Determining Function Axes, Part 8

Michael Pierce is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Pierce’s piece represents his own insights and type assessments and not necessarily those of the site. In this article, Pierce elaborates on the concept of function axes. 

By Michael Pierce

All types have one perceiving axis (N/S) and one judging axis (T/F). Each will always take one of two forms: The perceiving axis can be either the Se/Ni or the Si/Ne axis, while the judging axis can be either the Fe/Ti or the Fi/Te axis. I shall now attempt to lay out some differences between each of these.

The Judgment Axes

With regard to the judgment axis, Fe/Ti asks “What do I think and how can I communicate that?” while the Te/Fi axis asks “What do I want, and how can I get it?”

The Fe/Ti axis seeks to understand the logical structure or form underlying the phenomena that are encountered by the psyche. This discernment includes sentiment-related phenomena, which it approaches in an analytical manner, just as it may pertain to more mechanical analysis, which the Fe/Ti types then often take care to present in an agreeable manner and with a human face.

The Fi/Te axis seeks to apprehend a hierarchy of desires and passions that motivate the individual to create expedient arrangements in reality with the aim of furthering one’s ends and accomplishing one’s desires. Ultimately, the arrangements are there to serve the individual’s aims, and not in order to construct some impersonal, idealized model that can then be thought to be true for all time.

Hence it is my contention that the Fe/Ti axis is more naturally wired to seek knowledge that is abstracted from the individual’s personal situation, while the Te/Fi is more naturally wired towards making sure that the individual’s personal desires are transformed into reality. This distinction harks back to Sigurd Arild and Ryan Smith’s article, NTP Knowing vs. NTJ Willing, although in my opinion, the distinction holds true for all types, and not merely to NTPs and NTJs like they said. To put it another way, the reason their distinction pertains to all types is because these properties are in fact properties of the two judging axes, and not of NTP and NTJ types as such.

As is so often the case, however, the difference is clearest if we turn to philosophy where Nietzche (the Fi/Te type) says:

“Behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or, more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain type of life.” – Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil §11

While Hume (the Fe/Ti type) says:

“… amidst all the variety and caprice of taste, there are certain general principles of approbation or blame, whose influence a careful eye may trace in all operations of the mind.” – David Hume: Essays (Alex, Murray & Son 1870) p. 138

Thus, in the Te/Fi attitude, we see that people are thought to do things because they want to, desire to, and have a passionate drive to: No matter what intricate logical justifications are produced, the real fuel of all spirited human activity will in the end be shown to be personal wishes and goals, that the individual is willing to fight to obtain or preserve. Meanwhile, with the Fe/Ti attitude represented by Hume, the reason people do things is because they operate under the influence of general principles, which they may not even understand in full themselves, but which nevertheless influence “all operations of the mind.”

It should be noted, of course, that these distinctions pertain to the psychological structure of consciousness, and not to its contents, as the other writers on this site so often take care to point out. That is to say, it is not impossible that an Fe/Ti type would end up agreeing with Nietzsche that everything ‘principled’ is really a masked power play that serves the promotion of one’s desires, as in fact, the Ti/Fe type Michel Foucault did, at least in part. However, the Fe/Ti style of thinking will still be his root metaphysical prejudice, as Ryan Smith has pointed out in Part 6 of this series. With Foucault, for example, we might say that what he did was essentially to analyze Nietzsche’s spirited accusation against principles and impartial logic on the basis of principles and impartial logic! He saw that even though people say they act on the basis of impartial principles, most of them simply don’t, and then made that his new principle, indeed extending Nietzsche’s argument to all people in a universalistic Fe/Ti fashion that would probably have been mildly amusing to Nietzsche himself. Though he had assimilated Fi/Te type contents, the structure of his consciousness was still opposite to that.

The Perceiving Axes

So much for the judgment axes. As far as the perceiving axes go, their general nature can be described as follows: Se/Ni asks: “What is the most likely outcome on the basis of the raw data?” while the Si/Ne axis asks: “What is the relative truth behind each perspective?”

The Se/Ni axis seeks to apprehend the most likely future outcome that we can expect, based on a raw and direct experience of reality. This configuration lends an unhindered and self-evident quality to the insights of Se/Ni types where they are often able to fuse direct experience of reality with compelling mental schemata for how to cognitively lock on to what’s going on in the world, as Boye Akinwande and Ryan Smith have pointed out in Part 4 of this series.

For its part, the Si/Ne axis seeks to cognize the most dependable and lasting qualities of phenomena, based on a tentative sampling of varying perspectives, with each perspective recommending some insights while lessening the importance of others (and concealing others still from view). This configuration leads to a more inhibited or indirect style of cognition on the part of the Si/Ne type where their contributions owe much more to an aggregate general wisdom that has formed over time than to acute observation of the present matter.

Hence, these observations effortlessly lead us back to what was originally said in Part 1 of this series: On balance, Se/Ni is much more trusting of, and interested in, whatever empirical data that is available and pertains directly to the matter at hand. As I have said, it is simply in the nature of Se/Ni to rely on direct observation and direct conjecture from the empirical data.  As the original article said, the Se/Ni type will be cognitively engrossed in one perspective, which is coincidentally also likely to be the perspective that generates the greatest yield. There is a manifest and immediate quality to their insights, since they are naturally hooked into a more direct and straightforward perception of the world.

Even when Se is a person’s inferior function, one can still see this facet of the Se/Ni axis at play. All else being equal, a dominant Ni type takes in the least amount of factual outside experience of all the Se/Ni types. Yet if you observe them, you see them constantly mulling over and conjecturing from whatever data they do have. Oftentimes, they simply cannot help but do so, and so they often feel like they have a lot to say on a broad range of topics, regardless of their actual levels of expertise.[1] Their saving grace, however, is the subjective originality of the Ni function, which frequently allows them to concoct novel and intriguing points of view, even on the basis of a few morsels of data that would leave others lost.[2]

Meanwhile, the Si/Ne axis is far less trusting of direct observation. This is hardly a mystery, since their Sensation function is introverted. Where Se/Ni types are straightforward and direct in their object representations, Si/Ne types are more cautious and indirect, abstracting experiences so as to produce subjective mental facsimiles of them at the expense of cognizing them directly. This is why Part 1 of this series pointed out that Si types will frequently experience an unconscious striving to organize the contents of their experience into a mental regimen which is not just valid in the here and now, but which might conceivably end up in a future textbook on the subject.

Si types focus their cognitive energy on the apprehension of the carefully and cautiously culled characteristics of phenomena that have been proven to endure over time. Hence their stereotypically thorough, cautious, and reserved nature. Meanwhile, Ne types tend to focus their energy on provisional exploration and experimentation, where the subject matter is approached from various angles at once. The Si type’s caution can here be seen in the Ne type’s tendency to eschew dogma and never truly commit to anything. It’s all experimentation and exploration, with a series of tentative snapshots amassing to form a composite mental image, though their trouble is that they never want to stop. The Si type’s trouble, on the other hand, is that they do not want to start.


[1] Roy Harrod: “[Keynes spoke] on a great range of topics, on some of which he was thoroughly an expert, but on others [he had] derived his views from the few pages of a book at which he had happened to glance.”

[2] Nietzsche: “One should not know more about a thing than one can digest creatively.”

Jung in Plain Language, Part 2: Fi

By Ryan Smith

Fi is chiefly determined by the internal psychic landscape. It is quite different from Fe, just like Ti is different from Te. But it is very difficult to describe Fi with words, or intellectually, because its nature is so peculiar.

jung3However, even if we cannot describe Fi intellectually, we can become aware of what it looks like and learn to notice it in the world. In fact, Fi is very noticeable once we have become aware of its existence....

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Commentary on Briggs’ Definition of Fe

Hannah Strachan is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Strachan’s piece represents her own insights and assessments and not necessarily those of the site (in fact, she details some direct disagreements with our approach below). In this piece, Strachan attempts to correct what she sees as some widespread misconceptions concerning Fe.

By Hannah Strachan

As far as I know, most of the great typology theorists have been Fi, Ni, Ne, and Ti types. It seems to me that there must be a reason why no Fe type has made a bid for the mastery of a field where their dominant function could easily give them an edge. Why is that?

celebritytipshandsOne reason could be that Fe types don’t recognize themselves in the Fe function descriptions or the EFJ type portraits and tend to lose interest early on. And if that were the case, then who could blame them? From my perspective, many of the Fe descriptions that I have read don’t actually describe the Fe psyche, but rather some bundled-up list of traits that EFJs tend to share while entirely missing the reality of how Fe actually functions and why those traits appear from a function-based perspective.

In this article, I am going to map out a few of the differences as I see them. As my starting point, I will compare my own conception of Fe with Briggs’ definition, as it appears in Gifts Differing (Davies Black Publishing 1995) p. 79. Candidly speaking, I have never read a description of Fe that did not diverge from my own view the way Briggs’ does, so my intention is by no means to single out Briggs here – I am simply using her work as a foundation for my own. For each of Briggs’ seven points on Fe, I shall reproduce her point in full and then add my commentary below.

Briggs: [Fe] is determined chiefly by the objective factor and serves to make the individual feel correctly, that is, conventionally, under all circumstances.

Briggs is right, almost by definition, when she says that Fe is chiefly oriented towards the “objective” (i.e. external) factor. There isn’t much room for subjectivity in Fe judgments (in fact, of all the functions, only Te is likely to leave less room for the subjective element in its operations). However, it is doubtful whether Fe really leads the individual to feel “conventionally” under all circumstances: When Fe is made to be synonymous with blind adherence to social norms (as is often done), we lose sight of the inner workings of the Fe type, which may be far less conventional than they first appear. Indeed, Briggs’ daughter Myers always took care to warn us that when we see an introvert, we are not necessarily laying eyes on the most significant parts of their personality, since they are merely meeting us with their extroverted adaptation. Something similar might be said to be the case with Fe types: It is easy to see the surface adherence to social norms, but harder to see what goes on underneath.

Then there is Briggs’ assertion that Fe serves to make the individual feel “correctly and conventionally” at all times. If, by this description, Briggs means that Fe seeks to induce others to feel certain values or emotions, then I would say that the proclivity to push for one specific outcome or emotion is much too close to the subjective (i.e. internal) factor to be associated with Fe, or indeed with any extroverted function. The push for equivalence between inner and outer psychic contents is much more often seen with the subjectively-laced introverted functions, with Ni and Si being perhaps the clearest examples here.

If, on the other hand, Briggs means that “feeling correctly” is the same as feeling included and validated, then she is much closer to what I contend to be Fe: Rather than imposing itself on others, Fe tends to “spread its warmth” so as to “do the groundwork” for the whole room to feel comfortable and willing to contribute. Since others are granted a space in which to share their perspectives and open up to others, it follows that Fe does not impose any one way of feeling upon others, but rather includes their way of feeling in the overall nexus of the feeling situation. On this point, I therefore disagree with the site admins that the individual’s aims or desires are not at least partially determined by the functions themselves: On my view, Fe has the intrinsic goal of bringing as many voices as possible into the discussion and to help others see the points of disagreement between their views, so that eventually, a conclusion may be reached that everyone can agree on.  Of course, that isn’t always possible, but that is what Fe is driven towards.

Briggs: [Fe] adapts the individual to the objective situation.

Given what I said above, it should come as no surprise that I agree with Briggs on this point. As I said, Fe can often act as a catalyst, focusing people and aiding them towards bringing out the best of what they have to offer. Likewise, Fe has a natural inclination towards adapting itself to others with the aim of respectfully coordinating their perspectives and views so as to attempt to find agreement (where practically possible). So it makes a lot of sense, as Briggs says, that Fe adapts itself to the objective (that is, external) situation.

Briggs: [Fe] depends wholly upon the ideals, conventions, and customs of the environment, and is extensive rather than deep.

Given the manner of Briggs’ definition here, I think she misses an important point: Fe is not interested in social conventions, customs, or traditions a priori: Fe is first and foremost interested in people – what they believe, what they care about, and how different people and groups see things; what they have in common, where they diverge (and how they might be reconciled). So while Fe might in practice look as if it’s interested in conventions, it is my contention that this is only the case because social conventions and traditions have very real effects upon people, which, as I mentioned, is what Fe truly finds important.

As to Briggs’ point that Fe is extensive, rather than deep, our response should hinge upon the exact definition of this deep/broad dichotomy. On the one hand, if Briggs means that Fe is broad where Fi is deep, much in the same way as Ne is broad while Ni is deep, then what she says is true because Fe covers a much broader spectrum of perspectives and views than Fi does, and does so without going into each of the perspectives in as consummate a level of detail as Fi does (again much like the difference between Ne and Ni).

However, there is also another manner in which we may conceive of the broad/deep dichotomy: Since Fe generally has a greater understanding of alternating viewpoints than Fi (again akin to Ne and Ni), and since Fe is more naturally predisposed to strive for sympathy with the lot of others in general (as opposed to the more personalized focus of the Fi type’s affection), these dispositions do in themselves constitute a form of depth: The depth of investment in, and receptivity to, the other. If we apply the deep/broad dichotomy in this manner, then Fe would, all other things being equal, have just as much or more depth than Fi.

Finally, while many Fi types can often just put forth their values in a “take it or leave it” fashion, there is in many Fe types a moral urge to push for a collaborative and respectful process of social change and the facilitation of discussions on various topics, undertaken with the aim of slowly moving people towards a shared perspective that everyone can agree on (even if such total agreement will not always be practically possible). In this way, too, Fe has more depth than Fi, and is even a bit like Ni.

Briggs: [Fe] finds soundness and value outside of the individual in the collective ideals of the community, which are usually accepted without question.

As we already covered, it is true that Fe finds soundness and value outside of the individual and by orientating itself towards viewpoints that are widely agreed upon. However, when Briggs says that Fe accepts such viewpoints (such as the “ideals of their community”) “without question,” then that’s exactly the kind of description that in my experience is likely to turn EFJs away from the study of Jungian typology.

Even from the rather modest corrections that I have made to Briggs’ definitions so far, it follows that Fe does not – in fact, cannot – accept the standards of its community without question. So long as there is at least one person who disagrees with the dominant mores and thinks they are immoral or wrong, it will be natural for Fe to attempt to talk to that person and figure out what reasons that person has for dissenting. Since Fe is a rational function in the Jungian parlance, those reasons can then be reified and brought before others to serve as points in a discussion that has the aim of reaching reconciliation. And should that not be possible, the Fe type can at least ensure that the dissenting person’s viewpoint is treated with respect.

To put it another way, since Fe is so attuned to other people, Fe types must – almost by definition – keep an open mind about a great many  values and viewpoints. The idea of Fe types accepting a ready-made assemblage of beliefs “without question” goes against that.

As an extroverted judging function, Fe shares a certain structural affinity with Te (although their functional operations are different). From this premise, it is my contention that Fe is not merely interested in the default consensus viewpoint (as is otherwise so often claimed): Rather, Fe is interested in achieving the best consensus viewpoint that is possible, given the confines of the current situation. Where it differs from Te, however, is that it goes about those aims by trying to foster respectful and constructive exchanges between people who might otherwise disagree amongst themselves.

Briggs: [Fe] has as its goal the formation and maintenance of easy and harmonious emotional relationships with other people.

Briggs is right that Fe aims for the formation of harmonious and meaningful relationships among people. However, as I said in the beginning of this article, I think the operations of Fe go deeper than that: Fe isn’t just about wanting to make nice with individual people. Rather, its most natural ideal is for the complete (but utopian) eradication of conflict so that everyone may live in harmony with one another, each of them partaking in the one Good (as akin to the Platonic, Socratic, and Pythagorean conceptions, as covered elsewhere on this site). As detailed in some of articles on Determining Function Axes on this site, this ideal might well be a “root representation in consciousness” to many Fe types, even if they do not consciously hold such beliefs.

Briggs: [Fe] expresses itself easily and so shares itself with others, creating and arousing similar feeling and establishing warm sympathy and understanding.

Fe types are often quite eloquent; however, I don’t think there’s any function-based reason why this aptitude for expression should be a facet of Fe. On the whole, one could perhaps make the argument that Fe steers the individual in the direction of wanting to share their thoughts with others and thus to develop those warm and sympathetic overtures that are most likely to have an effect. But as many type theorists have said before me, and indeed as even the official MBTI training material makes clear, a person’s type is about preference and does not necessarily pertain to ability. Hence it does not follow that EFJs are necessarily good at expressing themselves in the way suggested by Briggs. For their part, the CelebrityTypes admins suggest that EFJs can sometimes have Avoidant traits, and for my part, I have personally known several EFJs who seemed to fit this bill. But even underneath their avoidance, the wish to connect was still there, and so was their interest in building consensus.

Briggs: [Fe] has a tendency to suppress the personal standpoint entirely, and presents the danger of becoming a feeling personality, giving the effect of insincerity and pose.

To say that Fe has a tendency to suppress the personal viewpoint entirely is perhaps an overstatement – it would be an odd person indeed who habitually held no personal opinions! On the other hand, it is of course true that Fe does repress the subjective factor a bit – as all extroverted functions do.

As for her second point, Briggs is right that Fe types are in danger of giving the effect of insincerity, but it is just that; an effect and not the cause. As the American typologist James Graham Johnston has argued, it is true that Fe types may lose themselves in the process of “feeling into” the various viewpoints of others, thus giving the impression of holding conflicting sympathies over time (and therefore of insincerity). But if what is meant by “insincerity” is that the Fe types do not really care about the people they interact with, then this depiction entirely misses the affective reality of the Feeling function. In short, nothing could be further from the truth.


This is the extent of my commentary to Briggs’ definition of Fe. As I said above, my aim was not to single out Briggs (or indeed, any other theorist) for being “wrong,” although I do feel that almost every Fe description that I’ve read so far has short-changed the Fe function (and EFJ types) in similar ways. As noted, I also disagree with some of the things which the CelebrityTypes admins have said in their work on the functions, so my view should not be taken to be synonymous with theirs (or vice versa). Perhaps what I have tried to do above all is to facilitate one of those respectful and cooperative exchanges that might in the future lead to a slightly more nuanced (and perhaps slightly better) consensus viewpoint.


Update: A previous version of this article stated that the bullets on Fe found above were the work of Myers. They were in fact taken from the notes of her mother, Katherine Briggs, and reproduced in Myers’ book, Gifts Differing. 


Image in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Francesca Elettra.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. is an independent research venture, which has no affiliation with the MBTI Trust, Inc.

Imagining Function Axes: Si/Ne

Mary Arrington is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Arrington’s piece represents her own insights and assessments and not necessarily those of the site. In this piece, Arrington attempts a more informal and colloquial exposition of function axes theory than is usually seen. 

By Mary Arrington

Function axes are an interesting idea, but many of the descriptions are murky or overly theoretical. In this piece, I’m going to try and present the ideas of the “Determining Function Axes”-series more informally, in a way that is easier to understand and that people can relate to real life. Is it possible? We’ll soon see!

The Si/Ne Axis

Think of a library full of books, books on all kinds of subjects. At one end of the library, the librarian is carefully girlreadingcelebrityplacing returned books back on their correct shelves and in their proper alphabetical positions, so that they are easy to find. At the other end of the library, a young curious child is running around the library, picking up books on all kinds of subjects and putting them all on the floor in a big mess. He flicks between books quickly, looking for interesting bits.

The librarian is similar to Si. It’s about building a careful library of information, and keeping each piece of that information in its proper place. “The information on planets looks interesting next to the information on music? Stop messing around and put them back!”

The child making a mess is similar to Ne. It’s about looking through the big library of information and finding interesting connections between things. “Nobody’s noticed that this bit of information on hippos is similar to this piece of information on nuclear power? Seriously? But it’s awesome! And speaking of awesome, here’s another thing…”

To put it in a different way, Si is focused on retaining the information in the same context that it had when it was experienced. By itself, it isn’t about looking for connections or new possibilities outside of what’s already known. It takes in the information, studies it intensely, and then fits it into its internal library. In spite of the metaphor, this need not be book knowledge, but also impressions they have experienced, like how to make the perfect cup of tea, or what their grandpa’s house smelled like when they were little, and so on. Whether these impressions are absolutely realistic or not is not what’s important here – it’s that they have a deep effect on the Si type.

Ne, on the other hand, is focused on changing the information it gathers into something new. It has little interest in sticking to what’s already known. Boring! Instead, it’s constantly looking for interesting connections and surprising new ideas. “What would be the most amazing pet to have? Well, it would have the head of a tiger, no, the head of an owl, no, a tiger with the head of an owl…! What if an asteroid were heading towards the earth right now – what would everyone do? And what would be the most interesting pet to have if one were on that asteroid?” They are in short, crazy people, like racecars with no brakes.

All NP and SJ types have this axis as an element of their psyches. While ISJs and ENPs are at the most extreme ends of this axis, even in their cases one can still see the axis at play: Si types often take pains to have a plan in place in case of unexpected and surprising things that may happen, such as the water pipes bursting or the stock market crashing. And Ne types tend to unwittingly throw a lot of references around as to where the information was first encountered, even when “mixing and matching” off the bat.


Image in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Francesca Elettra.

Typology Lessons from von Franz

Marie-Louise von Franz (1915 – 1998) was a Jungian psychologist and close associate of Jung. In her book, C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time, von Franz lays out some general principles of Jungian typology as she sees them, which we reiterate below. All quotations are from the Inner City Books 1998 edition of the book.

von franz jung1: As Jolande Jacobi also reported Jung to have said, Intuition is not synonymous with Imagination, Fantasy, or Creativity:

“Intuition is not identical with fantasy which Jung regards as a human capacity independent of the functions.” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time p. 47

“Fantasy can find expression via thinking, feeling, intuition and [sensation] and is therefore probably an ability sui generis, with deep roots in the unconscious.” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time p. 47n30

“[Jung] rejects the usual notion that artistic inspiration is limited to the intuitive type. … Fantasy is indeed the source of all creative inspiration, but it is a gift that can come to any of the four [function] types.” – Jolande Jacobi: The Psychology of C.G. Jung (Yale University Press 1973) p. 24

2: Jung’s Typology Is a System of Four Functions (Each with Two Orientations), Not of Eight Functions:

“… when Jung … studied the way in which individuals adapt to their environment … he discovered that one could divide these attempts at adaptation into four basic forms of psychic activity or psychological functions. … [These] four functions provide a sort of basic orientation for the ego in the chaos of appearances.” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time pp. 46-47

3: The Fourth (Inferior) Function Is “Nearly Always” Unconscious:

“[The fourth function] nearly always remains largely unconscious, for which reason Jung calls it the ‘inferior function.’ Here the light of ego-consciousness turns into twilight. Our attempts to adapt with the fourth function are to a large extent uncontrolled and often fall under the influence of … the unconscious personality. … The fourth function … will be primitive, spontaneously arbitrary, intense, undisciplined and archaic. Moreover, it behaves somewhat in the fashion of the opposite attitude type, which means that, for example, the feeling of an introverted thinking type is extraverted, bound to the object, and the sensation of an extraverted intuitive will be introverted, etc.” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time p. 48&n34

4: According to von Franz, Freud Had Inferior Te:

“Freud’s thinking corresponded to an extraverted approach to scientific research. … The evaluation of Freud’s thinking as extraverted does not mean that Freud, as a man, was himself extraverted. In my opinion he was an introverted feeling type and his thinking was accordingly extraverted.” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time p. 61&n36

5: Jung’s Typology Cannot Be Understood without Reference to Heraclitean Logic:

“[In Jung’s typology] the differentiation between subject and object, between inner and outer, gradually takes place. This contribution of Jung’s to the psychology of consciousness … received almost no recognition in the wider field of philosophic-academic psychology, because it is concerned with a description of ego-consciousness which cannot be understood without experience of its mirror-world, the unconscious.” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time p. 46n28

6: Bonus Lesson: On Parmenides’ Cosmic Sphere:

“…as early as the school of Parmenides the structural image of a sphere … as the form of the ultimate basic principle of the cosmos, emerged. The natural philosophers probably took this image from the older pantheistic Orphism, in which the godhead was thought of as an all-embracing presence with cyclical or spherical form, encompassing beginning, middle and end. The same image appears again in Empedocles. In his view, when the cosmos is under the dominion of Eros, it is “on all sides like to himself and everywhere without end, Sphaeros, the sphere-shaped, above the loneliness prevailing all around, filled with joyful pride.” In Anaximander’s case the world-principle is the Apeiron (the limitless), but at the center of the world there is a ‘sphere which firmly encircles the cosmos.’ For Xenophanes the cosmic god is limited and spherical, ‘always and everywhere homogeneous,’ ‘shaking the universe … by the thought-power of his spirit.'” – Von Franz:  C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time p. 142, cf. Dietrich Mahnke: Unendliche Sphäre und Allmittelpunkt (Günther Holzboog 1966) pp. 243-244


Image of von Franz in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Georgios Magkakis.

On Kanye West and the ISFJ Type

By Boye Akinwande, with additions by Eva Gregersen

As I’m sure may currently be the case for many of you, I was quite skeptical of CelebrityTypes’ type assessment of Kanye West as an ISFJ when I first came across it. At the time of this writing, there appears to be no 1035x672-111913-kanye-west-1800-1384897712“default” assessment of West’s type, but ISFJ almost seems like the result one would arrive at if one’s intent was sarcasm. I imagine that my issue, like yours, stemmed from the fact that I took more of a behaviorist approach to typology wherein the concrete behavioral traits, interests, ideas, and skills of an individual are thought to presuppose that individual’s functions. According to this view, since West’s behavior is characterized by recurrent social faux pas and a seemingly unapologetic vanity that stands worlds apart from the considerate and self-effacing demeanor that is typically associated with ISFJs, any attempt to type him as one is quite plainly ludicrous. End of story, right?

Not quite. In accordance with the psychodynamic approach to typology employed by CelebrityTypes, the articles on the site can often be seen to caution skeptics (such as my former self) not to mistake the contents of cognition for the psychic functions themselves. In other words, while there are certainly correlations between type and such contents (behavioral traits, interests, ideas, skills, etc.), they cannot be taken as the direct constituents of a person’s type, the way 90% of the internet does. For a simple explanation as to why, consider how the existence of such contents in an individual’s psyche is often more a function of time and place (the culture in which he is situated, for instance).

Jungian typology is really a theory about the nature of conscious attention (and inattention) that an individual directs towards the contents of consciousness. According to the psychodynamic approach, the functions exist as meta-perspectives that, in theory, are divorced from psychic contents. Rather, they operate as lenses that fundamentally bias the way we conceive of, structure, and relate to information in the psyche. In West’s case, understanding the psychodynamic approach is paramount to understanding why CelebrityTypes assesses his type to be ISFJ.

Styles and Types

As previously covered on the site, a person’s psychological type does not exhaust everything about his personality. However, since many practitioners of Jungian typology are not well-acquainted with other domains of personality studies, they tend to construe everything they observe about that person’s personality as having to do with his type. In the case of Kanye West, most people seem to construe the factors of his Narcissistic personality style as having to do with Fi. However, I would argue that this is a category mistake.

At its base, the distinction between Fe and Fi (or Fe/Ti and Fi/Te) says little about the value judgments (contents) that the individual will hold. Rather, the distinction has to do with how one goes about forming judgments, deriving them from either objective (Fe) or subjective (Fi) sentiments (from the function point of view) or on the basis of one’s ontological predispositions (from the axial point of view), seeing humans as being either more similar to each other (Fe/Ti) or more divergent from one another (Fi/Te).

Hence, as it should, the psychodynamic approach to typology places us more in line with the consciousness of the individual and avoids making too many assumptions that are tied to behaviorist modes of personality studies or the non-constant (but invariably influential) culture and zeitgeist that the individual finds himself in. Doing so lifts us out of a behavioral (or Aristotelian) mindset like “Fe types evince group-oriented behavior” to a more psychodynamic mindset like “Fe types are prone to form object representations where they see other individuals as extensions or variations of themselves.”

Next, returning to the question of personality styles, it is my impression that the specific behaviors that are often coupled with the ISFJ type under the behaviorist point of view are really the behaviors of the Dependent personality style, an adaptation that is indeed overrepresented among ISFJs. Like the conjunction that often arises between INTJs and the Narcissistic personality style, it is not hard to see how Dependency could more easily converge with the psychic disposition of the ISFJ type than that of other types.

Defiance and Standards in ISFJs

Before we get to West, it is worth calling attention to another ISFJ who has famously caused a ruckus with her defiance and the championing of her own standards, namely the civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Parks was an African-American woman who was riding the bus and refused to stand up so as to give up her seat for a white person. In refusing, not only was Parks defying social convention, she was also breaking the law, and hence, though most people view her behavior in a more favorable light than they do West, Parks was actually more defiant than West, even though lacking a noticeable Narcissistic disposition. Hence, contrary to a stereotype that many hold of ISFJs, they do have it in them to take a stand that goes against the dominant mores of the group, even if doing so is controversial and even if it aggravates the people around them.

Indeed, since they are in general far more meticulous in their handling of facts than other, non-Si, types, it is not illogical that ISFJs may often draw attention to standards and factual inaccuracies that may more easily elude the awareness of other types. By way of their greater receptivity towards facts and their handling of these, the conscious attention of ISFJs may often be directed towards more minute observations specific to their immediate realities. By way of this adaptation, ISFJs may often be seen to have especially concentrated and raw emotional attachments to the people or experiences from their personal lives.

As Jung said in Psychological Types §650, Si is amongst the most irrational functions. But because most Si types do not possess any facility whereby their Si can be expressed directly, the true nature of Si is rarely seen and Si is consequently mistaken for a wholly passive process, without machinations or designs of its own. West, being an unusually Narcissistic ISFJ, divulges more of these typically inexpressible Si machinations to the world than does your usual ISFJ. However, his sense of injustice appears too confined to his own lot and life experiences and consequently too hard for others to relate to. Too often, the end result is that his outbursts and defiance land him on an island, too remote to be reached by the sympathies of others.

By contrast, though a higher incidence of the Narcissistic personality style may readily be seen among the NFJ types, the more holistic disposition of their Ni-Fe combination often serves to mitigate the disagreeable and self-absorbed elements of that style. In West’s case, the preponderance of Si, rather than Ni, has the unfortunate consequence of making the actual standards and values that he is fighting for more specific to his situation and therefore less relatable.

West’s Abrasiveness at Award Shows

INTERVIEWER: “What are some of the things you’ve learned about yourself since becoming a family man?”
KANYE WEST: “You know, I can’t pinpoint that. I don’t have the answer right on me. I got to think about it and give you a really good answer. I got a lock and loaded amount of information that I like to express on a very wide scale. But if you ask me a question like that and I go back and think on it, maybe I’ll have the answer for you in a couple of days.” – West: Kanye West meets Zane Lowe BBC 2015

As I mentioned before, the view of West that predominates in the public eye is that he has an abrasive and erratic personality; a personality that seems a far cry from your stereotypical ISFJ indeed. The above exchange, however, appears to suggest something quite different about West. All else being equal, the above exchange would seem to suggest introversion and/or introverted perception over their opposites. Furthermore, even between the two introverted perception functions, the Ni type is still characterized by immoderation, since the Ni types have inferior Se (as well as because of the more ideational and less empirical nature of N over S in general).[1]

Another consideration here is that, all else being equal, Ni types would be inclined to care less about truly doing justice to questions that have no noumenal implications (Psychological Types §659). In fact, of all the types, it is on balance the Si type who is the most discerning with regards to doing justice to wordly information on the granular level, carefully processing and accounting for every detail in their striving for empirical precision.[2]

Among the moments most responsible for West’s infamy have been his public disapprovals concerning the outcomes of award shows. He has expressed frustration about not getting the accolades he felt he deserved, storming out of the 2004 American Music Awards when he discovered that he was not the recipient of an award that he felt he deserved. Likewise, West has famously come to Beyonce’s defense when he felt that she too had been cheated out of an award that he felt should have been hers. And though far less publicized, West has also publicly criticized the decision to award him certain accolades that he did not feel that he had deserved. In fact, West has done so on at least four occasions.[3]

Though public discourse seems to content itself with discussing what Kanye West has done on these occasions, the present endeavor of this article calls for something more than that. As psychological typologists, we must also ask why West has repeatedly behaved in this way, and what psychological motivations may lie behind it.

As I hope to show in the following paragraphs, my own foray into the matter has suggested to me that West has meticulously processed the empirical facts pertaining to each of the decisions that he rose to protest. He absorbs and processes the facts, weighing each of the artists carefully in his mind; yet being an Si type, the underlying perceptions (as opposed to the resulting judgments) are profoundly personal and not directly perceivable by others. As Myers says of them, Si types are characterized by “vivid private reactions” to the thing sensed; reactions that are rarely discernible or comprehensible to others.[4]

The theme that runs through most of West’s outbursts at award shows appears to be that West truly cares about standards of fairness and justice in relation to the awards: He takes a serious interest in whether each award is truly bestowed upon the artist whom he perceives to deserve it the most. Understood from his own perspective, West’s abrasive outbursts are really efforts to uphold the integrity of award shows as an institution for artists and musicians. Like other ISFJs before him, West will not stand for what he perceives to be arbitrariness or injustice, except in his case he is focused on something that others have a hard time seeing as worthy of such exacting moral attention, namely the proper bestowal of awards.

INTERVIEWER: “How about the Grammy? You received one, but didn’t attend the ceremony…”
MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN: “I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. … They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. … [But having won one] why should we refuse it? … If our record company and the music business want to have a party, why should we spoil it for them? … Just because we don’t like it, why ruin it for them?” – Keenan: Interview with Maynard Keenan of Tool NY Rock Magazine 2002

While the Fi type may more easily withdraw his personal sentiments from such external metrics (such as with Maynard James Keenan as quoted above), West’s cognitive loci are closer to what we would expect of an SFJ type: To West, the externalized and empirical metric matters and the formalized stamp of recognition of the peer group should be awarded to the proper person. As opposed to those more cynical takes on award shows as having more to do with advertisement and lobbying than talent, West accepts the institution of the award show at face value: Given that there is a winner, that winner should also be the right winner. And given that the winners are supposedly decided on the basis of their contributions, we are obligated to conduct a proper and careful estimation of what they may be – to ensure that every fact is “fully and fairly sifted” as the Duke of Wellington said.

When asked in a recent interview about his rationale for speaking out in such instances, West likened being unjustly “defeated” at music awards to when he tried out for his school basketball team and did not make the team even though he made all the shots.[5] His analogy captures an oft-expressed nightmare for ISJs, who, because they repress Ne, often do not like to enter situations where the rules that regulate them cannot be known with certainty. As the Si type Woodrow Wilson said, we should be able to recognize the everyday impressions of our world in even the most ceremonious retelling and evaluation of what has taken place: We cannot have one version of reality for the real world and another for the history books, and according to West, nor can we have one evaluation of an artist’s contributions in the real world and another at the award shows. As he has said:

KANYE WEST: “I don’t want [award shows] to rewrite history right in front of us. At least, not on my clock. I really appreciate the moments that I was able to win rap album of the year or whatever. But after a while, it’s like: ‘Wait a second; this isn’t fair. This is a setup.’” – West: Behind Kanye’s Mask The New York Times 2013

Because Si types repress Ne, they may sometimes fail to consider how different perspectives may not only be desirable, but indeed sometimes necessary, in different contexts. Because they are primarily orientated towards their own repository of thoroughgoing, yet at times also overly personalized and specific knowledge of the facts, Si types can sometimes react with incredulity and defiance when their tightly-clutched impressions of the facts do not match up with the “official” or “authoritative” discernment of the same facts. In this respect, the Si type is not different from the Ni type who sees his own perspective and how his own idea must be true to the exclusion of all others; only the Ni type deals more with possibilities where the Si type deals more with facts.[6]

The Unseen Relations of Si

As Jung, von Franz, and Myers have remarked, Si is usually private, unseen, poorly understood, and mistaken for an introverted version of the Si type’s auxiliary function.[7] Jung and von Franz have contended that sometimes, on a few rare occasions, it will be possible to catch a glimpse of the “inner irrationality” of the Si type, such as for example if the Si type is an artist.[8] What they do not say (but what I shall add) is that if the Si type is beset by Narcissistic traits, it will also frequently (but not always) be possible to see more of the Si type’s inner life.

In Kanye West’s case, it is my impression that there is an interaction between his Si function and his Narcissistic personality style, where the Narcissism provides the brazenness for dragging the rest of the world into the narrowly focused and heavily personalized perceptions of Si. It also appears that, intrapsychically, there is an interaction between the two where past impressions and factual accomplishments continually reinforce the grandiose self-image that West cannot help but portray.

While all Narcissistic personalities rely on past successes to “keep themselves warm,” West’s grandiosity is often grounded in statements that are uniquely factual and impression-based, in contradistinction to the more flighty and ideational cognitive style that is seen in most Narcissists (even S type Narcissists).[9] For example, as he says in his First MTV Interview from 2002:

“If you’re taught you can’t do anything, you won’t do anything. I was taught I could do everything.”

“It was instilled in me to just go out and get it.”

West is noted for making outrageously grandiose statements (such as: “My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.”). An argument that is often seen against the possibility of Fe, or ISFJ, is that such outrageous, off-the-wall, and “self-interested” statements must bear witness to an Ne-Fi (NFP) disposition. However, as opposed to personality systems like the Big Five, Jungian typology is not so much about the ‘what’ as it is about the ‘why.’ Reverse-engineering West’s behavior to the most suitable functions of consciousness is the ‘what’: It is an extrovertive approach to personality studies. Trying to interpret the cognitive processes and motivations that underlie the person’s behavior is the ‘why.’

The Narcissistic Adaptation

As a pattern of consciousness, one of Si’s dispositions is to absorb and reinforce the lessons taught by experience, forming accurate, deep, and rich impressions of the way in which reality was brought to bear on the Si type. Since a child’s caregivers and role models will often be central components of the person’s reality in childhood, one may often see Si types referring to the lessons imparted to them by their role models as, by comparison, Si types are uniquely suited to pay attention and hold on to those lessons from early childhood on.

In West’s case, he had quite an unusual mother who instilled in him from an early age that he was uniquely talented and destined for greatness. As she recounts in her memoir:

“Everyone prays for their child to be healthy. … I prayed for my child to be healthy and brilliant. [When he was seven months old] I knew my prayers had been answered – beyond my wildest imagination. I never imagined that I would be the mother of someone quite as unique as Kanye West, someone God had chosen to do something very special in the world.” – Donda West: Raising Kanye (Gallery Books 2009) p. 2

As Donda West continues to make clear in her memoir, she raised West with the constant reinforcement of the notion that he was special and that he would (indeed: must) grow up to do special things. Thus she fostered what psychologists would call the “grandiose self” and sowed the seeds for the development of his Narcissistic style.

Interestingly, she also encouraged him to think for himself and to speak his mind:

“One of the biggest challenges for me … was how to discipline Kanye without killing his spirit … give him boundaries that would keep him within the parameters of what is appropriate. You may laugh and ask, ‘Kanye, appropriate?’ And to that I would reply, ‘Yes, appropriate.’ To me, being appropriate does not always mean conforming. Often it means just the opposite. Sometimes, refusing to conform and even confronting is not only appropriate but necessary to change the world for the better.” – Donda West: Raising Kanye p. 8

Not only did West’s mother encourage him to speak out, she instilled an equivalence in him between acting appropriately and acting defiantly, going against the predominating mores when the situation called for it.

It is furthermore worth noting that Donda West describes her son’s temperament as naturally conforming and obedient:

“Rarely did I tell Kanye no. I gave him most everything he asked for. … Why? Because Kanye earned it. … He was a good kid. Had he not been, things would have been different. Had he talked back to me and refused to do what I asked of him, I would not have rewarded him. To do so would have been to enable a brat, not raise a child.” – Donda West: Raising Kanye p. 9

Donda West’s description comes close to how von Franz and van der Hoop describe the default disposition of the Si type in childhood as being passive and receptive, and West himself has stressed on countless occasions how he always looked up to his mother and took his cues from her.[10] Again the analysis leads us to the conclusion that the grandiose and intemperate facade is a functional, adapted layer of the personality, whereas the deeper-lying structural properties of West’s personality are quite different.

Hence, rather than expecting ISFJs to align themselves with convention and always act appropriately, it would be more reasonable to expect ISFJs to align themselves with what they subjectively associate with these values. In West’s case, he was taught to trust in his own judgments and to speak out against perceived unfairness, even if others did not.

This approach still isn’t perfect, as a person’s values are still mental contents. But it’s certainly better than the trait-based arguments that are usually given for West as an Fi type. In fact, when attempting to pay more attention to the functions themselves, one may often come across mental processes in West that bear witness to an Fe/Ti configuration:

“The idea is more important than our personal well-being. That’s the reason why a lot of time I’ll say things that are not for my personal well-being. For people to create for their personal well-being is a very selfish way to create … creating to make your life better, as opposed to creating to make everyone’s life better.” – West: You Have to Take the Lashes of Backlash Bloomberg Television 2014

Grandiosity and Redemption Themes in African-American Culture

Finally, I will end this piece by calling attention to certain properties and themes of contemporary African-American culture. As I said in the beginning, the non-constant culture and zeitgeist that the individual finds himself in will often influence his mental contents to a strong degree – a premise that will invariably grow in cogency when dealing with the Si type. Hence, to make sure that we are understanding the individual in relation to his culture, and not mistaking the culture for the type, we should understand a few sociological facts about African-American culture.

While some have contended that West’s demonstrations of self-love and extravagance are mere examples of personal vanity, there is evidence to suggest that this is not the whole story. Indeed, to some African-American community leaders, self-love may well be a political act, aimed at redeeming the African-American community from its downtrodden history through unapologetic self-affirmation.[11]  Within this cultural prism, flaunting one’s success, and reveling in one’s own awesomeness, is seen as a way to counteract the past marginalization of the African-American community – exploding the burden of black stereotypes by turning them on their head and portraying oneself as akin to a “human, all too human” Greek god: Shamelessly self-indulgent and self-accepting, while at the same time being resplendently above it all.

For his part, West has given a number of remarks to indicate that his acts are at least partially influenced by this tradition of African-American grandiosity and “Greek god” dandyism and that they could be seen as one reason for his behavioral extravagance. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, he said: “Black people are allowed to wear big chains and name [the brands of clothing] they have on, to say out loud what [their] stuff costs.”[12] Or, in an interview with The New York Times, he said: “That’s how I was raised. I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists. But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis – you know, that liked nice things also.” And further: “I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: ‘This is the level that things could be at.’ … The passion is for the 18-year-old version of myself. The passion is for the kids at my shows. I need to do more. I need to be able to give people more of what they want that currently is behind a glass [to them].”[13]


[1] Von Franz: Psychotherapy (Shambhala 1993) pp. 68-69

[2] Myers: Gifts Differing (Davies Black 1995) p. 80

[3] Trammell: All the Times Kanye West Gave His Own Awards to Someone Else (Fader Magazine 2015)

[4] Myers: Gifts Differing p. 80

[5] West, quoted in Carnamanica: Behind Kanye’s Mask (The New York Times 2013)

[6] Stepping out of the argument, if I may be allowed a personal aside, the same pattern may also be observed in West’s own stated mentality concerning his recent attempts to break into the fashion industry: “I have put in my 10,000 hours,” he said in reference to a commonly-known regimen for success introduced in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. West’s foray into fashion has been met with a mixed reception, and in interviews, his reactions betray a struggle to come to terms with the opacity of the “rules” for achieving success in that field. He seems eager to subject all his knowledge to a predictable regimen and becomes frustrated when he is not able to do so. Having a hard time disengaging from his personalized and deeply-keeled sense impressions, he struggles to reconcile the diligence and thoroughness that he knows he has put into the effort with its apparent lack of success.

[7] Von Franz: Lectures on Jung’s Typology (Spring 1971) p. 27

[8] Jung: Psychological Types §650

[9] Millon & Grossman:  Overcoming Resistant Personality Disorders (Wiley 2007) p. 135

[10] Kanye West: Foreword to Raising Kanye (Gallery Books 2009), cf. Van der Hoop: Conscious Orientation p. 31, and von Franz: Lectures on Jung’s Typology p. 27

[11] Miller: Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity (Duke University Press 2009)

[12] West: You Have to Take the Lashes of Backlash Bloomberg Television 2014

[13] West, quoted in Carnamanica: Behind Kanye’s Mask (The New York Times 2013)

Hume’s Conception of Society

Torben Mark Pedersen is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Pedersen’s piece represents his own insights and assessments and not necessarily those of the site.

By Torben Mark Pedersen, Ph.D.

David Hume was arguably the greatest thinker of the Scottish Enlightenment. According to Hume, society is not hume“planned from above” according to the whims of some central architect (or group of architects), but has in fact “emerged from below” by the gradual transmission of customs and moral habits particular to that society to each new generation. In this way, the customs and mores of a given society contain a “hidden rationality” that supersede the comprehension of any single individual. In other words, according to Hume, the underpinnings – the true workings of society – are not planned or designed (nor are they the result of any “original social contract,” as Hobbes and Locke had said). Instead, society has gradually ordered itself by way of a centuries-long evolutionary process wherein best practices have been discovered and disseminated over time as individual groups learned that they could achieve more of their aims through cooperation than through conflict. Thus, one famous motto of the Scottish enlightenment is that “society is the result of human action but not of human design.”...

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Determining Function Axes, Part 7

By Ryan Smith

In this installment, I intend to discuss the Fi/Te axis as it appears in Homeric psychology. My discussion will be celetiphomerconducted on the basis of A.W.H. Adkins’s exposition of the Homeric mindset, as it appears in his book From the Many to the One.[1]

I will first attempt a general outline of the Homeric psychology:...

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Introduction to Heraclitus

Shawn Daniels is a Ph.D. of classical studies and contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Daniels’ piece represents his own insights and assessments and not necessarily those of the site.

By Shawn Daniels, Ph.D.

Among the pre-Socratic philosophers, Heraclitus is amongst the most famous, if not the most famous. Diogenes Laertius is the earliest author to describe his life and philosophy at length, but all of the biographical details are likely to be apocryphal, if not complete fabrications. The problems of his biography are further complicated by the extremely fragmentary character of his work, On Nature....

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The Defense Mechanisms of Personality Styles

By Eva Gregersen

The notion of defense mechanisms is central to the field of psychodynamic theory as a whole. Their discovery is widely credited to Freud and seen as among his most important discoveries (although as others have noted, Nietzsche really beat Freud to many of these realizations). In this overview, I list 15 different defense mechanisms and offer examples of how they play out in practice.

I also specify which personality styles are linked to each defense mechanism. We all draw on a variety of different defense mechanisms when our worldview is threatened, however, there tends to be a relation between one’s preferred mode of defense and one’s personality style....

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