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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Carl Jung: Classification (of “Types) did not interest me very much.

To Erich A. von Fange

Dear Mr. von Fange, 8 April 1960

I have read your letter with great interest and I congratulate you on your attempt at further investigation in the field of typology.

It is a line of thought which I have not pursued any further, since my original tendency was not the classification of normal or pathological individuals but rather the discovery of conceptual means deriving from experience, namely the ways and means by which I could express in a comprehensible way the peculiarities of an individual psyche and the functional interplay of its elements.

As I have been chiefly interested in psychotherapy I was always mostly concerned with individuals needing explanation of themselves and knowledge of their fellow-beings.

My entirely empirical concepts were meant to form a sort of language by which such explanations could be communicated.

In my book about types I have given a number of examples illustrating my modus operandi.

Classification did not interest me very much.

It is a side-issue with only indirect importance to the therapist.

My book, as a matter of fact, was written to demonstrate the structural and functional aspect of certain typical elements of the psyche.

That such a means of communication and explanation could be used also as a means of classification was an aspect which I was rather afraid of, since the intellectually detached classifying point of view is just the thing to be avoided by the therapist.

But the classifying application was-I almost regret to say-the first and almost exclusive way in which my book was understood, and everybody wondered why I had not put the description of the types right at the beginning of the book instead of relegating it to a later chapter.

Obviously the tendency of my book has been misunderstood, which is easily understandable if one takes into account that the number of those people who would be interested in its practical psychotherapeutic application is infinitely small in comparison with the number of academic students.

I admit that your statistical line of research is perfectly legitimate but it certainly does not coincide with the purpose of my book, which in my humble opinion aims at something far more vital than classification.

Though I have expressed my therapeutic views most emphatically only very few of my readers noticed them.

The possibility of classification seems to be far more attractive.

By this rather longwinded peroration I am trying to explain to you why I am more or less unable to give you any helpful suggestions in your specific enterprise, since my thoughts do not move on this line at all.

I am even sceptical in this respect.

I hold the conviction that for the purpose of any classification one should start with fundamental and indubitable principles and not with empirical notions, i.e., with almost colloquial terms based upon mere rules of thumb.

My concepts are merely meant to serve as a means of communication through colloquial language.

As principles however I should say that they are in themselves immensely Complicated structures which can hardly fulfil the role of scientific principles.

Much more important are the contents conveyed by language than their terms.

Sincerely yours,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 550-552