Objective vs Archetypal Thought
Today's post was supposed to deal with Carl Jung's notion of "persona", but I realized we must delve a little deeper into the nature of archetypal thought before going into the subject. Specifically, into the issue of objectivity in the context of psycho-epistemology.
Objectivity refers to the relationship between existence and consciousness. In the context of metaphysics, it is the notion that reality is what it is, and is not shaped by our perception of it. In the context of epistemology, it is the notion that knowledge must be acquired by the non-contradictory integration of direct perception. In the context of psycho-epistemology, it is the differentiation between cognition and emotion - between what I am perceiving now, and my automatic reactions to it, based on what I have perceived in the past.
As I explained before, Man's default, unfocused mind is that of an imitator. As such, it doesn't deal with existence in terms of essentials, but in terms of arbitrary lumps of information. A child does not learn to walk by abstracting the essential principles of motion and anatomy involved in the action, and then applying them - it isn't even capable of that level of abstraction. It does so by perceiving specific adults as "beings to be imitated", and copying their behavior in their totality - the essential aspects of walking are learned as part of a larger totality of information, full of non-essential aspects.
Objectivity requires the notion of existence - the knowledge that every experience I have is part of a larger, interconnected whole. This requires the notion of self - the counterintuitive knowledge that every single one of my very different experiences, are actually the perceptions of a single individual, with a specific identity. This, in turn, requires the notion of object - the differentiation between my perception of an object, and my automatic emotional responses to it, which are experienced simultaneously.
Archetypal thought refers to thought in the absence of objectivity - it is the method of a child who imitates, as objective thought is that of an adult who identifies.
Objective thought deals with a situation - say, a man buying bread from another - as an integration of its parts. The baker is an independent entity with a specific identity, as is the buyer, and their particular interaction is that of trade. In the absence of the proper premises with which to conceptualize individual entities, archetypal thought deals with the situation as a whole as the starting point, and its parts as aspects of it. Instead of individual entities, there is only "the trade", which is in turn composed of "a buyer" and "a seller", with no thought as to what those particular entities might be outside of the specific context of the trade.
Our hypothetical child learning to walk does not conceptualize the act of walking as something different from the parent as a whole, or the situation he is in. He merely experiences "father, the walker, walking here and now", and attempts to imitate every single aspect of it - including completely arbitrary aspects, like a particular quirk he has when moving his left foot. Only by adopting the notion of objectivity as an implicit psychological premise, he can think of an existent abstracted from a specific context. This is the reason why literary characters are as essential to Man's development as explicit philosophical ideas.
Objective abstract ideas must be "translated into action" before we can use them. To go from "rationality", as an abstract concept, to "a rational action in this specific context" takes significant mental activity. A character like John Galt, for example, gives us a mental shortcut, allowing us to make use of our rational faculty to identify the ideas behind him, and our imitative faculty to have a direct grasp on how a person who adopts those ideas would act. This ability to perceive ideas directly as part of a person who adopts them is at the core of Jung's notion of persona, which I will explain tomorrow.
- May 12th, 2020