The Reith Lectures on Radio 4 are one of the last vestiges of a pre-dumbed down society. This years lectures by Professor Michael Sandel on a ‘New Citizenship’ started wondrously last Tuesday with Sandel making the important point that we inadvertently allowed a market economy to turn us into a market society. You read a transcript of the lecture here.

Sandel is  brilliant, compassionate and funny but it was a reference to medicine that really caught my ear. Said the good professor of philosophy from Harvard:

” If you’ve ever seen the television commercials in America on the evening news, you could be forgiven for thinking that the   greatest health crisis in the world is not malaria or river blindness or sleeping sickness, but a rampant epidemic of erectile  dysfunction.”

Now here I must remind that the good professor of philosophy that erectile dysfunction (ED) is a life threatening problem that should not be treated lightly. In fact it threatens not only the future well being of man but man’s very existence on the planet. A pandemic of ED might seem like good news for sperm banks but we would be mistaken in putting any kind of trust in any type of bank in future.

In today’s lecture, Sandel, referred to Aristotle in looking at the way we value things. I think this is important in regarding the provision of homeopathy on the NHS.

“So this idea that there are certain proper ends or purposes to social practices, this idea suggests that to determine the right way of valuing things, we have to figure out the purpose, the end of the social practice in question. And this idea is an idea that goes all the way back to Aristotle. Let me give you a very brief summary of Aristotle’s theory of justice. Justice means giving people what they deserve.”

So do the substantial minority of people who want homeopathy, deserve to get it on the NHS? Obviously they do. But not according to commentators like medical professors Michael Baum, Edzard Ernst and David Coquhoun. These doctors in my opinion, are less interested in what the people deserve than in forcing you to accept that they know a lot better than you what is good for you. But as you might expect there is a difference in the way a professor of medicine views the world from how a professor of philosophy might do.

Two more Reith lectures to go on Tues: 23 and 30th June.  Highly recommended.