Andreas Rydberg: The Rational Physician in the Early German Enlightenment

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausing Room)
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Hanna Hodacs
  • Seminarium

Higher Seminar in the History of Science and Ideas

Research presentation by Andreas Rydberg, Uppsala University. 


This article uses medical textbooks and advice literature to analyse the persona of the rational physician in the early German Enlightenment. The article pursues three lines of argument. First, it uses medical textbooks to situate the rational physician in the context of early modern observational life, focusing in particular on how epistemic virtues, techniques and technologies for how to conduct, document, analyze and refine observations into truths and facts were adopted from a broad and miscellaneous philosophical and medical tradition. Second, the article introduces the analytical concept of epistemic advantage to show how the advice literature–ranging from ideal accounts of the Political physician to satirical portrayals of the Machiavellian physician–provided guidance in how the physician could mobilize and use his knowledge in concrete situations to shape and control peoples’ conceptions of disease as well as of the physician as a medical authority. Third, the article introduces a second analytical concept–epistemic contestation–to capture situations of distrust and dispute, where the physician’s authority was challenged both by patients who every now and then used the physician’s own concepts and explanations against him, and by other medical practitioner who were sometimes important allies but sometimes also fierce competitors.  

Keywords: early modern medicine, medical enlightenment, rational physician, Political physician, Machiavellian physician, Friedrich Hoffmann, Georg Ernst Stahl 

Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

Higher Seminar in the History of Science and Ideas