Osteopathic Philosophy, Principles and Practice

Osteopathic Philosophy, Principles and Practice

Walter Llewellyn McKone, DO

Original osteopathy – Return to treatment of disease – How could A.T. Still and others treat diseases? And we can’t/don’t – Needed to collect information about 19th century North American philosophy, science and life – Help from poets, writers, scientists, historians, philosophers etc.

“Andrew Taylor Still was not simply curing headaches and stiff necks at this time. Wpidemics of serious infectious diseases regularly swept through frontier settlements of the period, and Still took on these problems without hesitation. He used manipulation to treat cases of pneumonia, erysipelas (a bacterial infection of the skin), typhoid fever, and the often-fatal, infectious diarrhoeas of children, then called the flux.” P.125.

“An inspired medical heretic and prophet is often able to produce dramatic cures of many kinds of illness. Samuel Hahnemann, Andrew Taylor Still, Mary Baker Eddy, and Edgar Cayce all could. These people may be able to communicate their skills to one or two generations of students but over time, and especially after their deaths, the overall efficacy of their systems declines, even though the same methods remain in use, applied according to the master’s directions.” P. 195.

  • Andrew Weil, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Health and Healing, 1995

“Neither osteopathy nor surgery, let alone dentistry would have got very far  by ignoring it (the organic approach)…They are directly related to mental  operations, which are  developed in the philosophy of Phenomenology, itself a  post-Cartesian outlook. Relating this method to current philosophy of  science it (osteopathy) cannot be judged in any way less powerful than  Cartesian science, for while the latter has no verification procedure,  relying upon falsification alone, Goethean science entails both  falsification and verification, and thus might even be said to be more  complete than Cartesian. Again, the only real problem with this approach is  the fact that very few know if its existence.” (Toward a Man-Centred Medical Science. Forward by Rene Dubos, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York. 1977)

“At this late date many seem to forget that a basic discovery of Dr. Still was the fact of immunity…The whole living structure (not just the backbone) which embraces function, or vice versa, is something more than just a sum of the parts; and the sum of the parts is not confined to one class of tissue, e.g. bones…The practical everyday problem resolves itself into what the individual measure of the particular case is. It is not a composite collective one, but composite and unified, with multiplicity in unity. Carl P. McConnell, DO, JAOA March 1935

  • UNITY IN MULTIPLICITY– Each one (thing) as the many – Bringing together many separate elements to form “wholeness” – Seeing each piece as separate from all other parts – Reconstructing or rebuilding the world that which is already constructed – Once you think of a part of the body then you follow unity in multiplicity
  • MULTIPLICITY IN UNITY – Many (each thing) as the One – Many manifestations of an underlying idea (archetype) – Beginning with the whole and keeping the whole in mind at all times – Hologram principle – Giuseppe Arcimboldo – Anything other than a multiplicity in unity is not osteopathic
  • The idea of separateness should be obliterated. Not appreciating this to the full is a pitfall. So striving to get the bones in normal position, per se or perhaps to keep them in position is simply hopeless. In this regard, the bone item is simply an idol, and a similar idol could be made of the muscles, and so forth.” Carl P. McConnell, DO, JAOA April 1935

“Was Dr. Still wrong when he suggested that at a certain stage of osteopathic training one should cast aside all extraneous diagnostic aids and all textbook verbiage; place himself before the patient, thoroughly examine tissue and structure, and response, and the patient as a whole.” Carl P. McConnell, DO, JAOA December 1934

“Perhaps nowhere else in the body does the logical patency of the osteopathic concept stand out more vividly than in the combined activeness, structural and functional dependency, of a rib, the pleura and sympathetic ganglion. No stretch of the imagination is demanded.” Carl P. McConnell, DO, JAOA May 1935

“A modicum of anatomical study and clinical investigation will reveal that there is tenderness, tenseness and congestion over one of the foramina mentioned above, in exact accord to the area structurally involved. Furthermore, no great skill is required in order to obtain results – only light manipulation and accuracy of application (every few hours) wherein even the patient can be instructed.” Carl P. McConnell, DO, JAOA November 1934


The Development of Philosophy & Modern Science – Origin of soma – Celestial dynamics & Terrestrial mechanics – Descartes & Cartesian philosophy – Kant and Goethe – Transcendentalism –

The Metaphysical Club – The Vienna Circle – Conflict with Kant’s Metaphysics – The Paradigm Shift – Hansonian Interpretation – Science – Modes of consciousness – The hologram principle – Hermeneutics and Phenomenology – Metaphysics – Origins and Development of Osteopathy – Origins of practical philosophy – Biogen – How osteopathy got its name


Dominant Western Thinking – Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) – British mathematician – Logician – Philosopher of science – Cambridge 1884-1910 – London for philosophy 1910-1924 – Harvard 1924 onwards

“Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato.”

  • Plato’s Two-World Philosophy (Metaphysics)

Opinion – Mirror image (reflections of Knowledge) – The unenlightened state of mind – Imagining = perceiving – Shadows of real world – EIKASIA = imagining

Visible things: Tables, cars, people – Belief = faith – PISTIS = common sense – False world of senses – First hand experience

Knowledge (Soul) – Thinking = understanding – DIANOIA = thinking & reasoning to Form conclusion: “Dialogue”. & bridge from world of Opinion to world of Knowledge. – “Original Science.” – Pure mathematics – Applied mathematics – Intelligence = reasoning (verbal – thinking reasoning) – Episteme = knowledge – Reality of Form – You cannot sense – Obtaining truth or seeking and account (logos) by questions and answer of Form – Second hand experience

“We are in fact convinced that if we are ever to have pure knowledge of anything, we must get rid of the body and contemplate things in isolation with the soul in isolation.” Socrates – Phaedo

  • Asclepius, god of medicine – Mercury (Hermes) and merchant approaching Asclepius (physician) and the naked Graces (Meditrine, Hygia and Panacea)
  • The Development of Philosophy & Modern Science – The Copernican Revolution – Celestial Dynamics & Terrestrial Mechanics – Geocentric Universe – Heliocentric Universe – Observation – Nicolas Copernicus (1473 – 1543)
  • The course of scientific development – Nicolas Copernicus (1473 – 1543) – Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630) – Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) – René Descartes (1596 – 1650) – Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) – Newtonian classical physics

“”Never trust the senses, the senses deceive” – Primary and Secondary Qualities- Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642)

  • Primary Qualities – Objective constitution – Number – Position – Figure – Motion – All separable from extended body in space
  • Secondary Qualities – Subjective constitution – Colour – Smell – Taste – Touch – All sensations – Modern science does not trust the senses!

Origin of Soma – Orphics – Tomb or coffin – Treated as dead – Only mind alive – Somatic marker principle – Andreas Vesalius (1514 – 1564)

Aristotle 384 – 322 BC – Expansion – Celestial – Universal – The Heart – From Celestial to Terrestrial – William Harvey (1578-1657) – Contraction – “Pump” (society) – Terrestrial – Particular

  • Development of Modern Science

The 17th Century & the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) – “the turning point in science” – A major misunderstanding

“Our modern style of thinking has its roots within the successful history of mathematics and physics – towards the Cartesian-Newtonian model. Mathematical physics filled a cultural vacuum during a period of extreme scepticism following the Thirty Years War” – Stephen Toulmin – Cosmopolis – The Hidden Agenda of Modernity

Science is Not a Method of proof or disproof!

  • 16th Century Philosophy – Humanistic – Practical – Sceptical – Oral – Open to dialog – Humanists lead an open life: differences of opinion were tolerated and debated
  • 17th Century – The assassination of Henri IV of France (1610) – Keeping the peace between the Protestants & Catholics – Henry IV of France (1533 – 1610) – François Ravaillac, assassinated King Henry IV – The death of Henri destabilised Europe – Similar to the death of JFK – The Jesuits claimed Henri’s heart
  • At the honour ceremony was a young French soldier René Descartes
  • An essay submitted to honour Henri was from Descartes – It spoke of a way of seeing the world in the light of Henri’s death – This was the beginning of the Modern Scientific Philosophy – It was a reaction to Henri’s death – NOT a scientific proof
  • This war lasted so long that people forgot why they were fighting – Over these terrible years Descartes work provided a balance to the uncertainties of the humanists and religious conflict – His work was “theory centred” – Dehumanising – Lead to repeated dead-end searches for rationalisation – Producing a series of certainties in a “natural philosophy”
  • Cartesian Treaties – The object was to present commonalties of the heavens and the earth in a mathematical or quasigeometric form as a code of nature – To be “decoded” – Cartesian Treaties tried to prove natural philosophy as the one-and-only theory free of contradiction or inconsistency – The only certainty offered by Descartes is a moral certainty – Mathematics or geometry is a series of “certainties” – We are still looking for certainties as science
  • Empirical – Of a physician that bases his methods of practice on the results of observation and experiment, not on scientific theory: Oxford English Dictionary – An Oxymoron! Never trust the senses!


Mind/body – The reflex – Pineal gland – The universal system of doubt – Mechanics and movement – Newton and gravity – Death and depression – The theory of colour

  • René Descartes (Renatus Des Cartes 1596-1650)

Separation of mind-body – Res Cognitans (mind) – Res Extensa ( a body) – Bring God back – Mind-Soul – Mind-Muslesinn (1790) – Muslesinn-Muscle – Automaton – Objectivity – Experience 1st hand – Mathematics – Experiment 2nd hand experience

De homine (1633) – Mechanism for automatic reaction response to the outside world – Motions affected nerve fibrils – Displacing the centre – The Reflex – Pineal gland – Soul – Reaction to the outside world

God – soul (pineal gland) – Conscious – Subconscious (machine as mechanism) – Human kind – body – animals – vivisection

Mathematics – To order the world of chaos and continue God’s work – Modern science is doing God’s work – 1+1 (God) = (earth) 2 – New order

Cartesian science – geometric – x,y,z axis – flexion, extension, side bending etc –

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) – Man in the circle – geometric order

Hence: Psychosomatic – Psycho = butterfly – Soma = tomb or coffin

Objective – mindless (dead matter) – Subjective – mindful (soul) – Two sides of the same “Cartesian” coin

  • Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – Gravity – Theory of colour – Alchemist – Optics

“Now I a fourfold vision see

And a fourfold vision is given to me

Tis fourfold in my supreme delight

And three fold in soft Beulahs night

And twofold Always. May God us keep

From Single vision & Newton’s sleep.”—

William Blake, Letter to Thomas Butt, 22 November 1802. Quoted in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), The Letters of William Blake(1956)


Goethe’s Organic Vision, Henri Bortoft, The Scientific and Medical Network, Network, No.65, December 1997, p.3-7.

Goethe – poet, dramatist, scientist – Since 1960s – Thomas KuhnStructure of Scientific Revolutions – Alternative science NOT alternative to science – Own discipline, own modes of discovery, own conception

  • Not easy to understand – Common in 19th century America – Unconscious nature of presuppositions – Philosophy: To bring presuppositions to the surface – Our education & long-standing cultural viewpoint – History tells us: Science began when people ‘came to their senses’
  • Knowledge of the world through sense experience – Then: Science is based on observation – Supported by experiments – Last 40 years: we DO NOT gain knowledge through sense experience supported by experiments – Science did not trust the senses – Copernicus: Senses are an illusion
  • Philosophically:  Plato’s Thaetetus – Theatre = To see – Science based on: the senses are an illusion – Osteopaths use their senses – True reality: Behind the sensory – In the form of mathematical relations – Known in modern physics as Laws of Nature
  • Copernicus: Standing on the earth and the sun going around – An Illusion – Sun in centre earth moving – Copernicus: Looking for harmony and symmetry in the cosmos – Reflecting Renaissance aesthetic ideal – painting, architecture and sculpture
  • Renaissance recognition: Small number of powerful people – Behind symmetry and harmony: Neo-Platonism – Responsible for Renaissance thinking – Sun is the representative of God – Neo-Platonism: Reality is not given in appearances – Appearances are an illusion
  • Must look behind the appearances – Reality in mathematical, numerical and geometric – Plato’s two world metaphysics – Cartesian geometry – Geometrization on Natural phenomenon
  • Example: Formative nature of cultural-historical context – Affects form of taken by scientific knowledge – Omitted from history of science – Impression: Copernicus was original! – Nothing new! – Science: Possesses an intrinsic historicity (cultural etc) – Extrinsic historicity: Dates of events
  • Goethe understood this intrinsic historicity – Conclusion: “The history of science is science itself” – Scientific knowledge not empirical – Depends on cultural historical context – Thomas Kuhn: Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Andrew Taylor Still: Nineteenth century philosophy/history – to understand Osteopathy
  • Goethe recognised the following: – Individual psychology – Authority of institutions – Sociology of reception – “facts” as “theory-laden”
  • The Mathematical Movement (MM) – European MM developed in Neo-Platonist two world metaphysics  – Early part of the 17th century – Renaissance – It is mathematical – Empiricism is empiricism of experiments – Mathematical projects – measurement Physics begins with illusions of the senses
  • Galileo: Sensory experience of motion – illusion – Force not needed to keep something moving – Complete contradiction to common sense – Descartes: Incorporated philosophy of atomism – from Greeks – Supported Galileo – as homage after his death

MM – Combination of: Cultural scepticism (Thirty years War) – Symmetry and harmony (God) – Homage to Galileo by Descartes – Greek atomism – Neoplatonism (two world metaphysics) – Nature made mathematical and quantifiable

Therefore: – Outcomes of any research are methodological – No methodology no science – Mathematical methodology a quantitative methodological outcome – “objective” methodology seen as real – “subjective” methodology not real

  • Goethe – This quantitative, objective style unnecessary – Beginning of scientific endeavour ignored – Beginning is experience – Need to look into experience NOT bypass it – There is more to the world than meets first sight – There is a depth to the world as it appears – Goethe: Experience wholeness in this direct depth – Participation with phenomena
  • Cultural thinking 18th Century – Goethe – “Theory of Colour” & “Metamorphosis of Plants” – 18th century was acted out in the 19th century – Easy to misunderstand Goethe by seeing him through our present way of thinking – We do this with A. T. Still
  • Story of Idries Shah: Double seeing son

Father: ‘Son, you see two instead of one.’

Son: ‘How can that be? For if it were I would see four moons up there instead of two.’

This is our position, Osteopathy!  – We are seeing things in the world brought by our way of seeing

  • Happens when looking at Still and Goethe – We eclipse the primal and organic thinking – Over shoot the runway – We need to recognise our way of seeing – Clinically: Recognise our way of palpating – If we’re to have any chance of returning to the original Osteopathy
  • Mathematical style not wrong and very important in Western thinking – Style: Mathematical physics – Decontexualise everything
  • Numbers: 5, 6, 7 etc – Add, subtract, multiply – Not bothered about 6 apples or 7 cars – Concrete situations become abstract – Independent of space and time – Numbers and geometry will bring certainty
  • Euclid’s Elements just accessible – Ancient Greek method of geometry – The “elements” of triangulation are still taught in schools today – Essentially working things out “in the abstract” no experience
  • Goethe’s science: Crucial idea in UNITY – Carried with the mathematical idea NOT separate – Mathematical: unity in multiplicity or unity underlying multiplicity – A collective “one” – sum of the parts
  • Unity in Multiplicity: Looking at different types of triangles – Pure sensory observation – Look quite different – Mathematical: Discover what all triangles have in common – The sum of the interior angles equal to two right angles – Unity underlying multiple types of triangles
  • This the idea we use today – This was opposite to Still’s thinking – Take a multiplicity of different things – Subtract all elements that make them different – Leaving what they have in common – This is the unity underlying the multiplicity – Looking for the self-identical in different cases – These are mathematical Laws of Nature – Particular case no interest in itself – Only of interest in relation to the Universal – The particular always subsumed under the universal – Universal is the authority – particular of little interest
  • Multiplicity in Unity: Goethe – looking to bring diversity back into unity – We need to start from the other side – Turn your world inside – out – We do not start with the finished product i.e. knee – Not as an onlooker – Follow it’s coming onto being
  • Organic thinking: We have to think in a new way – We will use the hologram principle – We will see this later


  • Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) – Active mind as the originator of experience – Not as passive recipient of perception – Mind not a tabula rasa “blank slate” – Nervous system is organiser – Philosophy of transcendentalism – Mind + Body = Person Kant
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) – “It is the judgement that deceives, not the senses” – Organic science of participation – Bones the most central tissue – Morphology of form – Influence of North America – Person = Mind + Body – Goethe

“Wer will was Lebendigs erkennen und beschreiben

Sucht erst den Giest heraus zu treiben,

Dann hat er die Teile in seiner Hand,

Fahlt leider! Nur das geistige Band.

“Encheiresin naturae” nennts die Chemie,

Spottet ihrer selbst, und weiss nicht wie.”


“He who would study organic existence,

First drives out the sole with rigid persistence;

Then the parts in his hand he may hold and class,

But the spiritual link is lost, alas!

Encheiresin naturae, the Chemistry names,

Nor knows how herself she banters and blames.”



  • Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat – European powers gather in Vienna – To begin new European order – “Peace & Stability” – Wiener Kongress – 1814/15 – Leader Chancellor Fürst Metternich – Aim to return Europe to pre-war states – Eradication of non-liberal ideas – Ruling monarch’s positions strengthened
  • Strict social order – Strict economic regulations – Strict censorship – No free press or expression – Agreed by monarchs and rules – Known as Karlsbad Resolution – Also known as Biedermeier – Period of comfortable, stagnant, sleepy, inward-looking and narrow minded society
  • Lack of individual rights – Unlike English (Glorious Revolution, 1688) – Unlike United States (Declaration of Independence, 1776 and Constitution, 1787) – Unlike France (Revolution of 1789) – Gottlieb Fichte & Ernst Moritz Arndt – Spread liberal ideas through literature
  • Burschenschaften (student associations)  – from German universities – motto “Ehre, Fteiheit, Vaterland” – “Honour, freedom, fatherland” – Black, red and gold for caps, ribbons and flags – Colours of the uniforms of the Lützower Jäger – from Infantry unit of volunteers fought against Napoleon – Flag colours also used in Deutsches Reich in medieval times – Black eagle on a golden rectangular cloth attached to a red shaft
  • German flag symbolic of unity is dual sense – Before the Napoleonic Wars  – And after the Napoleonic Wars
  • Spread to Germany – No Austrian intervention due to weak monarchy – Fall of ancien régime in smaller states – Liberals held Germany together – A “Springtime for the Nations”  – Whole of Europe affected – Many Germans left for England and USA – The “1848ers”
  • Chancellor Metternich abdicated to England on March 13 – King Friedrich Wilhelm IV gave into the rebels & liberals – Decided to lead “his people” – Eventually the German Revolution failed – Leaving Germans reached a peak of 252,000 by 1854 – Large quantities of highly educated people (liberals)
  • Arrived in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Louisville, KY – Cities doubled with “foreigners” – 1850s – 1860s – Germans suffered racism at hands of “Nativists” – American Civil War led by 1848 revolutionists – Joined Union Army – Their “Second fight for liberty” – Zweiter Freiheitskampf (1848/49)


“The only revolutionary scientific principle, the “the grand theory,” was that of evolution. His incorporating the concepts of evolution into a single system of healing was the foundation of the new science, for which he now searched for an adequate name. As the theory of evolution and bonesetting techniques originated in the discipline of anatomy, it was fitting that Still was partial to a name suggesting bone structure of man.” – Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917) by Carol Trowbridge, The Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1991.

  • Bone – The most stable tissue in nature
  • Alfred Russell Wallace (1823 – 1913) – A. T. Still’s favourite evolutionist – More popular than Darwin in America 19th century
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) – Challenged beliefs of God created world – Married into Wedgwood family – Wife was Creationist – stressful over the breakfast table!
  • Origin of Species Compensation and Economy of growth – “The elder Geoffroy and Goethe propounded, at about the same time, their law of compensation or balancement of growth; or, as Goethe expresses it, “in order to spend on one side, nature is forced to economise on the other side.””
  • Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) – “Darwin’s Bulldog” – Warned Darwin about trouble after reading Origin of Species in 1859 – Vertebral-skull theory

The Name Osteopathy –

  • John Brown (1800 – 1859) photograph taken Osawatomie, Kansas, 1856. Abolitionist not Anti-slavery – John Brown

“I listened to all who thought I ought to name my science, so I began to think over names, such as Allopathy, Hydropathy, Homeopathy, and other names, and as I was in Kansas when the name Osawatomie was coined, by taking the first part of the word Osage, and the last part of Pattawattamie, and the new word coined represented two tribes of Indians, I concluded I would start out with the word os (bone) and the word pathology, and press them into one word – Osteopathy.

A. T. Still. (History of Osteopathy and Twentieth Century Medical Practice, Booth (1905)


Search: The Twilight Club – Pragmatism – Transcendentalism – The Metaphysical Club

Transcendentalists: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) – Henri David Thoreau (1820 – 1862) – (Sarah) Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850) – Herbert Spencer (1835 – 1903) – Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) – Andrew Taylor Still (1828 – 1917)

Basic Premises:

  1. An individual is the spiritual centre of the universe – and in an individual can be found the clue to nature, history and, ultimately, the cosmos itself. It is not a rejection of the existence of God, but a preference to explain an individual and the world in terms of an individual.
  2. The structure of the universe literally duplicates the structure of the individual self – all knowledge, therefore, begins with self-knowledge. This is similar to Aristotle’s dictum “know thyself.”
  3. Transcendentalists accepted the neo-Platonic conception of nature as a living mystery, full of signs – nature is symbolic.
  4. The belief that individual virtue and happiness depend upon self-realisation – this depends upon the reconciliation of two universal psychological tendencies:

a. the expansive or self-transcending tendency – a desire to embrace the whole world – to know and become one with the world.

b. the contracting or self-asserting tendency – the desire to withdraw, remain unique and separate – an egotistical existence.

  • The Big Three: Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller

“The reason for the disappearance of Transcendentalism as a movement — they were victims of their own success.” – Perry Miller – Historian

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) – Read Goethe from 1828 – Learnt German in 1836 – Owned 55-volume Edition of Goethe’s works – Goethe was major influence – Wrote Representative Men (1850) – Best work Nature – Osteopathic/Goethe Philosophy – Key figure in the Transcendentalist movement – Nearly all Transcendentalist Ideas are re-works of Goethe’s Ideas – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau (1820-1862) – Unlike Emerson – Experienced nature first hand – Spent time in Walden, Boston – Near a pond in Forrest observing nature – Emerson’s cottage – Wrote a two-million word Journal  of observations and recordings of nature – The most practical of the Transcendentalists –

“How rarely a man’s love for nature becomes a ruling principle with him, like a youth’s affection for a maiden, but more enduring! All nature is my bride.” (Journal, April 23, 1857) – Henry David Thoreau

  • (Sarah) Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) – Crusader for women’s rights – Founder & edited The Dial with Emerson – Died in shipwreck with husband and child

“What woman needs is not a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely, and unimpeded to unfold such powers as were given her when we left our common home.” – Woman in the Nineteenth Century

  • Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) – Considered a social Darwinist – Applied evolution Ideas to biology, sociology and ethics – “Survival of the fittest” – Wrote First Principles (1862) – Read by A. T. Still – Emphasised structure-function Idea – Spencer
  • Samuel L. Clemens “Mark Twain” (1835-1910) – From Missouri – Tom Sawyer (1876) – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

“In this profession he borrowed the phrase which became his pseudonym for the river custom of crying the soundings, ‘Mark one! Mark twain! Mark three!’ etc. – Mark Twain’s Library of Humour, 1903. On February 27, 1901, Mr. Clemens appeared before the Assembly Committee in Albany, New York, in favor of the Seymour bill legalising the practice of osteopathy. – Mark Twain

  • Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917) – Magnetic Healer – Emerson’s Idea of polarity in Nature – Understood bone – Thoreau’s Idea: The tissue most in harmony with nature – Blood from bone – Bone is the engine for blood – Osteopathy is a philosophy not a treatment – Manipulation should never be taught formally or demonstrated


  • The meaning of any conception in the mind is the practical effect it will have in action. – Knowledge, meaning and value within practical action – The meaning of an Idea is to be found in its “sensible” (sense) effects – Humans create belief by “habits of action”
  • Pragmatists: Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914) – William James (1842-1909) – John Dewey (1859-1952) – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1809-1894)
  • Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914) – The founder of pragmatism – Practising physical scientist – Philosophy was a philosophy of “science” – “Science” as Wissenschaft – Broad Natural Science – Empirical Sense related – Attacked all Cartesian Ideas – Cartesian set foundation of Ideas – Philosophy begins at no fixed time – Follows a method – Idea – Results will come – Kant style philosopher
  • William James (1842-1909) – Brother of novelist Henry James – Lecturer in anatomy and physiology at Harvard – Psychologist – Big influence: Works of Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill & Henri Bergson – Spencer influence on A. T. Still! – Famous works: Principles of PsychologyPrinciples of Psychology & Pragmatism: A New Name for some Old Ways of Thinking – “The Individual is a mere puppet in the hands of absolute substance, be it universal Matter or universal Mind.”
  • John Dewey (1859-1952) – Psychologist & educator – Nature is a continuously flowing stream – Formed “Instrumentalism” – cognition makes tools to cope with situations – and “meliorism” a mode of ethics – the belief that the world tends to become and that humans can aid its betterment – His contribution to pragmatism was psychological and ethical – “Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.”
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1809-1894) – Abandoned a medical career – Went to Germany – Read Goethe – while he had a backache! – Took medical degree at Cambridge (1836) – Went back to Harvard until (1892) – Supported wok of Emerson – “As life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at the peril of being not to have lived.”

The Vienna Circle – Vienna

  • A group of mathematicians, scientists & few philosophers – During 1920s and 1930s – Based on logical positivism – Objectivity form of language – Similar to the precision of mathematics
  • The Vienna Circle took the early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) in his publication Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This work he later denounced but it was too late, the Vienna Circle were already using it as the basis of their new philosophy. This publication represents the Early Wittgenstein – after this work is known as the Later Wittgenstein.

What changed Wittgenstein’s mind? Goethe!



THE VIENNA CIRCLE: Rudolph Carnap and Moritiz Schlick

  • What is philosophy? – What is the difference between aesthetics and ethics? – Epistemology and metaphysics?
    • Aesthetics – Philosophical study of art and nature – A style of PERCEPTION of nature as we look at art  – Not looking for facts or useful practical information
    • Ethics – The study of morality – Different ways in which people conduct themselves and think – Meaning and justification of propositions or utterances – What is right and wrong?
    • Epistemology – The philosophical theory of knowledge – Seeks to define the theory of knowledge – Distinguishes the principle types of knowing – Find its origins – Establish its limits
    • Metaphysics – Investigation of the world, or what really exists – TRANSCENDENT or IMMANENT – Transcendent: What exists lies beyond personal experience – Immanent: Reality consists exclusively of the objects of experience
  • What is philosophy of science? – Concerned with science!  – How science operates – What goals are scientific? – What relationship science has with society?
    • Logical Positivism (empiricism) – IN: recent developments in logic – IN: a systematic reduction of human knowledge – IN: more logical and “scientific” thinking – IN: logical utterances and first person observations from experience – OUT: Metaphysical and transcendental knowledge
    • A quest for verification of all statements  – Mainly through language –

“Analytical Statements” (propositions) – “Synthetic Statements” (propositions)

  • Metaphysics & Transcendentalism
    • Analytical Statement (proposition) – “My dog runs without any legs!”

True or false – Truth or false is in the statement – A PRIORI – previous knowledge knows this to be false – Dogs can’t run without legs!

    • Synthetic Statement (proposition) – “There are twenty fish in the pond”

True or false – Truth or false is outside of statement – A POSTERIORI – no previous knowledge – Have to drain pond and count fish!

  • Immanuel Kant: Synthetic Statement (proposition)

True or false outside of statement – A Priori knowledge in the present

Key: For Kant everything begins with EXPERIENCE


I. M. Korr “paradigm shift” – Paradigm – Weltanschuung – New models in old paradigms – New paradigm – Thomas Khun: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

  • Hansonian Interpretation

N. R. Hanson – Patterns of Discovery – 1958 – The cards as qualitative – More to seeing than meets the eye – More to palpating than meets the hand

“The theory, hypothesis, or background knowledge held by an observer can influence in a major way what is observed”

“All senses behave in the same way” – Including touch – just another way of “seeing”

The Search for Objectivity – the Principle of Experience – an empirical science limits to what is given by experience – the Principle of Objectivity – the external world has no share in mind or in any other content that is derived from the constitution of the observing object

  • Experience & Experiment

Both from the Latin experiens – “to try thoroughly” – Today verbs intransitive  – Experiment: to distance oneself – Experience: at first hand – Periri: Peril or trial

“to be passed through at personal risk”

Modes of Consciousness: Organic – participatory, Analytical – reductionism, we must make sure which! – Counterfeit organic mode – Organic: Belong together Analytical: Belong together – Rational reconstruction

  • Modern Science
    • Hypothetical-Inductive-deductive method – Theory hypothesis – Yes/No – Adjusts to method – “Facts”
    • Modern analytical science: Theory to Facts – Methodology – Experiment – Physician
    • Modern Organic Science: Experience to Theory – Physician – Experience – Method


Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) – Gadamer

  1. We live in the world: in history, in concretion: we do not live any where else, and all meaning is only meaning in relation to particular, concrete, historical existence.
  2. Our existence as beings includes: our situation; our tools-to-hand with and through which we manipulate and articulate the world; and our fore-understandings of the world.
  3. We share reality through common signs. We cannot share anyone else’s reality except through the mediation of our symbolic world — that is, through a ‘text’ of some sort, which text has a context — in fact, many contexts.

Context: “The park keeper would not permit me to enter the park without a permit”

You may have raed abuot rscheearch at a uniervtisy or oehtr, which sohewd that it deosn’t raelly mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a word are palecd. Appenratly, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteres are in the rghit pclae, bacuese eevn if the rset is a toatl mses, you can still raed it wouthit any graet porlebms. Taht is bcuseae we do not raed ervey ltetrt by istlef, but gsarp the word as a wlohe.

Man hat vecleilhit üebr Fsuconrhg an der enein oder adenern Ueitstnvävit gleseen, die zigett, dass es nchit wrkiclih von Bunudeteg ist, in welcher Rhneoiegle die Bcstuhbeann in eneim Wort shteenn. Das einzig Wctigihe ist oefbfanr, dass der erste und letzte Bhtubscae an der rhtiecgin Stelle sehetn, weil, selbst wenn der Rest ein taetols Dcreuhednar ist, man es immer noch ohne große Poemrlbe lesen kann. Der Grund dafür ist, dass wir nchit jeden Bcstuhbeann ezlienn lesen, sdnroen das Wort als Gzneas efsrsean.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is, ‘ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis  Carroll

Why does the giraffe not have a long neck? –Phenomenology – “to the things themselves” – “not speculating beyond the phenomena”


Thinking as a doing – No mind/body separation – Not an object – Not hidden in or under anything – Metaphysics and world belong together


  • German in origin – 1990 census (Chicago) – German 57.9 million (23%) – Irish 38.7 million (15.6%) – English 33.7 million (13.1%) – Afro-American 23.8 million (9.6%) – Italian 14.7 million (5.9%)
  • Napoleonic wars 1815 – From Germany = 20,000 – German Revolution 1848 – Between 1848 – 1854 – 250,000 Germans to USA – Most moved to Virginia – Missouri – Kansas – New York Staats-Zeitung – Pub: 24th December 1834 – Presently 60,000 readers


Knowing while doing – “A Primal Approach” A. T. Still – A participation – Consciousness (thinking) centred – Physician centred medicine – Begins and dwells in the philosophy of the osteopath

Biogen: The Philosophy of Osteopathy by Andrew Taylor Still –

Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy – Reciprocal relations between celestial and terrestrial – Celestial – Arterial – Terrestrial – Bone

  • Goethe – “We are walking in the sky”
  • “The rule of the artery is supreme” – Misunderstood – Supreme means celestial – Nature is God and Supreme – Not just circulation (celestial – planet motion) – Circulation is the highest form of motion – Circulation is motion that goes no where
  • “I listened to all who thought I ought to name my science, so I began to think over names, such as Allopathy, Hydropathy, Homeopathy, and other names, and as I was in Kansas when the name Osawatomie was coined, by taking the first part of the word Osage, and the last part of Pattawattamie, and the new word coined represented two tribes of Indians, I concluded I would start out with the word os (bone) and the word pathology, and press them into one word – Osteopathy.
  • I wanted to call my science Osteopathy, and I did not care what Greek scholars said about it.” A. T. Still. (History of Osteopathy and Twentieth Century Medical Practice, Booth (1905)
  • Transcendentalists – Pragmatists – Bone = last tissue to degenerate after death – Closest to Nature – “To know both ends of a bone is to know eternity” A. T. Still – Pathy = suffix for empathy and sympathy

Laura Dassow Walls – Walls

To ask a doctor’s opinion of osteopathy is equivalent to going to Satan for information about Christianity – Mark Twain (1835-1910)


“In order to get the proper perspective and setting of Dr. Still’s ideas we believe it will fully repay the student to note the essential features of the thoughts of the Greeks, of Descartes, Copernicus and Galileo, of Hobbes, Locke and Hume, of Kant and Goethe, of Fichte and Hegel, of Darwin, Spencer and Huxley…” The Teachings of Dr. Still by Carl P. McConnell, DO, Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, August 1915. P.641-651

“It was the general remark, ‘There will be no Osteopathy after Dr. Still is gone.” Dr. Charles E. Still, son of A. T. Still, Journal of Osteopathy, February, 1898


“Reciprocity through the governments of the celestial and terrestrial worlds is ever the same, and human life, in form and motion, is the result of conception by the terrestrial mother from the celestial father. Thus union of mind, matter, and life, or man.” “To bring this subject within the comprehension of the student, that he may know the arterial or celestial force should be brought to act with full force upon the terrestrial or the substance of the body…”

Biogen by A. T. Still


  • The body is a unit – NO rational reconstruction – NO starting with parts at anytime – Starting with parts is counterfeit to organic philosophy – Counterfeit organic philosophy is present in modern osteopathy – Concepts of osteopathy are weak and flawed – Start with the thinking osteopath not the patient – Osteopathy is a physician centred medicine
  • The body is a self-regulating system – The body is a self-healing system – The principles of adjustment – Always in context with person and environment – “The rule of the artery is supreme” – Misunderstanding in principles – Both in relation to environment and circulation – Not just in body and ground (terrestrial)
  • Circulation in relation to sky, temperature, sun and moon (celestial)
  • Musculo-skeletal system comprises most of the body – This is the terrestrial primary machinery of life (I. M. Korr) – The vaso-motor (autonomic nervous system – And circulatory system – And the environment should be considered as One
  • Disease and illness are not the same thing – Disease is before illness – Bacteria and virus are at the end of disease – This leads to illness – Osteopathy is a Eubrotic (health) medicine – Disease is an upset in the acid-base balance – Tends towards acidity – Poor drainage – Bacterial multiplication


NO METHODOLOGY – NO SCIENCE: Two types of methodology

1. Allopathic – Cartesian – Newtonian methodology

2. Osteopathic – Goethean – Stillian methodology

  • Allopathic – Cartesian – Newtonian methodology
    • Rational reconstruction – Takes the world apart and reconstructs – Rational from “Ratio” one-and-another – Quantifies as experiment after experience as quality – Hypothesis formation before experience – Hypothesis formation after experience – Language and number dominant – Always starts from parts thinking
    • Hidden underlying mechanism and cause – Parts (elements) to a whole as mental construction – Looks for facts – Objective – subjective dualism – (Objective) separate from experience – without mind – (Subjective) Open minded/Religious facility – Dualistic and deterministic
    • Theorising (Greek: way of seeing/perceiving) – Hypothesis – taken from (child) phenomena – And reconstructed – Tested after child as fact (static)
  • Osteopathic – Goethean – Stillian methodology
    • Participatory science – Practitioner-patient – Practitioner has to be transformed by (patient) phenomenon – Metamorphosis of practitioner (scientist) not the science – Goethe’s Urphänomen  – Still’s Primeval (primal) approach (pure activity)
    • You should NOT leave phenomena (child) at any time – You should NOT imagine a mechanism or cause – You should NOT construct artificial idea out of context – Otherwise this is rational reconstruction
    • You SHOULD stay with the phenomena – Think WITHIN the phenomena – Move WITH the phenomena – Think BEWTWEEN phenomena and environment – Never be OPEN-MINDED –  “Open mindedness is no mind at all” Goethe
    • Palpate/observe and be changed – Stay inwardly mobile – Palpate patient coming-into-being – Think yourself in the participation – A mutual transformation – treatment – Vorstellungarten
    • Motion occurs with boundaries – No boundaries – no motion – Boundaries of Nature! – Goethe’s pregnant point – Still point

Goethean Methodology

  • First Impression (observation): Observation as an active process – Observer and observed – Organising idea of knowing – The discipline of observing – “The experiment as mediator between object and subject” Goethe. – Gestalt & Bildung – Gestalt – finished – Bildung – gesture
  • Step One: Sensory/physical: Physicalness – Empirical sense data – Experimental level – External facts
  • Step Two: Time/Exact Sensorial Imagination: Movement/awareness into yourself – “Research” – Increase participation flexibility when observing – Imagine movement (metamorphosis)
  • Step Three: Expressive/Gesture: Improve discipline of movement – “Feel” what you see – Use and develop imagination – Consolidation (waiting) phase
  • Step Four: Creative/Intuition: Theory (to see) – Deepest experience – Moving from whole to parts – Bringing the whole with you at all times – Inside out NOT outside in – Anschauende Urteilskraft “Intuitive judgement”


  • Osteopathy is its philosophy, principles and practice, practiced by the practitioner in the presence of the patient in the present. It cannot happen at any other time. This is the pragmatic and phenomenological approach of intuitive understanding.
  • A Metaphor for an evolutionary system of medicine
  • The Osteopathic Oath –

“I do hereby affirm my loyalty to the profession I am about to enter. I will be mindful always of my greater responsibility to preserve the health and the life of my patients, to retain their confidence and respect both as a physician and a friend who will guard their secrets with scrupulous honour and fidelity, to perform faithfully my professional duties, to employ only those recognised methods of treatment consistent with good judgement and with my skill and ability, keeping in mind always nature’s laws and the body’s inherent capacity for recovery…

“I will be ever vigilant in aiding in the general welfare of the community, sustaining its laws and institutions, not engaging in those practices which will in any way bring shame or discredit upon myself or my profession. I will give no drugs for deadly purposes to any person, though it be asked of me…

“I will endeavour to work in accord with my colleagues in a spirit of progressive cooperation, and never by word or by acts cast imputations upon them or their rightful practices.

“I will look with respect and esteem upon all those who have taught me my art. To my college I will be loyal and strive always for its best interests and for the interests of the students who will come after me. I will be ever alert to further the application of basic biologic truths to the healing arts and to develop the principles of osteopathy which first enunciated by Andrew Taylor Still.”


Bennet, M. R. and Hacker, P. M. S. (2003) Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Bortoft, H. (1996) The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way of Science. Lindisfarne Books, New York.

Goethe, J. (1997) Theory of Colours. The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge.

Krancich, E-M (1999) Thinking Beyond Darwin: The Idea of the Type as a Key to Vertebrate Evolution. Lindisfarne Books, New York

Lehrs, E. (1958) Man or Matter. Rudolf Steiner Press, London.

McKone, W. L. (2010) Osteopathy. In ABC of Spinal Disorders. Wiley-Blackwell, BMJ Books, Chichester.

Seamon, D. and Zajonc, A. (Ed) (1998) Goethe’s Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature. State University of New York Press, New York.

Schad, W. (1982) Goetheanistische Naturwissenschaft. Herausgegeben von Wolfgang Schad. 1. Allgemeine Biologie. 2. Botanik. 3. Zoologie. 4. Anthropologie.

Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart.

Steiner, R. (2008) Goethe’s Theory of Knowledge: An Outline of the Epistemology of His Worldview. Steiner Books, Massachusetts.

Still, A. T. (1986) The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy. Osteopathic Enterprise, Kirksvill, Mo.

Still, A. T. (1992) Osteopathy: Research and Practice. Eastland Press, Seattle.

Toulmin, S. (1992) Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Walls, L. D. (1995) Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science. The University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin.

Walls, L. D. (2003) Emerson’s Life in Science: The Culture of Truth. Cornell University, Ithaca and London.

Walls, L. D. (2009) The Passage to Cosmos: Alexandra von Humbolt and the Shaping of America. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Wyder, M. (1998) Goethes Naturmodell: Die Scala Naturae und ihre Transformationen. Böhlau Verlag, Köln, Weimar, Wien.


© Walter Llewellyn Mckone, DO, 2012.

Twitter: @mckoneosteo


Facebook: McKone Osteopath

Blog: https://waltermckone.wordpress.com

McKone, W. L. (1997) Osteopathic Athletic Health Care: Principles and Practice. Chapman and Hall, London.

McKone, W. L. (2001) Osteopathic Medicine: Philosophy, Principles and Practice. Blackwell Science, Oxford.

McKone, W. L. (2006) Osteopathishe Philosophie: Der Arzt als Mittlepint einer. Morphodynamik in der Osteopathie, Torsten Liem (Hrsg.), Hippokrates Verlag, Stuttgart.



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