The Dangerous Confusion of Taking Means for Ends

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Let us reflect for a moment on the means and the ends in the life of a man.

On looking around us carefully we cannot fail to notice that everything that has been created has a purpose. This is evident in all aspects of creation, not only in the natural phenomena that surround us or the biology of living beings whose organic processes are always in function of an ultimate goal, which is precisely what gives meaning to their existence, and so the eye fulfils its purpose which is to see; the legs likewise fulfill their meaning, which is to provide numerous living beings with capacity for displacement. The same will be true for any other part, system or apparatus in any living organism, ours included –it is what in biology is known as “the purpose determines the means”.

Similarly, in everything that is man-made, be it a machine, a telephone, a car, you name it, we can see that there is always its ultimate purpose –the function for which it has been created. There would be no point in manufacturing phones if we later just scattered them around and left them lying there useless. Building houses would make no sense at all if they were to be left standing there uninhabited. The list can be endless. It is therefore the ultimate goal, or teleology, as the Greeks used to call it, that determines the existence of things and beings. We hope nobody would object to anything said so far, unless not in their right mind. Thus, means and ends are found everywhere in existence. Returning to our examples, it can be affirmed that the telephone is the means whose purpose is to provide communication between people, and that the house is a shelter which a human being is in need of.

At this point, let us reflect on the issue of man’s health and inquire whether we should understand it to be a means or an end in itself. Today we can observe a cultural explosion of what we can call the “cult of health and well-being”. Magazines, videos, books, training courses, gyms… whose purpose is to lead man to health and well-being. Indeed, the health issue has become a lucrative business.

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At first sight, this business does not seem at all objectionable or wrong, but let’s look more closely at the matter and make sure we are not falling victims to confusion of taking means for ends.

Simply put: Is health a means or an objective in itself? This question is more profound than it might initially sound. If we say that it is an objective, we’re saying in fact that this is where the path of the human being ends and that man has no other horizon than his own physical, psychological and emotional well-being. If, on the other hand, we say that it is a means, we will necessarily have to ask ourselves for what purpose serves the means we call health; in other words, why do we strive so much to be healthy?

Considering that health is the ultimate goal of man is part of the prevailing present-day paradigm, according to which man himself is the origin and the end. Consequently, the vast majority of people are engaged in the pursuit of health in its various dimensions –bodily or psychological. It is their ultimate objective and aim and they live paying all their attention, in many cases obsessive, to it. Obviously, the perfect body and mind are never achieved since everything in our existence is subject to constant changes, generally out of our control.

Turning to our previous examples –imagine the owner of the phone who spends his life looking for new designs and improvements in its shape or keyboard, but with no idea why it was manufactured. In this way, people spend their days admiring the beauty of the device and its design without actually knowing what use should be given to it, because, among other things, the reason why it was made may have been forgotten. If, by contrast, the scope of our vision is enlarged and we leave behind the short-sightedness imposed on us so far, we will conclude that health, like everything that has been granted to the human being by the Creator, is not more than an instrument designed for a given purpose; a medium with a very specific and defined function. This is where the modern man’s problem lies. Confused and ignorant of the purpose of his existence, he takes the means for the ends. Let’s see what the founder of homeopathy tells us about it.

In his work “Organon of Medicine” paragraph 9, we read: “In the state of health… the spirit endowed with reason that resides in us can freely make use of these living and healthy instruments for the highest ends of our existence.”

In one of his “Lesser Writings” entitled “Asclepius on Trial” we read: “And yet, O man, your origin is noble, your destiny great and the goal of your life lofty! Your destiny is to approach the great spirit that the inhabitants of all solar systems adore through actions that reveal your dignity and your knowledge that encompass the universe.” Words full of wisdom, worthy of profound reflection, but it’s not the time for such an undertaking right now as we must stick to the topic that concerns us –not taking means for ends.

It will not require much clarification for the reader to realize that Hahnemann saw health as an instrument to reach the “highest goals of existence”. Hahnemann clearly expresses his point of view, which is that good health will allow us to reach those goals, none other than “to approach the great spirit which the inhabitants of all solar systems adore”. We do not know for sure whether Hahnemann had any knowledge of Islam, but any Muslim could subscribe to his words, since, although using different terminology, they express the same idea as the text of the Qur-an.

Regarding the end of the human being, in sura 3, “The family of ‘Imran”, verse 191, Allah makes us declare: “Our Lord, you did not create all this in vain!” Which is the same as saying that Allah did not create this universe without a purpose, without a goal, and therefore, everything that it contains is there for this goal to be fulfilled. In sura 51, ad-Dhariyat, verse 56, Allah declares:

 “I have not created men and jinn but that they worship Me.”

Isn’t there a surprising similarity with the words of Hahnemann in his “Asclepius on Trial” quoted above? Where Hahnemann speaks of “approaching”, the Qur-an speaks of “worshiping”. In any case the parallelism between both concepts can hardly be passed over.

In conclusion, we have all experienced, not on one occasion, but on many, how a state of illness, such as intense headache, severe asthma, strong pain or any other serious ailment, greatly restricts our ability to perform the objective our lives were meant to have. Not being well affects us negatively; it prevents us from concentrating on what is our existential goal –the knowledge and worship of Allah, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. By contrast, when we enjoy good health, we fully make use of the body and mind that Allah has given us as means to achieve the purpose for which they were designed. It is here that MEDICINE, spelled in block letters, fulfills its own purpose, which is not to make us immortal by eliminating death, something that is clearly impossible. Admittedly, we are beings whose existence in this world is transitory, subject to temporal boundaries. Medicine in the meaning above aims at keeping us in the best of possible conditions so that we can continue fulfilling the goal that Allah has entrusted to us in this life.

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