Kant and medicineAbstract
Immanuel Kant never considered the problems of medicine as a science in his works, however, his critical philosophy became highly influential in the late 18th century as to the issues of medical theory. The German physician and philosopher Johann Benjamin Erhard was first to address the theoretical status of contemporary medicine based on Kant’s critical foundations of science and arguments for the possibility of a philosophy of nature for the purpose of justifying medicine as a science. After analyzing Kant’s early work “Essay on the Illness of the Head” (Versuch über die Krankheiten des Kopfes, 1764), his remarks on hypochondria in The Conflict of the Faculties, and the discussion of the moral problems of smallpox vaccination available in the archive of the philosopher’s manuscripts, the article focuses on Erhard’s writings. As Erhard emphasizes, medical theory lacks a foundation necessary for a contemporary science. It has neither a clear concept of its object — a human being and their diseases, nor a rationally justified method, nor reliable treatment techniques. With the help of Kant’s theory of teleology in nature and based on the system of medi¬cine developed by the Scottish physician John Brown, Erhard attempted to formulate such foundations of a theory of medicine that might serve the purposes of medical practice. The last section of the paper develops Kant’s argument on the moral status of an embryo, which is relevant to the modern medical and ethical debates.