While looking at Jung's philosophies I came across an old and interesting article (http://www.philosophypress.co.uk/?p=602). What do you agree/disagree with? Where do you see problems in reasoning of the article and Jungian thought? It would be greatly preferred that you read it all before debating, but here are some things I've highlighted:
Jung was also genuinely excited by the problems posed by medieval Scholastic thought. For him, the apparently tedious debates about nominalism and realism (whether concepts exist only in language or in “reality”), reflected in the controversy over transubstantiation, revealed a historical fact – the permanence of two different “types”. As the German poet, Heinrich Heine, put it: “Plato and Aristotle! These are not merely two systems – they are also types of two distinct human natures.” And these two different human natures tend to think in two entirely separate ways – two different psychologies. Most our problems, Jung believed, don’t come from our disagreement about the solutions to problems. They come from the fact that we don’t actually see a problem in the same way and so can’t even agree about what the problem is.
Jung takes this idea of categories (though not the categories themselves) and applies it to human attitudes toward what goes on in our lives. If we analyse human behaviour, he suggested, we find certain emotional structures keep occurring. He called these “archetypes”. We might keep finding ourselves, for instance, in situations that remind us of our earlier relationship to our mother or to our father (the maternal or paternal archetype). Or we relate to members of the opposite sex in a way that reflects, not the reality of the individuals in front of us, but the secret wishes and desires we project onto them (in the case of men, the “anima” or – for women – the “animus”). In some situations, having recourse to the playful, spontaneous attitude of the child can be an appropriate, even helpful response (this is, using the Latin word, activating the puer archetype). Those moments when we become aware of the dark, unwelcome aspects of ourselves we tend to hide away, and which are nevertheless part of what (and who) we are, Jung termed the encounter with the “shadow”. One of the most intriguing of these archetypes is called the “trickster”: sometimes charming, sometimes a bit difficult to handle (“tricky”, in fact), it can be a source of dynamic, creative thought.
But Jung’s essentially Kantian model makes it clear he is talking about the world as we see it and as we live in it – in Kant’s terms, the world “for us” – and precisely not, as Kant thought impossible, the world “in itself”.
He asks, how do we go about understanding a literary text, such as Goethe’s Faust, or admiring a work of architecture, such as Cologne cathedral? We can reduce a book to its historical sources, and we can understand a Gothic cathedral in terms of its mineral composition, as a pile of stones, even. But if we do that, we also lose sight of their meaning. What we need, he says, is an understanding that is “synthetic-constructive”, not “analytical-reductive”. Such an understanding should – in a phrase used by Ludwig Feuerbach – stand in “accord with the understanding of other reasonable beings”, and in this sense be “objective”. But the real reason why such an understanding is “real and effective” (wirklich und wirkend) is because it “connects with life”.
And it is how to develop a way of thinking that “connects with life” that lies at the heart of Jung’s philosophical project. One of the slogans he liked to repeat was “wirklich ist, was wirkt” – “whatever is real, works [i.e., has an effect]”. In other words, what is “real”, what is “objective”, is whatever makes an actual impact on our lives. Jung is trying to bridge – to heal, even – the disconnect, as he sees it, between Western philosophy and “real life” – our daily lives, the lives we actually lead in the (so-called) “real world”. What “really” matters, then, is what matters in life, because it makes a difference to our lives. Wirklich ist, was wirkt.
On his account, the psyche is not simply a structure, it is something dynamic, something permanently becoming. (In his use of the energicy concept of libido, Jung believed he had found a “quantitative formula” for the “phenomenon of life”.) Moreover, he argues that we need to become aware of the “symbolic” dimension of life. Only the “symbolic” approach, Jung seeks to persuade us, can unite what, to other (non-vitalist) philosophical systems, are forever divided: body and mind/soul, the sensuous and the intellectual, the irrational and the rational. To paraphrase Nietzsche, we redeem the world when we see it – including ourselves – as a “symbolic phenomenon”.
So what, in his aesthetic-vitalist philosophy, does Jung mean by the symbol and its “life-promoting significance”? In practical terms, Jung is trying to bring about in us a “symbolic attitude”, so that we may come to see, as Goethe did, our lives “symbolically”. For there is one view of things – a (superficially) “objective” view – which “places emphasis on pure actuality, and subordinates meaning to facts.” But opposed to this, Jung says, is another view of life – and, in a far richer sense, an “objective” one – that “endows all occurrences, whether great or small, with a meaning to which a deeper value is given than to pure actuality.” To see our lives as more than “pure actuality”, as possessing a “deeper value”, is what Jung means when he speaks (in a rather high-flown way) of “psychic transformation”.
But it’s not as esoteric as it sounds. Jung bases his conception of the symbol on Friedrich Schiller’s: it is lebende Gestalt or “living form”, both a form that lives, and a life that is lived in (aesthetic) form. By changing the way we see ourselves, we also change the world. By endowing what happens to us in our lives with meaning; by understanding our lives, as we would a book or a cathedral, in aesthetic terms; we engage on a project that is at once psychological and philosophical.