When Supplements Become Substitutes

August 1, 2018

A theory of nearly everything


The idea that a substance in one dose can save and in another dose can harm has an ancient pedigree. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates distinguishes between two kinds of doctors: those who administer a circumscribed dose of medicine to help their patients reestablish the health they enjoyed before falling ill; and those whose “cure” requires their patients to take medicine indefinitely because reestablishing a healthy, medicine-free condition is impossible. Proper use of medicine, Socrates maintains, is as a supplement taken to cure an ailment, after which patients regain their health. By contrast, as a substitute, medicine no longer cures because patients depend on a regular, and perhaps increasing, dose to stay alive. Here the medicine is a substitute, a stand-in, for their health. […] The patient living on substitutes is always living on borrowed time.

Joshua Mitchell is a senior fellow at Common Sense Society.

Read the full article in City Journal.

Stay Informed

Join our mailing list and be the first to receive exclusive news.

Thank you for signing up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.