Ambiguity and Contradiction: the Outlines of Jung’s Dialectics – Journal of Analytical Psychology – article

Ambiguity and Contradiction: the Outlines of Jung’s Dialectics

Pauli Pylkkö | Journal of Analytical Psychology


This essay explores Jung’s thinking strategies, argumentation patterns, and concept formation processes, and reveals how they distinguish his work from normal present‐day science. Jung doesn’t much appreciate the law of noncontradiction, which is a cornerstone of classical logic, and he doesn’t refrain from using openly ambiguous theoretical terms. It will be pointed out that not only specific archetypes, but the notion of archetype itself, as well as other of Jung’s theoretical notions (energy, including libidinal energy, polarity, integration, wholeness, instinct, symbol, and so on), are consciously ambiguous and thus potentially contradictory. It is shown that this kind of dialectic research strategy and related contradiction‐tolerant and ambiguity‐tolerant methods connect his work to Post‐Kantian German Idealism, Schelling’s and Schopenhauer’s philosophy in particular. However, it was Hegel who, in his Science of Logic, presented a systematic overview of such dialectic principles of reasoning, which were, in the 19th century, widely applied by German philosophers, theologians, and other scholars. Unfortunately, Jung decided not to study Hegel, but, instead, wrote derogatorily of his work. It will be argued that a Jungian who wants to be conscious of her own argumentation strategies and methods of concept formation should study Hegel’s complex and sophisticated dialectical logic. In addition, it is suggested that Jungian depth psychology might help us to amend the phenomenological deficits of Hegel’s system by providing it with a primal experiential source. This is needed because Hegel’s Geist, due to its intellectual emphasis, is a self‐conscious conceptual totality which advances progressively from stage to stage by guiding itself with the help of dialectical reason (Vernunft). It will be shown that if enriched with a proper kind of experiential givenness, which includes the Jungian unconsciousness (with libidinal energy, instincts, and archetypes), Hegelian metaphysics would be able to embrace a seriously aconceptual or preconceptual dimension. Aconceptual experience, which is, for Jung, mainly the instinctual layer of archetypes, remains essentially inaccessible, not only for normal scientific concepts, but for the concepts of any form of dialectics as well.


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