Communicative Consciousness


Part of our understanding has been that we always encounter sensation and intuition with both cognitive and evaluative aspects. We have worried that people tend to associate sensation with thinking more than feeling, because thinking is typically more closely aligned with perception than with emotion. If we tend to associate sensation with thinking, then we will be biased toward thinking. This is why both sensation and intuition overlap with thinking and feeling in the updated schematic offered in the table, which is admittedly a departure from Jung. The adjustment is not intended to overrepresent judgmental–that is, thinking and especially feeling–types.  Rather, it is intended to give feeling a more balanced representation in the mix.  This change was also motivated by the way in which Meinong drew a parallel between intellectual and emotional presentation. Presentation is similar to sensation and encompasses sensation, but it is more general than sensation. Indeed, we prefer the term presentation–which comes from these Austrian philosophers–to “sensation”, because sensation has a physicalistic bias, while presentation can apply to anything “presented” and therefore “present”–especially, for example, another person in their fuller meaning, or even a fictional or mythological character or idea.

In this way, one can see how presentation and the four functions in general relate to intentionality, which is the notion that consciousness is typically directed toward an object (where object is understood in the widest possible sense). The term sensation—as conventionally related to the traditional five senses—unfortunately also biases one toward the extraverted. Accordingly, one can see one bias of the term “sensation” when one stretches it to apply to “internal” or introverted presentations. However, even in terms of extraversion, the term “sensation” unfortunately also biases attention toward merely material-energetic “things” rather than meaningful encounters with other persons and their involvements within the world; that is, it overlooks not only other people, but how things stand in meaningful relationships to other people.

The idea of presentation does not necessarily suffer from these biases, though it can certainly apply to and incorporate sensations. More generally, the perceptive functions–presentation (including sensation) and intuition–are not merely related to the cognitive but to the evaluative as well.  We typically live in a social world of meaningful encounters and interactions with other people and their involvements. Therefore, these tables are not only the preliminary result of an effort to be more balanced than the traditional Jungian system; they reflect an effort to point the way to communicative action and collective individuation.


Happiness, Flourishing, and Practical Wisdom

We understand flourishing within the context of Aristotelian ethics–and virtue ethics in general, which has coincidentally had a resurgence within philosophy in the past couple of decades. Since the Jungian sense of successful individuation is pretty much identical with Aristotle’s sense of flourishing, this bodes well for Jungians.

Unfortunately, people often dismiss Aristotle’s ethics as being “boring” or “middle of the road” and too much about “moderation”. I once heard someone joke about it being perfect for the “middle aged”. Aristotle was not calling for anything boring; there is nothing middle of the road about his ethics. The practical wisdom (phronesis) he taught was about exercising the right amount of courage, pride, ambition, self-respect, self-assertion, self-expression, kindness, generosity, indignation, charm, acquisitiveness, and frugality, etc., according to the situation at hand. Doing the right thing in his understanding may well require the utmost effort. For example, sometimes successfully confronting a challenge will require all the courage one can muster.

This sense of practical wisdom (phronesis) is directly applicable to the Jungian four functions (feeling, thinking, intuition, and sensation [presentation]) and the two attitudes (introversion and extraversion). One challenge before us is to exercise the functions and attitudes–and virtues–according to the requirements of the present situation as interpreted in light of collective individuation (universal happiness) of all peoples. Much of therapy–and more importantly, self-therapy–is related to an effort to facilitate this “moderation” of functions, attitudes, and traits or virtues, revealing where they are out of balance, appropriate, inappropriate, excessive, or deficient. However, again, it is more about being appropriate and adequate to the situation and the times than being at the middle of the extremes.

Naturally, we all have predispositions according to our “deep character” or phylogenetic psyche (that is, our particular and unique manifestation of the collective unconscious) that define to some extent who we are. This will also set the context for our challenges alongside our proximate culture and society. However, sometimes we need to even go against our phylogenetic character to do the right thing–at least in the short run. All the details and challenges behind this assertion are the stuff of life, so obviously we cannot fully elaborate them here; suffice it to say that there are many factors at play in universal human flourishing. Actually, Freud thought that we may need to resist our phylogenetic character in the long run as well or at least sublimate some inclinations. That is another angle, but we are more predisposed toward a benevolent view of the collective unconscious. Ultimately, we best understand the four functions and the two attitudes not only within the scope of individuation and the personal system, but within the wider context of body, culture, society, environment, earth, cosmos, and collective individuation.

Hence, with regard the table on the four functions, and specifically in relation to mood,  happiness and sadness have an extremely broad sense. The spectrum of happiness/sadness encompasses the wide spectrum of moods in general. Within the current context, happiness and flourishing are two different things. Happiness is a deep-seated, intuitive and evaluative perception that one is flourishing. It is not a conscious acknowledgment; it is more about the unconscious, though one can certainly become aware of it, which gives added pleasure. It is like the difference between being-in-love and loving. Being-in-love, which involves dwelling within the unconscious, is like happiness; loving, which requires merely conscious effort, is like consciously perceiving that one is happy. However, both happiness and the pleasure given in the conscious realization that one is happy are based on perceptions that one is actually flourishing. Hence, happiness is not identical with flourishing, but a result and part of it. (One can think of it in terms of taking the red pill rather than the blue pill, as portrayed in the film The Matrix. If one knows that one is not actually flourishing, then one can not really be happy.)


From Subject-Centered to Collective-Individuative Reason

These tables reflect our preliminary attempts to reconstruct Jung’s four functions–and hence his typology–along the lines of the philosophy and psychology of the proto-phenomenologists Alexius Meinong, Christian Ehrenfels, and Franz Brentano. The idea is to bring the four functions and the typology a little more up-to-date by nudging them closer to existential phenomenology, and then to use this existential-phenomenological reframing as a bridge to communicative reason and collective individuation.  By ‘communicative reason’, we are referring broadly to all communication that engages other people as fellow cognitive, instrumental, aesthetic, and moral agents.  By ‘collective individuation’, we are referring to all interaction that engages other people as fellow moral agents in a mutual effort toward universal happiness.  As we have seen, the typology remains largely confined to the philosophy of consciousness and its subject-centered reason.  Hence, it can remain highly productive with reference to merely instruments and objects.  However, it reaches its limits when consciousness fully engages other people.

One of the dangers of the traditional Jungian approach to the four functions is its overall affinities with what Habermas terms the philosophy of consciousness and “subject-centered reason”. Jungians in general have compensated for this tendency through mindfulness toward social dynamics, but the old typology does tend to hinder these insights due to the biases we have indicated above. Our deepest hope is that we will ultimately understand “presentation”–and the four functions, the introverted and especially the extraverted attitude–in a broad sense that better incorporates interaction, speech, communicative action, and collective individuation. We hope we will be mindful that we typically dwell within a social world permeated with value and meaning–especially that of other people and their involvements. We hope we will move as necessary from subject-centered reason to communicative reason within the context of collective individuation.


[References forthcoming.]

The Organismal System