Quora answer: Where does the thought of Carl Jung fit in the Continental Philosophical tradition?

Basically what I am trying to do in this post is to put Jung in the context of Continental Philosophy where he belongs. Freud did not really know the Western Philosophical Tradition as Jung did. Jung was valuable to Freud for two reasons. He was not Jewish and he really knew the tradition well and so he was in a good position to be able to defend Psychoanalysis when it first started in ways that Freud could not.

Losing Jung as the leader of the Psychoanalytic movement was a big blow to Freud. The biggest difference between the two was that Jung was not dogmatic like Freud was. Jung always put his ideas in the larger context of the Western philosophical tradition. This is one of the reasons that Jung’s psychology is somewhat more coherent than that of Freud. But unfortunately Continental Philosophers only talk about Freud or his followers, and never talk about Jung. Because of that there is only so far that they can go in trying to look at the impact of the unconscious on their philosophical views. That is why the transformation of Freud into Lacanian Psychoanalysis was so crucial. It produced a form of Psychoanalysis that could stand up to Philosophical scrutiny.

Lacan had a huge influence on the next generation of philosophers after Sartre and Merleau-Ponty especially Deleuze. And this has become central to such an extent that both Badiou and Zizek are in fact Lacanian Analysts. Zizek spends much of his work explaining how Lacan really does make sense after all. Lacan is so cryptic that is is hard to challenge his interpretation. Basically Zizek says that Lacan, who took Hyppolite’s Hegel course that everyone else took among the French intelligentsia, is really repackaging Hegel and all Lacanian ideas go back to Hegel not Freud. Thus, while Lacan feigns a reinterpretation of Freud, what he is really doing according to Zizek is reading through Freud back to Hegel. He is doing what Hillman calls “seeing through” which is a deconstructionist trick.

So what we get in Continental Philosophy is a skipping of Jung, because the first generation only talked about Freud, and then the Second generation were heavily influenced by Lacan. But what gets missed in this is the fact that Lacan and Jung have a lot in common. Lacan studied under Jung briefly during his residency. It is interesting that many of his conclusions are very similar to those of Jung, although Lacan never mentions Jung. But Lacan is much more interesting than Jung in some ways because all of his reinterpretation of Freud is though the lens of Structuralism of Levi-Strauss and Semiotics of de Saussure. However, Lacan knew Heidegger, and he had taken the Hegel course that was the standard one in France at the time. We can see Lacan as going  back to Hegel through Heidegger’s Being and Time, because Heidegger was basically going back to Hegel himself. The references to Freud and the reinterpretation was basically a smoke screen according to Zizek.

Jung’s major influence was Nietzsche. He developed a psychology that was contrary to that of Nietzsche. That is why Jung’s philosophy has a kinship to Plato, who was the enemy of Nietzsche. Nietzsche based his philosophy on the pre-Socratics. But Nietzsche was also reversing Hegels idea that only the Slaves could have self-consciousness and thus ethics. So if we see this double reversal that puts Jung back with Hegel too. However, Jung was more of a Kantian. However, after Hegel, Kant can only be seen through the eyes of Hegel. There is no pure Kantians after Hegel. Another example of that is Charles Peirce, who is also a Kantian, but working on mostly Hegelian problems.

Now if we see this alignment we can see that although Lacan and Jung were never compared, because the Continental Philosophers never talk about Jung, there is a strange coincidence in their two psychoanalytical theories in many ways both subtle and gross. So it seems to me that Depth Psychology should explore this congruence or alignment.

Giegerich makes the case that Depth Psychology is really just Hegelian Dialectics. His is the only positive theory, because Hillman merely does Derrida like deconstruction (which actually comes form Heidegger) as his practice based on Jungs works. Hillman is basically doing to Jung what Lacan had done with Freud, using him as a foil. But as Zizek points out Derrida and Lacan are duals that are opposite each other in most respects. Hillman never mentions Derrida. Derrida of course is influenced heavily by Hegel in his critique of Heidegger. In fact all Continental Philosophy could be seen as just Hegelianism warmed over. So what we get to is that Hegel is the key figure in all this, and where Kantianism comes in it is mostly a retrenchment and reaction against Hegelianism like in Peirce and Jung.

These are the lineages of the history of Ideas with respect to the philosophical underpinnings of Jungian thought which goes back through Nietzsche to Hegel. Jung is reacting to both and that is why he is the opposite of Nietzsche and a Kantian. This places him very close to Peirce in many ways, who is also a Kantian reacting against Hegel, but concerned with Hegelian problems, as Jung is.

So in my understanding when we say Depth Psychology, it also means going  back to the roots, and all roads are leading back to Hegel. So I think Giegerich is on to something. Hillman is obscuring the connection between himself and Derrida, otherwise we could trace back though Hillman to Hegel as well.

Now what this means is that Depth X (Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, etc) is really another way to approach what Hegel calls Spirit. That is what Hegel thought of as Depth. But Spirit is in the realm of transcendentals if you give the standard interpretation of Hegel. So here is where Jung’s brillance is crucial. Jung was also heavily influenced by Plato, but he tries to come up with what is the dual of Plato’s Ideas, and that is the Archetypes. So when we go back to Spirit, it is not with a transcendental idea as in Hegel (under the standard interpretation of Hegel) but with archetypes. So we have an Archetypal Spirit embodying the meaning of Depth X. I think this is the essential thing that Giegerich does not see, that we get a better picture of from Hillman’s deconstructionist approach. The way that Jung differs from Hegel by way of Nietzsche’s reversal is that he posits an anti-transcendental realm called the Collective Unconscious. The Spirit of Hegel is the Collective Consciousness. That has Absolute Ideas in it. So opposite these Absolute ideas are the non-Absolute Archetypes. This is basically Hillmans attack of Monotheism and instead supporting a return to Polytheism. It is his argument against Spirit and instead emphasizing the Soul.

Let me know what you think of this brief incursion into this quasi-History of Ideas approach to Jungs place in the scheme of Continental Philosophy. Once we place him in this complex net of influences seen through the eyes of Harold Bloom (Anxiety of Influence, and A Map of Misreading) then suddenly Jung’s theory takes on a new level of significance normally not appreciated especially by Jungians who only know Jung’s thought as if it appeared in a vacuum out of nothing — whole and unrelated to anything else. If anything Jung’s explanation in the Red Book as to how it was different from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, the only other work really mentioned in with that kind of detailed analysis, should give us pause and make us think that Jung’s work actually has a context in the history of thought up to his time and beyond that to the present day.



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Posted February 27, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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