["Purified empiricism": Johann Christian Reil's (1759-1813) attempts at a foundation of medicine in relation to its tradition, kantianism, and speculative philosophy].Medizinhist J. 2013; 48(2):186-216.MJ
Johann Christian Reil's (1759-1813) importance lies in his theoretical approach to medicine. Following Kant in his early work, he attempts to combine medical experience with an underlying conceptual structure. This attempt is directed against both the chaotic empiricism of traditional medicine and speculative theories such as vitalism. The paper starts from his early reflections on the concept of a life force, which he interprets in the way of a non-reductive materialism. In the following, the basic outlines of his Theory of Fever will be shown. The Theory is a systematic attempt at finding a new foundation for diagnosis and therapy on the basis of the concept of fever, which is understood as modification of vital processes. The paper ends with a discussion of his later work, which has remained controversial so far. It shows that the combination of practical empiricism and scientific theory remained rather unstable in this early phase of the development of modern medicine.