Go to contents

[Opinion] Nietzsche’s Virgin Forest

Posted June. 27, 2005 06:18,   


The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once compared the human soul to “extensive virgin forests.” Numerous scholars never neglected tracking and exploring the mountains and valleys of this uncharted, dangerous hunting ground. However, after more than 2,000 years since the Greeks started exploring the human spirit as a discipline, Nietzsche says, “We, who self-describe ourselves as intellectuals, do not know ourselves.”

It was in the late 19th Century when psychology, the “study of spirit,” evolved from exploring the soul to studying human consciousness and observable behaviors, and established itself as a part of science. Psychology rapidly developed by adopting scientific methods instead of philosophical speculation. Since the emergence of experimental psychology, the basic areas have been expanded to include behavioral, cognitive, physiological, animal, developmental, personality, and social psychology, and the applied studies are being constantly specialized into industrial, environmental, education, clinical, pathological, and criminal psychology. As complex as the modern society is, the exploration of the inner world is very diverse.

The “spirit” that exists beyond the scope of observation and experimentation is still unexplored territory. It is the same as the discovery of detailed traits of one nervous cell being incapable of fully explaining an entire mental pathology. Nonetheless, the “virgin forest” has become an “artificial forest” to some extent with the development of psychology. In particular, some maps have been laid out to identify intelligence and personality through psychological tests, and methods to treat those who require special care are being developed with advanced counseling and mental therapy.

The recent delinquent crimes which are unacceptable by common knowledge make the entire society anxious. Although ways such as increasing the number of professional staff and mental therapies are discussed for personality control, it is nothing more than the starting point of problem prevention. The rise in the number of social delinquents is a matter of the social environment as a whole. Indiscriminate commercialism and materialism, social isolation, and a lack of understanding from others devastate the inner world of people and maximize the danger of the “virgin forest.” So far, Korean society has been too indifferent to the issue of order in the wholesome and healthy inner world.

Yoo Hong-lim, Guest Editorial Writer and Political Science Professor at Seoul National University, honglim@snu.ac.kr