“One of the hardest things to see in medicine is the disease itself. We can best understand it as a cluster of effects to be referred to as a specific phusis that is endowed with a specific dunamis, that is, a capacity to act and to suffer in a predictable way…”

“…What a symptom refers to depends largely on the questions posed to it. That is, symptoms enable physicians to see a range of obscure things depending on whether they are interested in what is happening inside a given body at a given moment.; in the probable outcome of the disease, or in securing evidence for a general claim–diagnosis, prognosis and proof, respectively…”

“…I stress the symptom’s polyvalence in part as a reminder that fifth- and fourth-century medical writing exhibits considerable heterogeneity. At the same time, though, that polyvalence attests the complexity of what I take to be the common object of these writings — the physical body. That is, the different questions posed to the symptom reflect the different angles these writers take on that body. Emerging through a cluster of phenomena and ideas, the physical body is at once a hidden space of bones, sinews and joints, hollows and channels; a mixture of stuffs with different capacities to act and suffer; dense but labile flesh; and a principle of growth and flourishing. It is precisely because it is so complex that it fosters so many divergent narratives within its broader intellectual and cultural milieu, narratives that transform the conditions under which human nature can be imagined.” (Holmes, pg. 124-6)

In other words, how we encounter disease depends largely on the extent to which we question what we observe. When we lose consensus, when we have too myriad of observations — we lend too much toward opinion, and this is a realm of judgment, misunderstanding, prejudice and demonization — it is immunological; Conversely, when we are too linear or one-dimensional in perspective, too subjective, no cure or reliable intervention can be had because the only body that matters will be our own, and our individual symptom is a drama staged and witnessed only by ourselves. This develops resistance to “being observed” and we then become the only ones privy to the meaning of the disease. As a world full of divergent perspectives on ways of being, including what constitutes not simply a disease or a symptom — but a body — we are prone to not only an inability for consensus on what a living, healthy human being might look like; but we become fixated on what we never want it to look like. We’ve developed a global witness of the body whose parts fight among their own shadows, and not a single one of us can observe another in their light. As Plato said: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Said another way, none of us can agree upon what we’re looking at, in terms of life, and our fallback is to question whether the other is living at all. Our fallback is to mistake one another as a symptom, which by nature is innumerable and this inhibits consensus regarding what we know to be a living, breathing body. There is no prognosis for a body that’s already declared itself to be dead, which is one that can only see its symptom.