Hephaestus's Blog

Word of the Month: synchronicity
August 8, 2015, 08:14
Filed under: Words of the Months

Etymology: 1953; coined by C. G. Jung from synchronic (itself from Late Latin synchronus, meaning ‘synchronous’, derived from Greek synkhronos… from –syn meaning ‘together’ and khronos ‘time’. That was an awful lot of the same word over and over again.)

Definition: The Jungian concept of meaningful coincidences, or “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.”

Ignoring synchrony (symphony, euphony, Eubalaena glacialis) for the moment, the concept of synchronicity is a somewhat thorny one. It appears that Jung, at a loss for how to explain ‘paranormal’ events, coined the term as an alternative to normal causality. This would seem to make the possibility of synchronicity somewhat dubious, as based on a too strict idea of causality. Probability theory holds that with enough occurrences (every sentient being thinking all the time, for example) events will eventually occur which seem to defy causality, just as if you throw ten dice enough, you will eventually throw ten sixes (or ten fives, fours, et cetera). This leaves the field open to have everything caused by something far, far in the past, therefore nothing is ever acausal, only random. This is, of course, always assuming that causes even exist… but if you go that far, nothing can save you, and synchronicity becomes meaningless anyway.

Critics of synchronicity also point out that there is a tendency in the mind to see patterns in data where there are none. The word for this is apophenia; but more on that next month.

Please let me know if there are any words you would like featured by posting a comment on this post.

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