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Kant, Hegel, Schelling, other early Psychologists


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Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture II 27th October, 1933

We will resume the line of development which we have been following.

We have now reached the age of critique and knowledge which begins towards the end of the XVIIth century.

Emanuel Kant (1724-1804) stands out as its dominating figure.

Kant contests the possibility of psychology being a science, he considers it at best a ” discipline”.

With his conception of “dim representations”, Kant pursues Leibnitz’ train of thought and carries his ideas further.

In the first book of his “Anthropology”, he speaks of “representations” which we possess although we are not conscious of them.

He gives as an example the impression one gets of a person at some distance in a field, whom one sees indistinctly; the details, eyes, nose, mouth etc., are not recognisable, yet one has the idea that it is a person.

Kant continues “That the field of our sense representations and sensations is infinite, though we are not conscious of most of these, yet we can
without doubt conclude that we possess them, that is ‘dim representations’ in people (and also in animals); the clear representations on the contrary contain only a few of these points which could be in consciousness; the fact that only a few places are illuminated on the great map of our minds
can imbue us with awe and admiration at our own being: for a higher power would only have to cry: Let there be light! and without the
least co-operation on our part . . . . . half a world would lie before (our) eyes. So the field of ‘dim representations’ is the greatest in man.”

We may like to think that all psyches are single psyches, that no such thing as a collective psyche exists, in other words that the psyche is nothing more than consciousness, for consciousness is an individual phenomenon.

But can we really be so very sure of this?

Primitives, on the other hand, are not at all certain that they are distinct from each other or from their surroundings; when you are among them you hardly dare to kill a crocodile, for the primitive says: “I am also that crocodile.”

It is only single illuminated points that we are clearly conscious of; the whole is dark.

I am reminded of the savant who said: “If I knew what I have forgotten I would be the most learned of all men.”

Kant was the first to recognise the enormous extension of that which is not conscious.

The epoch of “empirical psychology” comes to a close in Germany after Kant and is replaced by the age of the great metaphysical speculators.
Hegel and Schelling were in reality metaphysical speculators but when you examine their writings – particularly those of Hegel – carefully, you see they are full of projected psychology.

Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831) would be considered a psychologist today, but he was not conscious of this and called himself a philosopher, although he expressed some essential psychological ideas.

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Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775-1854) has a more positive attitude towards the unconscious and a certain insight.

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He was able to formulate the idea that the unconscious is the absolute foundation of consciousness.

He speaks of “the eternal unconscious, which as it were like the sun in the realm of the spirit, hides itself through its own unclouded light”.

He goes on to say: “And although the unconscious never becomes the object, yet it stamps its identity on all free actions, being the same for all intelligences; it is the invisible root of which all intelligences are only the potentials, and is the eternal mediator between the self-determining subjective in us and the objective or contemplator, it is at once 1he basis of lawfulness in freedom and of freedom in lawfulness”.

We see that Schelling puts the accent altogether on the unconscious.

He makes a most important statement when he says: “It is the same for all intelligences”; the primeval \ foundation is not differentiated, but universal.

In contrast to the line of development which we have been following in Germany, we see empirical psychology step forcefully into the foreground in England, where it takes its place very early as an important line of thought in modern science.

George Berkeley (1685-1753) is the first English empirical psychologist.

Berkeley makes sense perception his starting point.

He is convinced that when one neither sees, hears, nor feels anything, then nothing is present.

But he discovers the perception of his own senses as an equal factor to the object perceived.

Out of the fusion of subject and object Berkeley constructs the concept of psychological space.

David Hume (1711-1776) holds that representations derive from sensations.

He adopts Berkeley’s idea of fusion for his representations and asks himself by what laws things fuse with each other.

He concludes that they associate owing to similarity, coexistence in time and space and causality.

The association is brought about by means of “gentle force”, a law similar to that of gravitation.

The representations therefore mutually attract each other.

David Hartley (1705-1757) who is Hume’s contemporary, ventures among the complex psychic phenomena.

He explains these by a fusion of rapidly recurring or simultaneous sensations into a whole.

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) materializes Hartley’s attempt, he identifies the psychic processes with brain processes.

The idea of instinct, the so-called common sense, appears with the Scottish School of philosophy.

Thomas Reid (1710-1796) is its first exponent.

According to Reid, the instinct of common sense is the direct and indubitable source of knowledge.

It is also through this instinct that we become acquainted with complex psychic processes.

Psychology, therefore, is bound to confine itself to the description of facts as observed by common sense.

The idea of looking at everything simply and objectively may seem banal at first sight, but it is the empirical point of view par excellence and it can only be reached by a complete sacrifice of judgments and opinions.

So this way of looking at things is an invaluable contribution to psychology.

This is Rudyard Kipling’s attitude in his “Just So Stories” and it is in its place when applied to the fearful complexities of the human psyche: it is “just so” and there is nothing to be done about it.

You will have the right attitude to psychology in general and to the difficult things which you will hear in the course of these lectures, if you can treat them as a “Just So Story”.

Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) is convinced that psychology could become a natural science, through a method of pure description, that is, by an objective description of the psychic processes, by the sacrifice of all opinions and by making no foregone conclusions.

Stewart’s discrimination of associations is important for pathology.

He divides them into:

  1. Spontaneous simple associations: analogy, contrast, coexistence and proximity.
  2. Arbitrary associations: through active conscious interference.

Some processes of the psyche obey the will, others do not, but follow a priori laws of their own.

People incline to identify with one of these views, but both are equally true.

Deep truths, such as the existence of voluntary and involuntary actions , are recurringly lost and have to be rediscovered
again and again. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures 1-III, Pages 14-16.