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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, December 31, 2012


As noted in Part 1, Carl Jung's ruminations on child development in the womb would never have satisfied an empiricist.  His description of the psychological functions-- sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking-- is deductive, not inductive, in nature.   Jung consistently calls for psychology to make all possible use of empirical sources of information, but notes in PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES that the best one can hope, when dealing with the subjective subject matter of internal psyches, is that one should not be "too subjective" in making one's conclusions.  I take this as an up-front admission that such judgments will always be colored by the subjective state of the analyst-- a subjectivity that Thomas Kuhn finds even in the work of those who labor in the fields of the physical sciences, as noted in passing here.

Jung states that the first two named functions appear in the fetus while still in the womb, which makes sense to me as a working hypothesis though there may be no way to prove that the fetus, while certainly capable of sensation in the womb, is also capable of intuition at that early stage.  In fact, the author of the Jung site to which I referred in Part 1 feels that intiution might be prior even to sensation:

This, I believe, describes the thinking function as the fourth function (when intuition is seen as the first, in the womb), a total conscious orientation that is a result of the number three, the creative flow of the feeling function. Thinking appears as the last in the evolution of the functions as they turn, and appears to be the picture of what has previously taken place in the other functions, via the archetype which is later expressed as images, ideas, or language. Thinking is not the experience, but the copy, stamp, imprint, or image of the experience.
I'd prefer a more Kantian take, in which we posit that sensation is the first thing the gestating subject experiences, though intuition may pre-exist in that subject as an "a priori" potential.  This would seem to follow from Jung's primary definition of intuition within his system as "perception via the unconscious."

As I said in Part 1, it's important for any literary criticism-system to make a determination as to whether or not there exists " meaning within the chaos of sensation," whether one is speaking of a fetus becoming slowly aware of its surroundings but lacking any context for them, or a fully developed subject within what Cassirer calls the "symbolic universe."  Though I think critics of an empiricial stripe dismiss this level of unconscious meaning too quickly, at least those that ground their opinions in some discipline, such as cognitive science, are better off than those who simply don't even consider the question.

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