Article ID: CBB819586652

Kraepelin’s psychiatry in the pragmatic age (2022)


The movement of a pendulum is often used as a metaphor to represent the history of twentieth century American psychiatry. On this view, American psychiatry evolved by swinging back and forth between two schools of thought in constant competition: somatic accounts of mental illness and psychodynamic ones. I argue that this narrative partly misrepresents the actual development of American psychiatry. I suggest that there were some important exchanges of ideas and practices in the transition from German biological approaches to American psychodynamic approaches. In particular, two kinds of pragmatism played an important role in this transition: Kraepelin’s methodological pragmatism, and pragmatic values present in the American psychiatric context, due in part to the influence of William James. From a historical standpoint, I suggest that the metaphor of the pendulum doesn’t capture the full complexities of this shift in psychiatry at the turn of the century; from a philosophical standpoint, my discussion brings to light two strands of pragmatism salient to scientific psychiatry.

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Authors & Contributors
Richardson, Alan W.
Horowitz, Brian
Hookway, Christopher
Gitre, Edward J. K.
Cottebrune, Anne
Bourke, Joanna
History of the Human Sciences
Philosophy of Science
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Oxford University Press
University of California, Santa Cruz
Columbia University Press
Pragmatism; instrumentalism
Mental disorders and diseases
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
James, William
Kraepelin, Emil
Peirce, Charles Sanders
Dewey, John
Rorty, Richard
Rüdin, Ernst
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
18th century
United States
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

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