Anthony Stevens reflects upon the Self

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 16 Apr 2005 - 20:49:45 GMT

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    I'm wondering what contrasts can be drawn being the meme machinist view of self identity and that of the evolutionary Jungians. I've been skimming eminent evolutionary Jungian scholar Anthony Stevens section on the Self archetype found in his book _Archetype Revisited: an Updated Natural History of the Self_. There are some juicy tidbits to be found that invite comparison to the grinding we hear coming from Blackmore's meme machine shop. For instance Stevens writes (page 172-3, papercopy):

    [AS]"The ego, having established a sense of unity of body and mind, and a sense of continuity in time, is then cast in the role of executant of the archetypal blueprint for the whole life-cycle which is sytematically encoded within the Self. This function the ego proceeds to perform in the illusion that it is a free agent, the master of its fate, the captain of its soul." [AS]

    Note the point taken about illusory free agency. Is this analogous to the "benign user illusion" that Dennett and Blackmore take off on as a tangent? Instead of Blackmore's memeplexical view we have Stevens championing the Jungian archetype of the Self in the above quote. Stevens loves Jung and we get this bit of hero-worship (yet let us remember that the Hero too is an archetypal attractor):

    [AS] "What Jung proposed was nothing short of psychology's Copernican revolution: instead of personality centered on the ego, he maintained that the ego is a satellite of the Self." [AS]

    Putting aside Stevens looking at Jung on a pedestal
    (since meme enthusiasts may be tempted to do the same for Dawkins and Dennett and evolutionists likewise for Darwin), this does set the stage for a possible contrast with Blackmore's treatment of the "selfplex".

    Stevens is smitten with ethology, sociobiology and the more recent emergence of ev psych, having contrubted to a book several years ago that also had a contribution by David Buss _Evolution of the Psyche_. He has a chapter called "Jung and the ethologists" where he compares Jung and Lorenz. Prominent Jungian scholar Sonu Shamdasani incorporates what Lorenz had said of Jung's work in the Russian Manucript I mentioned recently in his recent tour de force _Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology_.

    I think, in some ways, comparing Blackmore's views to those of evolutionary Jungians like Stevens would be adderessing the crux of the narure versus nurture debate and the differences between memetics and evolutionary psychology, though neither would be too smitten with much of Jung's work, except to see how he had influenced parapsychology. Given that Blackmore got her start studying parapsychology there could be what Jungians like to refer to as "meaningful coincidences".

    There was a section in Dawkins's _Unweaving the Rainbow_ that when I read it several years ago I could help thinking of the so-called "primordial image" that Jung had borrowed conceptually from eminent Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt (see Shamdasani for a superb treatment of this topic). Dawkins even implicitly cites Jung in the following passage from the chapter "Reweaving the world" (page 266, papercopy): "In this case, following the logic of the previous chapter, we should say that the store cupboard in the brain contains images from the ancestral past of the species. We could call it a collective unconscious, if the phrase had not become tarnished by association." He's so close to Semon's mneme here that his ears should have been burning. He probably doesn't realize he's a hop, skip and jump from Goethe via Jung's usage of Burckhardt on the
    "primordial image" concept. See Shamdasani's book for support of both contentions.

    Carry on...

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