Metaphysics and C.G. Jung in a post-metaphysic world

In Europe we live in a post-metaphysic world.

»There is no alternative to post-metaphysical thinking.« This statement, made by Jürgen Habermas in his 1988 collection of essays, Post-Metaphysical Thinking, sounds very much like “There is no alternative to the Euro-Zone”. Jürgen Habermas continues to develop his philosophical ideas with the shift in perspective from metaphysical worldviews to the phenomenal world (als C.G. Jung stressed) exposing the uneasy relationship between religion and post-metaphysical thinking. Habermas discussed and somewhat agreed with Pope Benedict XVI,  that »even in its post-metaphysical form, philosophy can neither replace nor suppress religion«,or diminish the role of religion on the political context of a post-secular, liberal society. Postmetaphysical thinking is, to the contrary, indifferent to any particular worldview and focuses on procedural rationality by reconstructing the normativity inherent in linguistic practices and detranscendentalizing postmetaphysical thinking. That is, putting reason within the context of (a Western) history and social reality. Whatever that means  for instance in a high context cultural environment – see also my definitions in the appendix. I admit its all this post’isms are alien to me.

This article wants tho show metaphysics is important to understand C.G. Jung (who claimed not to strive into to it, but indeed did) and to us to navigate a post-metaphysic world. The term metaphysics is defined as following: “teaching of the last, not recognizable contexts of the existing” derived from Greek word Meta – behind and Physics – importance (of nature). The study of last things, the things behind everything created “the reality of the supernatural”. Christian metaphysics called metaphysics in the context of Roman and Byzantine Christianity and that term was introduced among others by Karl Jaspers. Every person is spiritual (metaphysical), by its very nature if he is looking for meaning and value. Common to all metaphysic systems are different, culturally related spiritual and / or religious views: the belief in a higher power of a creative intelligence, which “can be brought in for the purpose of creation of order and / or  salvation”. This is the metaphysical foundation: Faith is psychologically to hold true, to know without knowing. Religious belief is only one of them. Gnostic belief another.

To the contrary, the central tenets of the ‘project of modernity’ including rationality and progress for which Habermas attempted 1981 to formalise it as practical achievements, should be seen against the dark context of today.  Fundamentalism shows a deliberate throwback to an archaic ‘society of ideology’, a society of savagery and a society with a lust for domination, control and power; a society which raises significant questions to the enlightenment project. Coupled with this, there have been periodic episodes of inhumanity which have ranged from the Middle East in the 8th century to genocide in Rwanda , from recent mass genocide and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Sudan to the Arab Spring in the news today. The most spectacular  example was the terrorist attacks on ‘twin towers’ in New York. It is very difficult to implement Habermas’  universalized narratives and solution to a postmodern problem: for example, diversity of fundamentalist beliefs. For consequent actions (postmodern), communicative action is very brittle in overcoming instabilities of such beliefs (Habermas’ modernism).

C.G. Jung’s  Humanistic Metaphysics

C.G. Jung follows the Buddhist concept of reality, real to him is what works, psychoanalytic sessions, catholic confession, astrology, alchemy. C. G. Jung gave amazingly clear statements on the effectiveness of those as physician and therapist of empirically and analytical methods. The sureness of C.G. Jung when he described such medical operations, was based on a type of treatments which has been practiced for thousands of years. At first, there were the shamans and medicine men of different cultures that had religious and healing tasks combined. C.G. Jung regarded himself as empiricists and physician. As such, he represents the phenomenological point of view. As a scientist he felt not competent to apply philosophical or metaphysical points of view.  That is in line as Kant famously argues, that the concepts of traditional metaphysical speculation cannot be determined in any possible cognition (i.e. experience). Thus, such concepts — the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the freedom of the will — are necessarily unknowable.

C.G. Jung’s Christian Metaphysics

C.G. Jung psychological criticism of metaphysics, however, focuses only on the theological doctrine of the privatio boni (after Augustus), which concluded that the evil did not the contrast (and include) the good, but the evil is just a lack of good. By excluding the evil forces, Christ is only one half of the archetype; the other appears in the Antichrist. A denial of the reality of evil, with an ontological status of its own as an opposition of the good must lead to a metaphysical dualism, separated in the heaven and hell as hostile counter powers.  This was evident the heretical system of Christian Gnosticism.

The psychological aspects of the individuation of the person have to be evaluated in the light of this Christian tradition, which was inclined to deny the reality of evil. Not only experience, but a number of symbols and history speaks against the exclusion of the evil forces from the empirical self. In her memoirs the famous director Leni Riefenstahl tried to cope with Hitlers – what she thought positive personality – and his evil dark side. She literally wrote, both slit personalities must have been combined.

C.G. Jung model of the unconscious is much more enlightened than that of Freud who pressed human behaviour into a rigid mono-causal theory. It concludes a private unconscious and thus a “suppressed” part, which is called the “shadow”, i.e. that part of personality, we do not like to want to acknowledge. It goes down but further into the depths of the soul, and then you will find the fixed and fate-determining structures of animus and anima, which each contain the images of the “other family” in us for young. For C.G. Jung, the soul is a layered construction; It contains almost “geological” deposits of ancient mankind experience. Archetypes express analog to the instincts of animals certain behavioral dispositions. Beyond the personal unconscious, there is a collective “culture psyche” that may also have a “numinose” property. Archetypes appear in dreams, but also to the deliberate fantasies (imagoes’) and the spontaneous pictures (in psychotherapy as a helper method). In terms of Jungian psychology, one discovers even archetypal forms in the religions and myths, in the poetry of art at all. Even philosophical and social systems can be archetypical inspired. The “numinose” is the “archetype of the self”. This is enabled if the person on the way of “individuation” moves, which is awareness to Jung the actual objective of life. According to Jungian’s, the “loss of self” as well as the remoteness to God is the source of all neuroses.

C.G.Jung saw clearly that he could provide information only about the existence of a God’s image in the human soul, and left the “existence of God” to theologians and metaphysicians. But already the thesis that the human psyche per se and indelible produces a God image is quite religious. C.G. Jung stressed that the soul was “naturaliter christiana et religiosa”. So, the collective unconscious contained an indirect commitment to the (not organized) religion. This is in contrary to materialist scientists who describe the universe, as a mechanical or biological system, a complicated super engine that spontaneously emerged and evolved, regulated exclusively by rigid natural laws, and completely determined.

C.G. Jung’s  Nature Metaphysics

One factor which has influenced Jung’s poor reputation was his tendency to cast his empirical ideas in terms of metaphysical explanation: like  his much misunderstood notion of the “archetype”. But his early work on word-association – basís of his analysis of complexes is empiricism at its best, and his comparative mythology gave him the insight that human problems are the same all the world over, and always have been. Jung regarded true to Kantian principles, that reason is best used and protected by understanding its limit(ation)s. “Reason is often not sufficient to modify the instinct and make it conform to the rational order”: an observation my daily experience all too often confirmed. Besides enormously tapping in religious symbolic C.G. Jung, used also non “numinose” experience systems e.g. the astrological world view that sees the universe as an organic system, in which the events in the psyche, the dynamics of the archetypal areas, and the events in nature are aligned with the movements of the planets and their angularness relations are symbolically linked. One of the most important principles of Western scientific thought is the linear causality. C. G. Jung has shown convincingly the existence of strange coincidences which are beyond any statistical probability, are a major objection to a conception of the universe as a system which is dominated exclusively by deterministic causal effects. This is even more striking when this coincidence brings a purely mental operation (such as for example a dream, a fantasy, or a vision) with events in the material world (consensual reality) in a meaningful relationship. This situation has called Jung synchronicity.

 Metaphysics is still alive

Communicative Action challenges the Marxist focus on economics. Habermas argues that the key to emancipation is rather to be found in communication, that is, in free moral discourses between individuals amongst equal citizens. Ironically, there are two modernistic yet sociological grounds that Habermas fails to incorporate or appreciate in his analysis: human and cultural differences. The former because Habermas’ theorizing is built on a conception of the world in which, albeit essentialism characteristics but realities, ‘middle class’ ‘western’ ‘philosophers’ dominate. The whole ‘project of modernity’ and associated discourses of rationality and progress have historically sided with a small segment of Western thoughts. But Europe now is the weakest link in the West in defending Enlightenment.  Just think over todays self-censorship in regards to more vital cultures.  It seems C.G. Jung’s views are much better suited for todays need understanding cultural clashes between low and high context cultures. Metaphysics is not a science. It is not going to give you the price of apples. What metaphysics can do is start where physics ends. When physicists arrive at their final ultimate set of equations, they don’t have anything to say or when post-modern sociologist have nothing to say anymore the world ends in the unspeakable silence. Philosophers can always ask why things are the way they are. It is bold philosophy, and that is how I like it.

Appendix Terms and Definitions:

Post-metaphysical is a label which may be among other things:

/1/ dismisses substantive conceptions of rationality in favor of procedural or formal assessments (e.g. “a rational person thinks like this”) – the basic of pc;

/2/.replaced foundationalism (rationalism and empiricism) with fallibilism (being open to new evidence) with regard to valid knowledge may be achieved – which is routine to science at least from Galilei and Kepler;

/3/ doubts that reason can be conceived abstractly beyond history and social reality but must contextualized or situated within actual historical practices – soft relativism;

/4/ concern for pragmatic structures of language and action as part of the contextualization of reason instead of individual consciousness – ideology matters;

/5/ replaces traditional theoretical truth with representational functions of language, i.e.  the moral and expressive functions of language as part of the contextualization of reason – deconstructivism.

One may say, splitting hairs, that if communicative rationality is contextualized and historicised, it is still not relativistic holding reason to be only context sensitive instead context dependent. Logic-based examination of language is related to thinking and objectification uncovering presuppositions and validity dimensions of communication – while the relativist focus on the content. Postmodernism, Post-metaphysical sociology and late Logical Positivism are united in critique of foundationalism and metaphysics.

Postmodernism is based on the position that reality is not mirrored in human understanding of it, but constructed in a own personal reality as truth relative to groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and gender. A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism,  it is largely a reaction to any scientific or objective efforts to explain reality.  Postmodernism relies on a socalled concrete (in reality white male subjective) “experience” over abstract principles, because the outcome will necessarily be fallible and relative and denies within the existence of any ultimate principles,  may they be scientific, philosophical, religious truth. Ironically, postmodernism becomes political correctness when it denies that it cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical system against which the “postmodern modern mind ” has defined itself.

Postsecularism is a theoretical concept whose central idea is that Secularism may have come to an end.

Metaphysical from the Greek meta ta physika (“after the things of nature”) refers to the studies that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, cause. Areas of metaphysical studies include ontology, cosmology, and often, epistemology. Metaphysics is a type of philosophy or study that uses broad concepts to help define reality and our understanding of it. Metaphysical studies are concerned with explaining the features of reality that exist beyond the physical world and our immediate senses. Metaphysics, therefore, uses logic based on the meaning of human terms, rather than on a logic tied to human sense perception of the objective world. Metaphysics might include the study of the nature of the human mind, the definition and meaning of existence, or the nature of space, time, and/or causality. The origin of philosophy, beginning with the Pre-Socratics, was metaphysical in nature. For example, the philosopher Plotinus held that the reason in the world and in the rational human mind is only a reflection of a more universal and perfect reality beyond our limited human reason. He termed this ordering power in the universe “God.” Metaphysical ideas, because not verified by experiments are considered unverifiable by modern science. On the other hand in religion, validating of metaphysical claims like attempts to scientifically prove the existence of God and other nonobjective, nonhuman realities is seemingly impossible and meaningless. By its very nature, it cannot become an object of scientific studies.


Recently, both metaphysics and science have come under attack the first for its apparent lack of access to real knowledge (in the religious context also for absolute ethics) , the latter in claiming absolute knowledge, surprisingly,  since the act of scientific observation itself always may influence the reality it hopes to explain, and scientific truths and laws continue be revised with new explanations of reality as new data comes in. Philosophical and sociological movements known as postmodernism and deconstructionism consequently issued a small-minded repudiation of both metaphysics and science.  Thus, being sarcastic, metaphysical universal knowledge fight together with objectivity (scientism) against pagan postmodern cultural and historical relativity of all knowledge.

The correspondence theory of truth is often associated with metaphysical realism. Its traditional competitors, coherentist, pragmatist, and verificationist theories of truth, are often associated with idealism, anti-realism, or relativism


There are really two Wittgensteins; an early and a later one, both of whom significantly differed from each other. The early Wittgenstein was a logical positivist and mathematician who tried to dismiss all metaphysics by creating a system of logic in which the meaningfulness of propositions were evaluated in terms of how they pictured the external world. The later Wittgenstein is more psychological, more interested in linguistics.


Recently Habermas has further developed his views on the relation between philosophy and faith in his dialogue with Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). There he notes how much Western philosophy owes to its Christian heritage. The Christian idea of human beings as created in the image of God has been especially important for Western moral-political theory, which translated the religious idea into the secular view of persons as equal in dignity and deserving unconditional respect. Both, Habermas and  Pope Benedict XVI call for a dialogue in which secular and religious forms of thought mutually inform and learn from each other.

Other sources:

  • The Oxford Companion of Philosophy;
  • History of Western Philosophy, B. Russel
  • British Empirical Philosophers, Locke, Berkely, Hume
  • plato – augustin – kant, Karl Jaspers
  • Culture matters, L. Harrison S. P. Huntington
  • Dialektik der Säkularisierung, J. Habermas & J. Ratzinger
  • GK Pilosophie III, Philosophie des Geistes, Reclam
  • C.G. Jung Gesammelte Werke (see resources)