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Essay on Picture of Dorian Gray: A Jungian Analysis

The Picture of Dorian Gray begins with Basil describing his fascination with Dorian, and ends with his masterpiece reverting to its original splendour. He describes his reaction to Dorian in these words:

“When our eyes met, I felt I was growing pale. A curious sensation of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself.” (6)

Such a reaction is not a reaction to another human being. It signals an intimation of something super-human. The word “fascinating” comes from fascinum, which means “spell.” A fascination is caused by unconscious factors. It grips us; it holds us in its power; it acts upon us. The expression “face to face” suggests an image of a “god” — cf. Jacob’s experience at Peniel (Gen. 32.30) or Moses in the Tabernacle (Ex. 33.11). Dorian as both Dionysos and Apollo corresponds to both Jung’s definitions of the Self: “a god-image in the psyche,” and a “complexio oppositorum” (Vol. 9.ii; par. 73; also CW 11.283). For Jung held that a god-image must be a mixture of opposites “if it is to represent any kind of totality” (CW 13.289).

According to Jung, the Self is an autonomous archetypal image, which symbolizes something towards which the individual is striving. An experience of the Self thus represents an intimation of a meaning which the individual has not yet assimilated. The individual’s task is to integrate the meaning implicit in his or her particular experience, but not to identify with it, for this would signal psychological inflation.

Basil lives only for his art (56). He is afraid of life, because it is capable of exerting an influence over him which he feels as threatening. He is afraid of Dorian, because Dorian personifies the Dionysian side of his own personality which he has repressed. Thus he needs Dorian, because only through Dorian can he feel that he is alive. The contrast between them is suggestive. Basil is fascinated by what he himself is not. The attributes which he finds so fascinating stand in “compensatory” relation to him. But, instead of seeing his fascination as symbolic of a need to develop the Dionysian side of his own personality, he seeks to perpetuate his experience through art.

Instrumental Reasoning

Can Instrumental Reasoning Stand Alone?

I. Introduction

There is something appealing about ordinary instrumental or means-end reasoning. One begins with a want, a goal or a desire and considers available options as means to its satisfaction or achievement. If, among the available options, one is the best or only way to satisfy the desire or achieve the goal, one has a reason to select it. If two or more options both seem to lead to the goal, they may still differ in other ways, e.g., in the probability with which they lead to the goal – in which case (if that was the only difference) one would have reason to choose the option which led to the goal with higher probability.

To consider things in the simplest form possible, consider a being with only a single desire. Suppose that this being wants nothing but to break a street-lamp. Even in so simple a case, we can begin to say what he ought to do. Any number of things may be effective. If he has no other goals – not even going unapprehended so that he can do it again with some other street-lamp – he may use a rifle, a pistol, throw rocks at it, climb the lamp-post to bash it with his fist, etc. But we can say that there are some things that, in terms of his goal, he ought not to do, for example, that he ought not to try breaking it (because he won’t succeed) by throwing feathers at it, one by one.

It looks as though, even in this deliberately simplified case, means-end reasoning, combined with some knowledge of the world, is enough to tell us something about what he ought to do. This is not, to be sure, a moral ‘ought,’ but we seem to have generated a normative conclusion, an ought-judgment of a modest sort, without appealing to any mysterious non-natural properties …

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…h a person? Perhaps, a real example of an existentialist chooser would say that there is not even a reason for committing oneself rather than not; one just does (or does not).

[15] This is not being offered as a solution to the central problem that Korsgaard has raised. I am, as stated earlier, only assuming that there is some solution. Rather, I am trying to show that, given the existence of some solution to that problem, though we need some further normative principle, it does not have to be one that picks out certain ends for us. In short, we can do almost what could have been done had the defenders of the autonomy of instrumental reasoning been correct. (In fact, I think we can do quite a bit more than we could if they had been correct – but that’s a topic for another paper.)

[16] And I do not in any case have non-dialectical proofs that they are mistaken.

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