Symbolic Life

Although I owe not a little to philosophy, and have benefited by the rigorous discipline of its methods of thought, I nevertheless feel in its presence that holy dread which is inborn in every observer of facts.

The unending profusion of concepts spawning yet other concepts, rolling along like a great flood in the history of philosophy, is only too likely to inundate the little experimental gardens of the empiricist, so carefully marked out, swamping his well-ploughed fields, and swallowing up the still unexplored virgin land.

Confronting the flux of events with unprejudiced gaze, he must fashion for himself an intellectual tool stripped of all preconceptions, and anxiously

eschew as perilous temptations all those modes of thinking which philosophy offers him in such excessive abundance.

Because I am an empiricist first and foremost, and my views are grounded in experience, I had to deny myself the pleasure of reducing them to a well-ordered system and of placing them in their historical and ideological context.

From the philosophical standpoint, of whose requirements I am very well aware, this is indeed a painful omission.

Even more painful to me, however, is the fact that the empiricist must also forswear an intellectual clarification of his concepts such as is absolutely imperative for the philosopher.

His thinking has to mould itself to the facts, and the facts have as a rule a distressingly irrational character which proves refractory to any kind of philosophical systematization.

Thus it comes about that empirical concepts are concerned for the most part with the chaos of chance events, because it is their function to produce a provisional order amid the disorder of the phenomenal world.

And because they are wholly bent on this urgent task, they neglect—sometimes only too readily—their own philosophical development and inner clarification, for a thinker who performs the first task satisfactorily will seldom be able to complete the second.

These two aspects became overwhelmingly clear to me as I read this admirable study of Fichte’s psychology: on the one hand the apparent carelessness and vagueness of my own concepts when it comes to systematic formulation, and on the other the precision and clarity of a philosophical system which is singularly unencumbered by empirical impedimenta.

The strange but undeniable analogy between two points of view derived from totally different sources certainly gives one food for thought.

I am not aware of having plagiarized Fichte, whom I have not read.

Naturally I am familiar with Leibniz, C. G. Carus, and von Hartmann, but I never knew till now that my psychology is “Romantic.”

Unlike Rickert and many other philosophers and psychologists, I hold that, in spite of all abstraction, objectivity, absence of bias, and empiricism, everyone thinks as he thinks and sees as he sees.

Accordingly, if there is a type of mind, or a disposition, that thinks and interprets “romantically,” analogous conclusions will emerge no matter whether they are coloured by the subject or by the object.

It would be vain to imagine—gamely competing with Baron Miinchhausen—that one could disembarrass oneself of one’s own weight and thus get rid of the ultimate and most fundamental of all premises —one’s own disposition.

Only an isolated and hypertrophied psychic function is capable of cherishing such an illusion.

But a function is only a part of the human whole, and its limited character is beyond all doubt.

Were it not for these considerations the analogy between Fichte and me would certainly have to be regarded as a minor miracle.

It is a bold undertaking-—for which the author deserves all the more credit—to bring Fichte into line with a modern empirical psychology based on facts that were wholly inaccessible to this philosopher—an empiricism, morever, which has unearthed conceptual material that is singularly unsuited to philosophical evaluation.

But it seems that this undertaking has been successful, for I learn to my amazement that the Romantic Movement has not been relegated to the age of fossils, but still has living representatives.

This is probably no accident, for it appears that besides the self-evident experience of the “objective” world there is an experience of the psyche, without which an experience of the world would not be possible at all.

It seems to me that the secret of Romanticism is that it confronted the all-too-obvious object of experience with a

subject of experience, which it proceeded to objectify thanks to the infinite refractive powers of consciousness.

There is a psychology that always has another person or thing for an object—a fairly well-differentiated kind of behaviourism which might be described as “classical.”

But besides this there is a psychology which is a knowing of the knower and an experiencing of the experiment.

The indirect influence of the type of mind exemplified by Hume, Berkeley, and Kant can hardly be overestimated.

Kant in particular erected a barrier across the mental world which made it impossible for even the boldest flight of speculation to penetrate into the object.

Romanticism was the logical counter-movement, expressed most forcefully, and most cunningly disguised, in Hegel, that great psychologist in philosopher’s garb.

Nowadays it is not Kant but natural science and its de-subjectivized world that have erected the barrier against which the speculative tendency rebounds.

Its essentially behaviourist statements about the object end in meaninglessness and nonsense.

That is why we seek the meaning in the statements of the subject, believing we are not in error if we assume that the subject will first of all make statements about itself.

Is it the empiricist in me, or is it because analogy is not identity, that makes me regard the “Romantic” standpoint simply as a point of departure and its statements as “comparative material”?

I admit that this attitude is disappointingly sober, but the psychic affinity with a romantic philosopher prompts me to a critical utterance which seems to me the more in place as there are only too many people for whom “Romantic” always means something out of a romance.

Apart from this critical proviso, which the author herself stresses, her book is a welcome contribution of the study of a specific attitude of mind which has recurred many times in the course of history and presumably will also recur in the future. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 770-772