Thots – Philosophical Guidance for the Chiropractic Profession

Reprinted from “The Quill” with permission from the Loyal Legion of Chiropractic Philosophers

Am I Philosophical or Simply Motivated?

Philosophy can be defined as ‘the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge.’ (1) Judicious thinkers have broken down philosophy into different branches to answer the basic question of why. It is commonly accepted that there are five particular branches or divisions; aesthetics, which deals with the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty, ugliness, sublime, etc concerning judgments and arguments. Politics, ethics and epistemology are self-explanatory, and metaphysics, which concerns itself to abstract thoughts or subjects, as existence, causality or truth. Chiropractic also possesses a philosophy, Stephenson defined chiropractic philosophy quite clearly in his 1927 text book as, “. the why of everything Chiropractic. The explanation of cause and effect. It embraces the Chiropractic view of all the studies concerned in its science.” (2)

Motivation on the other hand is defined as “the state or condition of being motivated, induced, incited, prompted, spurred or stimulated.” (1) The list of motivational speakers seems almost endless, Zig Zigler, Tremendous Jones, Mark Victor Hanson and Tony Robbins to name a few. Chiropractic has had its fair share over the years, Elbert Hubbard, Marcus Bach, and Napoleon Hill and certainly to a large degree our beloved B.J. Motivation has its place and purpose and by no means am I going to try and dissuade anyone from being motivated or motivating to others about chiropractic, but there seems to be a hazy delineation in our approach to both philosophy and motivation. There is no doubt that philosophy can be motivating and that like all fields of study, there is an under-girding philosophy to them. We are all too quick to substitute one for the other not realizing they are separate and distinct processes and disciplines. Being motivated to attract new patients, process them, set them up on a schedule, allow them to make a fiduciary commitment and refer their friends in, all with a handshake and a smile is not philosophy. Comprehending why we want this to take place, not just for ourselves but also for our patients and kindred, begets philosophy.

We are quick to throw out classic philosophical quips like, “the power that made the body heals the body,” “above-down-inside out” and “one cause, one cure, one correction” or my all time favorite, “get the big idea, all else will follow” with no exegetical nor historical reference to them. We parade these phrases and banners to rally the troops, choose up sides and raise funds for our legal postures are indeed motivational however, we are dumb founded when someone asks for the science and/or philosophy for why we see people 3 times a week for 8 weeks, then 2 times a week for 10 weeks and so on, with what should be an embarrassing answer of ‘well that’s just the way I learned it when I was an associate.’ What motivation do we proffer the patient who has adhered to the recommendations and has received very little if any outward results from adjustments, our maxims and catchphrases that we use to brush them off in a polite yet hubris fashion. One ought have some better philosophical explanations in their bag of tricks when the motivation of a patient runs out! If motivation is not philosophy than practice management unquestionably is not. Philosophy does on the other hand bestow the scaffold for ethical patient/practice management.

How many of us have read and reread the “green books”, D.D.’s 1910 Text or Stephenson’s Chiropractic Text Book of 1927? What is ‘Palmer’s Law of Life’? ‘The adjustment with that extra something’? Or as our friend and mentor Dr. Fred Barge illuminated us with his writings, what is Life Without Fear? “ belief in chiropractic philosophy gives one a life without fear. The knowledge of normal human physiology derived from the understanding of chiropractic philosophy reveals to ones mind that mans body, under most circumstances, is capable of comprehending and adapting to its environment.” (3) Ayn Rand in her book, Philosophy: Who Needs It has this to pronounce about philosophy; “As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation-or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.” (4) Doesn’t contain the zeal and inebriation of motivation now, or does it? An explicit plea to good unsoiled judgment, optimistically we as chiropractors should be motivated to elevate ourselves above the level of mongrels!

With Rand’s previous counsel, let us read and ruminate over what Stephenson had to say about chiropractic philosophy. “While Chiropractic philosophy is but one of the infinite number of philosophies and of one special science, it should be kept in mind that it is enough for a lifetime study. Chiropractic is a radical science. It is a right about face in method and reasoning. It is contrary to the methods of healing in common use in the world. For that reason, it is misunderstood by those who have not had its benefits or are ignorant of its principles. Because of this wide difference, it is not always understood by all those who practice it…” (2) What healthier way to remove that ignorance then by studying and embracing our philosophy and principles that govern our profession without opprobrium. “The student should not make the mistake of believing that Chiropractic Philosophy is a sort of psychology, telepathy, occultism, or the classic philosophy of Plato and Socrates. It is not theology. While it may mention these things in passing it deals with them scarcely at all. Chiropractic Philosophy pertains more to the working principles of Chiropractic. The difference between a good chiropractor and a poor one is, that the good one has an ample supply of abstract principles in his head, and the poor one only a few. Poor chiropractors are apt to substitute machinery for knowledge.” (2)

Article 8 in Stephenson’s Text states that Chiropractic is a deductive science, that these deductions are based upon the Major Premise, Principle #1. Life is necessarily intelligent and there is an Intelligent Creator, who created all matter, attends to its existence and gives to it all that it has. This creator is not God, as we know Him by means of any religion, as Dr. VanDervort so eloquently stated in the Philosopher’s Quill, Vol. 1. No.3, “Universal Intelligence may be part of that entity which we call God, but it would only be a part and wouldn’t Love then be the other part? But then we digress and begin to conjecture about things spiritual and that has no place in Chiropractic Philosophy.” Those who have been motivated enough to commence their lifetime study of Chiropractic Philosophy would have already known that!

1. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1993. 2nd ed. Barnes & Noble Books
2. Stephenson, Ralph W. 1927. Chiropractic Text Book. Davenport, IA, Palmer School of Chiropractic.
3. Barge, Fred H. 1987. Life Without Fear. La Cross WI, Barge Chiropractic Clinic
4. Rand, Ayn. 1982. Philosophy: Who Needs It. New York, Penguin Books