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Good Living: A Philosophy of Health

Good Living: A Philosophy of Health

Автором A. T. Todd

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Good Living: A Philosophy of Health

Автором A. T. Todd

337 pages
5 hours
Oct 22, 2013


Good Living: A Philosophy of Health presents a critical review of the meaning of life and living. It discusses the anatomy and dynamics of digestion. It addresses the different parts that make up the ingestion of food.
Some of the topics covered in the book are the components of digestion; energy, appetite, cooking, make-up of meals, and kinds of food; care of the circulatory system; type of breathing exercise; duration of exercise; type of aerobic exercises; health hazards of smoking; care of the nose; and house cleansing and health. The proper way of cooking food is covered. The relationship between sex and health and proper care of the mind is also discussed.
The book can provide useful information to the general reader.
Oct 22, 2013

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Good Living - A. T. Todd



THIS book is written for every man or woman who really desires health. I have described how un-health is to be avoided as plainly as I can, within certain limits; I have not used the most simple language and I have had to use certain concepts which are a little difficult to understand, and this, because there is no other way. Those who will not take the pains to understand what is written, would not have the sense to do what is shown to be necessary by abundant proofs—so this book is not for them.

Perhaps the reader will soon begin to say: Why, this seems to be true; but what a wonderful fellow the author must be if he practises what he preaches. Well, the author is not at all a wonderful fellow—if he had known what has taken a lifetime to discover at his beginning, and if he had been given a thoroughly sound self to start with, he might have become wonderful. But he has had enough from it to be able to say that the practice is very well worth while.


February 26, 1953.



Publisher Summary

This chapter examines what life can mean and what it means to be living. Life if considered to be energy requires the constant renewal of expended energy. The consumption of food is a primary way of revitalizing this energy reserve and therefore, eating is an important aspect of existence and good food consumption (as opposed to indiscriminate or wasteful eating) is a nodal part of any interrogation of living. Good living may mean either of two things: living a good life according to the ethics of one’s race, for ethics vary from race to race, or living happily or healthily. The whole world, excluding the living things upon it, is static energy that can be converted into kinetic activity again if sufficient energy is applied to it. The body, at present, is the product of the five senses—all are driven for personal gain; All education and all training is for this, and the selfishness resulting is the foundation for almost all the evil that is so preponderating at present. Not only the evils but also the so-called virtues have their basis for the self.


GOOD living may mean either of two things: living a good life according to the ethics of one’s race, for ethics vary from race to race; or living happily or healthily. It is the latter which will be treated here.

The term ‘living well’ will not be considered at all, for that means having as much of the better liked foods and drinks as possible. Living healthily or happily means to live a life which fully satisfies each self—it is this which is to be treated here, and though it seems to be so obvious a thesis and a rationale to be desired by all, I am convinced that it has not been treated before in a manner in any way similar to what is proffered here. The self means that combination which we call ‘body and soul’, or ‘body and mind’ Spinoza considered the two to be simply different aspects of the same thing; the body concept being the extended or space-occupying aspect and the mind the non-space-occupying aspect; and as his philosophy is most in agreement with that of this treatise, we shall have to consider his beliefs in some detail as we pass along our way.

But if we are to live well we ought to have proper concepts of what we mean by the words ‘living’ and ‘well’, or rather as proper concepts as we can have, for in reality we do not know what life means at all, a statement which will certainly startle many readers. For life is one of the elemental things, and again that will not do, for the elemental ‘things’ are not things at all, but rather activities; for example energy and electricity are elementals, so is that which we call matter or substance. I can hear Mrs. Jones exclaim, even before this is written—But I know all about electricity, it is what makes the light come on, heats my iron, and works the telephone. Then I say: But these are not what electricity is, Mrs. Jones, these are some of the things it can do; now try to tell me what electricity is? This of course she can no more do than the very distinguished physicist Professor Soddy, who, when he was asked if he would answer questions, said he would do so, except the question—What is electricity? Mr. Jones then chimes in— I know what energy is, it’s the force which drives my car, it’s a 12-h.p. thingummebob. But I ask, And what is this force which drives your car? I am answered: It is the power which the petrol gives. Then I ask, What is this power? After a little thought, we come back to energy again, and no matter how we consider it, we can get no further; we do not know what energy is, we only know some of the things it does, for it is a form of activity and not a thing.

The nature of matter, or substance, has long been a puzzle to philosophy. The old Greeks were content to leave it as stuff, wood (υ`λη) or as what is (τα´ óντα). Later Locke said that we could not say what it is except that it is that which carries certain properties, such as weight, hardness, colour, etc.; he showed that if these were taken away, we should not recognize what might be left. Kant also gave up the problem of trying to determine what matter might be, he said it was that thing which is what it is (der Ding an sich), something which we could never know. Schopenhauer, who pretended to extend and clarify Kant, reverted almost to the Greeks and used one of their names for it—idea (ι`δ∈´α), the thing which is seen.

We can go a little way beyond that now, but then again come to a full and complete stop, which looks to be a permanent one—matter or substance is simply energy and nothing more. The atom is a core of energy which has attracted around it few or many satellites of electrons and many others of the tribe, which also are cores of energy of a different kind. We do not know what energy is, but it is very clear that it falls into two forms—the static and the kinetic, but these two can be transformed from one to the other. Coal and wood are static energy until another energy, say heat, acts upon them and transforms the static into the kinetic energy which will drive the machine, etc. The moon is static energy now, although once it had both kinds; but if a large enough comet hits it, some kinetic energy will appear again. A recent good example of conversion of static into kinetic energy is the atom bomb.

Of the energies which especially affect us as living units, i.e., units driven by the kinetic energy we call ‘life’, food is the most important; it is static energy, and any form of static energy which has agreeable smells and tastes, and for which we contain ferments to convert the static into the kinetic, we call food. We thus degrade foods and utilize the kinetic energy thus released by digestion; this energy is promptly changed into another form of energy, life. But if we put this static energy, food, into ourselves and the body, having no need and therefore no ferments ready for it, then the energy is released by the microbes of putrefaction in the colon, always present, but abounding in the colons of those who constantly give them plenty of work to do. Thus the energy is freed anyhow—but what can it do? It can do nothing good, but yet it must do something, therefore there is only one thing left for it to do, it must do harm, and, being converted into another form of energy, it makes disease or gradual death. The evidence of this disease and death is the smell which comes when the ‘normal’ colon overflows its foulness.

Thus kinetic energy is that unknowable which does things—heat, electricity, light, radiation. Food is that static form of energy which digestion can get and transform into warmth, work, love, thought, and life; but without digestion is converted into disease, hate, death. The whole world, excepting the living things upon it, is static energy, which can be converted into kinetic activity again if sufficient energy is applied to it, for example, as heat from the collision with a large meteor or comet, or by the sun turning into a red giant from loss of its energy by radiation, then its gravitational pull will engulf the world and give the sun a small new lease of life. This has been ‘proved’ by the astronomers quite conclusively by juggling with man-made numbers and by treating time and space as things, not relationships; thus with entities which have existence only for man, they prove what nature will do, to their own great satisfaction.

Mr. Jones comes in again. "I think I can do better as regards substance than I did with energy, I did chemistry at school; we know what wood is, it is mainly a substance or matter called cellulose; that is a complex combination chiefly of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. I ask him What is carbon? He tells me that it is an element with the number 12. Then I ask him to tell me what an element is; this is a certain arrangement of electrons, protons, etc., he says, new constituents are being discovered almost every month. I ask what an electron is and after some delay I am told it is an electromagnetic sort of vortex in the ether. But I had an idea that the concept ether was no longer considered as a scientific reality, but was merely an hypothesis which permits the readier understanding of certain phenomena. But I let that pass, and ask What is an electromagnetic vortex? Here Mr. Jones is obviously much embarrassed, for he has immediately had to conclude that we are back again at the concept of energy. But Mrs. Jones says that this is modern hair-splitting; that she knows what a stone is, and like Dr. Samuel Johnson when in a similar predicament, goes and kicks one, saying— This is what a stone is; it’s hard and heavy and grey in colour; a stone is a stone". Again I tell her that these things are what a stone or matter does. But she cannot get so far and takes Mr. Jones away to see her favourite film actress in the latest film.

There is good reason why we do not know what these elementals ‘are’—we have not the senses (I do not mean the sense) to tell us that; we have only the senses which let us know what they can do.

So back we come to the concept of life; we know some of the things it can or cannot do, and it is no use trying to go further than that. The first question may well be— How did life come to be upon the earth, for it was far too hot at first? And to that we have to admit that we know no more than we know how magnetism came. One popular theory is that life came here on a meteorite, a sort of passenger from another world in which life already existed. This is a very foolish idea; the meteorites we see coming to this world are the shooting stars; they become so hot with the friction of the atmosphere that mostly they burn themselves out before they reach the soil, and fortunately too; for it is said that the craters on the moon are due to large meteorites hitting it, not being stopped or mitigated by atmosphere, for the moon has none. Anyhow any living creature on a meteorite which had survived the temperature of absolute zero which is present in space, would be quickly incinerated in our atmosphere. The various religious systems of the world have various theories as to the coming of life; there is little to choose between them.

Life probably originated when the earth was cool enough by a fortunate combination of chemical and physical processes, especially solar radiation, and since there was then no food upon the earth, or in the water as the more likely of the two, the first being would have to be able to make food, that is to utilize the light of the sun to synthetize from water, carbon dioxide, and oxygen a simple sugar; thus the first life must have been a simple, probably green, vegetable. This unicellular organism became more and more able to produce food and learned to specialize—that is, certain parts become differentiated to perform one operation, another another, and so on. At a certain stage a very much more ‘clever’ one appeared; he seemed to say to himself— That fellow over there is working quite hard; I will wait till he has got a good helping and then I will jump on him and take what he has made. This was the first animal, and ever since they have been parasites directly or indirectly upon the plants. The story of Cain and Abel symbolizes this.

But these are stories hardly worth the telling, and though much could be said, it has already mostly been said.

We do not know what life is, but a partial definition can be given—in man, life is largely the ability to obtain and utilize energy from things called foodstuffs; that is the energy which is life is maintained by increments of energy obtained from foods, and these all come from the vegetable kingdom directly or via other animals Thus we can get the energy which is needed for us to go on living if we can digest our foods; if we digest well in every way, we live well; if we fail to digest through becoming worn out, we die. Therefore, we need to study digestion with extreme care if we are to know how to live well, and this is not an easy study or one that should be rushed or scamped; also it will require that the reader shall take pains, even if he has had a medical education.

This knowledge of digestion is thus seen to be absolutely critical, yet nobody really thinks or bothers at all about it; none of the books except one or two of my own give anything of real value about it—this may appear rather boastful, but the reader who goes through this book will find that it is not boasting. Digestion is popularly considered to be automatic—you eat, and there you are; and for this reason bad living from bad digestion is universal and is considered the normal state of man; as a result the philosophers of all time have debated and still do, whether life is worth living. Since the philosophers are considered to be the people to guide us through life, let us make a short review of a small selection.

Socrates, or Plato, for we do not know how much Plato put into the dialogues attributed to Socrates as he left no writings, said that if death was, as it might well be, a dreamless sleep it was by much to be preferred to life. On consideration it is not too bright an opinion from the man called the wisest of all by the Delphic oracle; for the appreciation of the pleasure of a good night’s sleep only comes when we have wakened; if we do not wake we can feel no pleasure.

Kant, who completed what Epicurus started, the philosophy of the five senses, says: One must indeed make an ill reckoning of the worth of a journey (i.e., through life) if we can still wish that it would last longer than it actually does, for that would be a prolongation of a perpetual contest with sheer hardship (Works, vii, 381). Kant can be taken as final except as regards morals and ethics, for it was not until later that Darwin came and showed how the instincts were active in man, just as in the ‘animals’, and that morals and ethics depend upon the instinct of gregarity, and this Kant did not know. In his time these sciences were considered to have their basis in revealed religion; Kant could not consent to that and abolished the divinity, but put in his place the ‘categorical imperative’, which meant just about the same thing, but being new and polysyllabic it was accepted deferentially.

Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism, asseverates that life is not at all worth living, but that it may not be ended for all that, though he does not make himself clear on the latter point; in fact, if we except his treatment of art and asthetics, his philosophy contains little else beyond calling conation will. But it is very obvious as one reads his works that Schopenhauer was not at all a healthy man, for he demonstrates this abundantly. If he had gone to the current health specialist, the consultant physician, he would have been told: There is nothing organically wrong with you; you smoke too much and do not take enough exercise; you are too introspective. Now if Schopenhauer had really had his wits about him, he would have replied: Then my trouble is functional? And Precisely would have been the answer. On this Schopenhauer, who really was a philosopher, would almost certainly have annoyed his consultant by remarking—How can any disease be organic unless the function of organ or organs be wrong? The answer to this is: Quite true, but you know what I mean. I do not know if this phrase was rife in Schopenhauer’s time, but it means— I am not able to put into words the very vague idea that is in my mind, and, if I did, you would not be able to understand what I said; but we will leave it at this—I think that I know something somewhat pertinent, and you will be agreeable enough to accept that suspicion. Of course Schopenhauer, with others who are given such stupid dicta about their health, should ask: But what I want to know is—Why do I smoke too much? Why do I not want and like to take exercise? Why do I drink too much? Why am I impelled to take drugs which ruin my health and morals? Why am I introspective? But there is never an answer given to these questions, except that we are told that we are not adapted to our environment on account of very stupid and improbable happenings; or, of late, that they are due to ‘stress’ which stalks about the world choosing out certain subjects for attack, leaving other identicals alone. In fact the answer given to these questions really is: You do them just because you do them; but this wording is not used.

A simple example from Schopenhauer is his statement on many occasions that we never know that we have health, or rather have had it, until we fall sick. He, like many others, realized health only after recovering from some illness. Health and happiness are almost synonyms, and when healthy one knows it and revels in it. But there are not many who do attain this health, and that may surprise very many—but let any man strive and attain health, then he will realize the difference. Schopenhauer was a chronically sick man; at present he would be diagnosed an introverted neurotic—and this is no diagnosis at all, for it does not tell him what he is, but what he does, and it does not tell him the all-important reason why he does them. He judged all things by his common senses, and these were perverted by his ill-living, especially what I call here food poisoning, the almost universal disease. Now currently food poisoning is applied to the results of eating certain tainted foods; my concept will be explained later on, in its proper place. If his body had not been so poisoned he might have been able to use the other senses we have as vestiges at the very least, and often much more than vestiges, and then his philosophy would have been very different.

The various senses will need to be detailed at much more length later on.

Von Hartman (Philosophy of the Unconscious, 1931, Kegan Paul, London) who first stressed the enormous importance of that thinking which the body does, but which does not rise to consciousness, also concludes that life is not worth living, as he shows how displeasures, or pains, always preponderate over pleasures, and proves to his own satisfaction that this must always be so. But he does show that this unconscious, which Schopenhauer regarded as will, does work to an end, and that by our going on living and living as properly as we can, in the far distant future the balance may turn the other way and life might become worth living.

This concept of thinking, about which, though we do it, we know nothing, may puzzle some, probably many, readers; Jones says: I know what I think, how could I do it otherwise? Perhaps Jones will tell me why he fell in love with his wife, rather than with some other woman? But he will find that he cannot, but will want to tell me how he fell in love with her instead. An example of unconscious thought is seen in the instincts: a thrush, less than one year old, and perhaps having been prevented from associating with any other thrushes, will, when she has mated, start to build a nest just like any other thrush, though she has not the least idea why she does so or for what purpose. Similarly a hen canary, the product of hundreds of generations bred in captivity, liberated on Skokholm (Lockley, R. M., The Cinnamon Bird), in due time mated and built a nest in a bush; when the author approached the nest, the bird tried to lure him away by means of the broken wing act; this memory must have passed without use through all these generations. In ourselves examples of unconscious thought are abundant; this is well called ‘intuitous thinking’, and it is more frequent in women, who, even more than men, are bound by instinct—fortunately for the race. Thus we can wake up at an unusual time when we have to do so; again when we try to think of some name or event, the memory eludes us the more we try, but suddenly when the conscious mind is engaged on something quite different, or after a night’s sleep, out pops what was wanted. It is very fortunate that we do not have to know what the subconscious mind is thinking, it would be simply terrible if we had to be aware of what our hearts, colons, and livers had to be doing—but we shall need to consider this more fully later, when we discuss the care of the mind.

But as was the case with Schopenhauer, when we read Von Hartman carefully, it is obvious that he had not health; he considers living to be relatively happy provided we are young, free, fortunate, and moderately wealthy, and we must have them all—the explanation is chiefly present in the first proviso; health has not been destroyed by a sufficient number of years of stupid living, and thus he agrees with Schopenhauer, but is not quite so gloomy.

More recently McDougall sent out a questionnaire to university students asking whether they considered that life was worth living; and though these were mostly young people, the summary was to the effect that life was barely worth living.

Let us leave the philosophers and ask the theologians the same question, making a very rapid survey. We find the earliest accounts in the Egyptians, whose whole lives were spent in preparations for death. The Buddhists long for a sufficient number of pious deaths to qualify for complete obliteration in Nirvana. The non-philosophic Greeks did consider life was better than death, and Achilles tells the living Odysseus that it was better to be a living badly treated slave than a dead hero (Odyssey, xi, 488). The Christian believes that life is only a preparation for a better condition afterwards; For we know that all creatures from the beginning until now groan and labour (Rom., viii, 22). The wave of Methodism swelled greatly on the miseries of the hungry ’forties and the misery which followed the inflation of the Napoleonic wars—the argument was, the worse you are here, the higher your qualifications in the next world; this did give them some happiness, but does not give a picture of life being worth living. There is no need to occupy more space on this question, the so-called learned in living are agreed that life is not worth while.

The poets give mixed opinions dependent upon their subjects, ages, and conditions. Browning lets Pippa be happy, for she was young: Morning’s at seven, God’s in his heaven, All’s right with the world.

Man is the youngest of the animals; he differs chiefly because he believes that he directs his life by conscious thought, and this he believes takes place in his brain, which is quite a separate piece of the body—detached and critical, somewhat like a professor in his study, not hearing the howlings of the baby, or smelling the smells of cooking cabbage, or having to make the housekeeping money go round. The brain is not at all like this; it is not detached from the body and has to partake in all these things, not by knowing them, but by being bothered by them; Voltaire, one of the world’s wisest, says: It is a pleasant thing that thought is absolutely of the stomach. [In this statement he uses the word éstomac, and not ventre—letter to M. d’Alembert, Œuvres Complêtes, 1818, Vol. 41.] And I think that this surprising dictum is one of the most wise sayings of any philosopher. But Mr. Jones says: How silly, I think with my mind, not with my stomach. But when I ask Mr. Jones what his mind is, he tells me that it is what he thinks with, and, for the last time, I have to tell Mr. Jones that he tells me not what his mind is, but what he thinks that it does. Good-bye, Mr. Jones; you may be able to think in

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