Jung and Philosophy

Jung is, of course, the founder of Analytical Psychology and is best known in psychotherapeutic and counseling circles. He is probably next best known by students of comparative religion. But his thought has been applied to fields from physics to ecopsychology.

William R. Clough, M.A., D.Min, M.Div. is a friend of Jung, an ordained Presbyterian Minister currently serving as a Chaplain in the US Navy stationed at Headquarters, US Marine Corps, Washington, DC.

Jung is, of course, the founder of Analytical Psychology and is best known in psychotherapeutic and counseling circles. He is probably next best known by students of comparative religion. But his thought has been applied to fields from physics to ecopsychology. Many Jungian articles contain explicit references to philosophical assumptions (note, for example, the articles on the C.G. Jung Home Page referring to Jung's relationship to post-modern thought). His contributions prefigured, in embryonic form, a vast array of topics subsequently taken up in the twentieth century.

He was not only a seminal thinker in psychoanalysis, he could also be considered a sophisticated philosopher. Even though the phrase "Jungian philosophy" is used from time to time it has not been clearly defined. His contributions to philosophy have generally remained unconscious or, at the least, preconscious. To the extent that his philosophical side remains unconscious and less explicit it is often perceived as unformed, vague, eccentric, even alien and bizarre. In this article I want to explore some of Jung's philosophical background and principles. I hope this will shine some light onto contemporary philosophy and, since the meanings of words include more than just their definitions, improve our understanding of some of Jung's nomenclature.

The C.G. Jung Home Page was created "to serve as a center for taking Jungian thought and Jungian interests and expanding them into a genuine world arena [including] articles on subjects traditionally outside the scope of individual and group analytic psychology" so this would seem a good place to start beginning with two assumptions and two observations.

Assumption number one is that Jungian thought can provide an enriching point of view on some problems in contemporary philosophy. Assumption number two is, that for our purposes Psychological Types can serve as a good starting point to examine Jung's philosophy. Typology is clearly applicable to epistemology (how we know things) but it has relevance to ontology (what actually exists) as well as we shall see. In his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote, of Psychological Types, "This work sprang originally from my need to define the ways in which my outlook differed from Freud's and Adler's. In attempting to answer this question, I came across the problem of types; for it is one's psychological type which from the outset determines and limits a person's judgment. My book, therefore, was an effort to deal with the relationship of the individual to the world, to people and things." 1 (emphasis added). The study of "the relationship of the individual to the world, to people and things" is not a bad definition of philosophy, and if one's type determines and limits a person's judgment it clearly determines and limits one's philosophy too.

One observation is that philosophy is going through a bit of a dry spell at the moment. Philosophy flowered beautifully from the debonair French rationalism of Descartes, through the rugged British empiricism of Hume, to the majestic insight of Kant and the last great synthesizer, Hegel. But the beginning of this century was not kind to philosophy. Hegel especially suffered from appropriation by Hitler to justify a Germano-centric world-view and by Marx to create a materialistic analysis of history. Finally existentialistic whining, nihilistic depression, humanistic groundlessness, subjectivism, solipsism, and linguistic niggling became the norm and philosophy has been moribund ever since Hitler and Marx beat it up severely. For all practical purposes science has taken over ontology and cosmology; religion has taken over ethics, meaning and social relevance; and psychology has taken over epistemology.

The other observation is that Analytical Psychology is the most wide-ranging kind of psychology, unafraid to deal with anything. Jung was a pioneer and he took the role of pioneer very seriously. He said a great many things which were "cutting edge" in his day. He was very much aware that knowledge was evolving rapidly and his theories would be confirmed, disproved, and fleshed out by subsequent students.

This article is not so much a strict exposition of Jung as it is an attempt to contribute something substantive based on Jung. Let's begin with a brief overview of Jung's philosophical foundations.

The foundation

In Psychological Types the philosophers Jung quotes most frequently are Immanuel Kant, Frederick Nietzsche, and Arthur Schopenhauer. He refers to Nietzsche more as a student of aesthetics than as a philosopher per se and both praises and downplays aspects of Schopenhauer's philosophy which was more directly foundational for Freud. So let us begin with Kant and see how a little understanding of him gives perspective, depth, and dimension to Jung's writings. Kant, we will see, is especially helpful illuminating Jung's distinction between Introversion and Extroversion.

After David Hume had effectively discredited the most basic methods of the whole philosophic enterprise up to his day, it was left to Kant to pick up the pieces. Hume had given firm philosophical foundation Newton's blindingly successful equations that turned the whole world into observable matters of fact and mathematics. Unfortunately he had thrown out some things (God and cause and effect for example) that made Kant suspect that Hume had drawn his philosophical assumptions a little too tightly to actually describe reality.

Kant accepted Hume's rather severe limitations of human knowledge, namely that all we can know are observations of the senses and operations of pure logic. He then had to deal with the fact that there are certain things people know to be true that cannot be proved by either logic or observation. In the Critique of Pure Reason, he put the human condition in an eloquent, faintly Jungian sounding nutshell saying, "Human reason is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, but which it cannot answer, as they transcend every faculty of the mind." 2 "That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt...But...it by no means follows that all [knowledge] arises out of experience." 3 Kant's solution made use of at least two conclusions that would become important in Jung's psychology. One is the distinction between things as they appear and things as they really are. The other is the a priori categories.

Things as they are

Kant distinguished between things as we know them (phenomena derived from the senses), and the "thing itself", the real thing (ding an sich). Kant held that our sensory observations (knowable, catalogable, shared) do not necessarily reflect, and certainly do not exhaust, "real" reality which is unknowable, but "True" in the most profound sense. He used this distinction to save us from certain contradictions. For our purposes one of the most important is the inherent conflict between causality and free will.

Kant accepted the existence of cause and effect (which Hume had disproved) but he observed that strict causality leaves no room for human freedom. Yet human freedom is a fundamental assumption of all societies and a central experience of all people. Denial of human freedom denies human responsibility and eliminates some ideas that all people cherish such as justice. All societies feel that people must be (and are rightly) rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad. They also believe that the presence or absence of punishments and rewards makes a difference. Internally, each of us struggles with decisions we have to make. Each of us experiences our own free will strongly, sometimes agonizingly. Kant solved the problem by allowing for free will (unconditioned causes) among things-in-themselves while admitting that causality clearly operates in the observed world. His solution happily avoided Descartes' unsavory dualism which separated human beings from the rest of creation but it came with its own set of problems. Jung keeps the unity of humans with the rest of creation and, we shall see, avoids the Kantian problems.

Jung's Kantianism shows up in his high respect for the objective reality of the interior life and his clear, constant emphasis on human continuity with the rest of nature and natural laws. Jung's theory of Synchronicity, "an acausal connecting principle," is not so much "occult" or "mystical" as it is based on Kant's distinction between phenomena and things-in-themselves. Kant himself said that causality does not operate among thing-in-themselves in exactly the same way it does in observed phenomena. More importantly, Jung didn't buy the Humian dogma that all observations are external and sensory. Hume, Jung might have said, limited his understanding of the whole human psyche to Extraverted (object) Sensing (perception of a physical stimulus) for data gathering and Thinking (linking ideas derived from perceptions in logical order) for evaluation. Hume, both Kant and Jung said, was not wrong, but he was too narrow in his understanding of human observation and evaluation.

Kant declared things-in-themselves unknowable, but Jung saw that we do experience at least one thing itself directly we experience our own existence. In this way Jung prefigured the philosophy of Phenomenology founded by Edmund Husserl and popularized by his more famous student, Martin Heidegger. Both Husserl and Heidigger attempted to perceive Existence itself rather than things that exist. They did so by relying on their perceptions of their own existence. Jung similarly thought that his own psyche and the psyches of his clients were direct expressions of Existence itself. Contrary to Freud or Adler, and more in keeping with Kantian assumptions, Jung thought people contained experiences far beyond their individual history and neurological life. That's why his concept of the unconscious transcended Freud's individualistic one.

For Jung, as for later cognitive psychologists, the human mind is not a simple, passive, externally programmed machine. Neither is its internal structure wholly other from and unrelated to the universe as most dualists suppose. Our minds are part of the universe, participants in the same laws that created the universe. We are made, as Carl Sagan used to say, of star stuff.

Perhaps this is nowhere better stated than where Jung describes the process of Introverted Sensation, where the senses are turned inward. To contemporary thinkers, sensation turned inward has to be observing the self, especially one's own body, as an object. Not so for Jung. This inturning is clearly not a personal, individual matter of observing one's own body or feelings, but rather turning one's attention to the personal experience of Being Itself. Jung wrote, "It is a mirror with the peculiar faculty of reflecting the existing contents of consciousness not in their known and customary form but, as it were, sub specie aeternitatis, somewhat as a million-year-old consciousness might see them. Such a consciousness would see the becoming and passing away of things simultaneously with their momentary existence in the present, and not only that, it would also see what was before their becoming and will be after their passing hence...We could say that introverted sensation transmits an image which does not so much reproduce the object as spread over it the patina of age-old subjective experience and the shimmer of events still unborn." 4 "...[the Introverted Sensor] lives in a mythological world, where men, animals, locomotives, houses, rivers, and mountains appear either as benevolent deities or as malevolent demons." 5

To this he added cross-cultural and historical observations. His categories for the experience of existence were, therefore distinctly mythic and artistic. They were also more therapeutic than Heidigger's. Where Jung saw the collective unconscious, symbols, and archetypes Heidigger saw, in Being and Time, Understanding (context of purposes and relationships), Mood (happy or sad), and Discourse (logos, speech).

Jung's definition of Introversion is, "...an inward turning of libido (q.v.), in the sense of a negative relation of subject to object." Note that his definition is not couched in psychological language (focusing attention within oneself) but is stated in the philosophical language of the relationship of subject to object. Introversion is clearly much more than self-absorption, self-focus, or self-centeredness. It is life energy withdrawn into the individual's internal existence. It is a negative relation toward objects (phenomena) and a positive relationship to existence (noumenon). That it is more an existential position than a psychological reaction is seen when introversion is contrasted with introjection. Introversion is not mere subjectivity. Remember that our neurology is matter and electricity, hence, our very brains are direct, physical participation in the actual universe. We are not simple subjects perceiving objects, ourselves included as objects. We are participant-observers in Reality itself. Extroversion emphasizing observation, Introversion emphasizing participation. This Kantian perspective explains why Jung could so vigorously reject the charges of psychologism, the claim that he reduced God, for example, to a psychic artifact. In Aion he wrote, "No, the collective unconscious is anything, but an encapsulated personal system; it is sheer objectivity." 7".

A priori categories

Kant also reasoned that some things, obviously true but not observable in the outside world, must be located, not in the outside world where it couldn't be proven, but in the human mind which couldn't help seeing them.

He coined the term a priori categories to refer to those structures of the mind that were universally true for people, therefore "true" for all intents and purposes. His first two examples of a priori categories are space and time; others are mathematics, relationship (a=a, (a+b)>a if b>0), and that every change has a cause.

It's not really hard to tell an a priori category from some lesser kind. An a priori category is something that people simply can't imagine being any different from what it is. It's such an intimate, foundational part of the mind that it is an automatic and necessary constituent to any picture of the world. It's easy to imagine that the sun will cease to rise, and with a little imagination we can conceive of a world in which there is no gravity. We can easily imagine forgiving our enemies or a world of universal love and understanding. (In fact, it's the ability to imagine a world, so like our own, but animated with kindness and harmonized by the removal of sin that is religion's special power.) None of these, however much we may love them or want them, is an a priori category.

But when you come to imagining that 1+1 does not equal 2 imagination stops. It's impossible to picture 1+1 being other than 2. So too with time, we can imagine time moving faster or slower, but a world without time at all is unimaginable. A spaceless world, like the universe prior to the big bang is equally impossible to picture. a priori categories are universal laws valid for apples or oranges, people and plants, God and the world. Kant noted that it was therefore possible to observe laws that are valid no matter what the specific circumstances.

a priori categories are perceived, not through the senses but through intuition. "Space," Kant wrote, "is no...general conception of the relations of things, but a pure intuition." 8 Here we can see how Jung's definition of the psychic function "Intuition" is profoundly Kantian. He wrote, of Introverted Intuition, "Introverted intuition apprehends the images arising from the a priori inherited foundations of the unconscious...In these archetypes...all experiences are represented which have happened on this planet since primeval times." 9 Intuition is not a "guess" or a perception of general patterns, it is a mode of perception by other means than sensory data. Gravity is just as real as the objects that exert gravitational force. The earth and moon are sensed by Sensation, gravity is sensed by Intuition.

Jung himself comes close to making the equivalency between archetypes and a priori categories when he says, "The archetype would thus be, to borrow from Kant, the noumenon of the image which intuition perceives and, in perceiving, creates." 10 Here we see that intuition is a mode of perception of and through the archetypes.

Archetypes, such as god, mother, or hero, are present in all societies. Since they describe people or relationships we have more flexibility in picturing them than we do with the a priori categories. Jung described them as like containers into which different cultures pour different content. Kant was a philosopher and Jung a psychologist so a priori categories and archetypes necessarily cover very different subject matter, but the important issue is that the mind has an internal structure of its own that shows up in beliefs, reason, attention, assessment of importance, dreams, memory, observations, myths, and scientific paradigms.

Philosophically Kant rescued us from Hume but his rescue cost a lot. "Real" reality became unknowable, and the fundamental categories of existence became part, not of the world, but of the human mind. Jung, on the other hand introduced the objectivity of archetypes, the collective unconscious, and intuition as the missing categories Hume did not perceive. In so doing he rescued us from Hume more effectively without paying the high price Kant had.

Jung affirmed that the human unconscious, expressed spontaneously in religious practice, myth, and literature, transcends mere subjectivity. It is kind of perception, through us as a thing-in-itself, of things as they really are and by pouring into consciousness, it is the personality of the universe becoming self-aware. More than even many theologians, Jung took seriously that the God of the Bible is a personality, and an omnipresent, and evolving one at that. Hence, Jung agreed that the Bible is on to something, namely, that consciousness and personality are not mere artifacts of electrons and energy-events, they're a natural outgrowth of Creation, fundamental ontological characteristics of the universe itself. By including this biblical perspective he avoided one of the biggest failings of mechanistic philosophy, namely the denial of the reality of consciousness. In any mechanistic universe consciousness becomes an artifact of complexity. Not so for Jung.

As Jung said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being...The importance of consciousness is so great that one cannot help suspecting the element of meaning to be concealed somewhere within all the monstrous, apparently senseless biological turmoil, and that the road to its manifestation was ultimately found on the level of warm-blooded vertebrates possessed of a differentiated brain found as if by chance, unintended and unforeseen, and yet somehow sensed, felt and groped for out of some dark urge. 11

Individuation is no mere personal drive or accomplishment, it is a piece of the universe incarnating consciousness and adjusting harmoniously to reality as it is. The Problem of Evil, which for so many people simply undermines religion and philosophy has never fully dealt with became a challenge for Jung to be approached in the development of the individual and the psychoanalysis of God. Individuation is the living out of the thing-in-itself in proper relationship to things as they appear and as they are. It is this sense of genuine participation in the Reality of the universe beyond the appearances that gives Jung some of his allure. In his philosophy we sense harmony, connection, groundedness as opposed to the distance and fragmentation we find in other philosophies. Jung's Kantianism allows him to avoid Freudian reductionism, Newtonian materialism, Cartesian dualism, or post-Modernist solipsism.

Perhaps his most potentially useful contribution to the history of philosophy is the insight that it is one's psychological type which from the outset determines and limits a person's judgment. Let's tackle some contemporary problems with possible Jungian solutions.