Here’s somethings to consider this week. Besides the opportunity to participate in the weekly experiences, our next meeting will be a chance for an interchange about your thoughts, insights, examples and questions.
You’ll receive a reminder the day before the meeting. We hope you can join us.
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“When You Harm Others You Remain Enchained, But If You Do Not Harm Anyone You May Freely Do Whatever You Want”.
Principle of Valid Action 9. The Principle of Liberty. Week 2
Last time: A Radical Proposal (and a footnote*).
This time: monkey business
Last week we looked at the principle trying to understand its general structure and scope. This week we’ll look at how we applied, or could have applied, this principle in the past.
What follows are my reflections. I make no greater claim for them but offer them in the spirit of exchange and dialogue.
As I may have mentioned I see this principle as pointing to one of the limits on our freedom (i.e. if we harm others we enchain ourselves). Let’s call that the minimum. Do not harm anyone! It’s reminiscent of that famous line from the Hippocratic oath — “first, do no harm”.
Though it bears his name that oath certainly predates, Hippocrates often called the father of Western medicine. The earliest extant example of this declaration was written in Greek perhaps as early as the 5th Century BCE. This famous oath is an expression of medical ethics which for millennia doctors have sworn to uphold.
Of course, many of its specifics have changed over time. For example, few doctors would today swear by “Apollo Healer, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses…” as in the original. But two very interesting things that persist in all the versions from ancient times until today, are the idea of patient-confidentiality and non-maleficence.
It’s that last idea that calls our attention, and not only because it is an unusual and hyphenated word. It means to not cause harm, and it’s probably the only part of the oath that most of us have heard. Either in the Latin phrase: “Primum non nocere” or perhaps in the more familiar translation: “First, do no harm”.
It actually appears in the writings attributed to Hippocrates’ in a slightly different form (Epidemics Book I): “Practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help, or at least do not harm the patient”.
For Hippocrates primum non nocere indicates the minimum limit of how to treat a patient. Hopefully, it’s not the maximum, and as a good doctor you try to do much more for your patient. It’s the minimum requirement, the starting place, but not the upper limit you hope to achieve. It seems to me that, in much the same way, principle 9 (Liberty) points to the minimum limit of valid action and of course not the maximum.
The ancient doctors agreed that if they broke this oath they “should forever lose their personal and medical reputation”. In our case we are asked to recognize that if we infringe this principle rather than liberating ourselves, we are doing precisely the opposite and enchaining ourselves.
We want to move from a situation of internal conflict to one of internal unity. We want to liberate ourselves and work for the liberation of each other.
First, do not harm anyone!
Next week we will continue with principle 9 “The Principle of Liberty”. Our focus will be on considering how we might apply it in the present moment.
These notes have been posted on our Facebook page (Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex), sent to our email list, and are also on my webpage at www.dzuckerbrot.com