Review of ‘The Dream of Enlightenment’

Anthony Gottlieb
The Dream of Enlightenment
Penguin 2016

Review by Ryan Smith

Do you, like Pope John Paul the Second and Prince Charles, regard Descartes as a subjectivist? Or Rousseau as someone who believed that humans in the state of nature would treat each other nicely? Do you believe that Hobbes was an atheist? Or that the history of philosophy leading up to Kant can be divided into empiricists and rationalists? Well, then you are wrong.

Nietzsche says somewhere that philosophers are incompetent when it comes to tending to philosophy as a subject, since philosophers perennially seek to de-historicize everything and see philosophical thought as floating in a free realm outside of time and space. Nietzsche was right about this.

Philosophers are notoriously afraid of historicizing philosophy. I once had a discussion with a guy who loved Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. In his opinion, people who found broad swatches of that book incomprehensible had simply failed to reflect deeply on its contents. When I rejoined that Sartre had written the work during a period when he popped as many as 20 amphetamine pills a day, and that several passages are in fact meaningless according to Sartre, my interlocutor replied that historical details like that are not relevant to philosophy.

That was a typical example of the tendency that Nietzsche was lambasting. Philosophers tend to believe that philosophical thought is so elevated that it stands outside of the conditions of history. In reality, all this approach means is that the whole field of philosophy ends up reproducing the same amateurish historiography, littered with distortions which in many cases were actually the work of partisan writers, meant to glorify their favorite philosopher at the expense of his rivals. Real historians would laugh at the so-called historical method that prevails in philosophy.

So wouldn’t it be nice with a book that sought to re-historize philosophy? To look at the field afresh, as it were? Well, that book exists – it’s Anthony Gottlieb’s The Dream of Enlightenment, which was published last year.

Descartes wasn’t particularly interested in whether the world really exists. He merely wanted to get some preliminary methodical considerations out of the way before proceeding with the thrust of his project, which consisted of anatomical studies of carcasses, the findings from which he creatively used to argue that bodies are like biological machines. He is regarded as the father of modern philosophy, but in reality his project had far more in common with the naturalistic spirit of the Greeks than with any of the philosophers who succeeded him. Spinoza was not the noble loner who consoled himself by devising of his high-minded philosophy in solitude. In the Marrano-Jewish community from which he was excommunicated, at least two other members had previously gotten themselves into trouble by presenting God, not as a supernatural anthropomorphic being, but as an entirely natural rational principle, animating the whole of the cosmos. Nor was he impoverished – in fact, he lived quite comfortably from the money his fans and friends continually sent him. You might say he had his own Patreon thing going. Hume did not regard the problem of induction as something to get hung up on. In his opinion, this limitation was simply an a priori condition of all cognition; a reminder of how fragile human knowledge is and always will be. He would have laughed at the Herculean efforts some of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers undertook to solve it – in vain, one might add.

One thing that is tiring about the book is that the author expends considerable resources kicking a downed enemy with snide points about how unflatteringly the church acted in the face of these new philosophies, and how busy the people of the cross were with limiting free thought and free speech in Europe. To be sure, the gradual liberation from the intellectual stranglehold of the church is an important part of the history of the enlightenment. But the basic opposition between church and free thought is clear after the first batch of observations have been furnished to this point. Double-digit variations end up becoming their own pious zeal. Another minus is that the book is patchy and random about which of its themes it develops over several pages, and which are merely outlined in a sentence or two.

Nonetheless, the book is original and absolutely worth reading. There can be no denying that Gottlieb writes about philosophy in a comical, coy, and crystal clear way which supersedes Bertrand Russell in several places.

The book’s main point, namely that philosophy cannot be separated from the historical conditions in which it was spawned, is a cogent one, and after turning the last page it is evident that many of the things usually said about the West’s greatest geniuses are distorted, wrong, or both. The history of philosophy is as much mythology as it is history. It has assumed a life of its own and many philosophers would hardly recognize themselves in the standard histories of the field. It is also instructive to see how first-rate minds either aligned themselves with the intellectual fashions of the day or were consigned to sideshows as ‘minor philosophers.’ No matter how smart you are, it is hard to escape the spirit of the times. Harder still is to be noticed and taken seriously if your thought does not fit the current trends.

In the end, one could ask: If philosophy is presumably able to stand outside of time and space, why is it then that 90% of the most important advances in Western philosophy originated from just two places and were concentrated over two small periods, with a duration of less than half a millennium in total (that is to say, Greece in classical times and Northern Europe in the early modern period)? That this astounding coincidence should somehow have nothing to do with the terms imposed on thought by history is, it seems, something one would need to take 20 amphetamine pills a day to comprehend.

Why Jung is INFJ, Part 2: What Jung Said About Himself

By Ryan Smith

In Part 1 of this series, we saw that:

  • Jung, when asked in public, always said he was a Ti (ITP) type.
  • There is a “secret” seminar where Jung identifies his Intuition as “superior.”
  • Some theorists take this to mean that Jung secretly identified as an Ni (INJ) type.
  • Jung was not always honest about his own type assessments in interviews.

Here in Part 2, we are going to present and discuss all of Jung’s statements about his own type. ...

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Plato’s Discursive Defense

By Ryan Smith

Now that we have reconstructed the contents of the Unwritten Doctrine and examined the paradox of how the One can be both unconditioned and limited at the same time, it remains for us to examine whether the Unwritten Doctrine actually refutes the Third Man Argument, as it was ostensibly meant to do.

First, let us recap Plato’s main line of defense against the Third Man Argument. Recall that the argument goes: “You say that sensible things are caused by the Forms – for example, that all physical men must be caused by the ideal Form of Man. But what causes the Form itself? Must that not be another Form, which is itself then caused by another Form, and so on in an infinite regress?”...

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On the Historical Continuity of Buddhist Schools

Among contemporary Buddhist schools, many lay claim to be the authentic heirs of the teaching of the Buddha. Yet there is considerable variety among the Buddhist schools in precepts, ethics and philosophy. As one scholar of Buddhism has said, it is as if the whole corpus of philosophy has been gone through in Buddhist form. So how can we choose? Which school is the closest to the teachings we find in the earliest Buddhist texts?

The earliest Buddhism we know presents us with an elitist teaching for men of superior intellectual acumen in whom an intense appetite for the transcendental was present. I say men, since women were officially excluded and only later did the Buddha allow himself to be persuaded to let women join the movement. True, the Buddha sometimes offers advice, instruction and comfort for the common folk, but a sharp line is drawn between those who would walk the path of awakening and become monks, and the ordinary people whom the Buddhists merely counseled. When the Buddhists later opened their ranks to laypeople, this represented a decadence and fall in metaphysical level compared to the Olympian heroism and Doric bareness of the original Buddhist order.

Around the start of the Common Era, Buddhism separated into the Hinayana and Mahayana schools. Neither of these are identical with the older forms of Buddhism. Hinayana became the custodians of the original Buddhist texts. A strong focus was placed on orthodoxy and scripture. It was heavily monastic and taught the importance of an ethical, puritan and ascetic way of life. Now Mahayana, on the other hand, was much more open to innovation. So much so, in fact, that the Russian scholar of Buddhism Shcherbatskoy has said that Mahayana Buddhism practically turned all of the prior teachings of Buddhism on their heads.

If you could say that Hinayana had somewhat expanded on the teachings of the Buddha, encumbering them with numerous ethical and claustral concerns, the same is doubly true of Mahayana. Except in this case the unsolicited expansion concerns the outgrowth of Buddhism from a series of individualistic practices, turning self-overcoming into a bona fide religion. Here, anyone could be a Buddha and instead of the personal goal of transcendence into nirvana, we find an almost Christian attention to the salvation of the masses, the common folk and their well-being. Original Buddhism had said very little about the gods, yet as with Catholicism, we find in Mahayana a phantasmagoria of gods, demigods and non-historical Buddhas, who can help the practitioner reach the other shore.

Thus we can see that both Hinayana and Mahayana have embellished considerably on the teachings of the Buddha and both have crowded out his doctrine thereby. So which contemporary school of Buddhism is the closest to original Buddhism?

In medieval times, a variant of Mahayana known as Cha’an or Zen emerged – it arose in China and then spread to Japan. Zen Buddhists have many fanciful legends about how their doctrine is actually the direct transmission of the original teachings from the Buddha himself, but these legends have nothing substantial at all to support them and so they must be regarded as fabrications.

On the other hand, in mixing with the endogenous warrior culture of Japan, Zen revived many of the elitist and individualistic elements of Buddhism that had otherwise been lost to both Hinayana and Mahayana. In Zen we find the view that all formalization and ritualistic practice actually dilutes and blunts the efforts of the initiate, making it harder for him to overcome his conditioned self and reach transcendental reality. (When we ask which contemporary school of Buddhism is the closest to the original teachings, we should here remind ourselves that the Buddha was from the warrior caste and that his teaching was intended, in part, as a revolt against the elaborate ritualization of the priestly caste.) Doctrines and dogmas, yes, even the doctrine of “Buddhism” itself represent nothing but a stifling of the superior man’s efforts to reach unconditioned reality and thus we find Zen practitioners saying that the Buddha was a turd or that they’d like to kill him. It was all a strong reaction against the outsourcing of one’s own spiritual development to a new priestly caste, preaching a codified version of Buddhism that was just as stripped of Buddhism’s original exigency as the Brahmanical religion had become at the time of the Buddha.

On this basis, it should be easy to see how Zen’s relentless focus on spiritual awakening and its conception of it as an individual affair, requiring exceptional virility, self-control and the readiness for any sacrifice that self-overcoming may require, are closer in spirit to original Buddhism than the Hinayanist wardens of the original texts and traditions with their formalized, communitarian and ritualistic approach. But we can also see how Zen, while indebted to Mahayana and in every sense an outgrowth of it, is a branch that turns on its trunk and lays bare how far the original teachings of the enlightened one were from the trappings of more traditional religions (trappings which, indeed, most contemporary Westerners erroneously regard as the heart of Buddhism).

With regards to Jungian typology, we may thus say that while Hinayana is undoubtedly the closest to original Buddhism in terms of factual harmonies and historical continuity – indeed all outer doctrines and unities – Zen alone continues the Olympian, iconoclastic, individualistic and (spiritually) aristocratic mindset that fostered original Buddhism. In other words, when we want to answer the question of which contemporary school of Buddhism is the closest to the teaching of the Buddha himself, we find that Hinayana is the closest in terms of Sensation, while Zen is the closest in terms of Intuition.


By Boye Akinwande

ISTPs and INTPs are dominant introverted thinking types. Whether they have introverted or extroverted thinking, all thinking types tend to have a strong proclivity for impersonal analysis and discerning the mechanics governing phenomena (as opposed to how they feel or appear to our sentiments). However, where the extroverted thinking types orient their analysis externally, taking stock of empirically verifiable facts and standards and letting these inform their thinking so as to come up with expediently realizable plans and predictions of outcomes, introverted thinking works somewhat differently.

The types who have introverted thinking tend to have a more laid-back, explorative approach where the outcome isn’t as important as the process of analysis itself. Furthermore, where extroverted thinking types tend to reply on the empirical facts at hand, introverted thinking types tend to rely more on their own theories about which facts go where in a mental system of their own making. You might say introverted thinking types do not simply trust the facts, but try to circumvent the external world’s many cluttered facts by coming up with overarching ideas to make sense of them instead of engaging with them directly. As Jung said of the introverted thinking type in Psychological Types, to them the facts only function as proof of the idea.

Because the process of reflection is more important to introverted than extroverted thinking types, both ITP types tend to have a knack for understanding how things work in an impartial and detached way. Thus, while they aren’t as outcome-oriented as their extroverted thinking counterparts, they nonetheless tend to excel at flexible reasoning and problem-solving in scenarios where something besides the tried-and-true approach is called for.

If one takes a function-axes approach to typology, as we do on the site, ISTPs and INTPs are alike on their judging axis of dominant introverted thinking and inferior extroverted feeling. Where they differ is with regards to their perception axis: Here ISTPs have auxiliary extroverted sensation and tertiary introverted intuition, whereas INTPs have auxiliary extroverted intuition and tertiary introverted sensation.

Types who have extroverted intuition as one of their top two functions are NPs and types who have extroverted sensation as one of their top two functions are SPs. If we compare the two, SP types tend to be much more immersed in their immediate environment and the natural flow of life than NP types. Their cognition tends to be more drawn towards objects as they exist physically, experiencing them in their entirety and as they are.

For NP types, instead of focusing on objects themselves, they are much more likely to be tempted to chase novel ideational possibilities at every turn than actually remaining with objects in the real world at length. It is like two people walking in a forest, one taking stock of the forest, the paths, beauty, berries and wildlife all around, and another, only partially present in the experience itself, thinking that he at one point saw a cloud with an intricate shape through the canopy and now he can’t wait to get out of the forest to see what the cloud is really like.

That is to say, compared to SP types, NPs are constantly striving to step outside the natural flow of life and its physical and empirical constraints, constantly asking “what other possibilities could the world contain?” With extroverted intuition high in their consciousness, NP types constantly feel a need to escape and transcend the immediate givens of any situation, even if they do not quite know how such an escape could be achieved.[1]

Thus, while all introverted thinking types tend to be detached from fastening to specific outcomes in their thinking, and then reverse engineering the process of reasoning from there, ISTPs are nevertheless drawn to tailoring their analysis in ways that are cognizant of specific real-world goals and outcomes due to the prevalence of extroverted sensation in their consciousness. This leads their cognition back to focusing on the empirical world before things get too ivory tower-like (as they may often do with INTPs).

Compared to INTPs, ISTPs are much more likely to want to derive tangible results from their analyses. Keeping this in mind, it is really no wonder that ISTPs are sometimes stereotyped as the practical problem solvers par excellence.

By contrast, the cognition of INTP types tends not to be as focused on actual objects and physical reality as the ISTP. Nor is the INTP as beholden to achieving specific outcomes as the ISTP. The philosophy of Immanuel Kant, as found in his Critique of Pure Reason, provides as a good example of the INTP’s comparative lack of attention to outcomes: Kant spends a lot of time qualifying human knowledge and pointing out what we can’t know. The work is generally agreed to be impeccably reasoned, but the way forward from his many qualifications and reservations is also agreed to be less clear. Many ISTPs would probably lose their patience with such a perspective, or, even if they enjoyed it, they might regard it as an intellectually fascinating perspective and not a real lived perspective the way an INTP might do. Again we see the INTP being more attuned to pure ideational possibilities while the ISTP is more attuned to direct, first-hand experience drawn from reality itself. And Kant’s philosophy, as even he himself would admit, is plainly at odds with lived experience.

To many ISTPs, such ivory tower-like perspectives tend to be at odds with their reality-focused outlook on life and sense of expediency. As one likely ISTP once said, “If the work is good, what you say about it is usually irrelevant.” From the ISTP’s perspective, we might say that INTPs are in many cases more stimulated by the “talk” than the work. That is, the abstract principles and categorizations INTPs use to understand the work actually dilute the intensity of the singular work in order to reveal a more general, more theoretical picture of how the work relates to other similar works.


[1] Myers also makes this point in Gifts Differing (Davies-Black Publishing 1995) p. 81.

Why Ludwig van Beethoven Is INFP

Michael Goist is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. While at the time of this writing, Beethoven is not yet added to the site, Goist here states his case for why Beethoven is INFP (in contradistinction to Lawrence Bevir’s more conceptual allusion to Beethoven as a possible INTJ here). This article does not reflect the views of the site admins, but Goist‘s own insights and assessments, which are not necessarily the same as those of the site.

By Michael Goist

Classical composers are rarely discussed in depth by typologists. A general lack of interest in classical music is one obvious reason. The difficulty and often piecemeal nature of the historical sources is another. However, at the time of this writing (2016), a general (if ill-researched) consensus of Bach (ISJ), Mozart (SFP), and Beethoven (INTJ) nevertheless appears to have formed.

The popular assessment of Beethoven as INTJ is intuitively understandable. As far as stereotypes go, INTJ is of course the perfunctory assessment of any genius of robust character that succeeded in leaving their mark upon the world. Moreover, Beethoven is documented to have had many temperamental dispositions associated with INTJs, such as a forbidding and arrogant introverted demeanor, a burning passion for the social liberty of the individualistic loner, and a disdain for authority and the aristocratic elite.

Today we remember Beethoven as a diehard revolutionary who, whether by genius or pure force of will, single-handedly changed the face of music over a span of 25 years. Casting a cursory glance at the general pattern of Jungian typology available to us, we could be forgiven for thinking that he would fit the same mold as Rand, Nietzsche, Hitchens, Tesla, et al. However, what distinguishes a true analysis of someone’s type from a mere game of stereotypes is, in part, a prolonged engagement with the sources available to us – those prolonged testimonies of cognitive activity that allow us to go beyond the emergent figure that has etched itself into our collective perception as part of popular culture.

For this reason, Beethoven’s letters and the written testimonials penned by the people who knew him will be of far more value to us than a post hoc analysis of how Beethoven supposedly changed the face of music. Onward, then, to the sources.

The Letters

The first thing one might notice when reading Beethoven’s letters is the substantial presence of Introverted Feeling, permeating the whole of his temperament. From the get-go, Beethoven reveals a sensitive inner temperament, informed by personal emotions and sentiments of all kinds, and accompanied by stark, directly articulated values and opinions. Let me furnish three examples to this end:

Beethoven: “Only with the deepest regret am I forced to perceive that the purest, most innocent feelings can often be misconstrued.”

Beethoven: “I possess the power of concealing and suppressing my sensitiveness with regard to a number of things; but if I am once roused at a time when I am susceptible to anger, then I speak straight out, more so than any other person.”

Beethoven: “True art is imperishable, and the true artist feels inward pleasure in the production of great works.”

Conversely, Beethoven’s letters do not reveal much of a disposition for fellow-feeling or mutualistic social graces. The testimony of the Extroverted Feeling-dominant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe comes in handy here:

Goethe: “He is … not at all in the wrong, if he finds the world detestable, but he thereby does not make it more enjoyable either for himself or others.”

The implications of Goethe’s characterization are clear enough: As an Extroverted Feeler cognizant of consequences and inclined to stir the dispositions of others to work with each other (rather than against each other), Goethe is eminently aware of the difficulties created by Beethoven’s predisposition for pursuing his own sentiments to their furthest possible extent before stopping to take stock of the reactions of others.

Since at the time of this writing, no one seems to seriously entertain the possibility that Beethoven was an Fe/Ti type, I will not dwell too long on this point. However, should one wish to do so, one could easily multiply these examples with testimonies bearing witness to Beethoven’s predilection for inner sincerity and own-feeling over courtesy, propriety, and fellow-feeling.

The Classical INTJ Brusqueness?

Might we then, from this general assessment, conclude that since Beethoven was often at odds with his associates and with the general customs of his time, we are dealing with the infamous INTJ brusqueness, roughness (when viewed through the lens of Fe), and perhaps even arrogance? It is not out of the question. So let’s examine further.

If Beethoven were INTJ, Introverted Intuition would have held the primary sway over his psyche. As Ryan Smith and Eva Gregersen have pointed out in their work, “Ni submerges previously assimilated insights from consciousness only to suddenly have them resurface as ingenious, creative new syntheses” and “goes from the many to the one.” Introverted Intuition is represented structurally as convergent motion, in which several fragments are absorbed unconsciously and developed over time, to finally converge on a holistic unified vision of great explanatory power. This cognitive process does fit Beethoven (superficially, at least) in a number of cases. For example, we learn from music historians that Beethoven’s initial compositional style was a synthesis of various fragmented styles that he had assimilated during the early years of his career. We also see that from the early 1800s and onwards, Beethoven’s self-labeled “neuer Weg” (new path) leads him forward into new creative territory – his so-called Heroic period, in which he comes into his own as a composer and writes a large number of his most famous works.

Would this be a flash of Ni, perhaps? Perhaps. Again, one could certainly be forgiven for concluding that based on the movements of music history and Beethoven’s place in it. However, we also learn from music historians that Beethoven’s early tendency to synthesize is really nothing special, but simply how most young composers who later made a name for themselves operated – Bach, Handel, Mozart, and so on. Unless one is prepared to argue that they were all INJs, the synthesis argument really shouldn’t carry much weight.

Then there is the question of musical history. Again, when viewed from the outside, Beethoven’s place does seem to fit that of an archetypical INTJ. But again, this archetype should not carry the same weight in our analysis as the direct evidence we have concerning Beethoven’s personality.

Personally, I understand full well how some of the tidbits of arrogance and brusqueness could be marshalled to suggest Ni and INTJ as the correct type for Beethoven’s psyche. However, I believe that the counter-case of Extroverted Intuition in Beethoven’s psyche has been rather under-argued and under-researched. So let’s look at the case for Ne.

Let us, however, start with a brief definition. Extroverted Intuition does not streamline information the way Introverted Intuition does. One could say that they are mirror images of each other in this respect. Whereas Ni broods, slowly fusing the pieces into an overarching vision, Ne springs into action, seizing upon whatever novel or unexpected idea happens to catch its fancy and riding the idea in a state of intellectual exaltation until all immediate possibilities from it have been exhausted. In this way, Ne carries the individual’s psyche through a multiplicity of loosely connected states and ideas, each somehow related to the next, but never quite dives as deeply into the archetypical realm as Ni does. As the site admins have said in their work, Ne “generates a flurry of clever and loose ideas when it comes into contact with intellectual novelty [but] quickly exhausts every new idea that the novelty affords and moves on.” In other words, it goes “from the one to the many.”

Now, concerning Beethoven, our sources report that:

Johann Rochlitz: “Once [Beethoven] is in the vein, rough, striking witticisms, droll conceits, surprising and exciting paradoxes suggest themselves to him in a continuous flow.”

Lewis Lockwood: “An essential aspect of Beethoven’s development is his ability to turn back to aesthetic models, and even musical ideas, that are characteristic of Haydn and Mozart, then elaborate and transform them. In doing so he follows no single track but shows constant evidence of spreading in many directions.”

Beethoven: “From the focus of enthusiasm I must discharge melody in all directions: I pursue it, capture it again passionately; I see it flying away and disappearing in the mass of varied agitations…”

In my estimation, the sources present us with evidence of Ne, not quite as obviously as Fi, nor quite as frequently; but the evidence is certainly there, and to a far greater extent than one could marshal evidence of Ni in Beethoven’s psyche.

The sources would thus appear to suggest Fi and Ne as Beethoven’s functions, and not Ni. If correct, this would of course rule out INTJ and ENTJ as Beethoven’s type, since NTJs direct their intuition inwards, not outwards. If the primacy of Fi and Ne are agreed to, it would thus leave us with only two possible types for Beethoven: ENFP and INFP.

Was Beethoven Introverted or Extroverted?

At the time of this writing, the general consensus on Beethoven is that he was an introvert. However, many of these arguments are based on behavioral criteria for introversion, which, as the site admins have previously pointed out, are not really relevant for the Jungian criteria for introversion and extroversion.

Yes, Beethoven was shy, a loner, kept to himself, and so on. But none of this precludes being an extrovert in the Jungian sense. So how can we know if he was a true Jungian introvert (i.e. putting subjective considerations before objective ones) or whether his demeanor merely made him seem like an introvert, according to these behavioral (and thus inapplicable) criteria?

From a function-based approach to typology, this will be extremely difficult, since ENFP and INFP have all of the same functions, in almost the same order. Still, one way is to look for the degree to which Beethoven’s Fi was beholden to pure ideals vs. the degree to which it was bundled up with real-world considerations. For a full treatment of this difference, I refer to Jung’s original portrait of the Fi dominant type in Psychological Types, as well as Eva Gregersen’s elaboration of that text, Inferior Te in INFPs and ISFPs, found here on the site. Ryan Smith’s Jung in Plain Language: Fi will also be helpful here.

As I said, this difference can sometimes be paper-thin. However, the principle is as follows:

  • In their cognitive life, IFPs are, all else being equal, more prone to fashion parallelisms of a purely artistic nature, where their values can be expressed in a parallel reality (e.g. through art and fiction) without being tainted or deluded by outside influences. As the CelebrityTypes writer Boye Akinwande has also pointed out, the intensification and purity of these values is the end goal itself for IFP types.
  • With EFPs, however, the individual immediate perceptual engagement with the outside world is much stronger and bundled up with current events and agendas. Through their Fi, EFPs can typically put a uniquely personal spin on the issues of the day, which already preoccupy and hold sway over so many minds. But (again all else being equal), EFPs are more inclined to let their cognitive life gravitate toward the present-day affairs that they see the people of their day engage with.

In Beethoven’s case, my reading of the sources suggests that he was more preoccupied with pure value abstractions (as Jung says of the Fi dominant type) than with the real-world affairs and considerations of his times.[1] While Beethoven did in fact voice a number of political remarks during his lifetime, Beethoven biographers like Lewis Lockwood have nonetheless reached the same conclusion, stating that Beethoven was not preoccupied with applying these ideals to the real world. Indeed, he appears to have been fascinated with the ideals of the radical Enlightenment and the anti-monarchist tendencies contained therein, but by and large (and unlike Wagner, for example) never appeared to have much of a drive to realize these ideals. As Beethoven’s own remarks make clear, he first and foremost thought of himself as inhabiting a world that was clearly a utopian realm, separate from earthly reality and its nature.

On the other hand, one could here object that Beethoven was well read on current events, and his statements in relation to them were frequently ambivalent and confusing, as if entertaining multiple perspectives rather than channeling a few crystallized personal values. His somewhat obsessive relationship with Napoleon Bonaparte offers a fascinating example:

Baron Louis-Philippe de Tremont: “[Beethoven’s] mind was much occupied with the greatness of Napoleon. … Through all his resentment I could see that he admired [Napoleon’s] rise from such obscure beginnings…”

Maynard Solomon: “Beethoven regarded Bonaparte as an embodiment of Enlightened leadership, but, simultaneously, he felt betrayed by Bonaparte’s Caesarist deeds.”

In his Beethoven biography, Maynard Solomon walks us through Beethoven’s conflicting perspectives on Napoleon. If one merely read Beethoven’s remarks on Napoleon at face value, one might easily be forgiven for thinking that Beethoven’s cognition was greatly beholden to immediate, real-world events as they unfolded around him. However, what such a perspective would miss is the fact that Beethoven had already formed a consummate subjective ideal of what the ideal ruler should be like prior to having heard of Napoleon. In Beethoven’s mind, the ideal ruler did not want power for power’s sake, but for the sake of bringing change and social harmony to the people through the promotion of the ideals of the Enlightenment.

The “all-or-nothing” type of commitment of inferior Extroverted Thinking to real-world tradeoffs can, in my opinion, be seen in Beethoven’s extreme black-and-white judgments of Napoleon. When Beethoven heard that Napoleon had seized power for himself (yet prior to Napoleon’s most autocratic deeds), Beethoven readily denounced him in the following manner: “Then he, too, is nothing but an ordinary mortal! Now he also will tread all human rights underfoot, will gratify only his own ambition, will raise himself up above all others and become a tyrant!”

It seems to me that Beethoven did not engage with the political realities that Napoleon faced and judge him on that basis. Rather, it seems that Napoleon was parallelistically identified as the carrier of Beethoven’s subjective sentiments and values, with Beethoven not taking much of an interest in Napoleon the Man but merely relying on him as an outer device onto which these inner ideals could be projected. This assertion can be backed up by Solomon. On the topic of the Eroica Symphony, which reflects Beethoven’s initial adulation for Napoleon, Solomon says: “[In this symphony, Beethoven] was able to evoke a dream heroism that neither he nor his native Germany nor his adopted Vienna could express in reality.”

The Tertiary Function: Sensation or Thinking?

Another way to distinguish between INFP and ENFP types is that INFPs have tertiary Sensation while ENFPs have tertiary Thinking. With their tertiary Extroverted Thinking, ENFPs can often be surprisingly entrepreneurial with regards to motivating real-world movements and pushing for specific values and outcomes to be applied to the sphere of real-world affairs. INFPs, on the other hand, have inferior Extroverted Thinking, which, as both Eva Gregersen and Boye Akinwande have previously pointed out, typically makes them shy away from engaging with the “lesser of two evils” type of thinking that governs the majority of real-world tradeoffs. Of these two dispositions, I would argue that Beethoven is a better fit for the latter. According to both himself and the people who have studied him, Beethoven was uncomfortable and inept when it came to real-world appraisal, evaluation, assessments, and so on:

Beethoven: “Who troubles about … critics when one sees how the most wretched scribblers are praised up by such critics, and how they speak in the harshest way of works of art, and are indeed forced to do so, because they have not – as the cobbler has his last – the proper standard.”

Beethoven: “[Naming prices for my works is a] troublesome business … I only wish it could be otherwise in the world. There ought to be an artistic depot where the artist need only hand in his artwork in order to receive what he asks for. As things are, one must be half a businessman, and how can one understand – good heavens! That’s what I really call troublesome.”

O.G. Sonneck: “It was one of the tragedies of [Beethoven’s] life that … circumstances compelled him to devote much attention to matters of business … for which he was by temperament unfit.”

Tertiary Si in INFPs

Conversely, we might also look at the ways in which tertiary Si tends to manifest in INFPs. Just as with INTPs, the tertiary Si in INFPs tends to lend a slowly developing, meticulous and archiving quality to the INFP’s exploration of their inner values and the parallelistic inner world that they create. A good overview of this process can be found in Jesse Gerroir’s article Another Look at INTP, found elsewhere on the site.

In Beethoven’s case, we know from Lockwood and others how he famously kept his elaborate sketchbooks so carefully over so many years that in the end they contained a complete compilation of his own artistic development. According to some of his biographers, these personal records are more illustrative of his artistic genius than the finished works he published. Indeed, while Beethoven’s finished scores could sometimes be haphazard, the notebooks, which contain a wealth of pre-compositional material, are both elaborate and intact. In his famed attachment to them, Beethoven was at any time able to look back over the details of his personal, idealistic, and artistic development, as well as the formative background against which they took place.

As the various authors of the Determining Function Axes series have pointed out, Introverted Sensation is not just its own function, but exists in a state of Heraclitean tension with its counterpart, Extroverted Intuition. In INFPs, both of these functions are in the conscious domain, allowing the INFP to compile and construct their ideal world through the complimentary dialectic of an ever-expanding sphere of interconnected loose ideas, which has its gaps filled in with factual substance and idiosyncratic specifics. This combination enables the INFP to come up with a convincing composite of facts and ideas that indirectly serves to represent their sentiments and values through some artistic or parallelistic production. In my opinion, this textbook illustration of the Ne-Si dynamic can clearly be seen in Beethoven’s psyche:

Beethoven: “I carry my thoughts about with me for a long time, sometimes a very long time, before I set them down. At the same time my memory is so faithful to me that I am sure not to forget a theme that I have once conceived, even after years have passed. I make many changes, reject and reattempt until I am satisfied. Then the working-out in breadth, length, height and depth begins in my head, and since I am conscious of what I want, the basic idea never leaves me. It rises, grows upward, and I hear and see the picture as a whole take shape, so that all that is left is the work of writing it down.”


When I started my research, I expected Beethoven to come out as INTJ. As mentioned, many of the stories and themes that surround Beethoven seem to rank up with the classical pointers for INTJ. Think, for example, of the grandeur and archetypal artistic themes channeled by many of Beethoven’s larger works – struggle, victory, and a burning passion for radical change in the service of some grand idea. Is this not evidence of Beethoven being an INTJ?

The answer is that it could be, with the right information to back it up. But in my estimation, Beethoven’s struggle as a composer was not a struggle to see his ideas manifested in reality (as is indeed, by popular consensus, the struggle of most INTJs). In Beethoven’s case, his struggle was, in my opinion, an inwardly personal one: the struggle to validate and redeem his inner sentiments in the face of an uncomprehending public, an entrenched musical establishment, and – most of all – his own sense of alienation and inability to fit in with the external world. Such a struggle for the authentication of individualized sentiments is, in my opinion, the struggle of any FP type.


  • Eaglefield-Hull  (ed.): Beethoven’s Letters Dover 1972
  • Lockwood: Beethoven: The Music and the Life W.W. Norton & Co. 2005
  • Solomon: Beethoven Schirmer 2001
  • Sonneck (ed.): Beethoven: Impressions by His Contemporaries Schirmer 1926


[1] Beethoven: “It is a peculiar sensation to see, to hear one’s self praised, and then to be conscious of one’s weakness, as I am. I always look upon such opportunities as warnings to approach nearer, however difficult it may be, to the unattainable goal which art and nature set before us.”

Parmenides Fragment 5

By Ryan Smith

5.1 It is the same to me,
5.2 From where I begin, for to there I shall come back again.

This fragment expands upon the meaning of fragments 2, 3, and 4. The assertion is that since the One is continuous and devoid of all partitions (8.4-6), there is no optimal “point” from which to start when setting out to describe it. Because there is no “other,” anything that is analyzed, cognized, or discoursed about is the One, i.e. a single undifferentiated stretch of being, synonymous with the entirety of the cosmos (4.2). Since there are no spatial partitions or dualisms, there cannot be any “points” when reality is viewed in accordance with the Way of Truth. Consequently, all “points” are equally suitable when setting out to describe the reality of transcendental being since ultimately all are equally false....

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Parmenides Stanzas: Piercing the Veil


It is the same to me where I begin for to that place I shall return.

The ignorant call the two ways light and night. They are not. They are doxa and alatheia. Light and night are doxa; alatheia beyond both....

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Parmenides Fragment 4

By Ryan Smith

4.1 Gaze upon things which, though far off, are still firmly present to the mind
4.2 For you shall not sever being from holding fast to being
4.3 For it neither scatters itself everywhere, in every way throughout the cosmos,
4.4 Nor gathers itself together.

This fragment asserts that the primordial One is all-permeating, indivisible, and beyond all dualisms. The fragment finds a parallel in the Isha Upanishad, which likewise asserts that the true form of reality is a continuous stretch of absolute being, standing “far, yet near.”[1]...

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Parmenides Fragment 3

By Ryan Smith

3.1 For it is the same thing that can be thought of and that can be.

This fragment has traditionally been used to justify numerous accounts of Parmenides as a logician who dabbled in semiotics. One classical interpretation goes so far as to assert that Parmenides intended to bar us from speaking of things that have no empirical existence, but are purely objects of the imagination (such as unicorns and fairies).[1] In my opinion, it is not easy to see the philosophical value of such an assertion even if it had been Parmenides’ meaning (which it is not)....

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