Response to Carl Jung’s Concept of the Collective Unconscious

For my English class we had to read and respond to an interesting article.

Coincidentally, this article formalizes a question I have been pondering for some time now. Is individuality merely an illusion for what is actually uniform throughout all humans? To what degree can humans vary in behavior and belief? Most importantly, do humans behave based on a system of innate formulas and biological patterns? This question holds immense stake because if our thoughts and actions can be defined as preconceived responses, then there is no such thing as free-will. If this is the case, we do not make decisions but rather carry out predetermined responses appropriate to the situation based on the stimuli we receive. But based on the reading, Jung does not extend his idea to such lengths as I have. He is unclear as to what extent the collective unconscious determines human behavior. Viewed like this, Jung’s idea becomes rather commonplace. It seems obvious that there would be similarities in parent-child relationships and the way humans respond to failure.

Concerning the question I proposed at the beginning, I realize it may unfairly imply a one-sided answer. Human nature may be a combination of both Jung’s collective unconscious, which we have no control over, and individuality, which we do have control over to some extent. Then my question becomes, what is the relationship between the collective unconscious and free will? Is one dependent on the other? What has more influence over our lives?

Jung’s idea compels me to ask if the collective unconscious is stagnant or malleable. Does it exist as something eternal and unchanging? Or, as times progress and human society changes, does the collective unconscious change as well? Perhaps the collective unconscious remains fundamentally the same, but its manifestations change according to its environment. If this is the case, then the eastern tradition of discovering one’s Self will always remain pertinent.

Tagged under Philosophy