THE PHILOSOPHIC CONCEPT OF DISEASE


Owing to having considered diseases as tangible enemies opposed to a state of health, owing to having given them a distant personality, owing to having attributed their origin to secondary causes, owing to an attempt to apply the sublata causa to that which is capable of reaction, the finality of medical science has strayed away into a labyrinth of useless conceptions that have led to nothing practical.


Experted From “Philosophy of Medicine”.

The language of pain in order to be more expressive avails itself of a lexicon which conveys impressions that are the signs of the perturbation such as moves the elements of the human body. The description of the symptomatic forms of the morbid states, invariably defined, owing to their being the expression of a physiological determinism, bring before our minds the images of intangible beings which lie in ambush and try to deal death to us, and in view of such aggression we undertake to oppose them by all the means and resources which science and art, genius and fear can provide us with. The history of Medicine has been the language of this battle between man and the causes that are in activity within his organization, whether as inciting or as wound-inflicting agents.

The false concept which has been held in regard to disease has originated a great deal of abstract speculation, without any result other than that of resorting to metaphysical applications as in opposition to an intangible enemy. Disease should not be reputed as a concrete being but as an abstraction transformed into concepts or synthesis of symptoms and lesions.

Life in the plentitude of its evolution, which we call health, is actively maintained by virtue of multiplied efforts, with all of them being directed towards maintaining the equilibrium of all the constituent elements of the human body and of its principle of activity.

All the physiological efforts of the human compound tend towards the preservation of life. Vegetative potency, animal dynamism, and the impetus of the soul or immanent principle of human life, all contribute to the miracle of life.

Owing to having considered diseases as tangible enemies opposed to a state of health, owing to having given them a distant personality, owing to having attributed their origin to secondary causes, owing to an attempt to apply the sublata causa to that which is capable of reaction, the finality of medical science has strayed away into a labyrinth of useless conceptions that have led to nothing practical.

To some pathologists disease is a derangement of the vital forces manifested through symptoms.

Disease can never be a manifestation of a derangement but rather that of a combination of forces multiplied by the instinct of the preservation of life. Vital dynamism combines, orders and activates its forces better in the pathological state than in the normal state.

We cannot say that diseases are always beneficial; but we do say that they are frequently necessary as reactionary movements which tend towards repairing or substituting elements that need to be changed owing to their deficiency or being exhausted by the wear and tear of life. Diseases which are the manifestations of an effort or say of resistance against a cause, although of a physiological order, produce a condition such as deranges the habitual equilibrium that governs the health.

Neither can the morbid causes be reputed as indispensable owing to their character of stimulants of vitality, inasmuch as the stimulating or inciting agent should be confined to the maintenance of a physiological necessity. All that which signifies an effort without a result is vexatious, and every activity that fatigues dispenses a greater number of forces which demand sacrifice.

Infirmities in live beings are necessary and natural, as occurs in birth and death. When the live beings of earth become immortal gods, only then shall the ills of the flesh cease to be.

The word infirmity which signifies nor firm, really expresses a state of debility, of vacillation, of disequilibrium, and for this very reason, even when the vital instinct in this case multiplies its efforts in opposition to the cause, these forces are employed in processes of defense. This paradox of multiplication of forces which debilitate is of common order and is a natural phenomenon occurring in the life of the society of the world.

A nation engaged in warfare exerts all its energies against the enemy, employing its most vigorous elements which are the ones most liable to perish. The weak or useless elements constitute the new progenitors of the future generations until another reaction occurs to restore the lost vigor. Infirmities or diseases are the sure signs of organic decadence. The weak creatures are food for the parasites and microbes. An old apothegm says that poor, skinny dogs are the most mangy ones.

There are organisms so privileged that they have never had any disease but that last one which put them in their graves; and on the other hand, there are many who pay their tribute to nearly all diseases, for they are like unto tender branches that cannot withstand the least little puff of wind.

Treatment of diseases depends upon the concept which is held in regard to them. Pathology and Therapeutics clasp hands: it is the necessary relation existing between the symptoms and the medicament. The therapeutic law should be reduced to the enunciation of a relation.

The history of Medicine reveals a succession of theories which have never been able to establish the certain and evident relation that exist between the disease and the medicament. Homoeopathy came and solved this problem. To Hahnemann, the great Hahnemann, corresponds the glory for having deciphered the enigma of the sphinx of the therapeutic law.

The selfsame Hahnemann when theorizing forgot the principles that placed his discovery in the line of the sure-life as traced by Nature which is the creator and preserver of all its manifestations. The Hippocratic principle of the natura morborum medicatrix shed meridian light over the doctrines of the illustrious son of Meissen.

The proper concept of the morbid manifestations is that of an effort which tends towards restoring a state of health.

If we examine the symptoms or manifestations of the morbid state, we will immediately see that they are not abnormal acts nor are they distinct from those which are employed by Nature in its normal functions. Symptoms are modifications of the vital activity. Pain, physiologically considered, is nothing but a hyperesthesia, that is, an excess of sensibility; coughing is a brusque and spasmodic expiration which tends to the expulsion of fluids such as impede oxygenation; vomiting, diarrhea, polyuria, etc., are nothing but more active functions or, say, reactions which tend to normalize the functions.

The febrile reaction which traditional medicine has tried to combat and even continues to combat at all costs, is beneficial as a movement of defense and of activity which also opposes the fertilization of the morbid germs. The equilibrium of the thermic movement is constant and becomes more conspicuous at every change of the ambient medium, and is the modus whereby the organism can conserve the necessary combustion. The febrile reaction results from the movement of greater organic activity as is indispensable for all reparation, reorganization or elimination.

The elevation of temperature is a medium of defense against infections, says Cajal. It is not exactly the defense but the manifestation of the defense. The active movement of leucocytosis, in microbian language, such as also provokes any organ which functions with greater activity, is also a defense.

The organism in order to maintain the equilibrium of the vital forces, provokes reactions and remissions without which it would not be possible to counteract the excitations to which it is exposed when in contact with the medium wherein it actuates. The potency of reaction has to be proportional to the force of the aggression. The dissociation between the potency of action and of reaction indicates gravity in the conflict.

Although we have considered disease in its manifestations as an effort and a tendency in accordance with the line of reasoning of Auber (treatise on the Philosophy of Medicine), it is not always that the manifestations of the disease signify the existence of an active or passive effort, but also of a negative or divergent one.

In order to better comprehend the concept of disease it is necessary to bear in mind the meaning of a lesion, an affection, a deformation, senility, relaxations, dilatations, and the numerous other modes of regression as effected by the living elements which give form to diseases. A senile cataract cannot signify an effort but a condition of impotency, as occurs in the case of windowpanes in old buildings where they have lost their transparency as the result of the corrosive action of the air, of water, or of the sun. This affection which is a malady owing to the fact that it has taken from the body one of its factors of vitality, is the manifestation of a regression process and has to be eliminated for the purpose of substituting an artificial crystalline lens with its equivalent potency of refraction.

All the modifications such as in some manner may impede the free action of the organism, can be considered as diseases in the sense that they debilitate it and lessen the number of its activities. For example: strabismus which prevents the united action of the retinal sensibility, produces diplopy that deadens its instinct, with the suppression of the activity of the disordered eye. As is natural the field of vision is diminished. This defect of conformation does not manifest an effort but an alteration which endeavors to adjust the organism with the atrophy of the organ. In all these acts, even when passive, there is manifested an effort, although indirectly, to provide compensation for the deficiency or a substitution for the defect.

The distinction between the movements of reaction and of regression is of importance, because upon imitating Nature in its curative processes, it will be necessary to follow different courses; one along the same lines as the effort, and the other divergently such as tends towards reaching the finality of Nature: its conservation.

The vital process does not cease its evolution until it has accomplished its complete development and complied with the mission corresponding to it on the stage of life.

The organism of normal type follows an ascending curve up to the age of maturity where it then stops and thereafter begins its descent or decadence on account of the senescence of the organization.

This regression is first noted in the strictly vegetative organs: as the hair, teeth, finger and toenails, skin, etc., and then in those having greater functions: as the lungs, heart, stomach, etc. Even when the human organism has not suffered any lacerations nor moral afflictions such as affect the health, the simple passing of the years would suffice for bringing on that most natural and necessary infirmity of them all: old age.

This form of debilitation, the really natural one, should constitute the normal ending of all living creatures, including man; but it does not so occur, because in man diseases become multiplied owing to the accidents which take place as the result of his mode of life. As long as men lived in accordance with the laws of Nature, they suffered from very few maladies, but as civilization continued to increase their necessities other ills made their appearance. Animals, owing to their natural instincts, do not require in life any satisfaction other than that which is demanded by the law of self-preservation.

Once their hunger has been appeased, they cease their depredations; once the female becomes pregnant, they do not touch her again, and thus she conserves her fecundity during the whole natural period. Animals do not take stimulants nor narcotics; they do not perturb their desires by means of those incentives which man has invented for the purpose of making the satiation of his necessities more attractive; nor do they resort to those subterfuges of the imagination in order to excite their unvitiated desires, for their pleasures and their necessities are satiated according to their desires, and consequently they do not experience any loathings, nor have they a reason to deplore their behavior. Birds, fishes, insects, etc., require no physicians, for Nature takes charge of their preservation and restores their health on the few occasions that they lose it.

Man excites his functions by means of stimulants, depraves himself by means of medicinal drugs, exhausts himself by the immoderate use of his functions, and shortens his days as the result of the artificial life which he leads. Instead of the sweet satisfaction of living in accordance with the laws of Nature, he lives contrary to them, and thereupon suffers the punishment which the selfsame Nature imposes upon all those who violate its mandates. Even death is so feared would be pious enough as to come and close the eyes of a sick man and gladden him with a friendly smile.

Humanity continues its onward march down through the centuries, renovating itself continually, and as a part of that constant movement the human generations struggle and strive to occupy the place which the former generations have left on the stage of life. The human mowing is necessary and constant, the pretext is disease and if this were not a natural accident of life which must perforce have an ending, senescence would eliminate the weak element for the purpose of providing a place for the vigorous ones, and for those who had completed the natural cycle of their existence.

Death, like sleep, is the well-earned rest after an incessant period of labor such as constitutes life.

Higinio G. Perez