Therapeutic Nihilism and Administrative Nihilism: A Non Unconditional Symmetry

Noesis 20:151-168 (2012)
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Abstract

The doctrines of therapeutic nihilism and administrative nihilism are both based on the belief that the norms of activity are intrinsically linked to the structure of the body. Just as there is a vis medicatrix naturae in the individual organism, which renders any intervention of the therapist vain, there would be a vis medicatrix rei publicae in the social body, which makes the intervention of the legislator in economic life pointless and even dangerous. However, such a symmetry is not quite as clear as it appears at first. It has also been upheld that the real parallel is not between therapeutic and administrative nihilism, but between therapeutic nihilism and statism. In this view, government is less comparable to a therapist than to the nervous system, and just as a well regulated organism is a one with an extensive nervous system, a well regulated society is one with a strong State.We intend to retrace the historical origin of these two schemas of correspondence, which has his roots in the celebrated controversy in the 1870’s between Herbert Spencer and Thomas Henry Huxley. We examine the causes of this apparent paradox, which sometimes views the doctrine of administrative nihilism, and sometimes the opposing doctrine of statism, as being the equivalent in politics of therapeutic nihilism in medicine. In our opinion, an important part of the explanation must be sought in the variations of the field of extension, which is implicitly given to the concept of vis medicatrix, or –as we now usually call this notion– that of Self-regulation.

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