When Supplements Become Substitutes
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.