Midway through the first chapter Still reveals his underlying position, he is essentially a mechanist who encourages his students to become “master mechanics’ skilled at “adjusting the engines of life’. He compares his extended version of anatomy to an ‘engineer’s hand book’ and defines the job of the osteopath to “go no farther than to adjust the abnormal condition, in which you find the afflicted. Nature will do the rest.”
Criticism of a mechanistic approach abound; how can a system as adaptive, dynamic and incomprehensibly complex as the human being be understood as purely mechanical? Its possible but the underlying notions of certainty can not be sustained. Complex systems provide us with probable outcomes not certain outcomes and this is where modern clinical science and fundamental osteopath diverge. There is no absolute treatment or answer to any complaint – there are probable outcomes to probable diagnoses; and there are a multitude of confounding environmental, physiological and psychological factors that often skew outcomes. However endeavouring to comprehend the complex human system in a functional way is primary to any approach and Still is right to point that out.