Value of Symptom

Kent grouped symptoms as Generals, Particulars and Common Symptoms. Each group was further divided in three grades 3,2,1, depending upon how strong that symptom was in proving and how often it has been confirmed in reprovings and in clinic….

Nature of Symptoms

@ General

@ Common

@ Particular


@ @ First Grade

@ @ Second Grade

@ @ Third Grade


$153 is the one that teaches more particularly how the process of individualization or discrimination shall be carried out. It treats of characteristics, it treats or grades. The homoeopathic physician may think he his case written out very well, but he does not know whether he has or not until he has mastered the idea of this paragraph. He may have page after page of symptoms, and not know what the remedy is, and if he takes the record to a master the master will say: “You have no case!” “Why, I have plenty of symptoms.” “But you have no case.

You have left your case out; you have left the image of the sickness out, because you have failed to get anything that characterizes it. You have plenty of symptoms, but have not anything characteristic. You have not taken your case properly.” Now, after you have mastered this paragraph you will know whether you have taken your case properly, you will know whether you have something to present to a master, a likeness of something. The lack of this knowledge is the cause of non-success with the majority homoeopathic physicians. There are a great many homoeopathic physicians that prescribe and tinker a long time with their cases, and will ask you what a characteristic is, and if it is some one peculiar thing that guides to a remedy. The idea of a keynote comes to the mind of many.

I do not mean that all or any part of what you have written is useless, but it is necessary to have individualizing characteristics to enable you to classify that which you have, to perceive the value of symptoms, and, if you must settle down to a few remedies, to ascertain which of these is more important than another, or most important of all. You cannot individualize unless you have that which characterizes. The things that characterize are things to make you hesitate, to make you meditate.

Suppose that you have been acquainted with a large number of cases of measles, for instance, but along come one of which you say to yourself, “That is strange; I never saw such a thing as that before in a case of whooping cough. It is peculiar.” You hesitate, you meditate, and at once recognize it as something individual, because it is strange and rare and peculiar. You say, I do not know what remedy has that symptom. Then you commence to search your repertory, or consult those of more experience, and you find in the repertory, or upon consultation, that such a medicine has that thing as a strong feature, as a high grade symptom, and it is as peculiar in the remedy as in your patient, though you have never seen it before.

You may have seen a hundred cases of measles without seeing that very thing. That peculiar thing that you see in measles relates to the patient and not to the disease, and as the sole duty of the physician is to heal the sick that peculiar thing will open the whole case to the remedy. When you find that the remedy has that symptom, along with the other symptoms, you must attach some importance to it, and when there are two or three of these peculiar symptoms they form the characteristic features.

What would you think would constitute a common symptom? We shall at once see that the common symptoms are those that appear in all cases of measles, that you would expect to find in measles. It would be strange to have measles without any rash; that would be peculiar. We know that the absence of rash is a striking state of affairs and means trouble, and is peculiar. Either it is not measles, or the absence of the rash is a serious state. Suppose it is a fever.

The patient has intense heat, an ordinary fever coming in the afternoon and running through the night, with hot hands and feet, high temperature, dry tongue, etc. What would you say concerning the presence or absence of thirst? You would say it is common if he has thirst, because almost anybody who has fever would want water. Nothing is so natural to put fire out with as water, and the absence of thirst in a fever is strange, is rare and uncommon, peculiar and striking. You would ask yourself at once, is it not strange that he does not have thirst with such a high temperature? You at once strike to the remedies that are thirstless. You would not think of hunting up a remedy that has thirst.

So the absence of the striking features of disease constitutes a peculiarity that relates to the patient. Well, then, that which is pathognomonic is common, because it is common in that disease, but an absence of the pathognomonic characterizes that peculiar disease in that patient, and therefore means the patient, and in proportion as you have that class of symptoms just in that proportion you have things that characterize the patient, and the specific remedy for the patient will be the simillimum. It is necessary to know sicknesses, not from pathology, not from physical diagnosis, no matter how important these branches are, but by symptoms, the language of nature.

A true homoeopathic prescription cannot be made on pathology, on morbid anatomy; because provings have never been pushed in that direction. Pathology gives us the results of disease, and not the language of nature appealing to the intelligent physician. Symptomatology is the true subject to know. No man, who is only conversant with morbid anatomy and pathognomonic symptoms, can make homoeopathic prescriptions. In addition to diagnostic ability he must have a peculiar knowledge; that is, he must be acquainted with the manner of expression of each and every disease.

He must know just how each disease expressed itself in language and appearance and sensations. He must know just how every remedy affects mankind in the memory and understanding and will, because there are no other things that the remedy can act upon as to the mind, and he must know how the remedy affects functions, because there are no other ways in which the remedy affects the body of man. Now, if he knows how disease express themselves in signs and symptoms, then he knows what constitutes an individual disease a little different from all others.

It is the peculiar way that the same disease affects different patients that makes the symptoms strange, peculiar and rare. That which is pathognomonic in the remedy is that which you will study out most, because it is that which is related to the patient. Such is the state of mind that the homoeopathic physicians must keep themselves in in order to begin this study, and when they have begun to think in this way they can then study the symptoms of the disease as to grade.

The symptoms of the remedies must be studied especially with respect to order on grade. To look upon them as all alike, because they appear to be all on the same level, is to be unable to make distinctions. One symptoms with some physicians is as good as another. It is a fact that symptoms, to a great extent, are upon a sliding scale. What is peculiar in one remedy is not in any degree peculiar in another. While it may be peculiar in a chronic case to have thirst, it is not so in a fever. That which is true in many respects in a chronic state may be the very opposite in an acute case. The chronic miasms are the very opposite in their character and order to the acute miasms, and this is a fact that the homoeopathic physician must know.

If you had a striking case of inflammation of the parotid gland, the patient says: “Do not press upon it, because it is very sore,” how would you classify that as common or strange? If you think but a moment, you will see that it would be a very strange thing for a highly inflamed gland not to be sore, and that soreness upon pressure is not something to be prescribed for, but something to be known, to be taken into the general view of the case, and the remedy indicated in the case would be suitable if it have inflammation and soreness of the gland; there is nothing striking in that: quite a group of remedies have produced hardness, soreness and tenderness of the gland; it may be one of those, or it may be one which has never produced these things, if it have the characterizing features of the patient.

In sicknesses the symptoms that cannot be explained are often very peculiar; the things that can be accounted for are not so often peculiar; peculiar things are less known to man. For instance, a patient can sit only with his feet up on the desk, or with his feet elevated; he is a great sufferer, and because of this suffering he is compelled to put his feet up. The symptoms hence will be put down, worse from letting the feet hang down. Well, what do you mean by that?

Why, if I let my feet hang down, I find I bring the nates down upon the the chair, and there is a sore place there.” Now that is quite a different thing. You may find if it is an old man that he has a large prostate gland, which is very painful at times and very sore, and when he lets the feet hang down the gland comes in contact with the chair. So we see that the real summing up of the case is that this enlarged and sore prostate gland is worse from pressure, and all you have learned from that symptom is that the gland is sensitive to touch, which is a common symptom.

James Tyler Kent
James Tyler Kent (1849–1916) was an American physician. Prior to his involvement with homeopathy, Kent had practiced conventional medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He discovered and "converted" to homeopathy as a result of his wife's recovery from a serious ailment using homeopathic methods.
In 1881, Kent accepted a position as professor of anatomy at the Homeopathic College of Missouri, an institution with which he remained affiliated until 1888. In 1890, Kent moved to Pennsylvania to take a position as Dean of Professors at the Post-Graduate Homeopathic Medical School of Philadelphia. In 1897 Kent published his magnum opus, Repertory of the Homœopathic Materia Medica. Kent moved to Chicago in 1903, where he taught at Hahnemann Medical College.