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5 Basic Facts about Jung and Types

By Sigurd Arild has now been online for almost five years. What have we learned? Here are some of the insights that came to us through studying Jungian sources.

1: Jungian Extroversion and Introversion

Being an extrovert or introvert in the Jungian system is not the same as being extroverted or introverted in behavioristic systems of personality. To put it simply, in the Jungian system extroverts experience the world as object and introverts experience the world through their own subject. A Jungian extrovert may be extremely shy, bookish, pensive, and reticent. To arrive at the correct orientation of E and I, intellectual analysis of the person’s cognition is necessary. Watching for reticence and expressiveness to determine E/I is a behaviorist approach. It is not Jungian typology.

2: How All Functions are Equally Valid

People have often wondered how Jung could ascribe equal legitimacy to all of the functions. His own explanations are not particularly clear, but a charitable interpretation runs like this: When we observe an experiment in classical physics, we have an “Archimedean point” – we stand outside the experience and look in at the results.

In classical physics (but not in quantum physics), we know that observing the phenomenon does not dramatically change or alter its outcome. But with regards to psychology, we have no such “Archimedean point” – anything that we observe is filtered through our cognitive functions and exists in a state of interaction with our cognitive functions.

Scientifically-minded people usually assume that extroverted judgment and perception are the most “objective” cognitive modes. Jung would agree that the extroverted functions are more “objective,” but he would disagree with the notion that being more objective necessarily entails more validity or truth. Since we have no “Archimedean point” or “Ground Zero” in psychology, it may just as well be so that deriving psychic experience through extroverted functions represents a bias in favor of the external.

Thus we cannot say, for example, that the Thinking judgments of Te, which tend to be numeric, external, impartial, and “objective,” are necessarily more valid than the Feeling judgments of Fi, which are sentiment-based, internal, partial, and subjective. Both functions represent psychic adaptations in favor of a given direction and cognitive mode, and we really have no way of knowing which direction is more true or valid, because we lack the “Archimedean point.” Hence all functions should be assigned equal validity and worth.

3: Jung Considered Himself an “Empiricist,” but Redefined the Meaning of the Word

In numerous interviews and lectures, Jung claimed to be an empiricist, yet it is quite obvious that Jung is not an empiricist, the way a modern scientist would understand the term. When scientists speak of empirical evidence, they typically speak of “hard data”; statistics, experiments, and theories that have been subjected to a rigorous battering and survived.

Jung, quite evidently, did not subject his own thinking to this kind of scrutiny. When Jung spoke of being an empiricist, what he meant was that he had examined his psychic experiences closely and felt sure of them. With regards to modern science, this type of evidence is commonly thought to be worthless, as lots of people are sure of lots of things. But since Jung thought that we cannot really say that a physical judgment about the trajectory of a cannon ball (Te) is any more true than an aesthetic judgment about the beauty of a poem (Fi), it follows that by his own mode of thinking, being very certain of your own psychic experience is the highest form of experience there is.

However, if “empiricism” consists of paying close attention to one’s own psychic experiences, and the four functions form the totality of the psyche, then everyone is an empiricist by Jung’s definition of the word. The epithet then becomes meaningless.

Jung often defined his “empiricism” in contradistinction to people who theorized freely about metaphysics and the nature of God. But it stands as unavoidable fact that Jung himself also theorized freely and said a whole range of things about God. So in the end then, not only is Jung’s definition of the term “empiricism” meaningless, he also violated his own fault lines for what it means to be an empiricist to boot.

By any commonly accepted definition of words, it would make far more sense to say that Jung was not an empiricist, but an idealist, mystic and metaphysician who nevertheless gave us some genuinely useful concepts. However, Jung was exceedingly touchy about being called a mystic, and would openly characterize the people who said so as “idiots.”

It should be noted, though, that where most of Jung’s ideas are commonly thought to be unscientific, two aspects of his work do in fact have some scientific validity: One is his studies in word association and the other is his theory of psychological types.

4: Comparative Religion Sheds Much Light on Jung’s Biography

When people read biographies or stories about Jung they often get the impression that extraordinary coincidences and meaningful portents abounded around Jung. We certainly did when we first started reading about him. However, since then we have learned that a lot of the stories and testimonials about Jung (including those featured in his so-called autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections) follow certain religious patterns that have been uncovered by the field of comparative religious studies.

A certain genre of biography, detailing the life of the “Divine Holy Man” or “Ascetic Seer”, appears to be a staple of religious traditions everywhere. In such biographies, the visions, dreams, hunches, and clairvoyant experiences of the holy man are usually treated with a reverence that serve to set him apart from ordinary people. In the same way, the holy man is often postulated to have seen the future, to have carried out miraculous cures, to have knowledge of life after death, and to have experienced the Land of the Dead for himself. The Holy Man is presented as an ascetic who was born to a higher calling and who is not cut out for the humdrum of ordinary human existence. Another feature of the Holy Man is thus that he episodically has to retreat from ordinary society in order to pay close attention to his own visions and that during his lifetime he will communicate with gods, demons, and other divine beings.

In Jung’s case, the hundreds of arduously recorded dreams, visions, hunches, miraculous cures, allegedly eerie coincidences and instances of Jung seemingly being able to foretell the future are so ubiquitous that we need not recount them here. Just a single example will clarify the type of reverence to which I allude:

“[A patient Jung was seeing] dreamt of his father dying, and that meant himself – ‘I and my Father are one’. Then one day he complained of his throat – some pain or tightness. C.G. thought it could be his heart. He examined the man’s heart himself and then sent him to a cardiac specialist who said there was nothing wrong. C.G. wasn’t satisfied. … He sent the patient back for a second consultation telling him that if the specialist found his heart was sound he should get him to state it in writing, and he did so. On the way home after this consultation, with the letter in his pocket saying that there was nothing wrong with him, the man fell dead. He had an aortic aneurysm and the specialist had missed it.” – E.A. Bennet: Meetings with Jung Daimon 1985 ed. p. 37

The story is almost Biblical, recalling episodes such as Jesus Predicting Peter’s Denial (Matthew 26:34). Like Jesus, Jung had a strong hunch about the future that someone who was ostensibly in a much better position to falsify would first deny (Peter or the cardiologist). And like Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial, Jung’s prediction involves repetition of mundane acts (Peter denying his discipleship / the cardiologist missing the heart condition) in order to lend dramatic tension to the story and amplify the wisdom of the Jesus/ Jung prediction.

So Jung could allegedly see the future and/or facilitate miraculous cures, just like a holy man. With regards to traversing the Land of the Dead, Jung had his period of “confrontation with the unconscious” where he encountered archetypical, supernatural beings  who by way of temptation attempted to pull him into insanity (Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, and Buddha was tempted by the Mara under the tree). As for “sacred retreats,” Jung had his famed Tower in Bollingen.

The point is not to argue that Jung had divine powers, or to argue the contrary; that Jung was a fraud. That should be left for the reader himself to decide. The point is merely to point out that Jung’s genuine qualities as a thinker and innovator notwithstanding, most of the pro-Jungian accounts of Jung’s life are couched in a language and mode of narration that invariably serve to activate religious themes in the mind of the reader.

5: Jung Was Greatly Helped by Generous Sponsors

For his marriage, Jung miraculously managed to secure the hand of the heiress Emma Rauschenbach, one of the wealthiest women in Switzerland at the time. It was because of her fortune that Jung would attain the luxury of dedicating himself to his own research interests and to develop his own theories. Later in life, Jung was similarly helped by the generous sponsorship of American philanthropists, which greatly helped him professionalize and expand upon his work.

Without money from generous patrons, then, Jung might never have had the time or resources to develop his own ideas, and he might have been an anonymous rank and file psychiatrist all his life. In part, these problems are still with us today, as most of the money in Jungian typology is concentrated in the hands of corporations and publishers of specific type instruments (such as the MBTI). They do good research on the straightforward elements of Jungian typology. But they don’t want to rock the boat.


Image of Jung in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Francesca Elettra.

Read more about these facts in the following books: C.G. Jung: Psychological Types // Richard Noll: The Jung Cult // Richard Noll: The Aryan Christ // Gary Lachman: Jung the Mystic // Marilyn Nagy: Philosophical Issues in the Psychology of C.G. Jung.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. is an independent research venture, which has no affiliation with the MBTI Trust, Inc.

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An Interview with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Interview by Ryan Smith

Today we have something out of the ordinary for our readers: an interview with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is an American philosopher and novelist. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and has taught at multiple universities, including Columbia and Rutgers. She has received numerous awards for her fiction and non-fiction, including a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the “Genius Grant.”

Rebecca-Newberger-GoldsteinGoldstein has written ten books, including six novels, philosophical writings, and studies of thinkers such as Spinoza and Gödel. Her latest book, Plato at the Googleplex, imagines Plato returning to 21st century America in order to take stock on whether the questions that he first raised 2400 years ago are still relevant. As you will see, one of the many topics that Goldstein has Plato discuss is Jungian typology.

Dr. Goldstein, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions on your new book, Plato at the Googleplex.

It’s my pleasure.

In your work you have previously engaged with more “modern” thinkers like Spinoza and Kurt Gödel. What made you decide to reach all the way back to antiquity this time?

Paradoxically, in order to make the argument that philosophy makes progress. And one of the techniques I use is to bring Plato forward into our day, to look at what we’ve done with some of the questions that he first raised, and see whether we’ve come to any conclusions and whether these conclusions have had any practical effects. And I argue that the answers to these questions are yes. Plato created a self-critical process, one which aims at making our lives as internally coherent as possible, including ethically coherent, and this process has left Plato behind – which is how he would have wanted it, I think. The Plato of my dialogues is constantly surprised, not only by our science and technological progress, but also our ethical and political progress.

But I wasn’t only interested in bringing Plato forward into our time, but also in traveling backwards into his time. Plato almost single-handedly created the field of philosophy as we know it. How did he do that? Sure, he was a philosophical genius, but he didn’t come out of a cultural vacuum. I argue that the preconditions for philosophy were created there in Athens. To examine the nature of philosophy – and argue for its relevance to our own extraordinary time – I wanted to examine that extraordinary time and place.  There are many ways, both good and bad, in which our own time parallels his time.

In your book, you imagine Plato discussing ancient and modern issues with contemporary, 21st century people. When people write on such themes it is usually Socrates who is imagined to have come back. What made you focus on Plato instead?

Precisely because he was the person who created philosophy as we know it. He used his character of Socrates, which he created after the death of Socrates, to raise and explore issues – metaphysical, ethical, epistemological, linguistic, mathematical, political – that the historical Socrates hadn’t considered. The words that are attributed to Socrates are Plato’s. If I wanted to argue, as I did, that the field he created is still speaking to us, even when we don’t rightly identify it, then who better to use than Plato? 

So I take it that you don’t buy the various scholarly attempts to separate Socrates from Plato then?

Oh no, I do accept such attempts, which is why I draw the distinction between the historical Socrates and Plato’s character of Socrates. Of course, there was the real man on whom Plato based the character. And I think we can take it that certain personality features of the character Plato presents to us in the dialogues – his irony, slyness, brutal honesty, fierce concentration, intellectual integrity and fearlessness etc. – were all true of the real man. And probably some of the points of view as well that Plato has Socrates espousing in the dialogues were propounded by the historical Socrates – but not all. Plato was a philosopher of genius who had heard a certain subset of philosophical questions explored by Socrates, but who greatly expanded the reach of philosophy into areas not considered by Socrates, including epistemology and metaphysics, philosophy of language and of mathematics.

During the 20th century, Plato’s character and philosophy took quite a shellacking and Plato was frequently compared to some of the blackest names in history [e.g. by Karl Popper and Ludwig von Mises]. Do you think these criticisms were justified?

Plato was formulating difficult questions for the first time. Here is one of the most difficult questions: what are the characteristics of rulers that will keep them from abusing their rule? Plato wasn’t terribly impressed with the Athenian experiment in democracy. Remember, it not only put Socrates to death, but also engaged in terribly reckless military ventures, collectively known as the Peloponnesian Wars. Every citizen (a class which of course, excluded women and slaves) had a vote on all the important decisions; it wasn’t representative democracy. Plato thought that the majority of people weren’t capable of rationality, and that therefore political decisions shouldn’t be placed in their hands. Rather they needed incorruptible rulers, who would make the decisions for them. For Plato, then, the central political question becomes: how can one cultivate rulers who won’t love their own personal power above their love of justice? This was his motivation for proposing, in the Republic, the quixotic notion of the “philosopher-king,” someone who, through both his natural characteristics and his intensive training, will wear his crown of absolute power reluctantly – out of a sense of obligation to the collective good.

We’ve had a lot of history in between Plato’s Republic and our day, and that history has taught us to be wary of all manifestations of absolute power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Plato didn’t know this, and his utopian speculations can therefore strike us as naive at best and sinister at worst. Popper and Mises push the sinister interpretation. But their portrayal of Plato as, at heart, a totalitarian is unappreciative of the difficulty of the problem that Plato was trying to solve: namely how can the state best be run, given, on the one hand, the fact that voting citizens are often ill-informed and easily manipulated and/or swayed by narrow self-interest, and, on the other, that those who are in power tend to abuse their power. Plato came up with a proposed solution which we can no longer take seriously. Given the historical horrors of totalitarianism, even of the self-proclaimed enlightened kind, we’d rather, most of us, risk the irrationalities of the electorate.

Plato’s mistrust of the voting citizens, by the way, was much on the mind of the writers of the American Constitution (who were all classically trained), which is why they came up with the idea of representative democracy – quite different from Athenian democracy – as well as such mechanisms as the electoral college. So Plato’s misgivings of democracy helped shape our far more successful experiment.

As you say, when Plato envisioned his philosopher-kings, he did not have the historical evidence before him which has taught us not to entrust anyone with absolute power. However, just like die-hard Communists will argue that “real Communism has never been tried”, a die-hard Platonist might also argue that no “real philosopher” has ever been king. If faced with the historical evidence available to us today, do you think Plato would continue to endorse his philosopher-king solution?

Actually, Marcus Aurelius came pretty close to the ideal of the philosopher-king. I recommend his MeditationsBut clearly, most people are corrupted by power. Plato certainly knew this, which is why he spends so much time in the Republic speaking of which kind of character to choose for leaders and what their extensive training should be.  He wants rulers who only rule out of a sense of ethical obligation; power is the last thing they want. And even so he gives us a detailed analysis of how his ideal state will, by degrees, deteriorate until it is the worst thing of all – a tyranny.  So he didn’t have high hopes for his utopian plan. I like to imagine that he would find our own compromises – a democracy with professional politicians, elected representatives – although less than ideal, as our present Congress so splendidly demonstrates, at least a proof against tyranny.

In your new book, you briefly have Plato discuss the MBTI and Jung’s Typology. What made you introduce that passage into the text?

Given Plato’s proposed solution to the fundamental political problem which he’d set himself, he was very interested in different personality types, with their different potentials for leadership.

In the book, during the discussion of the MBTI, you have Plato say: “A teacher is charged with bringing his or her student into contact with the beauty that answers to that student’s type of character and mind. … I see no reason why anyone should be force-fed information that does not agree with their cognitive digestive system. It will not nourish them. It will pass right through their system, just as soon as they have passed through the school system. How much of what got drilled into you do you remember now?”

It sounds like your Plato is taking a favorable view toward a sharper and earlier division of children in our education system, allowing children’s inborn personalities to influence their education. What do you think his recommendations would be for the practical implementation of such a division?

Yes, I think even though I try to “liberalize” Plato somewhat in the face of what we’ve learned over the past millennia, I keep him committed to the view that early education has to be at least partially tailored to the child – which is not necessarily an anti-progressive idea, only highly impractical on a mass scale. There can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, I have him asserting. I’d even go farther than Plato in urging that we open our sense of successful education to include recognition and cultivation of talents that can make a successful life, even if it’s not just strict academic talent. Plato’s educational program is all centered on producing philosopher-kings, as a solution to the problem of political power. He’s not worrying about the bulk of children and the kind of education they need in order to bring out the best in them and prime them to flourish in their lives. That wasn’t Plato’s problem but it is ours, especially since we’re committed to universal education (not something he worried about). So we’ve got a far more complicated situation on our hands, if we accept the Platonic presupposition that children are born with different personalities and talents and their education ought to be tailored to these inborn traits so that we do them justice. We shouldn’t educate our children as if they’re all going to grow up to be university professors, which slights other talents and makes a lot of kids feel like failures before they’ve got a foot out the door. But this takes vast amounts of attention to individual kids, and we don’t have the resources. Of course, people with means can afford to choose among private schools. But what about people without means? How can we tailor education to the particular child? I think only by bringing parents into the educational process. Plato could afford to think about removing parents from the educational process, leaving it only up to the state to educate; I don’t think we can hope for our kids to get the individual attention they require from overworked teachers who aren’t highly enough valued in our society. The most practical solution I can think of – and it’s one that many parents are already doing – is to give their kids what they’re not getting at school, recognition of their own best talents and help in developing them.

plato_googleIn the book, you identify Plato as INTJ. I’m sure our readers want to know: What was your own result on such tests?


And did you find the description accurate?

Perhaps because I’m an INTJ, and so rather private, I prefer not to answer that question!

It figures. Dr. Goldstein, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. It has been a pleasure.

It’s been a pleasure to consider your interesting questions.


Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s new book, Plato at the Googleplex, is available through Amazon.

Plato’s Unwritten Doctrine and Jung’s Typology, Part 2

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