I often wonder how to store my books on the bookshelves. Having been indecisive once, now I’m just not sure! How to arrange things is a bigger question than one may think. Put another way (and hence its relevance to homeopaths) we are really asking “how should we classify?”
I could, for example arrange books by theme – all materia medica books together. I could also arrange them by author or by publisher. The question I must first ask is “what’s the purpose of classification?” It’s often useful to answer a question by looking at its antonym: what would a lot of things look like if not classified..? I think we’d agree it would be hard to make sense of the chaotic jumble, we wouldn’t be able to see links, attribute meaning and we wouldn’t be able to predict. This last point is important to a science because being able to predict helped Mendeleev assemble the Periodic Table of Elements. Classification provides structure.
So we can see a usefulness in classifying but is there only one way or a right way to classify? Biologists differ in taxonomy between two schools: phenetics and cladistics. In homeopathy we can use the current scientific classification systems or, as Massimo Mangialavori does, classify according to his own “families” so Opium, Convolvulus and Cannabis, although different biological families, share themes (according to his scheme) with Bufo, an animal remedy. I maintain his classification is too subjective (looking for too many empirical connections from biology, anthropology, culture etc., as in this Simplified Food Web of the North Atlantic), and doesn’t have the predictive power of the Mendeleev system – but I’m open to correction.
Suppose education was reclassified according what children wanted to learn rather than according to what teachers were trained to teach? In Cleveland experiments are under way to reorganise hospitals according to diseases instead of the traditional doctor specialties. Classification is a two-way relationship: we categorise and the categories become our optics. Once classification is in place it shapes our perception.
In conclusion, for the homeopath, classifying remedies provides structure, helps us to understand a substance and its relationships better, so adding to the substance’s scientific knowledge. That’s why we should classify remedies.