The State of the Philosophy

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Reasons for the Anti-philosophical Attitude in Chiropractic Today

There is no doubt that there is a bias against the chiropractic philosophy within the chiropractic profession. This prejudice manifests itself as animosity and derision at worst and condescension at best. How has a profession which began based upon certain philosophical principles gotten to the place that it is today, in which only a small percentage practice according to those principles and the remainder either ignore them or attempt to eradicate them from the education and the practice of chiropractic? Why is it that the philosophy has reached that point in the development of our profession? I would suggest a number of reasons and in so doing set forth the state of the philosophy of chiropractic today.

1. There is a misunderstanding of philosophical beliefs in relationship to reason.

Somehow our antagonists have convinced the profession that our principles have some sort of religious underpinnings, that the philosophy of chiropractic is a pseudo-religious cult system. This is ironic because most of the great philosophers from B.J. to today were, and are not “religious” people.

Our “belief” in an innate intelligence is not based on religion. It is based upon logical, deductive arguments. These arguments came down from ancient peoples, predating Christianity and most of the other religions of the world. Further, our concepts of the immaterial are consistent with universal understanding of the nature of man. We recognize that human beings have an immaterial aspect to them. The medical fields of psychology and psychiatry are also based upon that understanding. Obviously all religions accept that fact as well. Our metaphysical assumptions in chiropractic are based upon sound, accepted principles of reason and logic.

2. Separation of science from philosophy.

The idea of separating philosophical constructs from scientific study is a relatively recent phenomena. Historically, scientists were also philosophers and most had strong religious beliefs. They saw no conflicts between the two. On the contrary, they believed that science would give empirical proof to what they knew both by reason and by faith.

They knew what they believed. They understood truth from the absolutes of principles governing the universe and from their religious faith. Science was only there to corroborate the truths they already knew. If there was disagreement, they first looked at their tangible, experiential findings before they questioned what they understood by reason and faith. For they knew that experience and empirically, findings and the knowledge gained from them changed from day to day. Throughout history there were rare occasions when scientists were persecuted by misguided religious zealots who believed that science was undermining their faith. These instances were very rare but they created a schism between science and philosophy and religion. Lines were drawn in the sand and those who stepped over them ran the risk of condemnation. This was and continues to be particularly true of the scientific community which demonstrates considerable antagonism toward philosophy and religion. Those in the scientific community who embrace a strong faith are looked down upon as second-class scientists.

Perhaps partially as a backlash toward the injustices against science by religion and partially because science tends to attract more mechanistically inclined persons, antagonism toward religion and philosophy grew. Eventually this antagonism became animosity and was reflected in a total divorcement from religion. Today court battles are being waged in the public schools (which are supposed to provide a liberal education) against the presentation of an alternative to evolution. We have made great strides in scientific understanding. Unfortunately, that has led to the mistaken conclusion that science has all the answers.

3. A failure to communicate our message.

It is always important to look for a cause within before blaming outside factors. Part of this factor stems from the first two. We have not only failed to communicate the message of true chiropractic but we have miscommunicated what we do. We have communicated the idea that chiropractic is related to musculoskeletal problems and to a lesser degree the idea that chiropractic gets sick people well (the traditional approach). We may do a good job of communicating our message to new people who come into the office (although I am inclined to think that we fail in that regard also) but we definitely are not reaching the masses who have yet to avail themselves of chiropractic and as a result most likely never will. Granted, misconceptions about the big idea have been around for a long time and that is not the fault of the non-therapeutic, objective straight chiropractor. It is true that this philosophically reasonable approach is relatively new to the profession. Still we really are not making an adequate effort to present the principle to the public.

4. Anti-intellectualism in general.

This problem goes directly to our failure to publicly embrace our unique philosophy. We, as a profession (with a few exceptions), are generally anti-philosophical because we are anti-intellectual. I find it ironic, in fact, if it were not so sad it would be humorous. Those pursuing chiropractic as an intellectual endeavor are looked down upon by the majority of the profession. In a similar way people who embrace strong theological beliefs are ridiculed by the scientific community. I believe it was Frances Crick who said that you had to check your brains at the front door of the church. Yet, in my opinion, an Augustine or C.S. Lewis has impacted more lives for the better than the discovery of the double helix. Somehow we have bought the lie that our philosophy is not an intellectual endeavor. When in fact, just the opposite is true. It is the only intellectual endeavor in chiropractic. We revere the researcher and the technique entrepreneur but how many chiropractic philosophers are advertised as speakers at conventions. We have made efforts in the area of philosophical chiropractic but they are few and far between. Some years back the Foundation started a Journal of Straight Chiropractic. We only produced one issue because no one wrote for it. And it was not even confined to philosophy articles. Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic has sponsored the International Research and Philosophical Symposium (IRAPS) for the past few years. It is a great idea, desperately needed and I have enjoyed it immensely, but philosophy presenters are few and far between, compared to research presenters.

The fact is very few people are writing about or articulating the chiropractic philosophy. No one seems to want to understand the depth and breadth of our philosophy just for understanding’s sake. The only efforts made in articulating our philosophy seem to be tied into some practice building idea in order to attract the attention of any straight chiropractor. Our only interest in the philosophy is for our felt needs. Chiropractic is not about meeting your felt needs. It is about principles. These principles are vital to our health, our life and the well-being of society in general.

Uppermost in our presentation of chiropractic should be truth and reasonableness. If you want to talk about practice building and success in practice, this is where it begins. An intellectual approach to chiropractic is not an explanation couched in terms, phrases and explanations that cannot be understood by the average person. It is an explanation that resonates in truth and understanding on an intellectual level with everyone from a third grader to a PhD. That should be our intellectual endeavor in chiropractic.

5. A failure to engage in public debate.

We have failed to go out to the profession and the public in general and articulate our philosophy. I must give credit to the FSCO in making an effort in this area but it has been limited for whatever reason. But how many of us get into debates with the rest of the profession? I have engaged in public debates only twice in the last 30 years. We have less and less presence on chiropractic college campuses where students are open to new ideas. For the most part, we are considered anti-intellectual, defensive, reactionary, hate straights who are not invited into the professional community to exchange our ideas. I’m not sure many of us would go even if invited. Sure, there is outright animosity toward us but part of the problem is that our understanding of the philosophy is inadequate. Understanding creates boldness whether it is in practice members or chiropractors. Having a clear strong grasp of our philosophy will give us the courage to go out into the scientific community, into the professional arena and into the public square.

This may sound like a negative article but realizing our failures and our inadequacies is the first step toward making improvements. In the coming year it is my desire to see the Foundation in general and myself in particular begin to elevate the chiropractic philosophy in the minds of the public, within the profession and in my own personal understanding. If you are also interested, drop me a note or send me an e-mail and let’s see if we can increase the esteem that we have for the philosophy of chiropractic in the eyes of the rest of the world.v21n2

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