On Carl Jung's Archetypes

    In her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Ayn Rand talks about the "parrot psycho-epistemology": the substitution of cognition for imitation, understanding for memorization, and concepts for sounds "whose referents are not facts of reality, but the facial expressions and emotional vibrations of their elders". I believe this is not merely a "substitution", but a regression to a more primitive form of learning. Today I am going to talk about projection, introjection, and the Jungian archetypes.

    Sensory beings can only react to stimuli. Because of that, their instincts are strictly situational. An amoeba, for example, cannot react to an object, but only to the sum of its sensations in the way dictated by its genetic material. For them, learning, acting and changing are the same thing, which can roughly be described as "Stimulus 1, 2 and 3 have been sensed, therefore I am in situation A, therefore I must become X".

    Perceptual beings can integrate stimuli into percepts, and become aware of entities. This enabled the development of relational instincts - behavior that is not merely a response to the state of the conscious subject as a whole, but to a perceived object. A wolf, for example, does not survive by the simple reflex of "coming into direct contact with food -> this is a food-situation -> ingest food", but by the more complex of "perceiving that object as prey -> engaging with it as a predator".

    This experience, however, is not one of identification, in the human sense of the word. The wolf does not know what a prey is, or what its status as a predator entails. It has a particular set of innate "hunting" interactions, based on the instinctual classification of a particular object as "prey". In other words, it is born with the instinctual "slot", into which it automatically "fits" a particular entity. This perceptual "slot" is what Carl Jung calls an archetype. The act of "filling it with an entity or a situation" is the act of projecting - the act of taking an internal existent, and relating it to an external one.

    Wolves, however, aren't born with the ability to perform the very complex, coordinated sets of actions required to hunt in a pack. They must learn to do so by observing their older peers - a fact evidenced by the well documented observation that an animal bred and raised in captivity will not survive if he is simply released into the wild. How is a cub - who lacks a conceptual faculty, and is therefore unable to understand the relationship between cub and adult - able to differentiate between an adult wolf, who he should mimic, and, say, a tree? Projection, followed by introjection.

    The wolf instinctively projects his "adult wolf" archetype onto the older wolf - or alternately, "fills" his instinctual "slot" with it - and then relates to it in a perceptual level. To make this idea more concrete, think of the very common human response to seeing someone stub their toes. We do not merely identify what happened to that person - more often than not, we suddenly become hyper-aware of our own toes, and even feel an "imaginary pain". This act of taking an external existent and experiencing it as an internal one is what introjection is.

    Imitation through projection and introjection is at the core of Rand's "parrot psycho-epistemology". The second-handler projects the role of "authority" into whoever he surrenders his independence to, and then attempts to introject their behavior. It is a necessary part of our development, as it enables a child to imitate its parents ability to walk and speak before he is able to understand those actions conceptually. It is also a very dangerous form of cognition to rely on later in life, as I will discuss tomorrow, when I talk about Sigmund Freud's superego.

  -  May 1st, 2020