Blogging the Organon

January 14, 2008

Hahnemann’s Organon Of Medicine: 5-9

Filed under: Hahnemann,homeopathy,homoeopathy,organon — gimpy @ 10:20 am

§ 5

Useful to the physician in assisting him to cure are the particulars of the most probable exciting cause of the acute disease, as also the most significant points in the whole history of the chronic disease, to enable him to discover its fundamental cause, which is generally due to a chronic miasm. In these investigations, the ascertainable physical constitution of the patient (especially when the disease is chronic), his moral and intellectual character, his occupation, mode of living and habits, his social and domestic relations, his age, sexual function, etc., are to be taken into consideration.

 

§ 6 Fifth Edition

The unprejudiced observer – well aware of the futility of transcendental speculations which can receive no confirmation from experience – be his powers of penetration ever so great, takes note of nothing in every individual disease, except the changes in the health of the body and of the mind (morbid phenomena, accidents, symptoms) which can be perceived externally by means of the senses; that is to say, he notices only the deviations from the former healthy state of the now diseased individual, which are felt by the patient himself, remarked by those around him and observed by the physician. All these perceptible signs represent the disease in its whole extent, that is, together they form the true and only conceivable portrait of the disease.1

1 I know not, therefore, how it was possible for physicians at the sick-bed to allow themselves to suppose that, without most carefully attending to the symptoms and being guided by them in the treatment, they ought to seek and could discover, only in the hidden and unknown interior, what there was to be cured in the disease, arrogantly and ludicrously pretending that they could, without paying much attention to the symptoms, discover the alteration that had occurred in the invisible interior, and set it to rights with (unknown!) medicines, and that such a procedure as this could alone be called radical and rational treatment.

Is not, then, that which is cognizable by the senses in diseases through the phenomena it displays, the disease itself in the eyes of the physician, since he never can see the spiritual being that produces the disease, the vital force? nor is it necessary that he should see it, but only that he should ascertain its morbid actions, in order that he may thereby be enabled to cure the disease. What else will the old school search for in the hidden interior of the organism, as a prima causa morbi, whilst they reject as an object of cure and contemptuously despise the sensible and manifest representation of the disease, the symptoms, that so plainly address themselves to us? What else do they wish to cure in disease but these?*

* The physician whose researches are directed towards the hidden relations in the interior of the organism, may daily err; but the homœopathist who grasps with requisite carefulness the whole group of symptoms, possesses a sure guide; and if he succeed in removing the whole group of symptoms he has likewise most assuredly destroyed the internal, hidden cause of the disease.

 

§ 6 Sixth Edition

The unprejudiced observer – well aware of the futility of transcendental speculations which can receive no confirmation from experience – be his powers of penetration ever so great, takes note of nothing in every individual disease, except the changes in the health of the body and of the mind (morbid phenomena, accidents, symptoms) which can be perceived externally by means of the senses; that is to say, he notices only the deviations from the former healthy state of the now diseased individual, which are felt by the patient himself, remarked by those around him and observed by the physician. All these perceptible signs represent the disease in its whole extent, that is, together they form the true and only conceivable portrait of the disease.1

1 I know not, therefore, how it was possible for physicians at the sick-bed to allow themselves to suppose that, without most carefully attending to the symptoms and being guided by them in the treatment, they ought to seek and could discover, only in the hidden and unknown interior, what there was to be cured in the disease, arrogantly and ludicrously pretending that they could, without paying much attention to the symptoms, discover the alteration that had occurred in the invisible interior, and set it to rights with (unknown!) medicines, and that such a procedure as this could alone be called radical and rational treatment.

Is not, then, that which is cognizable by the senses in diseases through the phenomena it displays, the disease itself in the eyes of the physician, since he never can see the spiritual being that produces the disease, the vital force? nor is it necessary that he should see it, but only that he should ascertain its morbid actions, in order that he may thereby be enabled to cure the disease. What else will the old school search for in the hidden interior of the organism, as a prima causa morbi, whilst they reject as an object of cure and contemptuously despise the sensible and manifest representation of the disease, the symptoms, that so plainly address themselves to us? What else do they wish to cure in disease but these?

§ 7

Now, as in a disease, from which no manifest exciting or maintaining cause (causa occasionalis) has to be removed 1, we can perceive nothing but the morbid symptoms, it must (regard being had to the possibility of a miasm, and attention paid to the accessory circumstances, § 5) be the symptoms alone by which the disease demands and points to the remedy suited to relieve it – and, moreover, the totality of these its symptoms, of this outwardly reflected picture of the internal essence of the disease, that is, of the affection of the vital force, must be the principal, or the sole means, whereby the disease can make known what remedy it requires – the only thing that can determine the choice of the most appropriate remedy – and thus, in a word, the totality 2 of the symptoms must be the principal, indeed the only thing the physician has to take note of in every case of disease and to remove by means of his art, in order that it shall be cured and transformed into health.

1 It is not necessary to say that every intelligent physician would first remove this where it exists; the indisposition thereupon generally ceases spontaneously. He will remove from the room strong-smelling flowers, which have a tendency to cause syncope and hysterical sufferings; extract from the cornea the foreign body that excites inflammation of the eye; loosen the over-tight bandage on a wounded limb that threatens to cause mortification, and apply a more suitable one; lay bare and put ligature on the wounded artery that produces fainting; endeavour to promote the expulsion by vomiting of belladonna berries etc., that may have been swallowed; extract foreign substances that may have got into the orifices of the body (the nose, gullet, ears, urethra, rectum, vagina); crush the vesical calculus; open the imperforate anus of the newborn infant, etc.

2 In all times, the old school physicians, not knowing how else to give relief, have sought to combat and if possible to suppress by medicines, here and there, a single symptom from among a number in diseases – a one-sided procedure, which, under the name of symptomatic treatment, has justly excited universal contempt, because by it, not only was nothing gained, but much harm was inflicted. A single one of the symptoms present is no more the disease itself than a foot is the man himself. This procedure was so much the more reprehensible, that such a single symptom was only treated by an antagonistic remedy (therefore only in an enantiopathic and palliative manner), whereby, after a slight alleviation, it was subsequently only rendered all the worse.


§ 8

It is not conceivable, not can it be proved by any experience in the world, that, after removal of all the symptoms of the disease and of the entire collection of the perceptible phenomena, there should or could remain anything else besides health, or that the morbid alteration in the interior could remain uneradicated.1

1 When a patient has been cured of his disease by a true physician, in such a manner that no trace of the disease, no morbid symptom, remains, and all the signs of health have permanently returned, how can anyone, without offering an insult to common sense, affirm in such an individual the whole bodily disease still remains interior? And yet the chief of the old school, Hufeland, asserts this in the following words: “homœopathy can remove symptoms, but the disease remains.” (Vide Homoopathie, p.27, 1, 19.) This he maintains partly from mortification at the progress made by homœopathy to the benefits of mankind, partly because he still holds thoroughly material notions respecting disease, which he is still unable to regard as a state of being of the organism wherein it is dynamically altered by the morbidly deranged vital force, as an altered state of health, but he views the disease as a something material, which after the cure is completed, may still remain lurking in some corner in the interior of the body, in order, some day during the most vigorous health, to burst forth at its pleasure with its material presence! So dreadful is still the blindness of the old pathology! No wonder that it could only produce a system of therapeutics which is solely occupied with scouring out the poor patient.


§ 9

In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force (autocracy), the dynamis that animates the material body (organism), rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both sensations and functions, so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence.

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43 Comments »

  1. It seems to me that the above passages display a fundamental distrust of the physicians of the day. I wonder if Hahnemann had a bad experience?

    What is also striking is how obviously this all sits within the paradigm of late 18th/early19th century medicine. Hahnemann, and indeed all physicians of the day, were trying to formulate theories and treatments utterly ignorant of the great breakthroughs that would happen in the next century or so, namely Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, Jenner and small pox vaccination (although this did occur concurrently with Hahnemann’s works, it will be interesting to see if he addresses this) and Fleming’s discovery of antibiotics.

    Comment by gimpy — January 14, 2008 @ 10:31 am | Reply

  2. I think §8 is very important. Hahnemann says that when all the symptoms are gone, the patient must be healthy. Still, homeopaths make an exception for “allopathy” by saying that it only suppresses the symptoms. Still, the symtoms are gone, so if they follow Hahnemann’s words, it clearly must be possible for “allopathy” to cure diseases. Do note that modern medicine does not agree with this necessarily: people with multiple sclerosis can often be symptom-free for VERY long periods (decades or more sometimes), but that doesn’t mean the disease is cured.

    Comment by Elennaro — January 14, 2008 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  3. Good point Elennaro, particularly as regards recurring diseases with long periods where sufferers are symptom-free. Malaria can also fit this description, something which I am sure we will discuss later on.

    Hahnemann also seems to be continuing to indulge his prejudices as regards the physicians of his age.

    The physician whose researches are directed towards the hidden relations in the interior of the organism, may daily err; but the homœopathist who grasps with requisite carefulness the whole group of symptoms, possesses a sure guide; and if he succeed in removing the whole group of symptoms he has likewise most assuredly destroyed the internal, hidden cause of the disease.

    Now Hahnemann may have been surrounded by incompetent quacks at his medical school but medical science has elucidated the cause of most diseases so his musings regarding “internal, hidden cause” are hopelessly out of date. Do homeopaths still believe that disease causes are hidden?

    Comment by gimpy — January 14, 2008 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

  4. I really think this section is just massively out of date given ramifications of the advances that were coming to light at the time of the publication this work. Hahnemann’s words, when applied to modern medical science seem severely misplaced, although I can see that his experience of medicine was a very different one where such a criticism might be valid.

    It strikes me though that perhaps many people who read this work do not know that the critique is of a type of medicine that no longer exists and hence are convinced by it in a contemporary context, especially if they feel unsatisfied with the medical treatment they have received. However, none of Hahnemann’s fine words so far, relevant or not, have given us any information about the nature or physiological inner workings of homeopathy as a discipline of healing. Now, perhaps others have other issues, but I’m more interested in getting the answers I seek, generally about questions involving dilution, water memory, object-emitted waves and singularities, which I suspect are not addressed in this text. I shall read on, however.

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 14, 2008 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  5. Julian Winston’s summary:

    5. Pay attention to the exciting cause AND the fundamental cause (which is usually a chronic disease) including the patient’s character, activities, way of life, habits, etc.
    6. There is no need for metaphysical speculation. Diseases are the totality of the perceptible symptoms *
    7. To cure, you only need to treat the totality [NOT symptomatic palliation; a single symptom is not the disease] *
    8. If the symptoms are removed, the disease is eradicated.
    9. The physician want to make people healthy so they can use their body to get on with the higher purposes of their existence.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

  6. The main claim here – and it is (so far) entirely unsubstantiated of course – is that if someone feels ill or looks ill, they’re ill. But if someone feels fine and looks fine, they’re healthy.

    Hahnemann pours scorn on the idea that a disease agent could be undetectable by simple examination – in fact he seems to deny the existance of disease agents at all because diseases are “generally due to a chronic miasm”. Which of course they’re not on account of there being no such thing.

    We all know of people who seemed to be healthy but who discovered a serious condition either through a regular check-up or by suddenly dropping down dead. Yet, accordng to Hahnemann (and hence, according to his followers) this cannot happen.

    Is the whole Organon a collection of pseudo-biblical proclamations or is there any actual research in it?

    Comment by MJ Simpson — January 14, 2008 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

  7. ‘Do homeopaths still believe that disease causes are hidden?’

    My comment would be that modern medical science concentrates on getting rid of the ‘hidden’ virus/germ/bacteria/parasite but does not treat the patient’s tendency to be susceptible to these which homeopathy aims to treat. ‘The soil not the germ’.

    More on susceptibility coming further on down the organon.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  8. The way I see miasms is as a very large syndrome. Each miasm has certain characteristics: people display characteristics of one or more miasms. Instead of looking at all the little details H says to look at the big picture and recognise the big picture patterns.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  9. homeopathy4health, but Hahnemann had no concept of viruses or bacteria, and nor did his contemporaries. This is why concepts of miasms have no relevance today, we don’t need to invoke these to explain disease, scientific discoveries have seen to that. I cannot see how you can apply language and concepts that predate germ theory to practices in the modern world.

    Comment by gimpy — January 14, 2008 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  10. Gimpy gets scared by homeopathy: that’s a psoric characteristic.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  11. ‘homeopathy4health, but Hahnemann had no concept of viruses or bacteria, and nor did his contemporaries. This is why concepts of miasms have no relevance today.’

    This is not logical.

    I agree that miasm is a confusing term but just think of characteristics.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  12. Could you answer what Gimpy has actually said rather than doing an ad hom?

    As for modern medicine not treating a patients susceptibility for disease – what about preventative medicine?

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 14, 2008 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  13. Characteristics of the patient or the disease?

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 14, 2008 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  14. homeopathy4health, Hahnemann and others invoked the concept of miasms because they did not know what caused disease. They knew that sometimes disease associated with strong flavours or odours found in rotting food, flesh or vegetation but they did not know that micro-organisms are responsible for the smells and the rotting. They invoked concepts like miasms to explain this correlation between odour and disease in the absence of any knowledge of micro-organisms. Their theories were fine at the time as testable concepts but we now know they were wrong and the germ theory of disease correct.
    Oh and please stop insulting me and attributing characteristics to my personality based on a wilful disregard for what I actually say.

    Comment by gimpy — January 14, 2008 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  15. I take back my ad hom (apologies as this discussion was going quite well), but Gimpy might recognise what I mean, he has posted that I scare him, what I say about homeopathy scares him, FEAR is the predominant psoric characteristic. It’s what I do in my job is to observe how people react and these are indications of miasm. So I would say that Gimpy has a strong psoric characteristic.

    The other miasms are syphilitic and sycotic(to do with gonorrhoea).

    What do you mean by preventative medicine? If you mean vaccinations can we not get into that here because it’ll go on for ever!

    We mean that we treat the person based on their symptoms and characteristics and observe that they are no longer susceptible or less susceptible.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  16. ‘They invoked concepts like miasms to explain this correlation between odour and disease’

    this is not what H meant. It’s as if he borrowed the term.

    You can think of it as a ‘taint’ particularly with the syphilitic and sycotic miasms, as if an ancestor had syph or gon, which they often have in the family history. There are also tubercular and cancer miasms and Rajan Sankaran has identified a few others – Leprosy, Ringworm.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

  17. Psora is more fundamental, which is what H says later on. As if we are all tainted by some shocking event which scared us.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  18. So conventional medicine thinks it has treated the disease: syph, gon, tub, cancer but the taint lives on. We aim to treat the taint.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  19. Part 6
    “The unprejudiced observer – well aware of the futility of transcendental speculations which can receive no confirmation from experience – be his powers of penetration ever so great, takes note of nothing in every individual disease, except the changes in the health of the body and of the mind (morbid phenomena, accidents, symptoms) which can be perceived externally by means of the senses”

    This is true (especially the part about not making transcendental speculation), but thanks to the advances in medical science, we can include many of the internal workings of the body and mind amongst those which can be perceived externally by the senses. For example, if a doctor think’s I’ve broken my arm, he can send me for an x-ray and can therefore, by means of external perception see if I have or not (sight being a sense).
    When my wife was recently pregnant she had regular urine tests to see if there was protein in the urine (an early sign of kidney problems and of pre-eclampsia) and to see if there was glucose in the urine, which suggests diabetes. All of these internal workings could be devised by the external senses (sight and, in the case of glucose, and if the doctor was blind or perverse, he could’ve used taste too). This is no transcendental speculation, but real measurable checking of the symptoms externally with no need for biopsies.
    Hanneman had a point 200 years ago, but homepathy has gone down an intellectual and medical dead-end in not updating the understanding of his principles in line with what is now known.
    Homeopathy is raging against the coming of the light. It just seems to provide easy answers for those who can’t understand how complicated things really are.

    Ooh, later on in #6 he says “That is to say, he notices only the deviations from the former healthy state of the now diseased individual, which are felt by the patient himself, remarked by those around him and observed by the physician.”
    What if the patient was born with a congenital illness? How should that be treated under this principle?

    Comment by tom p — January 14, 2008 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  20. H4H – this stuff your blathering on about ‘taints’ is utter tosh. It’s akin to Catholics and their original sin.

    Since Gimpy’s looking at the organon verse by verse, it rather suggests that he’s not afraid of it or what’s said about it, doesn’t it. In your apology for making an ad hom attack, you then restate it. If there is something you say about homeopathy that does make gimpy fear, it’s probably that you’re a homeopath and thus people come to you for advice. Now that IS a scary thought.

    Comment by tom p — January 14, 2008 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  21. tom p:

    I just knew someone would say ‘tosh’ 🙂 and I can see what you mean about ‘original sin’. I am not religious but I would suggest that the majority of us are out of kilter (and ‘sin’ meant ‘off the mark’ originally).

    They come to me for treatment, it works, the majority of times (in line with the 70-80%).

    I’m not able to comment on congenital illness, sorry, lack of experience.

    It’s touched a nerve hasnt’ it?

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  22. H4H: Do you think that when a physician has treated a disease such as cancer or an infection such as chlamydia so that the symptoms are no longer evident that they believe they have removed the opportunity for recurrence?

    As for ‘taints’ it seems to me a very vague and nebulous concept that would shift around any attempt at critique much like theological instruments that I have come across – highly pointless in attempting to take on a discussion without a more rigorous definition.

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 14, 2008 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  23. I can’t comment categorically on what other people think. The prescription of anti-cancer drugs post-treatment would suggest that the opportunity for recurrence is still there.

    What would you be looking for in a definition out of interest?

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  24. “They come to me for treatment, it works, the majority of times (in line with the 70-80%).”

    Hmmmm, I’ve a number of questions regarding that, if you don’t mind me prying…
    1. First time, or is this after many appointments and differently labelled bottles of water?
    2. Have you ever recorded accurately how many actually get better?
    3. Have you ever tried to see how many would get better with just tap water called Nux Vomica (or whatever it is you prescribe for each individual at that moment in time)?
    4. Have you ever tried to see how many would get better without any water and just through seeing you?
    5. Have you ever tried to see how many people will get better just by waiting a little while?

    Real medicine does all of these things (where it’s ethical to do so – you can’t just give a cancer patient placebo when early treatment could save their life) and only if the medicine is proven to be better than placebo or at least equivalent to the current gold standard treatment does it get a license. This is an objective measure of its efficacy (to carry on from the previous post). Do homeopaths ever check just how effective their medicine actually is?

    Regarding congenital illness, I was talking about the principle. What Hanneman says there doesn’t take this into account. You seem familiar with his works, is it mentioned later (if so, then I’ll drop the subject).

    You haven’t touched a nerve, though you have got one, pretending to heal people with magic water.

    Comment by tom p — January 14, 2008 @ 5:27 pm | Reply

  25. Your prejudice shines through….

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  26. H4H, your unwillingness to answer simple questions shines through.

    Comment by openmind — January 14, 2008 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

  27. h4h, it doesn’t count as prejudice to object to things that are objectionable. If you take money from ill people by promising to cure them, without even doing the bare minimum required to establish that you can actually do so, I think people are quite right to object to that and shouldn’t be considered “prejudiced” for it. Now, have you done the research or not (note that evidenced based medicine by definition has), and if not, how are you any different from someone who sells forged paintings as real?

    Comment by Andrew Taylor — January 14, 2008 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

  28. H4H, your unwillingness to answer simple questions shines through.

    Comment by openmind — January 14, 2008 @

    I’ve noted this in the previous page. It’s not a characteristic exclusive to H4H but of homeopaths and their disciples generally. Simple questions and requests for basic evidence are frequently greeted with diversionary questions, accusations or ad homs. It’s a standard procedure when there is no argument to support one’s assertions. Homeopathy is more or less a religion and the Organon is its bible. It is regarded as infallible, even though it was written before much of today’s medical knowledge was discovered and is largely irrelevant. However, to question the bible is heresy. The Organon is a relatively modern version of “the wisdom of the ancients”.

    Comment by pv — January 14, 2008 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

  29. It all went wrong with tom p’s ‘pretending to heal with magic water’ so that’s it from me for this post, folks.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

  30. It all went wrong with tom p’s ‘pretending to heal with magic water’ so that’s it from me for this post, folks.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — January 14, 2008 @ 11:53 pm

    It went wrong? So it’s Tom’s fault, is it, and it was nothing to do with you?
    On the previous page I asked you, H4H, how many scientists you know because you made an unsupported accusation against scientists in general, saying they profited from human illness. Your response was a fatuous comment that you probably know as many scientists as I do homeopaths. No evidence to support your accusation. Was that Tom’s fault too? And all your other obfuscations, are they Tom’s fault?

    Comment by pv — January 15, 2008 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  31. H4H has answered very few of my questions either and just randomly ad homs someone when he or she gets stuck it seems – this is a real shame.

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 15, 2008 @ 12:31 am | Reply

  32. “I can’t comment categorically on what other people think.”

    I wasn’t asking you to, I was asking you to comment on what you believe the medical position is. Given that you are critical of the medical position you must have a view as to what it is?

    “The prescription of anti-cancer drugs post-treatment would suggest that the opportunity for recurrence is still there.”

    Indeed it is, suggesting that the physician does not accept that the disease is cured by the removal of symptoms.

    [QUOTE]
    What would you be looking for in a definition out of interest?
    [/QUOTE]

    I’m looking for something more restrictive than a definition that effectively includes everything that could affect an individual.

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 15, 2008 @ 12:35 am | Reply

  33. H4H – if it means that you’ll answer my questions, I’ll be happy to retract the phrase “pretending to heal people with magic water”. It’s not in keeping with Gimpy’s aim for the vibe here anyway.
    How about “attempting to treat people with unproven treatments”? Would that be acceptable to your pride and allow you to answer the questions?

    Comment by tom p — January 15, 2008 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  34. Getting back to the point of the blog, namely looking at the Organon verse by verse, number 8 is clearly not true, for example symptoms of breast cancer can be completely alleviated while there are still a few cancerous cells lurking in the areas they have metastasised to, just growing quietly. This is an example of symptoms being alleviated while the disease remains in situ.

    Verse 9 is kinda fair enough, but it’s a bit of a mumbo jumbo way of saying that if you’re well then your body wil self-regulate and you’ll stay well. By extension, this does suggest that he thinks there’s no need for prophylactic medication, which is not so good, but since he didn’t know about vaccines, it’s understandable in the context of the ignorance of the time.

    Comment by tom p — January 15, 2008 @ 11:27 am | Reply

  35. This is all very revealing. This section is a mixture of sound advice and observations that, while possibly valid at the time, have since been shown to be nonsense. The distinction that clearly needs to be made is that between “fundamental” (distal) causes and exciting or maintaining (proximal) causes.

    The former (distal cause) refers to innate/developed susceptibility (e.g., a genetic inability to produce an immune response to a disease) or lifestyle/habits (e.g., unprotected sex) that increase someone’s chances of developing a disease. Whether these can be remedied or not, it is good advice that they should be noted. Nowadays we’d say that it is good advice because changing behaviour, for example using condoms, reduces the chances of re-infection. Hahnemann appears to say that they should be noted because they may indicate a “chronic miasm”, exactly what this is (apart from a placeholder term for “susceptibility”) remains unclear.

    The latter (proximal cause) refers to the recent distinct event that has caused this acute stage of the disease. Hahnemann explicitly says that any doctor with half a brain will remove this cause, if possible, and that this will generally relieve the symptoms; so the splinter will be removed from the eye, the poison expelled with the help of an emetic etc. Again this is all very sensible advice and not in dispute. However, it is at this point that the advice falls down in the light of more recent knowledge. We now know that pathogens can be detected independent of symptoms and that they can remain in the system after the symptoms subside (e.g., malaria) i.e., the footnote to section 8 is wrong in every particular, there are indeed diseases that remain in the system and “burst forth at [their] pleasure with [their] material presence.”

    I don’t know whether Hahnemann was aware of germ theory in later life, but it strikes me that the removal of the pathogen by modern medicine (e.g., antibiotics) is entirely in line with his previous advice; the only difference is that an antibiotic for removing bacteria is slightly more subtle than an emetic for removing poison. However, given that we are now aware of germ theory it strikes me that the obvious gap in homoeopathy is that it fails to deal with what we now know are the proximal causes of disease (H4H, I’d be interested to hear your view). This is fairly clearly demonstrated by the fact that homoeopathy’s “success” appears to be restricted to those cases in which we would defeat the proximal cause anyway (e.g., colds, flu) and is absent in those cases in which the proximal cause would defeat us (e.g., anthrax, rabies).

    Finally, it’s most interesting to note that Hahnemann eerily foreshadows one common feature of pretty much all discussions of homoeopathy:

    “When a patient has been cured of his disease by a true physician, in such a manner that… all the signs of health have permanently returned, how can anyone,… affirm in such an individual the whole bodily disease still remains interior? And yet the chief of the old school, Hufeland, asserts this in the following words: “homoeopathy can remove symptoms, but the disease remains.” … This he maintains partly from mortification at the progress made by homoeopathy to the benefits of mankind, partly because he still holds thoroughly material notions respecting disease.”

    Not only does Hahnemann make an appeal to a mysterious, non-material cause of disease (energy, vibrations, miasms, quantum) but he also says that he (big pharma) rejects homoeopathy, not through a consideration of th eevidence and logic behind it, but because he is frightened at just how wonderful it is compared to “old school” medicine.

    Apologies for loser-length post

    Comment by flimflam_machine — January 15, 2008 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  36. I actually kinda like Hahnemann. It’s not his fault for being wrong, nor for not having the same standards we have today. Good scientists are wrong often, but they are still good scientists. Of course, it’s something else when you stick to something that has been proven wrong. H didn’t do that, today’s homeopaths do.

    Comment by Elennaro — January 15, 2008 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

  37. I actually kinda like Hahnemann. It’s not his fault for being wrong, nor for not having the same standards we have today. Good scientists are wrong often, but they are still good scientists. Of course, it’s something else when you stick to something that has been proven wrong. H didn’t do that, today’s homeopaths do.

    Comment by Elennaro — January 15, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

    I was thinking about that this morning, and how infinitely worse are today’s homeopaths compared to Hahnemann. At least he had the excuse of working in the dark, so to speak, in the absence of any knowledge of germs, antibiotics, vaccinations, insulin, genes, the immune system, epidemiology… He also had no knowledge anything at the atomic level (atoms were only postulated by Dalton in 1803 and not confirmed until Rutherford came along), so no knowledge of x-rays or anything like that. Compared to what is known today Hahnemann knew very little indeed. But he was not entirely blameless because it seems he was prone to making stuff up without any scientific foundation. All he had really found was a way to keep some people away from the conventional medicine of the time, which was very crude and often worse than the diseases it aimed to treat. And in the process anyone with a self-limiting ailment got better – which they would have done anyway without seeking any medical help. He wasn’t very clever because he didn’t realise what was really happening.

    Modern homeopaths however do not live in such ignorant times, and their persistence in perpetuating Hahnemann’s thoroughly discredited ideas (for profit I might add), all the while slandering modern medicine (of which Hahnemann has nothing to say because he was ignorant of it), it’s practitioners and researchers. Whereas Hahnemann’s ignorance was a product of the age in which he lived, the modern homeopath’s ignorance (if it is real) is wilful and mostly unforgivable.

    Comment by pv — January 15, 2008 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  38. Btw, flimflam, excellent critique.

    Comment by pv — January 15, 2008 @ 11:12 pm | Reply

  39. While Hahnemann can be excused for not knowing of vaccination, inoculation with smallpox had been in use for almost a century (introduced by Lady Mary Wortley Montague in 1718). It was already known that if you had had smallpox you couldn’t catch it again and that an infection with the mild form would protect against the severe form and that if you inoculated with the pus from the sores you would induce an infection.

    The risk of dying from a case caught in the wild (the most common wild strain was highly lethal) was much higher than that from deliberate inoculation with a mild strain (about 30% as opposed to 3%). Incidentally this is why Jenner’s experiment was reasonably ethical, he would have inoculated with a mild form of smallpox even if he hadn’t first inoculated with cowpox.

    Comment by Brett Dunbar — January 16, 2008 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  40. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Hahnemann advocate vaccination?

    Comment by Elennaro — January 16, 2008 @ 11:25 am | Reply

  41. Yes, all the pieces I’ve seen suggest that he was and that he was very much in favour of the preventative medicine that so many modern homeopaths rile against.

    Comment by thenanoscientist — January 16, 2008 @ 5:23 pm | Reply

  42. Actually, §7 is interesting stuff. He says Now, as in a disease, from which no manifest exciting or maintaining cause ….. has to be removed (1), we can perceive nothing but the morbid symptoms …… and then, in the footnote (1) he goes on to enumerate in a very positive way the basic medical interventions which, in his day had positive and enduring effects – removal of foreign bodies, surgery, expulsion of poisons. In 1810, there was no effective drug treatment for anything, so it’s quite understandable that he doesn’t include drug treatment in the list.

    Much more is now known about the “exciting or maintaining cause” of many types of illness than was known in Hahnemann’s time. This is speculation and extrapolation of course, but IMHO §7 seems to be saying that if you have evidence that the “manifest cause” of a disease is colonisation by bacteria [see my footnote], then Hahnemann would support an attempt to eliminate the bacteria from the body.

    In fact, Hahnemann himself only propounds his methods as being suitable after “manifest causes” have been successfully treated, and so the Organon effectively predicts that homeopathic methods will become less and less useful as scientific knowledge of manifest causes improves.

    [Footnote – a bacterial infection, in modern terminology; but in 1810 the word had a different meaning so I’ve avoided using it here]

    Comment by mugsandmoney — January 16, 2008 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  43. Apologies to flimflam, repeating some of his points.

    Comment by mugsandmoney — January 16, 2008 @ 7:03 pm | Reply


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