Episode 81: Jung on the Psyche and Dreams

On Carl Jung's "Approaching the Unconscious" from Man and His Symbols, written in 1961.

What's the structure of the mind? Jung followed Freud in positing an unconscious distinct from the conscious ego, but Jung's picture has the unconscious much more stuffed full of all sorts of stuff from who knows where, including instincts (the archetypes) that tend to give rise to behavior and dream imagery that we'd have to call religious. We neglect this part of ourselves at our psychological peril, and Jung also attributes the ills of the age (like nihilism and WWII) to being out of touch with our larger, unconscious selves.

Sound like goofy pop psychology? Well, Jung's book was written specifically for the populace, and many have run with his emphasis on spiritual self-knowledge and his openness to talk of the paranormal to conclusions less well founded than Jung would have liked. Mark, Seth, and Wes keep trying to make the text speak to other philosophical works but eventually get sidetracked and occasionally personal on this very special episode.

Read more about the topic and get the text. Listen to Wes's introduction.

End song: "Bedlam" by Mark Lint and the Simulacra. Read about it.

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  1. JS says

    Just wanna say Seth is my dude. He’s basically me in his entire world view. Does my liking and agreeing with nearly everything he says make me a narcissist? They need to have a Seth entry on SEP someday. I’ve listened to about 30 episodes thus far.

    • Profile photo of Seth Paskin says

      Thanks JS. Liking me does not make you a narcissist, it just means you have great taste. AS for the SEP – that might be a reach. Perhaps Wikipedia.

      I appreciate the kudos!

  2. Baron says

    Hey guys! I’ve been listening to the podcasts a lot lately. A hobby of mine is Jungian cognitive types, Myers-Briggs, and the Russian version, Socionics, and I can’t help wonder as I listen to you guys talk what types you are… Is it too personal to ask which types you fall under?

    Thanks guys!

  3. dmf says

    it’s too bad that Jung didn’t connect his early work on feeling-toned-complexes with the work of William James and the pragmatists on habits, he would have been well on his way to some of what we now are coming to understand in terms of our non-conceptual response-abilities, Alva Noe gets to much of the state of the art (nascent as it is) in his new book on Real Presences.
    Always important I think in terms of any attempts at so called dream analysis/interpretation to keep in mind that the dream itself is not present in our waking life and so we are dealing with recreations/interpretations at best.
    Here is Noe on Concepts&Practical knowledge:

  4. says

    At the conclusion of this podcast, one of your hosts laments that he found the Jung reading “thin” and “for a general audience”. Isn’t the whole premise of this podcast one of non-professional philosophers making obscure academic philosophical scholarship more accessible to an informed lay audience?

    To be honest, this is the first of your podcasts I’ve go through right to the end. In general – and this may be a cultural thing – I find your discussions wordy, obscurantist and just a little bit pompous.

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer says

      Welcome, Roger. The premise of the podcast is not primarily a presentation to a lay audience, or any audience at all, but having a conversation. Still, having an audience and trying to play at that level (not that we always succeed) keeps us honest: if you can’t explain yourself clearly, you likely don’t know what you’re talking about.

      On the flip side, these figures are often new to us, so we really don’t know what we’re talking about. Since “obscurantism” implies an intentional obscuring of the truth, I’ll deny that, but we often fall short of our aim to be clear, and honestly, much as we try, we can’t keep explaining some basic terms over and over, so a bit of stopping to look up terms on the Internet and/or going back and listening to the episodes from the beginning may be required to really get every little bit.

      Having complete thoughts, especially when you’re grasping like we often are, requires going on and on about things. Short, concise sentences only come when you’ve already figured it out and have presented it a hundred times (and often not even then).

      I think the complaint about the Jung work in particular was that it seemed he was glossing over some of the subtleties in this work that would really be required to actually evaluate it.

      Thanks for listening and sharing your thoughts.



      • says

        Thank you Mark, for your gracious and patient reply to my possibly typically Australian directness.

        I am reminded if this statement by Montaigne:

        “Difficulty is a coin which the learned conjure with so as not to reveal the vanity of their studies and which human stupidity is keen to accept in payment.”

        On the other hand I recognize that stretching oneself beyond one’s comfort zone of understanding is the path to growth. I will persist.

  5. Rob says

    Hi guys – loving the podcast. Just listened to the Jung one, a thinker I’ve looked at a lot – SETH states at the beginning he doesn’t believe in the introversion/extraversion dichotomy – FASCINATED to know why Seth!

    PS I think recognition of the all-pervading effect of such “personality differences” will comprise the next Kantian revolution in human thought. But then I also think They Might Be Giants are a better band than the Beatles. Yours, Nottingham, England, Old World.


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