The task of philosophy is to use ”introverted intuition”?

“[T]he philosophers task [is] imagining possibilities” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The introverted intuitive moves from image to image, chasing after every possibility in the teeming womb of the unconscious” – Carl Jung

Earlier I presented an article by Dawn Wilson, that suggested philosophy should be read in similar sense as literature rather than science. And I was thinking, the way she described how philosophy traditionally is done has lot in common with the Jungian term “Thinking”, and how she suggests philosophy should be done (at least when it comes to the philosophy of Wittgenstein) has lot in common with the Jungian term “Intuition”. Looking further into this I found an article by Victor Krebs (ref), reviewing the book “Duty of Genius” by Ray Monk, which discusses the philosophy of Wittgenstein in terms of Jung’s Typology. Here’s a couple of quotes:

“Monk explains that if mathematical propositions are understood not as truths ‘about something’ (mathematical objects, etc.), but as techniques or ‘pictures,’ mathematical thinking provides an excellent example ‘of the kind of understanding that forms the basis of Wittgenstein’s Weltanschauung.'(p. 441) The Jungian reader will recognize such understanding as intuitive.”

“Epistemogically – in what concerns our mode of knowledge – Wittgenstein wants us to replace logical thinking with the ‘seeing of connections.’ This alternative mode of thinking (which … we would, after Jung, call intuition), allows us not just to identify patterns but actually to see through the meaning of our philosophical language.”

***EDIT 14th July 2013: This is one of the most viewed posts at this blog, but it is not one of the posts I feel most satisfied with. The original idea I think is good, but the argumentation lacks sharpness and I show a lack of accurate understanding of the Jungian concepts. Here I do for example assume that “intuition” is synonymous, or almost synonymous to “imagination”, which is not quite what Jung had in mind (he considered imagination to be part of all four functions). In later written posts on Jungian typology, for example in MBTI:ers, Jungians and Scientists, I think I present a more nuanced understanding. If I were to do some serious reworking of this blog post, I think it can turn into something good, but I don’t feel I have the time and energy for that now.

Intuition and Thinking, two different modes of intellectual activity

Both intuition and thinking are commonly associated to “thinking” and ”intellectual activity”, and I think it’s not so easy to really understand the difference between them. In short one can say that Intuition is a perceiving (information-gathering) function which is about imagining possibilities, while Thinking is a judging (decision-making) function and is about making decisions of ”what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules” (ref). (see earlier post on Jung’s typology here)

The Introverted Thinker

Introverted thinkers have to “accept a ready-made body of objective knowledge” (ref), and in this sense they do take interest in facts, but it is only in order to have something to work with. Jung describes introverted thinking like this:

“It formulates questions and creates theories; it opens up prospects and yields insight, but in the presence of facts it exhibits a reserved demeanour. As illustrative examples they have their value, but they must not prevail. Facts are collected as evidence or examples for a theory, but never for their own sake. Should this latter ever occur, it is done only as a compliment to the extraverted style. For this kind of thinking facts are of secondary importance; what, apparently, is of absolutely paramount importance is the development and presentation of the subjective idea, that primordial symbolical image standing more or less darkly before the inner vision.”

“[T]his thinking holds value only for its contemporaries, just so long as it also stands in visible and understandable connection with the known facts of the time. But, when thinking becomes mythological, its irrelevancy grows until finally it gets lost in itself.”

When introverted thinking becomes overemphasized and depotentiated:
“It creates theories for the sake of theories, apparently with a view to real or at least possible facts, yet always with a distinct tendency to go over from the world of ideas into mere imagery. […] However clear to himself the inner structure of his thoughts may be, he is not in the least clear where and how they link up with the world of reality.”

Possible examples of Introverted Thinking philosophers (MBTI: IxTP):
Immanuel Kant and Jürgen Habermas (wouldn’t surprise me if also Carl Jung fit this category)

The Introverted Intuitive

As for the introverted intuitive, Jung gives this description:
“The introverted intuitive moves from image to image, chasing after every possibility in the teeming womb of the unconscious […] These images represent possible ways of viewing life, which in given circumstances have the power to provide a new energic potential”

“If an artist, he reveals extraordinary, remote things in his art, which in iridescent profusion embrace both the significant and the banal, the lovely and the grotesque, the whimsical and the sublime. If not an artist, he is frequently an unappreciated genius, a great man ‘gone wrong’, a sort of wise simpleton, a figure for ‘psychological’ novels.”

When introverted intuition is overemphasized and depotentiated:
“Intensification of intuition naturally often results in an extraordinary aloofness of the individual from tangible reality; he may even become a complete enigma to his own immediate circle. […] His language is not that which is commonly spoken — it becomes too subjective. His argument lacks convincing reason. He can only confess or pronounce. His is the ‘voice of one crying in the wilderness’.”

Possible examples of Introverted Intuitive philosophers (MBTI: INxJ):
Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Richard Rorty (I’d assume that Nietzsche and Wittgenstein was more strongly intuitive and Rorty more balanced)

Why Wittgenstein was introverted intuitive, and what it means

First some note on why I consider Wittgenstein’s dominant function to be introverted intuition. Here is a quote from Bertrand Russell about Wittgenstein:
“I told him he ought not simply to state what he thinks true, but to give arguments for it, but he said arguments spoil its beauty, and that he would feel as if he was dirtying a flower with muddy hands”
Introverted intuitives relies on their ”hunches” and can often not explain why they think what they think, as Jung said, they ”can only confess or pronounce”. Here I take it as if Wittgenstein is saying ”please don’t force me to think, I want to stick to my intuition!”.

Another example, from Rudolf Carnap’s autobiography: “[Wittgensteins] point of view and his attitude toward people and problems, even theoretical problems, were much more similar to those of a creative artist than to a scientist; one might almost say, similar to those of a religious prophet or seer.”

Can be compared how to Jung describes the introverted intuitive: “The peculiar nature of introverted intuition, when given the priority, also produces a peculiar type of man, viz. the mystical dreamer and seer on the one hand, or the fantastical crank and artist on the other.”

(EDIT: Now I’ve written a new post where I explain more in detail why Wittgenstein was introverted intuitive, you can find it here: Wittgenstein MBTI – Why he was Introverted iNtuitive (INTj or INFj))

Some quotes that indicates why Intuition is important in Wittgenstein’s notion of philosophy

“What kind of investigation are we carrying out? Am I investigating the probability of cases that I give as examples, or am I investigating their actuality? No, I’m just citing what is possible and am therefore giving grammatical examples.”

“[T]he philosophers task [is] imagining possibilities”

“What I give is the morphology of the use of an expression. I show that it has kinds of uses of which you had not dreamed. In philosophy one feels forced to look at a concept in a certain way. What I do is suggest, or even invent, other ways of looking at it. I suggest possibilities of which you had not previously thought. You thought there was one possibility, or only two at most. But I made you think of others. Furthermore, I made you see that it was absurd to expect the concept to conform to those narrow possibilities. Thus your mental cramp is relieved, and you are free to look around the field of use of the expression and to describe the different kinds of uses of it.”

”Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. […] Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain either. For what might not lie open to view is of no interest to us.”

”One might also give the name philosophy to what is possible/present before all new discoveries and inventions.”

Suggesting a turn from Thinking to Intuition in philosophy?

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push it.”

“The strange thing about philosophical uneasiness and its resolution might seem to be that it is like the suffering of an ascetic who stood raising a heavy ball, amid groans, and whom someone released by telling him: ‘Drop it.’ One wonders: if these sentences make you uneasy and you didn’t know what to do with them, why didn’t you drop them earlier, what stopped you from doing it? Well, I believe it was the false system that he thought he had to accommodate himself to, etc.”

“Unrest in philosophy comes from philosophers looking at, seeing, philosophy all wrong, i.e., cut up into (infinite) vertical strips, as it were, rather than (finite) horizontal strips. This reordering of understanding creates the greatest difficulty. They want to grasp the infinite strip, as it were, and complain that it is not possible piece by piece. Of course it isn’t, if by ‘a piece’ one understands an endless vertical strip. But it is, if one sees a horizontal strip as a whole, definite piece. – But then we’ll never get finished with our work! Of course not, because it doesn’t have an end.”

(For further analysis of this quote above look at this post Don’t think, but look!” – The most common misconception about Wittgenstein?

(This might – in some sense or another – refer to the introverted thinking that’s lost contact with reality and started to ”create theories for the sake of theories”. Disclaimer: The suggested turn from Thinking to Intuition, as I see it, is not in order to come closer to any “absolute truth”, rather it would be (what could be called) a kind of ‘pragmatic’ turn. Wittgenstein says “[my] method consists essentially in leaving aside the question of truth and asking about sense instead”)

Some quotes that may indicate the importance of Thinking in philosophy

“The philosophical problem is an awareness of disorder in our concepts, and can be solved by ordering them.”

”The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose.”

”A philosophical question is similar to one about the constitution of a particular society. – And it would be as if a society came together without clearly written rules, but with a need for them; indeed also with an instinct following which they observed certain rules at their meetings; but this is made difficult by the fact that nothing is clearly expressed about this and no arrangement is made which clarifies the rules. Thus they in fact view one of them as president, but he doesn’t sit at the head of the table and has no distinguishing marks, and that makes doing business difficult. Therefore we come along and create a clear order: we seat the president in a clearly identifiable spot, seat his secretary next to him at a little table of his own, and seat the other full members in two rows on both sides of the table, etc., etc.”

(In these quotes, Wittgenstein stresses the importance of working systematically, arranging and creating a clear order – which I suppose requires the use of Thinking.)

Summing up – Is the task of philosophy to use introverted intuition?

The Wittgensteinian notion of philosophy has lot in common with the Jungian concept of intuition. Part of the reason can be that Wittgenstein himself was strongly intuitive, and thus were inclined to emphasize this aspect more. However, he seemed also ready to admit that his perspective wasn’t the only true perspective, as indicated in this quote by Norman Malcom:
“When [Wittgenstein] was wondering what title to give to his book (the Philosophical Investigations), and [Maurice O’ Connor] Drury suggested calling it ‘Philosophy’, Wittgenstein replied angrily: ‘Don’t be such a complete ass – how could I use a word that has meant so much in the history of mankind? As if my work wasn’t only a small fragment of philosophy.’” (ref)

As I see it, whether or not the task of philosophy is to use introverted intuition is not the important thing. More important it is, I think, to just realize the difference between intuition and thinking. Both intuition and thinking are important (as well as sensation and feeling). A problem is when Intuitives will dismiss Thinkers for lack of imagination and ability to see, and Thinkers will dismiss Intuitives for their lack of structured thinking and rational arguments – failing to notice that it’s actually two different modes of intellectual activity.

References and further reading

Jung’s Typology and Philosophy
“Don’t think, but look!” – The most common misconception about Wittgenstein? – In this post I continue and develop the idea how Wittgenstein’s philosophy is to be understood from an intuitive perspective (as opposed to thinking).
Wittgenstein MBTI, Why he was Introverted iNtuitive and Feeling (INFj)
What is so special about Jungian Typology? – In this post I present some perspectives on why it would be wrong to claim that the task of philosophy is to use introverted intuition.

“Psychological Types” by Carl Gustav Jung


About Dandre

Former student of philosophy, maths and literature. Now studying master program in sociology. Some thinkers of central interest include Ludwig Wittgenstein, C. G. Jung and Pierre Bourdieu.
This entry was posted in Jungian Typology, Metaphilosophy, Wittgenstein and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The task of philosophy is to use ”introverted intuition”?

  1. sekhargoteti says:

    A nice blog.
    Usually we forget how we entered world of language (virtual) and grope endlessly.Wittgenstein shown the way out of this virtual atmosphere.

  2. thephilosophicalboy says:

    Reblogged this on thephilosophicalboy.

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