Confessions of a compulsive footnote reader

I read footnotes.

There, it’s out in the open.  My personal obsession.  I check footnotes.  Wherever possible, I check references.  The fact that “someone said” is not enough for me.

Perhaps I was influenced by my father’s experiences, living through communist rule in Hungary.  He often told me that the way he stayed (mostly) out of trouble was by prefacing everything he was going to say with “Lenin says”… or “Stalin says…”  Amazing how much these two despots had to say about the weather, the quality of Hungarian patisserie, and what goods were available on the black market that day…

In these days of viral Internet “quote-fiction”, if we are reading material to improve our professional abilities, it’s essential to check “did he really say that?”  This is especially true for homoeopaths and homoeopathy.  If you quote Hahnemann – give the source.  If you can’t give the source – you got the quote from someone else who perhaps got it from someone else, who…

This is important for several reasons:

First of all, the inquiring student may (and should) want to go to the source and see the context.  Two lines taken out of context do not an authoritative opinion make.

Secondly – as a matter of principle, we should not accept opinions or instructions which we cannot verify from primary sources.  Received wisdom has its place and purpose – but in order to be able to place the correct value on it we need to know where, why and by whom.

Did Einstein, Aristotle, Ghandhi, and a whole host of other venerables – not to mention Mick Jagger – actually say everything that has been attributed to them?  Really?

As homoeopaths we should demand footnotes!  Every such utterance has the potential to affect how we work, and by extension the health of our patients.  So did Hahnemann really say something in the Organon?  Ask for chapter and verse.  It’s easy enough to check.

As Aristotle said, you can’t believe everything you read on facebook…


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