Saban, M: Two Jungs: Two sciences?


Mark Saban


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Jung’s psychology is irredeemably and intentionally ambiguous. When it comes to science, this ambiguity shows up in what appear to be two contradictory approaches in Jung’s writings. One highlights the intrinsically scientific nature of his project and insists upon his empiricism. The other takes the form of a profound and relentless critique of the materialistic, reductive and rationalistic assumptions Jung finds behind the scientific approach.

Jung sees individuation as a process emerging from repeated self-exposure to the trials of the opposites. In this arena at least, it is the dynamic tension between these two opposing visions of science that forms the crucial condition for the on-going individuation of his psychology. As post-Jungians we may be tempted to simply avoid this difficult tension by, in effect, falling in the direction of one or other of these apparently incommensurable approaches. This can show up as a tendency to locate analytical psychology within the established bounds of official science (by for example insisting on its implicit consistency with orthodox scientific findings). The alternative is to be identified in claims that Jung’s psychology is extra- (or super-) scientific. It seems to me however that neither approach can do justice to the difficulty of the problem Jung has set us.

I intend to attempt here a third approach, placing Jung’s problematic engagement with science into a creative encounter with the philosophical ideas of Deleuze & Guattari. The French philosophers distinguish two contrasting ways of doing science: “Royal” or “state” science privileges the fixed over the metamorphic; seeking to establish transhistorical, universally true theories, it fetishizes the eternal, the stable, and the constant. “Nomad” or “minor” science, on the other hand, emphasizes the malleable, fluid, and metamorphic nature of being. Crucially Deleuze sees these incompatible approaches to science as not alternatives but as “ontologically, a single field of interaction” (Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.367).

In classical Jungian terms we might imagine these two versions of science not as two alternatives but as a dynamic whole crucially intertwined in the manner of the Puer/Senex syzygy. We are then confronted with a paradoxical vision of analytical psychology as a science most alive in the creative interface between two incompatible yet somehow intertwined dimensions.

Deleuze describes his philosophical approach as a transcendental empiricism. How might such a paradoxical practice of this kind aid those of us who seek to individuate Jungian psychology as it wrestles with the questions that science sets us?

Presenter Bio:

Mark Saban PhD trained with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, with whom he is a senior analyst, working in London and Oxford. He is also a lecturer in Jungian and post-Jungian studies in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex.

Publications: Mark co-edited (with Emilija Kiehl and Andrew Samuels) Analysis and Activism - Social and Political Contributions of Jungian Psychology (Routledge 2016) and wrote Two Souls Alas: Jung’s Two Personalities and the Making of Analytical Psychology (Chiron 2019) which won the International Association of Jungian Studies’ Best Book of 2019.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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