JUSTDOLIT: a single tool to analyse all texts

If you want to know more: discarded alternative models

This is not “the” system, but “a” system, although, as far as I can see, the best system available. It fulfils the criteria of [1] simplicity of presentation, [2] complexity of results, [3] partial use in previous academic accounts.

Of course, other systems are initially possible, as for example 1. Time-honoured systems such as the four classical virtues (iustitia, prudentia, temperantia and fortitudo), or Hyppocrates’s theory of humours; 2. systems derived from psychology such as Jung’s typology (and its current use in the form of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) or the more alternative, but time-honoured typology provided by the enneagram; or 3. systems derived from classical thought, such as Plato’s three philosophical universals - the good, the true and the beautiful. All these approaches - and many more - could have been fruitful in one or another way. In the end, they also have important drawbacks.

The drawback of older systems: The theory of humours fulfils the criteria of totality and simplicity to a nearly excessive degree; it is an impressive classical and medieval example of pre-Einsteinian space-time, to which is coupled an understanding of the individual, and all of it based on only four main types. The theory of humours enters into irresolvable conflict, however, with our current understanding of science and nature, and can therefore not be applied.

Something similar could be said about the four virtues, although it is arguable that not applying them has often more to do with problems and prejudices inherent to Western society rather than the virtues themselves. At the very least, the virtues do not at present look fashionable or politically correct.

The drawback of psychological typologies: The complexity of the three psychological typologies listed – and there are, obviously more – makes it difficult for them to fulfil the criterion of simplicity: Jung’s typology uses, at its simplest, eight, Myers-Briggs’s sixteen and the enneagram nine types (see Jung 1996: 353-436, Myers 1995, and Rohr and Ebert 2002). A certain expertise is required to use these typologies. The application is just not simple or elegant.

The drawback of Plato: For a tool of analysis we need simplicity, something which looks like a piece of cake. Now a piece of cake presupposes a cake cut into pieces, while Plato’s three universals, our last candidate, look more like a multi-storey building. There’s no denying Plato’s pervasiveness in philosophical discourse, and the combinatory possibilities of the three universals of content (truth and goodness) and form (beauty) on the one hand, and of perception (truth) and evaluation (goodness) on the other look tempting to categorise reality. But these categories are asymmetrical, and each has even operated at different levels in different periods: while good came first in Plato, we might say that nowadays it comes last, after a truth which, as we have seen, is suspect, and both follow on being, so you cannot get to the third floor except by passing through the previous two, which have been demolished.

And in which floor does beauty live? Its location is at present a bit of a moot point, especially in literature: literature, understood as art in modern discourse, seems bound to beauty in a different way than it is to truth and goodness. This may be a failure of our contemporary society, as Hans Urs von Balthasar has tried to diagnose and correct in his three-volume Herrlichkeit (1988: 16), and yet the notion of the beauty of truth is, I believe, alien to our contemporary way of thinking.

works cited

daniel.candel@uah.es ©2008 Daniel Candel Bormann