the epidemic referred to show a total, loss under “regular” treatment of approximately a million lives in the United States, with a mortality rate of about thirty per cent!

A hecatomb indeed on the altars of modern “rational medicine” the frightfulness of which is brought home to us by the fact that in fifty thousand cases reported by homoeopathic physicians the mortality was only about one per cent!

Hahnemann’s Working Principles. – It will be profitable to glance eat some general principles which Hahnemann laid down for his guidance in his great work of creating a new science and art of therapeutics. These are to be found succinctly stated in the preface to the second edition of the Organon.

He there broadly defines medicine as “a pure science of experience, like physics and chemistry”.

He declares: Medicine can and must rest on clear facts and sensible phenomena, for all the subjects it has to deal with are clearly cognizable by the senses through experience.Knowledge of the disease to be treated, knowledge of the effects of the medicine and how the ascertained effects of the medicines are to be employed for the removal of disease all this is taught adequately by experience, and by experience alone. Its subjects can only be derived from pure experience and observations, and it dare not take a single step out of the sphere of pure, well- observed experience and experiments, if it would avoid becoming a nullity and a farce’.

He continues: “Unaided reason can know nothing of itself (*a priori), can evolve out of itself alone no conception of the nature of things, of cause and effects; its conclusions about the actual must always be based upon sensible perceptions, facts and experiences if it would elicit truth. If in its operation in should deviate by a single step from the guidance of perception it would lose itself in the illimitable region of phantasy and of arbitrary speculation, the mother of pernicious illusion and of absolute nullity.”

“Such,” he says, “has hitherto been the splendid juggling of so- called theoretical medicine, in which *a priori conceptions and speculative subtleties only showed things which could not be known, and which were of no use for the cure of disease.

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

Ameke, the historian of homoeopathy, has made and illuminating comment on the last quoted paragraph. He says: “The great difference between Hahnemann and the later natural historical school is expressed by himself in one small word of three letters;*’and’ Hahnemann speaks of physics, chemistry *and medicine; they said; medicine is applied physics and chemistry, and founded medicine on these two sciences”. Hahnemann founded medicine not on physics and chemistry, but on *the universal laws of Life and Motion.

Hahnemann starts, then, with the conception of Life as a real or substantial entitative power or principle, having laws of its own, and refers all the phenomena of health and disease to it under two names: “The Dynamis” and “The Life Force” *This is Hahnemann’s greatest discovery, and the absolute bed-rock of his system.

The words “force” and “life force” were used inaccurately in this connection, however, making it difficult for some to form a clear conception of what life is in its philosophical relation to homoeopathy. The failure to make a distinction between *power and *force has always caused confusion. The word “force” generally, as well as in the Organon, is loosely used to express the idea of any operating or operative power or energy; of any active agency or power tending to change the state of matter; and this is the sense in which Hahnemann often uses the word in the Organon when he speaks of the “life force” as that which acts and is acted upon in disease and cure.

Now, as a matter of fact, we do not act upon force nor upon motion. These terms express abstract ideas or concepts which stand to the concrete things or reality back of them in the relation of effects to causes.

Force and motion are merely phenomena of the power which produces them. Power is the property of any thing or substance by virtue of which it is able to produce changes in itself, or in any other thing or substance.

Motion is the result of the application of force. Force is the product of power or energy. the power inherent in a body is quite another thing from the force exerted by it or upon it.

Action (motion) takes place only in or in connection with that which has the power to react or resist, the thing itself, where it be a stone, a machine or a living organism. The thing itself is always substantial, having a real objective existence, even if it be intangible or invisible. Strictly speaking, we do not act upon the life force, but upon life itself, the real, substantial, objective, although intangible, substance from which the living organism is evolved, of which it is composed and from which the life force proceeds.

Stuart Close
Stuart Close