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Jung and the Making of Modern PsychologyReview - Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology
The Dream of a Science
by Sonu Shamdasani
Cambridge University Presds, 2003
Review by Andrew Aitken
Jul 10th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 28)

This book has been envisaged as a cubist portrait, and presents a multifaceted approach to a multifaceted work. Decisive stimuli for its form and structure have also been derived from certain works of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and the writings of Fernando Pessoa. (p.26)

Indeed the author tells us, this book can even be read in reverse, from an "Olympian perspective". Shamdasani presumes no teleology or grand overall coherence to Jung's work. However there is great clarity of explanation within this book, elegantly illuminating the evolution of Jung's thought, and the emergence of his method. This book will not only be of interest to Jung specialists, but to all with an interest in the history of ideas. For Shamdasani spends a great deal of time here explicating many key thinkers of importance to the defining and construction of psychology as an independent discipline, and, as the title alludes to, its eventually forlorn "dream of a science".

Consistent throughout Jung's works is his desire to secure the scientific position of psychology. Although the common perspective upon Jung in academic psychology sees only his early experimental studies on word associations, and his work on psychological types as of a scientific nature, the need to establish psychology as a science drove Jung's enquiries always. Psychology was to become a science for most through experimentation. This was problematic for psychology, as Jung understood from Krafft-Ebing "how could psychiatry be a science, given its inescapable subjective character" (p.45)? Contrary to the position of science today, Jung saw the role of complex psychology as countering the fragmentation of the sciences. Key to psychology's scientific standing was the work on the 'personal equation', that is, differing subjective scientific appraisal. Jung attempted a theory of the subjective determinants of the personal equation. Psychology could then be a super-ordinate science, grounding the sciences with an explanation of the subjective determinants of knowledge. The resulting Psychological Types refrained from mentioning Jung's own type, which as Shamdasani states, "given the thesis of the book, is a significant lacuna" (p.76). Psychologists indeed proved on the whole reluctant to accept this thesis that the theories which they had claimed had universal validity were just the expression of their type, and so Jung's hope for a psychology of psychologies met with little overall acceptance. However this was the one area of his work which received any serious consideration from academic psychology, indeed Jung's terms, "introversion", and "extraversion", found their way into everyday language, and Isabel Myers Briggs and her daughter Katherine used this work as the basis for the "Myers-Briggs Type Indicator", the personality test used most often in the United States today.

The problem of science continued to manifest itself in Jung's work with the unconscious – which established psychology's claim to scientific status – and the problem of the individual and universal, problems of man and nature. The theory of archetypes was critical here. The archetypes were universal structures defining the person. The collective unconscious was precisely conceived, contrary to popular belief, for its scientific architecture, providing universal grounds for analysis. Indeed Jung's friend, the physicist Pauli, wanted mathematical analyses to be pursued on 'archetypal' dreams. That Jung's work was not carried in this direction caused him to resign from the Jung Institute. The unconscious as a principle for analysis could then be interpreted 'scientifically' in vastly different ways, from a materialist to a spiritualist perspective, from being defined according to biological reflexes to being posited as an eternal soul. Jung ended up seeing the importance of a method of cultural history in psychology for tracing the primitive mythology that defined for him the collective unconscious, there being for him an inherited genetic memory. Jung also saw himself as securing the scientificity of psychology with his biologizing of Freud's concept of the libido with a concept of psychic energy influenced by the thinking of Helmholtz, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Bergson. "He noted that in nature, the instinct for the preservation of the species [Instinkt der Arterhaltung] and the instinct for self-preservation [Instinkt der Selbsterhaltung] were indistinct, where one only saw a life drive [Lebenstrieb] and a will to live [Willen zum Dasein]" (p.221). Jung saw the need through analysis for us to be more at home with our animal selves, as primitive cultures are, contrary to expectations this would result in a peaceful and calm life, man in time with the rhythms of nature. "Psychotherapy's task was to provide a means for modern man to overcome his alienation from nature, through refinding the guidance and regulation of the archetypes of the collective unconscious" (p.263). Jung's identification of the primitive, elemental side of man as lying in and actually being the unconscious was drawn upon by a Jungian type of figure, who was occupied by science but also explored the necessarily primitive nature of the imagination, that is Gaston Bachelard.

This is a book with a depth and richness of perspective, which is fostered by its historical approach. Expertise, hence is not needed here for precisely this reason, through a historical method Shamdasani inherently provides a lucid substrate introduction to the history of modern philosophy. Jung was a remarkable figure with a profound library of knowledge. He desperately sought to unify the sciences for their therapeutic value to man and the world, and so he integrated many disciplinary innovations into his work, including Lévy-Bruhl and anthroplogy, and implicitly Durkheim and sociology. He provided corrections to certain fallacies of Freud, but above all, as with Nietzsche, he wanted no blind 'followers', Laurens van der Post recalls:

"I do not want anybody to be a Jungian," he told me. "I want people to be themselves. As for "isms," they are the viruses of our day, and responsible for greater disasters than any medieval plague or pest has ever been. Should I be found one day only to have created another "ism" then I will have failed in all I tried to do." (p.348)


© 2004 Andrew Aitken


Andrew Aitken is currently completing a PhD on the method of Gaston Bachelard's historical epistemology at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, and his research interests include the history of science and contemporary French philosophy.


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