There are times when I wonder if some chiropractors actually know what philosophy means and its significance to the profession. It's also more often that I feel this wonder about those who criticize the idea of a philosophy within chiropractic. This has been true of chiropractors who would be considered straights, as well as those who would be considered mixers. Somewhere along the line a mistake was made in distinguishing straight from mixing, by whether or not there was an acknowledged philosophy.
Let's examine what philosophy is: It is commonly defined as the study of, or the science of, truths or principles underlying knowledge or reality. And, for those who hope to survive in the reality, it means a system of principles for practical living. It's very difficult to behave contrary to reality and exist for very long, or with much success. Ignoring the laws or principles of the cosmos is downright dangerous. Even the fellow who doesn't "believe in" gravity will surely plummet to his death if he walks off a cliff. Philosophy is as real as gravity. The principles are true for everyone and, unlike the laws written for our courts, the laws of reality cannot be broken. Philosophy is the search for and understanding of these principles and laws. A philosopher is one who regulates his life and actions according to a philosophy or, in other words, reality.
So, it's obvious that all chiropractors must embrace philosophy. The greater confusion arises, however, when we use the term "chiropractic philosophy." A number of chiropractors forget the philosophy part here or misunderstand it to mean anything from mysticism, to motivational thinking, to the antithesis of technology. Let's look at a few of the misconceptions and criticisms:
Chiropractic philosophy is not the worship of universal or innate intelligence, or any other designated superhuman, supreme power, or being. Worship, reverence and obedience are the domain of religion. Chiropractic philosophy is not religion.
Chiropractic philosophy is not extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm. It's no camaraderie with colleagues in group chants, or practice-building stories, or "miracle" cases, or chiropractic pep-rallies. These are part of fanaticism. Now, there's nothing wrong with being motivated and at high energy levels -- if all chiropractors were fanatics about their profession, chiropractic patients would constitute a majority f the population instead of a small percentage -- but chiropractic philosophy is not fanaticism.
Chiropractic philosophy is not "camping at the graves" of D.D. and B.J., or any of the other great leaders of our profession's past. Remembrance of family and friends through heroic and marvelous tales can be fascinating, but it's nostalgic romanticism, not chiropractic philosophy.
Misconceptions have led to several unusual critical viewpoints. The critics can sound ridiculous or actually quite convincing, depending on their technique. Ultimately, though, it must be understood that what they are knocking is not philosophy or chiropractic philosophy at all, but some wrong idea of what it is.
The skeptic doubts the validity of philosophical knowledge. He has trouble believing that a concept could be true. The cynic is the sneering fault-finder who just wants to be difficult for the sake of being so. These are the more benign critics. There are those who present a greater problem to our profession.
The bigot is the prejudiced, blatantly intolerant critic who is adverse to any philosophy other than his own. He thrives on yellow journalism and propaganda, and poison-pen editorials. He cherishes opinion as truth. He is the warrior against "live-and-let-live" attitudes.
The difference between the bigot and the sophist, another emotional and potentially more dangerous critic, is that the sophist presents opinion as truth and is more clever in his arguments; therefore, he is usually more convincing as well. In the story of the "Emperor's New Clothes," he's the one who would have people believe the lie by twisted thinking that he tries to pass as logic. He gets people to believe something totally absurd by convincing them it's a show of intelligence to do so.
In chiropractic, this is the critic that creates reasons for the skeptics to doubt, for the cynics to find fault, and for the bigots to continue their hatred. He's the one who starts the rumors rather than explain the facts, devises half-truth schemes of propaganda, and incites riots while, at the same time, calling for honor and justice.
When critics deride chiropractic philosophy, just sit back and ask yourself if they're really concerned about philosophy, or is it something else entirely? Who are they trying to fool?