Kraepelin and "Neo-Kraepelinianism": On the reception of Kraepelinian principles in present psychiatric resarch


Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany
Tel. 241-8089640, Fax. 241-8888401


Kraepelin's nosology aimed at detecting mental illnesses, as they are "created" by nature, i.e. "natural disease entities". This concept is closely linked with philosophical assumptions, e.g. naturalism, which, however, he seldom discusses explicitly. Kraepelin's highly optimistic view of the future possibilities of his naturalistical, experimental and quantitative research program made him widen psychiatric concepts into quite different areas, for example jurisdiction and social politics.

There are striking parallels between the basic questions of Kraepelin's approach on the one hand and the actual biologically oriented psychiatric research strategies on the other hand. Authors who explicitly try to implement Kraepelinian principles into modern research call themselves "Neo-Kraepelinians". There ideas resulted in an influential and heterogenous set of concepts, trying to create a fundamentum for biological research in clinical psychiatry. But it is necessary for "neo-Kraepelinian" authors to fully and critically discuss Kraepelin's position, because shortened and simplified approaches will put them at risk to repeat Kraepelin's theoretical prejudices.

The examples of Kraepelin and his present-day "followers" clearly demonstrate the theoretical and practical significance of the conceptual history of psychiatric ideas. Without this background scientific prejudices that are of negative impact for psychiatric therapy will arise.


Panel 1A   (Body-Mind)
Tuesday, 14 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999