Friedrich Schiller, physician, poet and philosopher

Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany

The fact that Friedrich Schiller, the poet of freedom, studied medicine and practised as a physician is little known to the general public. Even less is known about the influence this education in his formative years had on Schiller's work, his poetry and his thinking. However, it is generally accepted that the knowledge-system in which a young, perceiving and inquisitive mind is brought up has a deep impact on character and further life philosophy. We maintain that this influence left an enduring imprint on Schiller, to be traced in his life.

 The thesis that brought him the graduation as field surgeon from the elitist Karlsschule at Stuttgart is entitled "Essay on the coherence of the animalist nature of man with his mental nature". The core of this thesis is the body and mind question, addressed in a surprisingly modern way. Contrasting to the prevailing Cartesian dualism he postulated the unity of human nature: "man is not soul and body, man is the most intimate composition of both substances". He developed psychosomatic concepts and treated a fellow student suffering from depression by an early form of psychotherapy. In his revolutionary drama "Die R?uber" (The Robbers) we can recover insights from his medical thesis, personalised in the hero Karl Moor and his villain brother Franz. Even after his late promotion to a professorship in history at the University of Jena and becoming a "poetus laureatus" he never gave up his interest in the natural sciences and his critical intellect seems to be imprinted by his early education.

Session IIa
Thursday, 22 June 2006, 3.00 - 3.30 pm

11th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Pavia, Italy, 2006