Notional Practice

Introduced by Mogenson,1 the term “notional practice” refers to a methodological stance that emphasizes the fundamental sublatedness of all psychic phenomena and along with this the fundamentally speculative nature of its praxis.

In keeping with Jung’s recognition that our discipline possesses no Archimedean point of perspective outside the psyche which could provide it with an objective base of operations, a truly psychological psychology turns inward, i.e., into the depths of its own notion, the notion of “soul,” much as the Law does with respect to its notion, “Justice,” and philosophy with respect to its notion, “Truth.”

It is a matter of immanent critique and speculative unfolding. Just as St. Paul spoke of “try[ing] the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4: 1, 2), notional practice involves a trying of the phenomena that have become topical for consciousness to see if these are in accord with concept that they exist as. Or, in the case of discrepancies having become evident, it involves discerning if these discrepancies, contradictions, or symptoms reflect previously unfathomed dimension of the concept such that a re-definition of that concept or notion is now required.

Two quotes--one from Jung another from Giegerich--are especially pertinent to the concept of notional practice.

“We should never forget that in any psychological discussion we are not saying anything about the psyche, but that the psyche is always speaking about itself.” C.G. Jung, CW 9, i: 483.

“… the soul of a theory is the Notion or Concept whose unfolding the theory is. Psychological theory is a singular case. Psychology is the only discipline in which the life-giving soul of the theory happens to be the Notion of soul and where what it is the notion of is itself nothing other than Notion. For soul is Notion. It is not the notion of an empirical ‘factor’ or ‘fact’ called ‘soul.’ The soul does not exist (out there in ‘reality’), it is not an entity, nothing ontological. It is only (only?) logical, ‘just’ a Notion, a thought, a word (but word not merely as flatus vocis). The word soul is not a significant having a signified. It refers to nothing outside of itself, only to the notion or thought that it means within itself or posits in and through itself.” W. Giegerich, The Soul’s Logical Life: Towards a Rigorous Notion of Psychology (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, 1998), p. 90


1 Greg Mogenson, “The Place of Interpretation: Absolute Interiority and the Subject of Psychology,” Spring 77, pp. 66-70.