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IX. If the matter were simple, as in these instances, and both sick and well were hurt by too strong foods, benefited and nourished by weaker foods, there would be no difficulty. For recourse to weaker food must have secured a great degree of safety. But as it is, if a man takes insufficient food, the mistake is as great as that of excess, and harms the man just as much. For abstinence has upon the human constitution a most powerful effect, to enervate, to weaken and to kill. Depletion produces many other evils, different from those of repletion, but just as severe. Wherefore the greater complexity of these ills requires a more exact method of treatment. For it is necessary to aim at some measure. But no measure, neither number nor weight, by reference to which knowledge can be made exact, can be found except bodily feeling. Wherefore it is laborious to make knowledge so exact that only small mistakes are made here and there. And that physician who makes only small mistakes would win my hearty praise. Perfectly exact truth is but rarely to be seen. For most physicians seem to me to be in the same

[p. 29] case as bad pilots ; the mistakes of the latter are unnoticed so long as they are steering in a calm, but, when a great storm overtakes them with a violent gale, all men realise clearly then that it is their ignorance and blundering which have lost the ship. So also when bad physicians, who comprise the great majority, treat men who are suffering from no serious complaint, so that the greatest blunders would not affect them seriously--such illnesses occur very often, being far more common than serious disease--they are not shown up in their true colours to laymen if their errors are confined to such cases ; but when they meet with a severe, violent and dangerous illness, then it is that their errors and want of skill are manifest to all. The punishment of the impostor, whether sailor or doctor, is not postponed, but follows speedily.

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