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Jay Sherry Sees Jung as an Avant-Garde Conservative (BOOK REVIEW)

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(Article changed on April 11, 2014 at 09:28)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 10, 2014: Recently Martin Heidegger's anti-Semitism has been back in the news, because of the recent publication in German of his philosophical notebooks in which his anti-Semitism is explicit. See, for example, Jennifer Schuessler's article "Heidegger's Notebooks Renew Focus in Anti-Semitism" in the New York Times dated March 30, 2014.

As we work our way toward adjudicating Heidegger's anti-Semitism, we might find it helpful to read Jay Sherry's painstakingly thorough book Carl Gustav Jung: Avant-Garde Conservative (2010; paperback 2012), because Jung's anti-Semitism is one theme in his fine book. In addition to being a historian of psychoanalysis, Dr. Sherry is a scholar trained in Germany in German intellectual history

Dr. Sherry portrays Jung (1875-1961) as what we in the United States today would call a likely Republican voter. However, even though Jung once ran for a minor elective position in Switzerland -- and lost -- he usually claimed to be non-political because he did not tend to advocate specific political policies.

But Dr. Sherry says, "Jung's sensibilities were essentially those of a conservative humanist rather than a liberal humanitarian" (page 210). As Dr. Sherry makes clear, the humanists whose thought most influenced Jung were Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), both of whom lived in Basel, where Jung grew up. Earlier, for a long period of time, the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) also lived in Basel, as Dr. Sherry notes (page 22). But Jung was not especially influenced by Erasmus's thought, probably because Erasmus was a Roman Catholic but Jung was not. Jung "was raised in the Swiss Reformed Church" (page 20).

However, in his mature years Jung was also a critic of Christianity, criticizing "'the four exclusions of Christianity'" -- "the repression of nature, animals, primitives, and creative fantasy" (page 64).

As Dr. Sherry notes, "Jung held an English-language seminar on Nietzsche's Zarathustra from 1934 to 1939" (page 151). Because Dr. Sherry does not happen to mention it, we should note that Nietzsche was enthusiastic about Ralph Waldo Emerson's idea of self-reliance, as Lawrence Buell points out in his book Emerson (2003). So we could say that Emerson's idea of self-reliance contributed indirectly, via Nietzsche, to Jung's development of the idea of psychological individuation (the Freudian equivalent idea is ego-integrity).

Buell says, "John Dewey admired Emerson immoderately. . . . Dewey's Emerson was 'the Philosopher of Democracy'" (page 158).

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By contrast, Nietzsche could be described as the Philosopher of the Nazis. As is well known, a streamlined version of Nietzsche's thought was popularized among the Germans and influenced Adolf Hitler's thought.

Jung was fascinated with Hitler, but he was not quick to detect what a threat Hitler was. Hitler and the Nazis represented Emersonian self-reliance on steroids, as do today's conservative libertarians in the United States..

Dr. Sherry considers the humanist tradition of thought to be conservative. Of course Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were also products of the humanist tradition of education, as was President Franklin D. Roosevelt later on. But Dr. Sherry does not mention Jefferson or Adams, even though he does mention Roosevelt in passing.

If we were to follow Dr. Sherry's classification of the humanist tradition of thought as conservative, then we would also classify the thought of 19th-century Roman Catholic popes as conservative as well. To this day, the Roman Catholic tradition of thought tends to be conservative, except for certain aspects of the Catholic tradition of social justice.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the elaborate educational training of Jesuits was part of Renaissance humanism, and Jesuit education, both secondary education and undergraduate education, in the United States was strongly oriented toward humanist education at least until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Roman Catholic Church.

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DIGRESSION: For a history of anti-Semitism in the Roman Catholic Church, see James Carroll's book Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History (2001). END OF DIGRESSION.

In any event, if we were to take President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an exemplar of a liberal humanitarian, then we would have to say that Jung, by contrast, was basically non-political in the sense that he did not usually propound specific political proposals.

According to Dr. Sherry, Jung was interested "in exploring the psychological basis of human behavior and culture rather than promoting social programs for ameliorating human suffering" (page 210).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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To say that "Emerson's idea of self-reliance contr... by Arius (Armenian) on Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 at 6:21:05 PM