Advertisement

Kraepelin and degeneration theory

  • Paul HoffEmail author
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Abstract

Emil Kraepelin’s contribution to the clinical and scientific field of psychiatry is recognized world-wide. In recent years, however, there have been a number of critical remarks on his acceptance of degeneration theory in particular and on his political opinion in general, which was said to have carried “overtones of proto-fascism” by Michael Shepherd [28]. The present paper discusses the theoretical cornerstones of Kraepelinian psychiatry with regard to their relevance for Kraepelin’s attitude towards degeneration theory. This theory had gained wide influence not only in scientific, but also in philosophical and political circles in the last decades of the nineteenth century. There is no doubt that Kraepelin, on the one hand, accepted and implemented degeneration theory into the debate on etiology and pathogenesis of mental disorders. On the other hand, it is not appropriate to draw a simple and direct line from early versions of degeneration theory to the crimes of psychiatrists and politicians during the rule of national socialism. What we need, is a differentiated view, since this will be the only scientific one. Much research needs to be done here in the future, and such research will surely have a significant impact not only on the historical field, but also on the continuous debate about psychiatry, neuroscience and neurophilosophy.

Key words

Kraepelin degeneration theory history of psychiatry naturalism evolutionary biology 

Notes

Disclosure

The author has no conflict of interest to declare.

References

  1. 1.
    Birnbaum K (1919) Der Aufbau der Psychose. Ein klinischer Versuch. Allgemeine Z Psychiatrie Psychisch-gerichtliche Med 75:455–502Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brüne M (2001) Evolutionary fallacies of Nazi psychiatry: implications for current research. Perspect Biol Med 44:426–433PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Chamberlin E, Gilman S (eds) (1985) Degeneration. The dark side of progress. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dowbiggin I (1985) Degeneration and hereditarianism in French mental medicine 1840–1890—psychiatric theory as ideological adaptation. In: Bynum WF, Porter R, Shepherd M (eds) Anatomy of madness, vol I: People and Ideas. Tavistock, London, pp 188–232Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Engstrom EJ (1991) Emil Kraepelin: psychiatry and public affairs in Wilhelmine Germany. Hist Psychiatry 2:111–132PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Engstrom EJ (1995) Kraepelin—social section. In: Berrios GE, Porter R (eds) A history of clinical psychiatry. The origin and history of psychiatric disorders. Athlone, London, pp 292–301Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gaupp R (1920) Der Fall Wagner. Eine Katamnese, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Lehre von der Paranoia. Z Gesamte Neurol Psychiatrie 60:312–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Griesinger W (1845) Die Pathologie und Therapie der psychischen Krankheiten. A. Krabbe, Stuttgart (2nd edn, 1861)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hermle L (1986) Die Degenerationslehre in der Psychiatrie. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatrie 54:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hoff P (1994) Emil Kraepelin und die Psychiatrie als klinische Wissenschaft. Ein Beitrag zum Selbstverständnis psychiatrischer Forschung. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hoff P (1995) Kraepelin—clinical section. In: Berrios GE, Porter R (eds) A history of clinical psychiatry. The origin and history of psychiatric disorders. Athlone, London, pp 261–279Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hoff P (1998) Emil Kraepelin and forensic psychiatry. Int J Law Psychiatry 21:343–353PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hoff P, Hippius H (2001) Wilhelm Griesinger (1817–1868) — sein Psychiatrieverständnis aus historischer und aktueller Perspektive. Nervenarzt 72:885–892PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kahlbaum K (1863) Die Gruppierung der psychischen Krankheiten und die Eintheilung der Seelenstörungen. Entwurf einer historisch-kritischen Darstellung der bisherigen Eintheilungen und Versuch zur Anbahnung einer empirisch-wissenschaftlichen Grundlage der Psychiatrie als klinischer Disciplin. Kafemann, DanzigGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kahlbaum K (1874) Die Katatonie oder das Spannungsirresein. Eine klinische Form psychischer Krankheit. Hirschwald, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kraepelin E (1918) Ziele und Wege der psychiatrischen Forschung. Z Gesamte Neurol Psychiatrie 42:169–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kraepelin E (1919) Die Erforschung psychischer Krankheitsformen. Z Gesamte Neurol Psychiatrie 51:224–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kraepelin E (1920) Die Erscheinungsformen des Irreseins. Z Gesamte Neurol Psychiatrie 62:1–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Liegeois A (1991) Hidden philosophy and theology in Morel’s theory of degeneration and nosology. Hist Psychiatry 2:419–427PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Magnan V (1891/1893) Psychiatrische Vorlesungen. Thieme, LeipzigGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Magnan V (1896) Les dégenerés. Masson, ParisGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Marx OM (1990) German romantic psychiatry, Part I. Hist Psychiatry 1:351–381PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Max OM (1991) German Romantic Psychiatry, Part II. Hist Psychiatry 2:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Morel BA (1857) Traite des degenerescences. Bailliere, ParisGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Morel BA (1864) De la formation du type dans les varietes degeneres. Bailliere/Masson, ParisGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Pick D (1989) Faces of degeneration: a European Disorder 1848–1918. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Shepherd M (1995a) Two faces of Emil Kraepelin. Br J Psychiatry 167:174–183Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Shepherd M (1995b) Kraepelin and modern psychiatry. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 245:289–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Verwey G (1985) Psychiatry in an anthropological and biomedical context—Philosophical presuppositions and implications of German psychiatry 1820–1870. D. Reidel, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Wundt W (1894) Über psychische Causalität und das Princip des psychophysischen Parallelismus. Philoso Stud 10:1–124Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Zubin J, Oppenheimer G, Neugebauer G (1985) Degeneration theory and the stigma of schizophrenia (Editorial). Biol Psychiatry 20:1145–1148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of General and Social PsychiatryUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations