For Jung, archetypes are much more than inner images of personalities that, as it were, “wake up” as soon as we encounter them in stories. For him, they are personalities that live in all of us. They are part of the human species, such as the use of language, walking upright, and all those other “characteristics” that distinguish humans from other living species. All our emotions, our desires, our values, all our aspirations, our behavior... it is partly determined by heredity and culture, but in essence all of this is given to us by the archetypes that populate our unconscious. So we recognize them in others, because we “recognize” them from within ourselves.
1) The archetypes Jung talked about were just a few, which are also very abstract at first glance. That is why we do not mention here examples that Jung himself put forward, but the examples of others who were inspired by Jung and continued and expanded the research into the archetypes. In our opinion, the most important among them is Joseph Campbell.
We have a pretty detailed idea of all these personalities. That idea stores what they look like, how they behave, what is important to them and what they long for – or even strive for. When we encounter them in stories, films or theater, we immediately recognize them. Without having to explain it in detail, do we “recognize” the temptress, the villain, the hero, the innocence almost immediately? How does that happen? Correct. Because we immediately link them to the inner image we have of those personalities. That image is somewhat colored by our personal experiences, but the most important contours are not personal. They are common. Jung calls this “collective”. That also makes “working” with archetypes by writers of stories and screenplays so attractive. Readers and viewers share a common “insider knowledge” about these personalities. Since Jung, we call such a collective image of a personality an archetype.
To really answer this question properly, we need to distinguish between what the philosopher Plato means by an archetype and what the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung means by it.
First let's talk about Plato ...
Let's explain it with the help of an example. Just for fun, Google the images of “chair”. The screen fills up with countless chairs, all different. Not one chair is the same and yet it is very clear that they are all chairs. Each of us recognizes a chair in all these pictures without having to think about it for a split second. How did that happen? According to Plato, we can explain this with the help of the concept of “archetype”. Plato assumes that we all have an inner image of a chair. As soon as we see a chair in the outside world, we recognize it as a chair because we immediately associate it with our inner image of a “chair”. The special thing about this inner image is that it is apparently the same for everyone. After all, you rarely have a discussion with someone else about whether something is a chair or not. Whether that something is a house, or a bicycle, a car, a glass, a tree, a flower, a bottle, a cloud, a person and so on.
So that inner image is in fact not personal, but communal. Plato calls such a common inner image an archetype.
And now Carl Gustav Jung ...
Jung also talks about archetypes, but Jung uses this concept for personalities. Just as we all have the same inner image of a chair, we all also have an inner image of a hero, a warrior, a rebel, an orphan, a spoiled princess, a wizard, a philosopher, etc. 1)
ARCHETYPES ARE PART OF THE HUMAN SPECIES, much like THE USE OF LANGUAGE, WALKING upright, AND ALL THOSE OTHER “CHARACTERISTICS” THAT DISTINGUISH HUMANS FROM OTHER LIVING SPECIES.
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