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On the Kantian Subject/Object Divide in Relation to Jung

By Michael Pierce

Recent research on my part, mostly of Immanuel Kant and his considerable influence on psychology and Jung in particular, as well as a discussion with Boye Akinwande, has lent me a number of insights I would like to share in this article (and video).

All of the functions are ultimately ‘subjective’ in the more traditional sense of being rooted in the subject. Extroverted functions, while striving to be ‘objective’ and therefore taking a different approach to interpreting stimuli, are not necessarily more ‘hooked into’ the true, outside world — the noumenal realm — than introverted functions. As Jung points out, “from a higher point of view it by no means follows that the objective situation is in all circumstances the normal one. It can quite well be temporarily or locally abnormal.” [Jung 184]. Later he notes, “The world exists not merely in itself, but also as it appears to me. Indeed, at bottom, we have absolutely no criterion that could help us to form a judgment of a world which was unassimilable by the subject.” [Jung 230]. Hence, while extroversion may be an orientation of consciousness that strives for the richest and most objective understanding of incoming phenomena from the noumenal realm, that is no guarantee of its accuracy, given that the world exists only as humans perceive it: in terms of color, space, time, sound, odor, etc. Introversion then, is enveloped in the various factors and preconditions for our interpreting the world — namely, those particular factors and preconditions that are either entirely personal, or which in Jung’s view, are collectively inherited instincts, i.e. the collective unconscious.

This is taking obvious influence from the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who had a strong influence on Jung himself, and who says that our minds are not just windows that peer into the world and decide what to do about it. Rather, our minds actively construct the world. It is somewhat like how infrared pictures use certain colors to denote certain wavelengths that are invisible to our eyes: we have no idea what shades of infrared look like, and as far as we are concerned, it doesn’t matter what they “really” look like, whatever that’s supposed to mean. What matters is how we ourselves detect them, and we detect them by assigning them somewhat arbitrary colors schemes. Our eyes do the exact same thing with regular colors. In order to make sense of the information streaming in from the world, we have to frame it in certain ways, organize it in certain ways — but not because it ‘actually is’ that way, but because as far as we can be concerned it is.

This is the inspiration for Carl Jung’s archetypes — preconditions for understanding the world, frames within which we can organize the sense data we receive from the world. I believe that this is the case with the functions as well: they are different ways in which humanity frames the information given them, different conditions for understanding the world. For example, those who prefer the Fe/Ti axis, assuming I am correct, must frame their understanding of the world in terms of the assumption: ‘at bottom, we are all just different manifestations of the same nature’.

Extroverted functions are those frames or filters that strive to interpret data as it “[came] to him from the object”, while introverted functions “[rely] principally on what the sense impression constellates in the subject.” [Jung 230]. Both are different ways of interpreting the outer realm as it comes to us through the filter of our subject. Extroversion is striving to eliminate the biases of the subject from its calculations, using only those aspects of the subject that it feels are sufficiently related and oriented by incoming information. Introversion, however, embraces its deeper subjective accumulations and prefers to interpret data entirely in relation to those things, entirely framed in terms of past experience and inner ideas.

One of the implications of this view is that a supposedly extroverted type can very well be completely out of touch with reality, but not because their internally accumulated ideas are out of whack with the world — rather, because the objective experience they’ve accumulated over time is out of whack with the world. For example, as Boye Akinwande has shrewdly pointed out, someone like Kayne West, deplored as incredibly self-centered and inappropriately outspoken, can very well still be Fe dominant, because, as Akinwande put it, “This sentiment doesn’t even need to be truly objective…type is a matter of consciousness and the Fe type can simply think the sentiment is objective.” I would argue that all humanity is in such a position of pure subjectivity — we have no temporally provided Archimedes viewpoint somehow exempt from the condition that reality is understood by a subject of limited perspective and biasing experiences. Hence, some of my earlier descriptions of extraversion as being more socially malleable, responsive or conformist are misleading, precisely because they assume ‘society’ means the same society that I myself experience, or that everybody else experiences. An Fe dominant type, accommodating though they may be, are just as likely to be a reformer or pundit for social change because society does not measure up to the objective standard that they have formed from locally abnormal factors. Likewise, an Fi type may oppose them in favor of what turns out to be the majority, precisely because they happened to subjectively and personally interpret information in such a way that their conclusions so aligned.


  • Akinwande: Why Taylor Swift is ESTP Open Journal of Jungian Typology 2015
  • Campbell and Jung: The Portable Jung Penguin Books 1976
  • Jung:  Psychological Types Princeton University Press 1976
  • Mandt: Immanuel Kant: The Giants of Philosophy Blackstone Audio Inc 2013
  • Ross: Art and its Significance State University of New York Press 1994
  • Smith: How Indian Philosophy Influenced Jung CelebrityTypes 2015

Published in Michael Pierce