[L. 18 | 25] 12 July 1962

Thank you for sending me the copy of Panminerva Medica.[1] The idea that diseases are useful as a means of adaptation to adverse circumstances, namely pathogenetic causes, would perhaps be valid if the only alternative, in such circumstances, to being sick (and surviving) were death—though even so, as you suggest, the incurable cancer patient might need some persuading before accepting this principle. But why does Prof. Vacira assume that without pathogenetic processes we should die? Or to put the matter another way, since Prof. V. is clearly a firm believer in cause-and-effect he will consider that pathogenetic causes and pathogenetic processes are indissolubly linked—where there is one there is the other. This being so, if he regards pathogenetic processes as 'indispensable' he must inevitably regard pathogenetic causes as equally necessary. Admitting that man will always encounter adverse circumstances, is it necessary to assume that they must be pathogenetic? There are pathogenetic causes only if they result in pathogenetic processes, and from this point of view pathogenetic processes serve no useful purpose whatsoever—we should be far better off without them.

The Buddha tells us <D.26: iii,75> that in periods when the life-span of man is immensely long he suffers from but three diseases: wants, hunger, and old age—none of which involves pathogenetic processes. Man falls from this state of grace when his behaviour deteriorates; until, gradually, he arrives at a state where his life-span is extremely short and he is afflicted by innumerable calamities. General improvement in behaviour reverses the process. It seems, then, that adverse circumstances become pathogenetic causes as a result of the immorality of mankind as a whole. But this connexion between the General Theory of Pathology and what we may call the General Theory of Morality remains hidden from the eyes of modern scientific philosophy.

Editorial notes:

[18.1] Panminerva Medica is a medical journal published in Turin. [Back to text]