Adler On


In the long history of medicine, from Hippocrates and Galen down to the present, the word "medicine" signifies both an art and a science, and also the therapeutic substances that physicians prescribe for their patients.

Prescribed medicine or drugs act therapeutically on the body of the patient. They are less violent than surgery, but like surgery, they are remedies that the physician should resort to only if the malady cannot be treated by the physician working with the body's own process of maintaining or regaining health.

In the view of Hippocrates, the healer is a cooperative, not an operative artist. If he prescribes drugs or surgery he is operative, but if he controls the diet, the air the patient breathes, and the places where the patient lives, he is, like the farmer and the teacher, a cooperative artist.

The body works to preserve its own health. In the ancient science of medicine, a healthy organism was one in which there was a balance of the bodily humors.

In our day, technologically advanced therapy is highly specialized. It does not treat the human being as a whole nor does it consider the social and physical environment in which the ill person lives. What is sometimes called alternative therapy is a return to the Hippocratic view of medicine as a cooperative, not an operative art.

Teaching, Learning, and Their Counterfeits
Reforming Education (1988, 1990), Chapter 12, especially pages 169-172

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

Revised 17 December 2000