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:

Human science psychology Phenomenology

Psychology as a Human Science: notes for students

Roger Brooke, Ph.D., ABPP
(Students: If you quote from this page, be sure to cite your references. Lifting from this page is plagiarism and is easily detected by your professors.)

Psychology as a human science is an approach to psychology in which our assumptions and methods are consistent with our experience of ourselves as human beings. Therefore, it is an approach which endeavors to address human experience and behavior on their own terms: that is, terms that are adequate to that which is particular about human beings.

Assumptions about human beings
1. Human beings are fundamentally transcendent. This term means that human beings are fundamentally conscious, interpreting and interacting with the events in their lives, using a degree of freedom in how they interpret their experience and make choices accordingly. Unlike other animals, humans have the capacity to loosen the intentional ties that bind them to their context and to reflect on their context. This possibility of transcendence is almost continuous in human experience, as we are always in some sort of dialogue with ourselves and the situation in which we are embedded. This wider perspective is founded on the fluidity, range, and complexity of human temporality.

2. Human being is always in a context. Experience and behavior are always contextual. But the human context is not merely a combination of genes and environmental conditions. The human context is a network of meaningful relations and personal intentions, rooted in language, time and cultural history. The human context is never a set of “independent variables” causing certain behaviors (“dependent variables”) to occur. This is because the human being is never separate from her context; human behavior and context do not have an external relationship between conceptually discrete variables. What natural science calls independent variables are events which are meaningfully interpreted and engaged.

For human beings, the context has an internal relation to experience and behavior, meaning that the relationship of experience to context is one of meaning, interpretation, and intentions. It is a dialectical relation that changes both the person and the context at each moment. Note that there is no context that causes you to be in this class. All the occurrences that make up the context of your being here — doing well enough on SATs, having financial support, having a history of successes which encourage you to think you can succeed, parents who believe in you (or parents who don’t and you are going to show them!), having long term professional goals — all these are contexts to which you continually relate, and this ongoing relation to context (an aspect of transcendence) changes both the context and you over time.

3. Human beings live in time in a way that is not clock time at all. Human temporality is historical, meaning that we live in the present and towards the future while still in relation to memory and the past. This is fundamentally different from the natural scientific idea of causality. Scientific determinism underlying most psychology imagines time as an endless succession of immediate material moments, each moment caused by the material events in the preceding instant. However, that notion is simply not true for human beings. We live in relation to the past as deeply historical beings, but that does not mean our behavior is caused by it. This confusion of human historicity (that we are historical beings) and determinism runs through much of psychology, and is especially exasperating in Freud. Freud’s well known terms–repetition compulsion, fixation, regression, and transference–all speak of the temporal complexity of human historicity, but this insight into the historical gravity of human motivation and experience is then translated in his metapsychology into the “scientific” language of causal determinism. Much to enjoy thinking about here.

Human science methods

  1. Seek understanding rather than physiological, epidemiological, or experimental explanation;
  2. Involve detailed, penetrating description rather than an analysis of variables/factors;
  3. Explore meaning and significance rather than measurement;
  4. Require that the researcher acknowledge the situatedness and contextuality of his or her questions and the results that emerge in relation to them. There is no God-like eye view; all statements are positional; all descriptions have an interpretative dimension and are indebted to the rigors of hermeneutics.
Human science psychology Evidence based practice

Clash of the Titans: evidence based practice and cultural diversity

Roger Brooke, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh

The recent (winter 2001) annual conference of the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP), held in Santa Barbara, was a celebration of clinical psychology. The meeting deserves comment because it identified the two dominant themes of the future of clinical psychology and because CUDCP represents and comprises the most powerful clinical psychologists in America and Canada: the Directors of Clinical Training, who put their mark on the next generation of clinical psychologists. Despite the voluminous recent literature on multiculturalism, and on scientific method, in American Psychologist and elsewhere, there seemed to me to be a certain naivete among my good colleagues that is more problematic than they recognize and that, in the long run, will be self-destructive to our discipline. It is as though we as professional educators have not adequately taken to heart the implications of what we ourselves are saying about multiculturalism. At worst, we could be charged with using the rhetoric of multiculturalism as an instrument of cultural oppression. We shall be guilty as charged if we think of multiculturalism simply as a matter of adding “other cultures” (foreign and domestic) to our fields of research and care: clinical psychology would then be colonialism with a warm heart and an EVT (empirically validated treatment).

The first day of the Conference celebrated the scientist-practitioner model of training, which is now finding its fulfillment in empirically validated treatments (EVT’s) – those treatments, oriented towards the latest DSM, that have been experimentally and statistically validated. The second day celebrated multiculturalism. Professor Derald Sue gave a brilliant speech, and managed to say, without giving offense, that all White people were racists. He was, of course, not accusing anyone in personal terms at all; he was pointing to the way in which we psychologists impose on people from “other cultures” a whole range of assumptions which define for us (mostly White Americans) the nature of social and psychological reality, that is, assumptions about the nature of human beings which we fail to recognize as cultural.

After the seminar on multiculturalism, during discussion time, I suggested that, within the latencies of our celebration, there was looming a Clash of the Titans. The previous day’s Titan was the scientist-practitioner model of training; today’s was multiculturalism.

The challenge of multiculturalism, as an ethical and political obligation, is that there is little point in learning about so-called “other cultures” if our way of knowing is singular and has already colonized in advance what we know. Multiculturalism, as Professor Sue argued, needs to be approached not as an accumulation of already colonized “facts” but epistemologically, as ways of knowing and self-understanding.

However, the scientist-practitioner model is not merely a model of training but an epistemology, a way of organizing our experience within the culture of clinical psychology. As an epistemology it defines for us the nature of psychopathology, symptom, cure, evidence, validity, and even professional legitimacy and competence. Through its defining language it reaches into our professional identities and collegial relations. Clinical psychology is, therefore, an epistemology, not as some abstract philosophy, but as an embodied and organizing, political culture. The scientist-practitioner model of professional psychology is a cultural and political force. That is not to criticize it, but only to name it. Clinical psychology is, after all, part of my cultural identity, and I have thrived within it.

I suggested that we try to be a little more self-reflective and circumspect in our adoption of the scientist-practitioner model of training. We should not be its servant but its critical master.

After my remarks, the family therapists in the room would have noticed how the system immediately coordinated to nullify the intruder and to return to its prior comfort level. Of the comments I noted, then and later: science is culture free; it is not something to abuse people with, but to help them. We should not abandon science: mysticism, shamanic dance, and e.s.p. might be fine in other cultures, but this is America, and we have our own criteria for accountability. If we give up science we will not be able to know when we are wrong. More hopefully: science has many meanings.

The nullifying comments above should embarrass us for their epistemological and cultural naivete. The Clash of the Titans will not be averted so easily. A brief example might show how easily our colonialism can unwittingly slip into our science and care. A Taiwanese student is self-referred to the Student Counseling Center because she lacks energy and is unable to complete her dissertation. It is found that she has a history of traumatic loss and that she meets the DSM criteria for major depression. We are told that the Chinese do not have a concept of depression, so we have to “educate her about psychological constructs such as depression” (Grieger and Ponterotto, 1995, p. 362) before our treatment can make sense to her. These authors are well-meaning and sensitive, but the fact that the client was helped by “altering her world-view” to one that was more “psychological” (and biological, as she was referred for medication) was not critically examined. The authors do mention the debate about whether depression is universal or a cultural construct, but this debate is bypassed. It is taken for granted that the client must think like us if she is to be helped. But there are numerous cultural assumptions that have already colonized what it is that we scientist-practitioners think we know about this unfortunate young woman and her culture. It is assumed
that a billion Chinese misunderstand their own experience because they have not yet discovered what “depression” “is,”
that the human experience we psychologists and psychiatrists call depression is a pathological condition (rather than, say a spiritual malaise, like a dark night of the soul),
that this pathological condition is something an individual (rather than, say, a system) has,
that depression is a mental illness which, like a medical illness, has a set of defining symptoms,
that depression is caused by a combination of biochemical imbalances and dysfunctional thoughts (or unnamed grief, inner conflicts, etc.),
that the cure is to teach the client what depression “is,” and to change the mental factors that caused it (in CBT, to train her to think in ways we say are “realistic” and “functional”);

Most practicing therapists, I expect (or hope?), would approach this student with a humble and respectful desire to know how she understands her distress and organizes her experience in terms consistent with her cultural world. We would assume that we have at least as much to learn from the client as to offer her. We would approach her in the hope that, perhaps, on the bridge between her world and ours, with our human capacities and professional skills, we can find a way to meet that will be helpful to her. This seems to be good starting point for multicultural counseling: an awareness of both our common humanity and our cultural differences. The problem is that, for the scientist-practitioner psychologist, this approach might be creative, but it has not been validated and has no more status than homeopathic remedies have in medicine. Humble exploration based on respect for difference supposedly needs to be followed with experimentation as to the best approach to “treat depression.” The colonizing terms remain – and, of course, at our scientific best, we need to leave hanging in their misery a control group of unhappy Chinese students. (The health insurance companies are popping champagne, of course.)

I have no doubt that APA’s move towards multiculturalism is a genuinely ethical vocation and not merely a political feel-good. For Dr. Barbara Yutrezenka, the CUDCP panel’s host, multiculturalism is needed if our discipline is to avoid becoming obsolete. Yes, indeed! However, we need to take its ethical appeal to heart, knowing that, unless multiculturalism troubles us, we should be suspicious that our comfort might mask the complacency of a dominant culture. We need to allow for multiculturalism to change us, to make us more humble and self-reflective, and we should be vigilantly suspicious of any of new “knowledge” of “other cultures” if it serves to perpetuate our biases. We also need to be more systematically self-conscious and critical of the cultural assumptions that tend to remain unthematized in the conduct of our scientific research. We need to appreciate why, for some of our colleagues in the field, identifying clinical psychology’s care with empirically validated treatments is not only long term professional suicide but is culturally and politically oppressive, or even racist. Finally, we need to be more flexible in our understanding of science, and to include in our repertoire qualitative methods that are rigorous, self-reflective, and descriptive.

Reference: Grieger, I. and Ponterotto, J. (1995). “A framework for assessment in multicultural counseling. In J. Ponterotto, J. Casas, L. Suzuki, and C. Alexander (Eds): Handbook of multicultural counseling. Thousand Oaks: Sage Pubs.