Epistemology, Pragmatism, and the Role of Metaphysics

Steve Tullius DC
Epistemology, Pragmatism, and the Role of Metaphysics

Dr. Tullius Responds to an Article in the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association:

Epistemology, Pragmatism, and the Role of Metaphysics
By Michael Legueux, research assistant to Dr. Robert Cooperstein

Michael, I applaud you for recognizing what others have also witnessed in our profession in regards to chiropractic philosophy versus the philosophy of chiropractic and evaluating our philosophy from a formal philosophic perspective. With that said I must point out several problematic pieces in your paper. I'm sure you welcome the collegiate critique and discussion as you posted your work here and allowed it to be published.

First, may I point you toward McAulay's work Rigor in the Philosophy of Chiropractic: Beyond the Dismissivism/Authoritarian Polemic.

Your paper appears to widen the chasm between the two sides as you take a dismissive stance with statements with no reference or support such as:

"However, to the chiropractic profession, the term appears to constitute nothing more than a collection of inspirational and enthusias- tic affirmations regarding what it is that we do. Very little attention is paid to the task of defining and describing the attributes of the chiropractic profession in terms of the tra- ditional branches of academic philosophy."

You further that position by the following statement:

"I often wonder what could possibly fill the pages of so many volumes of “chiropractic philosophy.”

Critical thought and academic rigor require that one understand the terms and premises of any critiqued position. It certainly appears that you have not performed the necessary review of the literature to make such a statement.

I am in the process of writing a paper on the axiology of chiropractic. Axiology is the study of value, values and value judgments. Any critique of the philosophy of chiropractic is incomplete without an axiological exploration and formal understanding of epistemology in general and specifically the chiropractic epistemology.

Based upon your paper, I assume you have had no formal training in the philosophy of chiropractic, or have read the literature by our philosophers. The bulk of philosophers of chiropractic, by the very nature of the philosophy, recognize the autopoietic nature of the living organism, however, to stop there would place the philosophy of chiropractic in the doctrine of scientific materialism instead of the vitalistic philosophy it has embraced since its inception. Before that is done, we must first ask the question of whether or not we wish to discard our vitalistic paradigm. If not, then we must throughly answer the questions of how a vitalistic philosophy improves our ability to practice our art, positively affects patient outcomes, and serves as a useful tool to reconnect the individual and society to an awareness of nature and that natural autopoietic function as they become increasingly disconnected from both.

Regarding your stance that vitalistic concepts should be removed from chiropractic, you make several assumptions. You state, "Lack of a complete explanation of the effects of a chiropractic ad- justment should not result in the degradation of the process of scientific discovery by elements of mysticism, faith, or religion." Vitalistic concepts do not require theological assertions as you and others claim.

I offer the following excerpt from my thesis from the Academy of Chiropractic Philosophers program regarding this point. Should you wish to read the entire paper, I would be happy to provide it to you for your review:

"Timothy Mirtz, D.C. in two separate articles accurately describes the Palmers’ description of universal and innate intelligence as being theological in nature. 25-26 He accuses Stephenson of the same errors in logic and successfully demonstrates such. However, he, like Keating, fails to accurately portray modern day philosophers of chiropractic. His work, once establishing that the original concepts of universal and innate intelligence were theological in nature, carefully selects only those quotes and references of modern day philosophers that support his position. The use of Lutheran theology to determine whether or not the philosophy of chiropractic falls into the category of theology is ripe with logical criticisms of its own. Ultimately, Mirtz’s argument is clouded by his own theological beliefs and not the critical rationalism worthy of philosophic discourse. Besides the biased worldview of this particular theology, which is only one of countless theologies, Mirtz places emphasis on the following quote by placing it twice in his article. “Philosophy deals with visible matters, but theology deals with invisible matters.” 25 This quote, along with other assumptions in Mirtz’s article displays his lack of objectivism and his own belief system that the invisible properties in the universe cannot be empirically observed or contemplated without failing into the study of theology. One can simply look outside on a sunny day to realize the egregious error in this line of thinking. Mirtz further displays the lack of academic rigor and standards throughout his work by using a derogatory tone when placing the term “philosophers” in italics when referring to “chiropractic ‘philosopher’.” 25 He also references several authors who would not be considered philosophers of chiropractic by the chiropractic community as they have no formal training or well-referenced, cited materials that have been published in that specialized field. 25

In defining theology, Mirtz states,“Theology simply defined is the study (logos) of God (theos). But for the Christian, theology is the methodical interpretation of the contents of the Christian faith. Theology is the reasoning about God (theos) and divine things. This definition is also applicable, appropriate, and valid for all disciplines whether they are theological, religious, spiritual, or philosophical.” 26 By his own admonishment, strictly speaking a theological construct would be one which contemplated or described God. Early chiropractic philosophy clearly would be considered theological according to this definition. To further use the doctrine of subsets of theology, of which there are too many to name, to define whether or not a subject has to do with “reasoning about God (theos) and divine things” becomes purely subjective in nature and without any philosophic merit. Using this reasoning negates any further conclusion as his premise is faulty; however further review reveals additional lack of critical rationalism and intellectual honesty.

Mirtz states, “The object of theology is that item, entity, principle, concept, or definition which becomes a deeply imbedded and deep concern. A principle such as II [Innate Intelligence] is such an object. It is that item, entity, principle, concept or definition that is of the highest concern for the chiropractic ‘philosopher.’ The chiropractic ‘philosopher’ has placed the principle of II, as well as UI [Universal Intelligence], in the status of an object of ultimate concern. For example, when propositions or statements attesting that ‘chiropractic must maintain its identity by acknowledging the principle or existence of an II’ or ‘the very survival of the profession rests on the fundamental principle of II’, the chiropractic ‘philosopher’ is in essence making a proposition concerning the object. These propositions become theological by their elaboration.” 26 If this line of reasoning were true, then electrical engineering, molecular chemistry, and taxidermy would all fall under the heading of theology based upon their “deeply imbedded and deep concern” in ideas of electricity, atoms, and most effective methods to skin a cat, respectively.

Mirtz continues to show his lack of understanding of the philosophy of chiropractic and the role of theology in society in the following quote. “For chiropractic ‘philosophers’ to assert the crucial distinction that God is a being, person, or Trinity whereas UI is a principle is simply wrong. This either demonstrates UI as a quality or attribute of God, which makes it theological, or it is a different God that is in opposition to Christian understanding. If a different God, then chiropractic has its own God to follow or it is part of a pantheistic system that informs us that the Christian God is not the one, true God.” 25 Mirtz’s own personal theology clearly distorts his understanding of universal intelligence in that statement. While universal intelligence may be an attribute, or more properly categorized as a creation of God, the existence of such a principle does not make it necessarily so, nor does observation and recognition of such a principle make it theological. His reasoning is akin to saying that contemplating the laws of aerodynamics and building planes based on those laws would be the field of theology as those laws would be a “quality or attribute of God.” The final line of the quote above demonstrates once again the author’s confounded theories mixed with his personal belief systems imposed on a discipline grounded in philosophy and science.

The abuses of logic continue throughout Mirtz’s work. Most notably and pertinent to this discussion is the author’s assertion that if a philosopher of chiropractic suggests that universal intelligence is amenable to one’s belief in God, then it must be a theological construct. Mirtz says, “Strauss suggests that UI can be deduced from God. If so, then this supports the idea that UI is a theological construct. It indicates that the concept of the Christian understanding of God is needed to formulate the a priori existence of a universal intelligence.” 25 The key word above in Strauss’ statement is “can.” One could easily deduce the existence of universal intelligence as a creation of God but in no way does it require the belief in God or any deity. As Sinnott pointed out, an atheist can readily accept the existence of universal intelligence just as easily as a member of any religious sect. On the subject, Strauss deserves the final say in Mirtz’s faulty argument. “There are many similarities between innate intelligence and universal intelligence. Both are principles; hence both are impersonal. This takes chiropractic philosophy out of the mystical or religious realm. … It (universal intelligence) is a principle and has certain characteristics, one of which is impersonality. … Similarly the innate intelligence of the body is an impersonal principle. … It is a principle of organization that causes matter to behave in a certain manner, that is, to adapt to its environment.” 53"

My excerpt above addressed the lack of theological connection with the philosophy of chiropractic but does not address your sentiments ground in the following quote from your paper. "For better or worse, we live in a world dictated by the principles of the Enlighten- ment. Why then, would we accept explanations and schemes of reasoning that seem to come from the Dark Ages? We must not accept elements of vitalism or mysticism where the fundamental questions of chiropractic are concerned. Some may think these elements necessary. But as scientists, we should strive to replace them with reasons based on empirical evidence."

Again, one cannot cast off the vitalistic paradigm of chiropractic without a proper understanding of epistemology and also the axiology of chiropractic. I offer below another excerpt from my paper addressing your quote from above.

"Scientism, often used interchangeably with scientific materialism, is described as a “critical term expressing a rejection of extreme expressions of logical positivism and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning. The term has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek, philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, and philosophers such as Hilary Putnum to describe the dogmatic embrace of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable.” 87 This dogmatic belief system has infiltrated the basic sciences and health sciences. 88 Chiropractic has not been immune to this advance and was the topic of paper by Christopher Kent, D.C., J.D., in which he stated, “Although science is not an enemy of chiropractic, scientism most certainly is.” Kent's point is well taken when he explains the problem of a belief system rooted in scientism, “A practitioner of science 150 years ago would be forced to declare cosmic rays, viruses, and the double-helical structure of DNA "unproven" concepts. Such a scientist, bound by the limitations of the technology of the times, would be unable to "prove" or "disprove" the existence of such things. Our hypothetical scientist might go one step further and deny the possibility of their existence, active as some of them may have been in the dynamics of health and disease. Scientism is a scourge which blinds the visionary and manacles the philosopher.” 89

In recognizing this dogmatic stance of science, Guy Reikman, D.C., president of Life University, righly acknowledges the dogma coming from both sides of the profession. “Another reason for the rift between philosophy and science is that both aspects of chiropractic have been plagued by dogma over the years. Chiropractic philosophers have traditionally refused to open up chiropractic philosophy for observation and critique. That is dogma. Science, too, suffers from this. Scientists only explore what they choose to explore and validate accepted beliefs. When they will not explore beliefs and questions beyond a prescribed barrier, such as disease and treatment, that is dogma, too. ... for many, science is the new religion. It sees itself as superior - the only epistemology and the dispenser of truth. It does not tolerate other paths, and refuses to have its processes challenged. Philosophy and science need each other, and the students of these two schools of thought must work together so that this profession can take its rightful place at the forefront of the evolving health care arena. 86

It is at conferences such as the International Research and Philosophy Symposium that this uniting of philosophers and scientisits is taking place. Unfortunately though, that culture of scientism materialism, that belief that physical reality, as made available to the natural sciences, is all that truly exists, is the dominant stance of the western scientific community. 90 The obvious dogmatism of this metaphysical stance escapes most proponents of the position and is also masqueraded throughout the chiropractic profession in the name of cultural authority and evidence based medicine. 44, 91, 92 Murphy, Schneider, Seaman, Perle and Nelson are perhaps the most careless proponents of scientism in the profession as witnessed by their lack of proper understanding of the role of metaphysics in science and particularly health when they state, “the chiropractic profession has an obligation to actively divorce itself from metaphysical explanations of health and disease,” and “the "subluxation-based" profession, occupies the same metaphysical and pseudoscientific space as foot reflexology. The other chiropractic profession – call it "chiropractic medicine" as we do in this commentary – has attempted to occupy the same scientific space as the podiatric profession.” 92 They would do well to read Ian Coulter's work, some of which is reprinted for their benefit here. “Metaphysics are a part of science, and play the dominant role in determining which scientific problems within a period will be engaged by the scientists (in Kuhn's terms, they determine the puzzles of normal science).

Under this view, metaphysics can be seen as the basis of research programmes, setting the research agenda. Metaphysics are heuristics for both theory and research, and form the basis for articulating alternative conceptual schemes.” 92 It is clear from the reference to “chiropractic medicine” and throughout the article, that the authors have no interest in the unique chiropractic paradigm or potential research within that paradigm and perform the same misinterpretations and misrepresentations as the critic group described in the previous section of this paper."

In closing, I find your interest in our philosophy refreshing and appropriate. Proper discussion requires the content in question be adequately reviewed. Perhaps you have done your due diligence and would care to reference the works you have read and specific instances. I look forward to your thoughts regarding my critique. All my best.

Steve Tullius, DC