Human science psychology

Jungian psychology and the human sciences

Jungian psychology and the human sciences

International Association for Jungian Studies 2020 conference

to be held jointly with Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, USA

April 2-5, 2020

Notes from the IAJS Conference Chair, Roger Brooke, also Professor of Psychology at Duquesne University.

Jung was in some ways eclectic; he wrote from many perspectives, including medical, psychoanalytic, social anthropological, historical, phenomenological, poetic, alchemical, and mythic, to name the main ones. Jung called himself an empiricist, but in a way that was more European than Anglo-American; he also called himself a phenomenologist and rightly described his method as hermeneutic. Even his experimental studies into complexes involved an interpretation of physiological findings in terms of meaning, language, and personal history.

Some people have an interest in Jungian psychology but are unsure about the human science field. The terms are all loosely described; nobody has copyright. But here are some notes that might help you understand the broad terms of reference for the conference.

The term human sciences originates from the distinction made by Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) between the natural sciences (naturswissenschaften)and the human sciences (geisteswissenschaften). The natural sciences include physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, anatomy, physiology, etc. The human sciences had not yet developed into their various disciplines, but would include psychology. Psychology as a human science was founded on assumptions and methods that are consistent with the ways in which we understand ourselves and each other. The differences can broadly be tabulated as follows:

Natural sciences                                                Human sciences

Quantitative research methods                      Qualitative research methods

Experimentation                                               Description and interpretation

Measurement and statistics                             Meaning and significance

Analysis of variables                                         Exploration of horizons of meaning

Assume determined reactions                         Assume subjects in dialogue with a world

Causal relations (assumed)                             Historical contexts dialectically engaged

Scientific explanation                                       Human understanding

Ideal is an independent observer                   Reality of the participant observer is embraced

Assumes a philosophy of science and           Philosophically and historically self-questioning


Both natural and human science are sciences in the sense that:

1. They both have teachable, replicable methods of data collection and analysis,

2. They both require evidence and have rules for disconfirmation,

3. They both involve the publication of research in peer reviewed journals and books, open to criticism from others.

There is interesting and careful scholarship regarding each of these points (eg. what are evidence and validity?) but the general terms of reference have tended to remain, despite significant blurring of the distinctions in some regards. For instance, Ricoeur famously argued that psychoanalytic human “understandings” have explanatory power.

The human sciences are closer to philosophy and the humanities, especially in their reading and interpretation of texts, but they are not the same thing. Jung’s psychology spans both natural scientific and human scientific approaches, but he is best situated in the human science field. His interpretation of bodily phenomena in terms of psyche, his commitments to phenomenology and hermeneutics, his “comparative” method of description and analysis, his preoccupation with meaning, and his discussion of archetypes and complexes as centers of meaning approached interpretatively—all these situate Jung’s psychology in the human sciences.

At Duquesne University we typically describe human science psychology as a field in which there are four broad traditions, all of which meet the criteria of the right-hand column above:

  1. Psychoanalysis (Freud and Jung and their descendants)
  2. Phenomenology, including existential phenomenology, and hermeneutics (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Binswanger, Boss, Rollo May, and others and their descendants). The kind of textual discourse analysis that Susan Rowland has developed belongs here, since it involves (feminist) interpretations of Jung’s texts (hermeneutics).
  3. Humanistic and transpersonal psychology (the tradition of Rogers and Maslow, but now would include ecopsychology, since the thought of David Abram has had a big impact).
  4. The various critical traditions, which explore the outer horizons in which our lives are constituted: critical theory, feminism, methodological deconstruction, social construction, and so on (de Beauvoir, Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray—and many of our own contemporary Jungian colleagues in this tradition.)

An assumption underlying human science psychology is that the human being is not a neurochemical cocktail wrapped in skin, with an electrochemical buzzing in the head that magically becomes psychological life. As Jung understood, the psyche is not inside us, but, rather, we are inside it, inside psychological life, in the same way as we are inside language and culture. The human being is a being-in-the-world, and psychological life is unintelligible apart from this network of relationships we call a world. This world is the gathering of our biosphere, others, the myths, images, and language of our cultural and familial history; it is the context in which we ourselves are constituted. What we call a world is not a set of external “variables” having an effect on us; it is the very stuff of our identities and psychological lives. As human scientists we like to push this even further, arguing that even our physiology is ultimately intelligible only in terms of its world-relatedness. It is obviously factually true that we can see because we have eyes, but ontologically it is truer to say that we have eyes because we are seeing beings.

The humanities in general have not really been incorporated in any systematic way into the human sciences, but they belong here as part of the conversation.

On the other hand, developments in the natural sciences, including evolutionary psychology and psychobiology, neuroscience, and attachment theory, have been in creative dialogue with the human sciences, especially with psychoanalysis and phenomenology. There are journals devoted to these conversations. The aim is not to reduce human science insights to neurology and brain activity but to show how what we see in brain activity requires psychoanalysis and phenomenology as human sciences for its interpretation. I hope that some of the recent discussions on the IAJS listserve will make their way into the conference. This was creative, genuinely integrative work.

There has been a long-standing interest in the possibility of using Hegel to reinterpret Jung. Some of us are hoping that the challenges in this regard might get some clarity and development. In a more general way, human scientists are especially sensitive to the philosophical and historical assumptions and conditions within the work we do, so submissions on Jungian psychology’s assumptions and conceptual investigations into Jungian concepts are encouraged.

I hope that some folks from the Jung-Lacan dialogues in Cambridge (and elsewhere) might be enticed to submit papers and to come to Duquesne. There is a strong interest in Lacan as well as in Jung in our Psychology Department, and our graduate students could have their minds set on fire with exciting papers and presentations.

One of the assumptions that we have accepted in the human sciences is that what we see or understand always reflects a way of seeing or understanding. This perspective does not negate natural science’s rules of evidence (eg. Popper) but it invites us to enquire into the human perspectives (historical, cultural, perhaps political and economic) that condition the natural scientific assumptions and methods in the first place. For example, my pet peeve at the moment is the psychiatric construction of the wounds of war as a psychiatric issue instead of approaching it as a social, moral, and spiritual one, as it has always been in traditional warrior societies. So instead of simply testing hypotheses about which “treatment” is most “effective,” in “symptom relief,” the human scientist would want to question and deconstruct the underlying psychiatric assumption that trauma is to be found and treated behind the eyes and between the ears—the assumption underlying its supposedly empirical methods. This is especially relevant since the pharmaceutical industries are spending billions of dollars as neocolonialists persuading local cultures in Africa, Vietnam, and elsewhere that their distressed members are suffering from undiagnosed mental illnesses and require medication (not ritual healing). The human scientist in such cases is interested in understanding the horizons of meaning and significance of, say, war, within their own worlds, and, if anything, learning from them about our own deeply human needs for healing, social integration, and transformation. We are also interested in exposing what is a massive scam.

These notes on the human sciences do not imply that we are looking only for papers that conceptually bridge the Jungian and human science fields. As already mentioned, Jungian psychology is already a human science.

I and the IAJS Board and the Department of Psychology at Duquesne University look forward to hearing from you and, we hope, to meeting you next year.


Roger Brooke, Ph.D.

Duquesne University

PS I have been asked already for an introductory book on psychology as a human science. The best introductory book I know was written by my Departmental Chair for our students. Lots of pictures too. He is a wonderful scholar so the book is rich in history, mythology, pictures, and so on, with fascinating chapters on the meanings of science in First Nation societies, the renaissance, William James, Wilhelm Wundt, Freud, the existentialists and humanistic psychologists, and so on: just a delightful read.

Laubscher, L. (2016).An introduction to psychology as a human science. Cognella Academic Publishing.

An introductory paper on the common themes underlying human science psychology is my introductory chapter, Some common themes in psychology as a human science. It can be found here:

Evidence based practice

On APA’s recommendation for treating trauma

The American Psychological Association recently recommended only one form of treatment for people with post traumatic stress disorder, saying that it is the only one that is “evidence based.” Jonathan Shedler, the author of the following article, is a renowned researcher on therapeutic outcomes and a harsh critic of APA’s recommendation, as well as much of the empirically weak base for much of what is supposedly “evidence based.” I recommend this clear little article by Shedler, with whom I could not agree more.


Psychology of place: self, psyche, and world

This interview with Jon Mills, Ph.D., was conducted in Cape Town during the International Association of Jungian Studies conference, 2017. Its focus is on the psychology of place and shows the influence of Heidegger and Boss in my reading of Jung. It is indebted to the late Professor Dreyer Kruger. (If you click over the heading above, then this note will appear again with “The interview” highlighted as the link.)

Combat posttraumatic stress injury and military issues

What to do with memory: thoughts for our veterans on Memorial Day

Roger Brooke, Ph.D., ABPP

Most veterans don’t know what to do with memory. Some hope to forget, but also cannot bear to be forgotten. Some hope to forget by hurling themselves back into civilian life, often drunkenly, but going down that path is not going to end well. Almost all combat veterans whom I know try to protect those they love from the memories that crowd in on them, especially at night. Down range they have often remembered with longing the atmosphere of a loving home and the ordinary pleasures of running water, toilets, and a clean bed. It has kept them going. The last thing they want to do when they get home is to spoil this with memories of war.

Combat posttraumatic stress injury and military issues

The qualities veterans possess

This article appeared on Memorial Day 2016 in the local newspaper, The Tribune Review. It is pasted below.

When I ask students at Duquesne University if they or a family member are veterans, there is usually a sprinkling of hands. More hands are raised when I ask about neighbors, then former school friends, fellow parishioners, then friends of friends.

By this time, nearly everyone in class has a hand raised.

When veterans and civilians feel disengaged, which they often do, it is partly because they simply don’t know each other. What civilians should know, contrary to popular misconceptions:

• Veterans are generally better educated than their civilian counterparts.

• They have lower rates of incarceration and violence.

• They tend to be highly disciplined and excel at initiative, leadership and teamwork.

• Even the minority with PTSD generally function fairly well; their suffering is largely private and evident only to those who love them.

• Veterans look back on their time in service with many impressions and often contradictory feelings, but pride is nearly always one of them.

What veterans want from their civilian friends and associates is to feel welcomed and appreciated. They bring extraordinary life experience to their classes, workplaces and communities.

On Memorial Day, many veterans feel called to honor the dead, whom they carry in their memories. It is a time of private grief and public mourning — or at least a time of respect. It is a day when many veterans privately recommit themselves to living lives worthy of those who never came home.

Many are offended by the day’s flag-waving hoopla and by civilians who think no further than shopping or barbecuing. On this day, civilians might let their veteran family and friends know that they are holding them in their thoughts and prayers, knowing that this is a sacred day.

The English essayist, Chesterton, wrote, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” In traditional cultures the moral contract is that the warriors will surround the civilians and fight, risking their lives and limbs, with the understanding that, upon their return, the community will surround the warriors, tending to them in body, mind and spirit, honoring their sacrifices and sharing their burdens.

With regard to PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder: Dr. Ed Tick, co-founder of the nonprofit Solder’s Heart, says that it should also mean post-traumatic social disorder.

And clinical psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Shay writes that what a veteran needs most is not a mental health professional but a community for whom his experience matters. Yes indeed! The psychological and spiritual wounds of war are a human universal, named and ritually addressed in all traditional warrior societies. Because this universal warrior experience has not been appreciated in our time, contemporary veterans with PTSD have felt stigmatized and isolated; and their families and local communities have often felt unsure of their role in helping facilitate the transition home. [This sentence had been shortened in the newspaper copy-RB].

Let’s do what we can to make our region a strong community for our veterans. Not only can civilians help veterans make the return, but veterans can also help civilians with their lessons learned, a continued sense of service, and the qualities mentioned above.