The Mechanics of Te and Ti

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On the Dubious Use of Fallacies

By Ryan Smith and Rachel Wood

Internet debates have seen what one could refer to as ‘the rise of the blowhard’ – people who throw down the name of a fallacy as if it somehow ‘wins’ them the discussion. But the identification of fallacies, even when properly executed, can rarely be used to prove the veracity of a position. Oftentimes, the identification of a fallacy is merely useful in pinpointing the holes in a given piece of reasoning at best. Contrary to what debating culture in general might have you believe, pinpointing the weaknesses in an opponent’s reasoning is not the same thing as proving your own position right.

In this article, we look into four popular “fallacies” that are often employed in dubious ways. It is our contention that a closer look at these matters will reveal that the business of logical fallacies is not at all as black and white as it is often made to seem.


When faced with two competing explanations of a phenomenon where it is not possible to achieve certainty, the simpler hypothesis must be preferred.

Our Comment: Occam’s Razor is a reasonable tool in fields like science and history where “facts” exist and where these facts can be accounted for as parts of a larger system, based merely on our knowledge of yet more facts. But ironically, Occam’s Razor is mainly used in fields like psychology and philosophy where “facts” are limited and have to be accompanied by a heavy dose of speculation. In other words, Occam’s Razor is often used in situations where it is not a suitable form of appeal. Western philosophy, for example, is founded entirely on assumptions. So for someone who claims to adhere to Occam’s Razor, the rational course of action is often to make no assumptions at all.  Such a person would be unable to have any metaphysics, or any philosophy at all, until he acquires a philosophy that is entirely devoid of assumptions and first principles. If everything philosophical – including the philosophy of science – is founded on unproven assumptions, then Occam’s Razor becomes meaningless, and the true adherent of Occam’s Razor would simply say: “I don’t believe a thing.” And in the case of the psychologist, that same adherent of Occam’s Razor would follow Jung in postulating some species of solipsism (i.e. the belief that only the individual consciousness is knowable to the individual). The psychologist who truly obeyed the Razor could do away with the entire idea of ever knowing another person’s type “in itself” – all that such a psychologist could know was what type the other person seemed to be to his personal consciousness. Thus, the claim that Nietzsche was an Ni type could never be reasoned to be objectively more resistant to falsification than the belief that Nietzsche was an Se type – everything would be relative to the beliefs and impressions of the individual’s own consciousness.

The thing about Occam’s Razor is that we all subscribe to a series of deeply-held beliefs. Not only do these beliefs differ from person to person, we also tend to hold on to them because we are predisposed to finding them appealing. In other words, the ideas that we cherish the most are not merely the product of deliberation – we also believe in them because they make intuitive, pre-cognitive sense to us.

complexA whole range of factors go into determining which ideas the individual innately finds appealing. For example, the Big Five trait Openness to Experience can be shown to correlate with the level of complexity that one intuitively prefers. With regard to philosophy, David Hume had a higher complexity preference than Ayn Rand did. With regard to typology, C.G. Jung had a higher complexity preference than David Keirsey, and so on. And so, oftentimes when someone throws down Occam’s Razor as a way to “win” the argument, all they are doing is demanding that someone else’s complexity preference should be cut down to size until it matches their own. In other words, they are neither proving nor disproving anything, but merely re-affirming their own confirmation bias. They are using their own subjective standard to assert that the complexity of a field could not possibly be more than what they prefer, and they are begging the question as to why the complexity could not possibly be less than what they prefer.

Example of Unreasonable Use of Occam’s Razor: “You say that there are multiple universes parallel to this one. I say that there is only this universe. My hypothesis is simpler and therefore the correct one.” / “You say that life on this planet came about due to a series of extraordinary coincidences. I say that life was put here by an Intelligent Designer. My hypothesis is simpler and therefore the correct one.”

Example of Unreasonable Use of Occam’s Razor with Regard to Typology: “I say that Kanye West is impolite and self-centered, and therefore he is an Fi type. You say that Kanye West is an Fe type whose type is blurred by his Narcissistic personality style. My hypothesis is simpler and therefore the correct one.”


Because an expert or authority says something, it must therefore be true.

Our comment: The Appeal to Authority is not a valid argument. But the fact that Appeals to Authority are not arguments in themselves tends to get blown out of proportion and taken by blowhards to mean that their opinion is just as good as that of a consensus among experts. Appeals to Authority are not arguments, but that does not mean that it is by definition wrong to defer to the claims of experts with deep domain knowledge and extensive experience in their field. Of course it is entirely possible that the experts are wrong, but after all there is usually a reason that a given view is the majority view among experts.

Example of Unreasonable Objection to Appeal to Authority: “Scientists have their opinions about how to cure leukemia, and I have mine, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

Example of Unreasonable Objection to Appeal to Authority with Regard to Typology: “Every major authority on typology thinks person X is type Y, but even though I’ve never produced a sustained argument for my position and I’m not a recognized authority in this field, my view is just as good as theirs.”


The act of exaggerating an argument to its farthest possible extent (i.e. to absurdity).

The cry of Reductio ad Absurdum is often used by people as a means to defend their own sloppy reasoning. Some textbooks have even taken to describing the Reductio ad Absurdum as a fallacy “because anything can be reduced to absurdity.” But in fact, the Reductio ad Absurdum need not be a fallacy at all, but may just as well be used as a means to expose the fallacy in a given piece of reasoning.

Employed properly, the Reductio ad Absurdum stays with the original line of reasoning, but then exaggerates it to a point where it breaks the position of the person who advanced that reasoning to begin with. Unlike the Slippery Slope fallacy, the Reductio ad Absurdum does not give itself a license to pretend that there is only one possible outcome when in reality there are many (e.g. “If we allow racist cartoons to be printed, ethnic minorities will eventually be sent to camps.”). Often, the Reductio ad Absurdum simply reveals that a person’s stated reasoning is incomplete – that he or she needs to sharpen his  reasoning by coming up with additional and improved qualifications for his argument. This may sound trivial, but many a would-be expert has seen his position disintegrate and crumble in his hands because he was forced to flesh out his qualifications. Far from being inherently fallacious, then, the Reductio ad Absurdum can often be a useful tool in logic.

Example of Unreasonable Objection to Reductio ad Absurdum:
Peter: “Only birds have feathers.”
Susan: “Then what about East Asian and Native American shamans who wear feathered suits in connection with certain rituals? Are they birds?”
Peter: “If you’re going to be childish, I’m not going to debate this anymore!”

Example of Unreasonable Objection to Reductio ad Absurdum with Regard to Typology:
Peter: “I can always verify that my type assessments are correct, because people’s facial features and/or eye movements give away their type.”
Susan: “Then that must mean that you can type people of whom you have no prior knowledge by merely watching videos of them with the sound turned off.”
Peter: “Don’t be stupid! I’m making a serious point.”


Any reference to evidence that is observed outside of repeatable, controlled experiments is by definition fallacious.

Our Comment: People often dismiss anecdotal evidence for no real reason. The refusal to admit anecdotal evidence into a discussion is especially impertinent when large numbers of people report seeing the same thing, such as the UFO sightings reported by both Allied and Axis pilots during World War 2, or the comparable events reported by large numbers of near-death experience survivors. Of course, these occurrences are not proof of aliens or an afterlife – but they are evidence of something, and that evidence cannot be categorically dismissed.

Secondly, not all types of anecdotal evidence are equally anecdotal. If large numbers of internationally respected scientists reported a similar anomaly, it would be foolish to put those reports on par with the premonitions of the local fortune teller. Quantity and quality of reports tend to differ, even if they are both “anecdotal.”

Ultimately, all of our knowledge rests on personal experience. Only a small modicum of that experience is ever formalized, controlled, and elevated to the status of “formal evidence.” Even in cases where formal knowledge actually is available to guide our outlook, that evidence rarely reaches a certainty of 100%. Indeed, we are more often faced with matters of more or less than matters of black and white. In the absence of formalized evidence, anecdotal evidence cannot be categorically dismissed.

Example of Unreasonable Objection to Anecdotal Evidence: “Charles Darwin was bitten by a benchuca bug in 1835. He later complained of palpitations of the heart, gastric and intestinal pains, fatigue and lethargy, shivering spells, and insomnia. These symptoms are often caused by a parasite carried by many benchucas. But the tests that Darwin’s doctors ran could find nothing wrong with him. Therefore nothing was wrong with him, and he was just a hypochondriac.”

Example of Unreasonable Objection to Anecdotal Evidence with Regard to Typology: “C.G. Jung devised his typology on the basis of anecdotal evidence. Therefore his typology can’t have scientific validity.” [Note: A Professor of Psychology actually said exactly this, and Jungian typology *does* have some scientific validity.]


Of course, none of this is to say that there actually are several parallel universes; that Kanye West actually does have a preference for Fe over Fi; that more complexity is necessarily better; that the scientific consensus on how to cure leukemia cannot be improved; that Friedrich Nietzsche actually was an Ni type; that “face reading” actually is pseudoscience; that Charles Darwin actually was infected by a parasite, or that Jungian typology, given future and more cogent standards of measurement, will turn out to have strong scientific validity (or none at all).

As the American statistician Cosma Shalizi has said, there are people who desire to possess profound knowledge without having to make a profound effort at thinking. From afar, Jungian typology may sometimes look like a magic wand that miraculously enables the individual to come up with deep and special insights without making much of an effort. However, as the multitude of would-be experts and ill-researched material on Jungian typology attests, there can be no substitute for effort.

Ultimately, the idea that memorizing a list of fallacies can in itself make you an expert on science and epistemology is perhaps not that different from the idea that acquainting oneself with typology can in itself make you an expert on personology and psychology. For indeed, as Bruce Lee says in Game of Death, the multiplicity of life is like a broken rhythm to which “rehearsed routines lack the flexibility to adapt.”


We would give ourselves the same Complexity Preference as van der Hoop, if not for the fact that we have begun to follow Jung in exploring the normative side of typology, e.g. here, here, here, and here.

Pierce Presents: ISFJ

Michael Pierce is a video maker and 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. Still, we very much enjoy his work and are pleased to be able to share it with our visitors.

By Michael Pierce

While the SFP types are seen as happy-go-lucky hedonists, the SFJ types seem to be pigeonholed as traditional mother figures. With this in mind, the ISFJ has a peculiar stereotype in the Jungian community. Keirsey called them the “Protectors,” Personality Page calls them the “Nurturers,” and I’ve also seen the nickname “Defender” used.

While the ISFJ stereotype always admits this nurturing nature and is sometimes used to imply weakness or passivity, these traits are considered redeemed by the ISFJ’s other qualities. People very rarely seek to outright deride the ISFJ; if they express frustration with SJs, as is fashionable with some groups, the ISFJ is not the type directly under attack; it’s usually the ESFJ.

The stereotype for the ISFJ is of a relatively quiet, reserved, unassuming, but very strong-hearted and loyal, responsible, protective figure. Their disinterest in typology is more politely excused with the genuine assumption that the ISFJ does possess valuable, concrete knowledge. The ISFJ seems to be considered wise in a peculiar way. Their silence is mysterious, and their kindness and concern for others very comforting, though they aren’t normally given to bouts of laughter or meaningless smiles. They represent a strong but sensitive spirit or a stern but loving mother figure. In many ways, they are perceived as a concrete, unphilosophical but wise, rustic kind of INFJ. But as always, the stereotype does not do justice to the full functional nuance of the type.

So let’s break down what constitutes the ISFJ functionally.

ISFJs are a Judging type, meaning that they prefer extroverted judging and introverted perceiving. This means that they base their judgment criteria on objective, outside information, while simply observing and drinking in their subjective information and experiences. You could say that they are more aggressive towards the outside world and more receptive towards their inner experience.

Their preferred way of doing this is through extroverted feeling and introverted sensation. Extroverted feeling is accommodating – it adapts to objectively understood values, aligning itself with whatever is appropriate, harmonizing or desirable for a given situation. Meanwhile, introverted sensation perceives reality as it is, but invests its perceptions with subjectivity and recalls these subjective memories in similar situations. It is recording, or if you like – cataloguing or recalling.

ISFJs are also very similar to the ESFJ; both prefer Fe and Si. The ISFJ, however, prefers Si more than Fe. Nevertheless, they are in some sense the same type, or at least sister types. I personally like to call SFJ types the “Guardians,” because they thoroughly examine reality and compare it with all the past experiences they’ve collected in their database, and then decide how best to harmonize with or provide for or protect a situation. Of course, “Guardian” is merely a nickname to help me remember the SFJ nature, and does not mean SFJs are necessarily interested in guardianship as we normally think of it.

The ISFJ, then, is a “Guardian” for whom their subjective perceptions of reality hold more importance than accommodating outside occurrences. They are primarily concerned with recording and exploring information gleaned from reality.

The word I like to use for the ISFJ is “dedication.” To fully understand my meaning for this term, it is important to better understand one of the more misunderstood functions, Si. As I’ve mentioned before, the introverted functions are focused on the subject, meaning that Si, rather than observing the actual object itself as Se does, observes the effect that the object makes in the subject. I’ve likened this idea to a wet clay sculpture being impressed by various objects. Another image to help describe this, especially in the ISFJ’s case, was offered by Carl Jung’s wife, Emma Jung, who described Si as a sensitive, photographic plate that is emblazoned with impressions of objects that the Si type needs time to assimilate. For instance, if someone new walks into the room, the ISFJ will be filled with impressions that the person inspires within them, and which they must develop and sort through to form a curiously penetrating image of the person in relation to their past experiences.

Another image I personally like to use is of a spider’s web: Should a fly hit the web, the spider feels the particular vibrations caused by the impact, and by experience can determine the species, size, flight speed, and trajectory, or at least know where this fly fits in comparison to other flies. It is in this way that Si becomes very meticulous and sensitive to detail, just as any spider is sensitive to the slightest change in vibration along their web. It also reinforces their tendency towards preparation and the safety of routine, because their understanding of impressions is based on past experience, making the unknown future especially mysterious.

In the case of the ISFJ, this sensitivity is the main cause of their stereotypical quietude and reservation. The ISFJ is very much an observer who needs time to fully process their impressions of the world. But when this processing is done, the ISFJ can achieve very insightful pictures of reality, picking up on little things that others fail to notice, and putting together a unique picture of people, concepts, or things.

Another fundamental part of their personality is related to the word “dedication.” The two function axes manifesting in the ISFJ are Si/Ne, which is meticulous, multifaceted, and detailed, and Fe/Ti, which seeks to appeal to a higher standard than itself, whether objective sentiment or subjective logic. So, what happens when you combine a thorough, detailed nature with a morality based on holding to a higher standard? You get thorough dutifulness, or as I prefer to say, “Dedication.”

One of the things most distinguishing about ISFJs is their interest in diligently doing the mundane: Unassuming, small acts designed to strengthen others. For instance, George Marshall ensuring that the troops in WWII were supplied with candy, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white person, or Mother Teresa’s advice that, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.” Their psychological preferences direct their minds in this way: To demonstrate their dedication to others through diligent service, and because of the practical sensitivity of Si, this service always seems to have a charming simplicity and smallness to it that warms the recipient’s heart. Not because the act itself was extraordinary, but because it testifies to the ISFJ’s love for them.

Another point that should be explored here is the ISFJ’s sense of diligence or dutifulness. For the ISTJ, who has a Te/Fi axis, this sense of duty originates within the individual, a burning fire or personal loyalty, a part of the ISTJ’s identity that they must strive to affirm. For the ISFJ, however, who has an Fe/Ti axis, the sense of duty is a higher principle outside of the individual which they feel they must conform to or grab ahold of so as not to be blown away by the storm of life. So while the ISTJ appears more individualistic, fulfilling routines or responsibilities because of an ingrown loyalty, the ISFJ appears more harmonizing, fulfilling responsibilities because their truth and worth have been confirmed for the ISFJ. The ISTJ has an inner sense of duty, while the ISFJ has an outer sense of duty, often directed towards the welfare of others.

ISFJs review their impressions of reality and develop concrete solutions. They carry out these solutions diligently, thoroughly, in other words; with dedication and concern for the community’s interest. When the ISFJ endeavors to do something, they will do it properly, with a powerful dedication to the high standards by which they abide.

This brings up another point about ISFJs: Their perceived obligations to high standards makes them characteristically proper, having a definite sense of decency, of right and wrong, which, when violated, can greatly frustrate or offend the ISFJ. Not in a petty or weak way, but a morally indignant way, arousing, as Rosa Parks stated it, “annoyance.” They stand by what they know is right and can get extraordinarily stubborn and even vehement towards disregard for this standard.

The point here is not that the ISFJ is a conformist, but rather that they are extraordinarily sensitive to the generally accepted value of things, and thus able to navigate the world with this value system clearly in mind. They most certainly have and exercise personal choice and opinion that may differ from other people (and from ISFJ to ISFJ).

One thing that most ISFJs have in common, however, is their dedication. This dedication seeks as much as possible to be perfect in its actions. It is very possible for the ISFJ to wear themselves out because of their relentless thoroughness, driven by a need to conform to the outside standard. As I’ve mentioned before, sensation actually sees more than intuition does, and for this reason takes longer but is ultimately more accurate. Keeping the underlying machinery running and in proper order takes meticulousness, patience, discipline, and dedication – qualities that cannot always be attained by simply glancing at a problem – oftentimes deep, personal experience is required.

The ISFJ’s overwhelming preference for Si subsequently means that ISFJs repress their Ne. As explained before, the ISFJ’s sensitivity to impressions from their environment contributes to their dedication and thoroughness, often bordering on perfectionism, as well as a sense of the proper way forward based on past experience. A way to sum up this part of the ISFJ’s attitude is a caution towards the future and the unknown. The INFJ’s Ni is focused on possibilities, and therefore is more comfortable with the oncoming future, having projected into it plenty of times before. But the ISFJ’s Si is focused on actuality, on what’s already known, and has no reason to trust such projections into the future. It is something dangerous one must prepare for. This attitude is so strong in the ISFJ that they are often uncomfortable breaking out of their routine and innovating new methods of doing things, or, if they try to do it, are rather rigid at it. Like all inferior functions, the ISFJ finds their Ne tiring and difficult to control. Often, they try to keep their Ne out of consciousness, never letting loose and trying things in new ways, because they have learned that, when attempting to set out into the intuitive mode of cognition, they may incorrectly associate objects to make a connection that ultimately falls flat.

So, in summary, the ISFJ is dedicated, combining a sensitivity to detailed impressions of the world with an Fe/Ti concern for humanity and sense of a higher standard and duty. They take notice of people’s concrete situations and are known for diligently taking care of the mundane for others. They have a distinguishing sense of propriety, and a severity and stubbornness towards violations of it. Their inferior function is Ne and therefore they may sometimes have trouble venturing into the unknown realms of innovation, either refusing to do so at all or stumbling through it.

Thanks for reading, and for all the ISFJs out there: Thank you for your concern and diligence in nurturing us, even in the smallest details.

Determining Function Axes, Part 2

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 and how to determine them, expanding on Part 1 of this series as found here.

By Michael Pierce

When setting out to determine someone’s type, don’t think of the functions as eight individual, separate functions, but as four axes or rods. One of Jung’s influences was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who believed in the unity of opposites. He is credited with saying, as one translation puts it: “The road up and the road down are the same road.” We see this idea reflected in the dichotomies of Jung’s typology. Se is the opposite of Ni, and Ne is the opposite of Si, but because they are true opposites they don’t operate independently of each other. They are rather two opposing poles on the same rod, or two different directions on the same road. Ni is not an individual idea that is just very different from Se. Rather, it exists by virtue of Se and vice versa: As Jung would have it, each has no meaning apart from the other. Likewise, Se has no meaning without Ni. Under this mode of conception, any pair of opposites is thought to exist by virtue of the other: If there is no concept of white, then we can’t comprehend that everything is actually black. Blackness would be without meaning if we can’t have things otherwise. As such, no matter which direction on the road is preferred, there are some characteristics of the road itself that manifest in a person’s psyche.

With that said, I will offer the characterizations typical of each axis.

The Se/Ni Axis

The Se/Ni axis represents an intense perception, one that tends to over-commit or over-analyze one area, but can gain a surprising depth of insight in that area. For instance, the INTJ’s tunnel-vision drive, the ENTJ’s brutality and directness, the INFJ’s devotion to creating a holistic system, the ESTPs directness in overcoming challenges, or the ISTP’s incredible focus.

The motion I imagine with Se/Ni begins as narrow and pinpointed at the object, representing the direct focus on the object itself. This expands as we retreat into the subject’s psyche, where that one object is expanded into a fuzzy, associative image that is compared with the hundreds of other impressions and fragments in the psyche. In this way, the Se/Ni axis is intensive, or magnifying, taking inspiration from objects themselves and figuring out all of their subjective possibilities, rather like an overhead projector displaying an enlarged but fuzzier image of the object. With ESTPs and ESFPs, the focus is on the object itself, while with INFJs and INTJs, the focus is on the fuzzy image, the subjective possibilities.

The Ne/Si Axis

The Ne/Si axis represents a multifaceted, sweeping perception that tends to under-commit and bounces around, but which gains a surprising breadth of insight. For instance, the ENTP’s multifaceted inquiries, the INTP’s search for multiple applications for one abstract system, the ENFP’s wanderlust and resourcefulness, or the ISTJ’s thorough waterproofing of their procedures.

The motion I imagine with Ne/Si begins as stretched, fuzzy but associative, representing the indirect, intuitive relationship with objects. This narrows and focuses as we retreat into the subject’s psyche, where the stretched sweep is pinpointed and directly examined, comparing it to other directly examined impressions. In this way the Ne/Si axis is meticulous and examining, making detailed and thorough record of their creative, associative perceptions of the world, rather like a telescope that takes a fuzzy distant object and shrinks and sharpens the image. With ENTPs and ENFPs the focus is on these creative perceptions, while with ISTJs and ISFJs the focus is on the recorded details and thoroughness.

The Te/Fi axis

Te/Fi represents the road between logical judgments based on objective data, to valuations of things based on subjective sentiments. It is the motion between an outside world of outlines to an internal world of shading and values, or a cold, uncaring outside world compared to the warmth within the individual. To illustrate, the Te/Fi axis represents the struggle of a lone individual against a freezing wilderness, employing whatever means necessary to survive, and doing everything they can to keep warm, to make their warmth known in the world and push back the encroaching ice. It retains a nexus around the individual. For instance, the INTJ’s image as a lone visionary, the ESTJ’s prioritization of responsibility over anyone else’s values, the INFP’s championing of their dream world, or the ESFP’s spontaneity and love of performing.

The Fe/Ti axis

Fe/Ti represents the road between valuations based on objective sentiments, to logical judgments based on subjective principles. It is the motion between an outside world of shading and values to an internal world of outlines, or a hot, sultry, caring outside world compared to the distinguishing coolness within the individual. However, to illustrate the Fe/Ti axis I’ll use a different image: It is rather like someone lost in a foreign country that speaks an entirely foreign language, and the journey of discovering and integrating the logic of the language into oneself so that you can experience the warmth of true interaction and join with the people: The struggle to balance the inner ice with the outer sun to match the temperature of those around you. It retains a nexus around harmony and the equivalence between the individual’s inner cognition and the other world. For instance, the ENTP’s inquiries to discover objective truth, or the INTP’s relentless abstraction, the INFJ’s holistic theories of the world, the ISTP’s quest to master a technique, or the ENFJ’s appeal to the values of others.

Watch this piece as a video here.

Dating and Type

Raja Burrows is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As with other guest writers on the site (such as Malin Gustavsson, Michael Pierce, and Jesse Gerroir), the views expressed in this article are not necessarily completely overlapping with our own.

By Raja Burrows

First things first: There is no magic formula for finding the perfect mate. There are a million factors that go into whether two people are compatible or not that have nothing to do with personality type. Additionally, applying an overly simplistic view of typology to your dating life 4heartsredo2(“We’re exactly alike in almost every way because I’m an INFJ and she’s an INFP!”) is unlikely to yield the results you want. But a thorough understanding of function order – and, more importantly, the function axes – can provide important insights into many key factors of any successful long-term relationship.

The Judging Axis: Fe-Ti vs. Fi-Te

The best place to begin when talking about relationships is how we experience sentiments. Regardless of our four-letter type, we all have a Feeling function somewhere in our function order; FJ and TP types have Extroverted Feeling (Fe) while TJ and FP types have Introverted Feeling (Fi). All other things being equal, two types with the same Feeling orientation are going to have an easier time communicating than two types with the opposite. In other words, an ENTP is probably going to find it easier to get on the same page, Feeling-wise, with an ESTP or ISFJ, as opposed to an ESTJ or ISFP. The reason is that an Fe user experiences and judges sentiment on the basis of external parameters; as “belonging to the group.” Fe is willing to downplay the individual’s own sentiments in deference to the sentiments of the other people involved. An Fi user, on the other hand, experiences his personal sentiments in a much more subjective, individualized way. An Fi user is therefore likely to feel very uncomfortable with such “insincerity.” Fi will fight tooth and nail to maintain its individuality and expression thereof. An Fi user’s sentiments, then, are very much “her own” and aren’t seeking to align themselves with outside conditions in the way an Fe user’s are.

Because Fi users also have Te, they will tend to be more pragmatic in their thinking. To a Te user, there is an optimal, objective conclusion that can be reached in any given situation in which objective facts matter more than interpersonal considerations. Unlike Ti, Te is not terribly beholden to internal logical principles and is instead eager to refine its conclusions based on whatever objective information presents itself. Te is hierarchical in its reasoning and looks for the “best” solution to any given problem, whereas Ti is much less confrontational and prefers to look for abstract solutions that are less “objective” and more of interest to the Ti user’s personal psyche. As a result, when a major decision is on the line in a relationship, Fi-Te users and Fe-Ti users will take fundamentally different tacks, even if they end up arriving at the same conclusion. While most of the decisions made in relationships are relatively trivial (such as whether or not to order takeout for the third night in a row), there will inevitably come a time when the conversation turns to weightier topics, such as “would you be willing to relocate across the country with me for my new job?” or “do we want to raise our kids in Manhattan or in a suburb farther upstate?” Not that these conversations are ever easy, but there’s bound to be less friction when both parties are more or less speaking the same logical and emotional languages.

While type alone cannot make or break a relationship, there are a few type pairings that require exceptional time and effort on the part of both people to find common ground: ESFJ-ENTJ, ENFJ-ESTJ, ISFP-INTP, and INFP-ISTP. Each of these type pairings feature a dominant Feeling type and a dominant Thinking type with no cognitive functions in common. In each pairing, the Feeling types experience sentiment in the exact opposite way the Thinking types do, which does little to encourage the Thinking type to give herself permission to access the function and side of herself she tends to repress. Add to that the fact that they will rarely perceive any given situation the same way because of their opposing N-S axis and you have two people with several significant cognitive hurdles to overcome on a regular basis. This is not to say they can’t or shouldn’t try and make it work if there’s a real connection between them, but it behooves everyone involved to have a realistic understanding of the additional challenges those type pairings pose.

The Perceiving Axis: Se-Ni vs. Si-Ne

Also important to the orientation of the Feeling function is the axis responsible for Sensation and Intuition. In my experience, the big differences between Fe-Ti and Fi-Te show up in a relationship about 20% of the time, when the stakes are at their highest. The important conversations like those mentioned above require both people to be deeply in tune with their own Feeling-Thinking axis as well as that of their partner. But despite what “Doctor Who” may have us believe, being in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) is more than just an endless series of life or death decisions. Most of the time, you’re going to be debating things like “what should we dress up our two-year-old as for Halloween this year, a giraffe or baby velociraptor?” These are relatively mundane choices that you really don’t want to be spending any more time on than you have to. Actually enjoying the thing you collectively decided on doing is a much better use of your energy than debating it to death.

SP and NJ types have Extroverted Sensation and Introverted Intuition (Se-Ni) while SJ and NP types have Introverted Sensation and Extroverted Intuition (Si-Ne). Though it’s hardly necessary that both people have the same kind of S-N axis, it does help both people “keep things in perspective” as they go through the inevitable ups and down of their relationship. The Se-Ni axis has a direct relationship with objects themselves though Extroverted Sensation and draws from them subjective meaning via Introverted Intuition. The Si-Ne axis, on the other hand, is chiefly interested in exploring all of the possibilities of what those objects could represent through Extroverted Intuition and compares them to subjective impressions of the object via Introverted Sensation. This is not to say, of course, that two people will ever experience reality exactly the same way, but having the same S-N axis will make it easier for them to get on the same wavelength.

All the Single Ladies (and Gentlemen)!

If you happen to not be in a long-term relationship, whether by choice or by circumstance, there are many ways to use typology to maximize your dating life. The first step, of course, is to have a solid grasp on your own four-letter type. In particular, you must be excruciatingly honest with yourself in terms of how your dominant and inferior functions manifest themselves in unhealthy, ego-preserving ways. The more aware you are of your own idiosyncrasies, the more likely you are to recognize when your behavior is en route to a destructive path and to head it off before it actually gets there. While no two individuals wrestle with their egos in exactly the same way, here are some common ways that each type contends with relationship fears as a result of their repressed inferior function:

  • ISFJ/ISTJ: Because ISJ types repress their Extroverted Intuition, they may be overly cautious when it comes to straying from their subjective but nonetheless concrete experiences and ways of doing things. They may see the act of exploring unfamiliar romantic tracks as unnecessary, preferring to defer to relationship dynamics that are already known to them.
  • INFJ/INTJ: Because INJ types repress their Extroverted Sensation, they may be overly cautious when it comes to straying from their subjective and idealized perception of how the world ought to be. They may see incorporating someone else’s values into their lives as a distraction, preferring to stay true to their own vision, blotting out the “unwanted chaos” of another’s demands.
  • ESFP/ESTP: Because ESP types repress their Introverted Intuition, they may be overly cautious when it comes to detaching from their immediate romantic experience and reflecting upon it. They may see such introspection as over-analytical, preferring to push it aside so as to fully immerse themselves in the “here and now.”
  • ENFP/ENTP: Because ENP types repress their Introverted Sensation, they may be overly cautious when it comes to settling into a routine rather than constantly exploring exciting new possibilities. They may see such predictability in a relationship as boring, preferring to be always on the move and seeking out “the next big thing.”
  • ISFP/INFP: Because IFP types repress their Extroverted Thinking, they may be overly cautious when it comes to exerting their will and taking appropriate control of a situation or relationship. They may see such acts of domination as inhumane, preferring to stress each person’s individual freedom and resolve conflicts with an attitude of “live and let live.”
  • ISTP/INTP: Because ITP types repress their Extroverted Feeling, they may be overly cautious when it comes to abandoning their long-held intellectual beliefs in order to feel a sense of sentimental communion with their partner. They may see such appeals to fellow-feeling as disingenuous, preferring to hold fast to their own logical principles, even if it means dishing out some “cold, hard truth.”
  • ESFJ/ENFJ: Because EFJ types repress their Introverted Thinking, they may be overly cautious when it comes to holding fast to their own logical principles at the risk of creating discord with their partner. They may see such honesty as undiplomatic, preferring to glide over rough patches to give the impression of a relationship that is nothing but “smooth sailing.”
  • ESTJ/ENTJ: Because ETJ types repress their Introverted Feeling, they may be overly cautious when it comes to letting their guard down and allowing someone to make an impression on their deeply held emotional values. They may see such vulnerability as weakness, preferring to keep their feelings unexpressed and greatly prefer not to “wear their hearts on their sleeves.”

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, the key to effectively using personality type to improve your love life is first understanding your own preferences and how they manifest themselves as both strengths and weaknesses. There’s so much more to this than simply looking at a given type’s four-letter code and contrasting them with your own. A mastery of the eight cognitive functions is critical for understanding human dynamics through the lens of Jungian typology. And ultimately, the study of personality type is the study of people. When used as a tool to better appreciate your partner, it can enrich and strengthen your relationship in countless ways.


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

Pierce Presents: ESFP

Michael Pierce is a video maker and 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. Still, we very much enjoy his work and are pleased to be able to share it with our visitors.

By Michael Pierce

The SFP types are among the most underappreciated types in the Jungian community, often finding themselves to be the butt of jokes and attributed a medically concerning low intelligence. The ESFP, particularly, though called ‘the Performer’ by David Keirsey, seems to be called ‘the Partier’ by the Jungian community. ESFPs often seem to be associated with partying, and frankly, usually wild sexual partying, or at the very least, unrestrained hedonism of some sort. The ESFP is seen as a fun-loving party-goer, teaching people how to relax and let loose. Drunk and disorderly, they are (according to the stereotype) without a care in the world but how to satisfy their lust for sensations. They are considered, essentially, as happy-go-lucky, people-loving ESTPs, or else shortsighted, uneducated, hedonistic ENFPs.

I am not aware of any Jungian function that is necessarily disposed to getting drunk and partying, or any of the above statements. I think the nickname of “Partier” is not even just misleading, but plain wrong. The ESFP does seem to have a fun-loving attitude, but that is not the same as being an unrestrained party animal. I think the ESFP should be just as associated with potential brilliance and genius as any other type.

As always, let’s break down what constitutes the ESFP functionally.

They are a Perceiving type, meaning that they prefer extroverted perceiving and introverted judging. This means that they base their judgment criteria on subjective, inner information, while simply observing and drinking in objective information and experiences. You could say that they are more receptive towards the outside world and more aggressive towards their inner experience.

Their preferred way of doing this is through extroverted sensation and introverted feeling. Extroverted sensation is photographic: It has the most direct relationship with objects of all the functions, giving them the clearest and most realistic perspective. Introverted feeling is individualistic: It has deep, personal passions and convictions that it holds to despite outside opposition, and greatly values the right to individual freedom of expression and being true to oneself.

Third, they are very similar to the ISFP; both prefer Se and Fi. The ESFP, however, prefers Se more than Fi. Nevertheless, they are in some sense the same type, or at least sister types. I personally like to call SFP types the “Aesthetes,” because they combine a sharp and vivid perception of the world with isolated and passionate subjective values, thus giving them a highly developed and individual appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of existence. Of course, “Aesthete” is simply a nickname to help me remember the SFP nature, and is not meant to imply that all SFPs are natural artists or musicians, or even that they appreciate what you yourself may call art.

The ESFP, then, is an “Aesthete” for whom their objective observations and experiences are more interesting and important than their individual values and desires. They are primarily concerned with experiencing a direct, photographic relationship with the objects around them.

The word I like to use for the ESFP is “energy.” ESFPs tend to have a distinct aura of positivity, happiness, liveliness, activity, health, and vitality; in short, they seem to have an abundance of energy, both physical and psychological. It therefore is of interest that Friedrich Nietzsche’s vision of the Ubermensch or “Overman” has a remarkable similarity to certain aspects of the ESFP personality. This is no mystery, because the ESFP is the reverse of the INTJ, representing Nietzsche’s more depreciated and undeveloped functions.  Nietzsche believed the Ubermensch represented an individual who had a “Dionysian” relationship with life and the world. As Nietzsche said in The Will to Power, “[The Ubermensch] wants rather to cross over … to a Dionysian affirmation of the world as it is, without subtraction, exception or selection. … The highest state a philosopher can attain [is] to stand in a Dionysian relationship to existence – my formula for this is amor fati [love thy fate]”.

I do not mean to suggest that ESFP preferences are literally the Ubermensch that Nietzsche described – there is a great deal more to this concept than I have presented. I bring it up, however, because I think this life affirmation – the health and vitality of the Ubermensch – helps illustrate a fundamental part of the ESFP personality, namely their saying “yes” to life: If any type is life affirmative, if any type naturally represents the vitality and fearlessness, the strength of heart and mind, and the fullness of life, it is the ESFP.

This Dionysian relationship with the world, which I consider a hallmark of the ESFP, can be broken down and described in terms of the ESFP’s functions, particularly Se and Fi. Se has the most direct relationship with the world of any of the functions. In both the ESFP and ESTP, dominant Se manifests as a prioritization of the here and now and how to get the most out of it. This commonly manifests in ESFPs as a natural, relaxed, and even happy-go-lucky attitude, marked, above all, by a certain spontaneity.

While the ESTP’s Ti/Fe axis can cause them to conceive of morals and values as something outside of themselves that they should align themselves with, the ESFP’s Fi/Te axis sees morals and truth as something that originates from within the individual. Even if ESFPs are inspired by something outside of themselves, their values must still grow from within them, because the Fi/Te axis only harmonizes with the beat of their own drum and is loath and even clumsy at aligning with any other.

As I mentioned, this preference for Fi over Fe is the cause of the ESFP’s spontaneity, for the ESFP doesn’t just live in the moment, but also wants to express their own values in the moment, thus often manifesting as a peculiar spontaneity. The ESFP’s expression of their passions will often take place in this spontaneous manner. The ESFP is a passionate type who values things deeply and feels things deeply and, like the ENFP, finds individual people extremely enjoyable, and their returned love especially moving. More than any other pairing of functions, Se and Fi together are a recipe for a joyful soul.

This all gives you the impression, I am sure, that the ESFP is always happy and never serious or sad. But this, too, is hardly the case. The ESFP is marked by spontaneity, enjoyment of life, energy and passion, but just like the ENFP, the ESFP also has its sober and serious side. The ESFP’s enjoyment of life can at times overflow so that they not only laugh longer than others, but may appear inanely entertained or overly gushing or loving, as giving the impression of being too sensitive to their own passions. On account of all this merriment, the ESFP may even give the impression of being intoxicated in some cases. But all of this is not because the ESFP themselves are simpleminded or inanely entertained; it is merely a manifestation of their great willingness to enjoy life to its full, which is sometimes much more than the rest of us are accustomed to.

I have seen ESFPs, even moments after recovering from an especially hearty throw of laughter, snap back to sobriety and serious examination when duty makes it clear such an attitude is needed. This does not mean that the ESFP’s laughter was not sincere; I like to think of it as a natural component in the enjoyment of life, meaning that laughter and enjoyment are not so much involuntary reactions, but voluntary actions when seen in the mature individual; a choice one makes to be humorous and cheerful and enjoy things, which can be changed back to sobriety just as voluntarily.

This sober attitude is, I think, a certain manifestation of Te. Not that Te necessitates a serious attitude, but I think the fact that it is merely depreciated, and not repressed as in IFPs, gives the ESFP a certain edge when it comes to serious dealings. The ESFP is able to strategize how to logically go about a specific goal. Like with the ENFP, this adds to the ESFP’s free-spiritedness sense of wanderlust, because not only do they want to experience reality and fulfill their values, but by way of Te, can plan very strategically and efficiently for how to do this. Because Te exerts a certain influence over their cognition, they can frequently experience a drive to accomplish their goals, which only adds to the sense of their abundant energy.

The ESFP’s dominant Se has several other effects: Like the ESTP, the ESFP often regards their subjective perceptions, meaning their Ni, as objectionable, because such perceptions are in danger of personal bias and having a warped perspective, rather like the INFJ and INTJ regard objective perception as equally unreliable because of the unreliability of the senses. As such, the ESFP and ESTP often take a dislike to highly educated jargon and metaphysical discussion, because such things represent the repressed aspects of their own psychic life, and thus take on all the unnerving mysteriousness and unsettling airiness that undeveloped Ni represents. The ESFP often feels that such academic and intangible musings are wrongly rewarded with honors and praise, because those who focus on such musings are so often completely useless in the real world and in terms of practical problem solving – in other words, in engaging directly with the world.

Another effect of dominant Se, especially combined with Fi, is the sensuality that is often found in the ESFP. This is not a necessary effect, but it does seem to be a very common one, even more so than in the ESTP. The ESFP’s affirmation of life often includes an affirmation of sensual experience. Stereotypically, this can found in Quentin Tarantino’s bloody cinematic style. But less stereotypically, and in my opinion more commonly, the ESFP’s affirmation is not demonstrated as a flagrant surrender to sensuality, but can actually appear to be the opposite, where the ESFP, in order to truly affirm life, refuses certain things that they feel actually negates life – for instance, Ringo Starr gave up his recreational drug use, stating that when doing drugs “you’re not creating, you’re not doing anything positive.”

One more matter that needs consideration is the ESFP as a performer. In one respect, this is a correct nickname. Se’s affirmation of direct experience and Fi’s affirmation of personal values often give the ESFP a love of the limelight, where they can perform in real time, express themselves in the here and now and experience things as they come, while at the same time affirming their own values before an audience and obtaining their affirmation. Thus, while the ENFJ tries to persuade and coerce others by empathizing with them, getting on their level and then leading them to a goal defined by the ENFJ, the ESFP has no such interest in leading others, but only in enjoying the mutual affirmation of each other’s values. And so, ESFPs do not usually attempt to interfere with the values and goals that others have, but merely consign themselves to expressing their own values as inspiration for others who may wish to follow.

Finally, there is the problem of repressed Ni. While the ESFP and ESTP would not admit it, they find the realm of Ni just as enticing and seductive as the INFJ and INTJ can find their repressed Se. While the ESTP tends to overestimate the reach of their big ideas, the ESFP, being more focused on the values of the self, thus finds their relationship to their subject and their attempts to read its intuitive visions to backfire more on the self. By this I mean that the ESFP may experience paranoid thoughts, or foggy intuitions concerning their relationship with the world that are less than comforting. Hunches that people are out to get the ESFP, or that something strange and unprecedented is about to rear its ugly head in their life, which come with conviction of any intuition. What is happening here is that the ESFP does not devote enough effort to introspecting on their own intuitive associations, finding it difficult and unnatural to do so. So the intuitions they have are often misinterpretations of impressions, erroneously seeing links between things that are not really so strongly linked, or seeing grand overarching patterns where there really are none.

So, in summary, the ESFP has great “energy,” saying “yes” to life and trying to enjoy it as fully as possible. This often makes them spontaneous, passionate, free-spirited and happy-go-lucky, inspiring positivity and strength in others. Although they may cross over into frivolity, they are not simpleminded, but can demonstrate a sober, serious side as needed, and they have a powerful Te drive to target and accomplish their goals. They also repress Ni, which can result in discomforting paranoid thoughts that come to them with intuitive certainty.

Thanks for reading, and for all the ESFPs out there, thank you for your positivity and teaching us how to say ‘yes’ to life.

NTP Knowing vs. NTJ Willing

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A New Rendition of the Freudian Personality Styles

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Pierce Presents: ISFP

Michael Pierce is a video maker and 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. Still, we very much enjoy his work and are pleased to be able to share it with our visitors.

By Michael Pierce

David Keirsey called them the “Composers,” and PersonalityPage calls them the “Artists.” The stereotype in the Jungian community is ultimately unflattering: The ISFP is often seen as a nearsighted, quieter, meeker, more easily satisfied, simple-minded, and more sensual INFP. They are thought of as sensitive spirits living in a dream world, lying beneath a willow tree on the banks of a sparkling river strumming a ukulele and humming some tune while a butterfly alights on the end of the instrument and little adorable forest animals gather around them to hear.

This stereotype implies that ISFP preferences make an individual fragile and sensitive, which is not necessarily the case. Furthermore, it implies that the ISFP is basically a simpler version of the INFP, which is like saying that the INTP is just an ISTP with more layers, rather than a very distinct personality with distinct advantages and disadvantages. The ISFP, like the ISTP, has an Se/Ni axis, which stands in direct contrast to the Ne/Si axis of the INFP.

As always, let’s break down what constitutes the ISFP functionally.

They are a Perceiving type, meaning that they prefer extroverted perceiving and introverted judging. This means that they base their judgment criteria on subjective, inner information, while simply observing and drinking in objective information and experiences. You could say that they are more receptive towards the outside world and more aggressive towards their inner experience.

Their preferred way of doing this is through extroverted sensation and introverted feeling. Extroverted sensation is photographic: It has the most direct relationship with objects of all the functions, giving them the clearest and most realistic perspective. Introverted feeling is individualistic: It has deep, personal passions and convictions that it holds to despite outside opposition, and it greatly values the right to individual freedom of expression and being true to oneself.

Third, ISFPs are very similar to the ESFP: Both prefer Se and Fi. The ISFP, however, prefers Fi more than Se. Nevertheless, they are in some sense the same type, or at least sister types. I personally like to call SFP types the “Aesthetes,” because they combine a sharp and vivid perception of the world with isolated and passionate subjective values, thus giving them a highly developed and individual appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of existence. Of course, “Aesthete” is simply a nickname to help me remember the SFP nature, and it is not meant to imply that all SFPs are natural artists or musicians, or even that they appreciate what you yourself may call art.

The ISFP, then, is an “aesthete” for whom their individual values and desires are more interesting and important than their objective observations. They are primarily concerned with developing, discovering and expressing their innermost feelings and values.

The word I like to use to describe the ISFP is “expression.” To explain this, I will need to describe the differences between the INFP’s Ne/Si axis and the ISFP’s Se/Ni axis: Ne looks at objects through a blurred lens for the purpose of imaginative association and pattern seeking. It doesn’t look at the object itself, but at what it could be or might be related to. In other words, Ne has an indirect relationship with objects. The opposite motion to this is Si, which has a direct relationship with impressions of objects, or the subject, giving it a strong and thorough subjective memory.

Conversely, the ISFP has a direct and clear relationship with objects, but in exchange has an indirect, associative, blurred relationship with their impressions of objects. Thus, while the INFP’s Fi dream world is clearer, more easily navigated, more tangible and solid to the touch, the ISFP’s Fi dream world is perceived through a blurred, imaginative lens, making it smoky, more intangible, and flighty; shrouded in mist, full of strange illusions and apparitions that appear for a moment and then turn back into smoke. The ISFP thus has an even more difficult time expressing the things they’ve seen in this realm than the INFP, and for this reason I use the word “expression,” because this is both the goal and potential talent of the ISFP; to creatively surmount this challenge and give real life and voice to their internal visions.

This is part of the reason why the ISFP is known for being quiet, because not only do they love to explore this dream world, but they have a difficult time describing their values and visions to other people. Words therefore become scarce, somewhat like the ISTP. The INFP is more often known for having an excellent way with words (though paradoxically, they may often experience their way with words as insufficient to describe the sentiments that they hold inside – ed.), and thus INFPs tend to have less of a problem using language to describe their ideas and develop meticulous and detailed descriptions of these realms where their values are exemplified. Once again, this is made possible because the INFP has a direct relationship with their inner world, so to express it purely is not as difficult. The ISFP, however, because of their indirect relationship with their inner world, must be similarly indirect when describing it. But describe it they must, for the whole purpose of Fi is to somehow exemplify and, as I said before, give life to their inner values, to more fully express them, and thus to become more like themselves, more authentically themselves without any external contaminants or concessions. They want to fully march to the beat of their own drum, so they must find a way to play the music and rhythm that they hear.

One way the ISFP very often does this is simply the way that they live. The INFP, too, along with expression through language, is interested in how to live in such a way as to express their values, but this is uniquely done by the ISFP, who seems to become the example of their own style, in their actions, in their clothes, in their interactions and even just the way they walk. There is a sense of unique but unobtrusive style to them.

This is another important aspect of Fi; it is not interested in changing things around it. It is focused on exemplifying its own values. What is outside of it (objective sentiments) are not its business and should not be its business. The ISFP and INFP do not want to interfere with anyone else’s expression of values; their only concern is how they themselves behave in response to them. But while INFPs have an easier time expressing their values with language, reasoning, or even stories, and therefore appear more like a champion of their values, louder and more outspoken, the ISFP finds language inadequate to express themselves, and thus appears much more unassuming in their expression, because they don’t directly express their values, but rather indirectly express them through their style of life, or their art, or other means. They seem like a leaf on the wind, a traveling minstrel or drifter of some sort, going very much their own way in life, preferring not to lead or command but simply to be themselves and go wherever they will, never imposing themselves on the world, but rather expressing themselves in ways that complement or properly adapt to their surroundings while still retaining their individuality.

To clarify, this adaptation is not an expression of Fe, but rather Se. The INFP has a more indirect relationship with the world, but the ISFP has a direct relationship, and therefore is more adept at complementing the objects around them. This is not to say that ISFPs are compromising their values to harmonize with those around them, but that they are expressing their values in such a way that they contribute to the direct aesthetic appeal of their surroundings, which is much less a concern or even talent for the INFP. As Hilary Clinton said about Jacqueline Onassis, “Unpretentious elegance characterized everything she did.”

Another example would be Thich Nhat Hanh, who said concerning the Vietnam war, “we young Buddhists … did not take a side even though the whole world took sides … we tried to tell people of our perception of the situation … We wanted to stop the fighting, but the bombs were so loud.” Thich Nhat Hanh attempted to express his concerns in a calm, unpretentious, unobtrusive manner, not because he was scared in the least, but because if people were unwilling to quiet down to listen to him, then it would be of no use to shout any louder to get them to hear.

Several more important characteristics of the ISFP can be found by comparing them with the ISTP: The primary difference between them is that while the ISTP primarily considers the world in terms of its cold properties, or rather, the properties of their impressions of the world, the ISFP primarily considers the world in terms of its value, or the value of the ISFP’s impressions of the world. Thus the ISTP forms a logical, systematic, level conception of reality, while the ISFP forms a valuated and therefore hierarchical conception of reality, with some things being simply better or more important than others, for instance, art, or styles of art, principles, people whom the ISFP enjoys specifically, and so on.

However, the ISTP and ISFP both share an Se/Ni axis, which has a direct relationship with objects and an indirect relationship with their subject, giving them a zeroed-in perspective and a very vivid, photographic and focused picture of reality, which is then examined through a blurry lens to see what other past impressions it can be associated with. This means they invest a lot of energy and thought into one area, which is usually whatever area provides the most output here and now.

So, while the INFP is more broad and multifaceted, the ISFP is zeroed-in and singular. The ISFP is particularly interested in the here and now, and whatever intuitive ideas and visions are obtained in the here and now. As such, the ISFP’s expression is in the here and now. For instance, Frank Ocean explained that his aim in songwriting was “to make something that represents where I am at that time” and “to make a photograph out of something you can never see.” Bob Dylan said concerning his songs: “I just write them. There isn’t any big message,” and Paul McCartney explained: “How I wrote depended on my mood.” The INFP tends to create an intentional continuity in their works and expression, because of Ne’s broader, more sweeping motion and Si’s memory and recording – for example, Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous authorship or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. However, the ISFP is not concerned with overarching continuity, but with intensity, with getting the most out of what is here right now. A compilation of an ISFP’s art would contain various disparate works that each represent very individual, immediate, unrelated feelings, meanings and ideas, but which have an overall style to them. Conversely, the INFP’s compilation would likely have more variation in style, but contain definite threads of meaning throughout the whole of them.

Furthermore, the ISFP often has trouble talking about their art or forms of expression, because the form of expression itself is the best expression they can make. As Frank Ocean said, “I’m trying to make a photograph out of something you can never see.” This is another aspect of the ISFP’s Ni. The ISFP talks through their art, and not about their art. Their art, as I’ve mentioned before, can be actual art, or even just the way they live or how they move their body, or even just their very presence in some cases. But the INFP is much more likely to talk about their art and explain the patterns behind it, because their focus is not the expression itself, or the art itself, but the overarching ideas behind the art. But for the ISFP, and often for Ni/Se types in general, the art is the overarching idea expressed in the best form the ISFP can manage. The INFP uses art to better communicate their ideas, but the ISFP speaks art as their first language. As David Gilmour said about Roger Walters, “I thought [his] songs were very wordy … the music [that he wrote] became a mere vehicle for lyrics, and not a very inspiring one.”

Finally, the ISFP, like the INFP, represses their Te function. One obvious effect of this is that the ISFP does not want to lead others or take control of things, but rather wants to leave their surroundings unaffected while they express their own values in such a way that it enhances the aesthetic around them. While this can be an advantage, one could easily argue that, for instance, Thich Nhat Hanh’s time would have been better spent actively doing something to stop the bombs, rather than just quietly protesting. This is similar to the INFP’s difficulty in going about clear, logical goals to accomplish their Fi desires.

Another effect is that the ISFP’s repression of Te also represses their inductive reasoning, meaning, as CelebrityTypes has put it, that “they sometimes fail to draw logical conclusions about their situation and act on them.”

So, in summary, the ISFP is occupied with self-expression of their Fi values, something made difficult by their indirect perception of their own subject through Ni, but overcome through creative outlets, from art to body language to simply how they live. Their Fi discourages them from trying to change or affect their surroundings, and their Se helps them express themselves with an unassuming, complementary elegance. However, they repress Te, which can make it difficult for them to form and accomplish specific goals, and can cloud their inductive reasoning.

Thanks for reading, and for all the ISFPs out there, thank you for the beauty you bring into the world through your devoted self-expression.

How Indian Philosophy Influenced Jung

“Whatever is here, the same is over there;
and what is over there is also right here.
From death to death he goes,
who sees any kind of diversity.
For that is this.
With your mind alone you must understand it –
there is here no distinction at all!” – Katha Upanishad II.1

“Brahman is the union and dissolution of all opposites, and at the same time stands outside them as an irrational factor. It is therefore wholly beyond cognition and comprehension.” – Jung: Psychological Types §330

“Although Brahman, the world-ground and world-creator, created the opposites, they must nevertheless be cancelled out in it again…” – Jung: Psychological Types §329

By Ryan Smith

In Psychological Types, Jung hints that the spiritual development of the personality is the fifth mental function that stands outside of the mundane interplay of the functions as a type of meta-function. To activate this meta-function in the psyche, one must, develop the spiritual facilities in one’s personality.

junghyouSpirituality is not religion – one can be spiritual without being religious; religious without being spiritual; one can be both, or one can be neither.

Philosophically, Carl Jung was a solipsist. Although his stated degree of support for this position waxed and waned, the solipsism was always there. Solipsism is the philosophical belief that one’s own subjective consciousness is the only thing that is real. With regard to Jungian typology, this belief has the practical implication that if solipsism is true, then all the functions are equally valid, just as all psychic perceptions of phenomena are equally ‘true.’[1] This would seem to be the inevitable conclusion that rears its head at us from much of Jung’s work.[2] Hence, one reason that Indian philosophy was so appealing to Jung was that there, in the meditative traditions of the East, he believed he had found a philosophical method of investigation that gave priority to the exploration of human consciousness over the materialistic and ‘extroverted’ mode that he saw as dominant in the West.

Brahman Eludes Us When the Functions Polarize

“A division … that is carried to the extreme … makes man, who is not a machine but many-sided, sick. The opposites should be evened out in the individual.” – Jung: Personal Letter to Hans Schmid-Guisan[3]

According to Jung, the further we go back in history, the fainter the concept of individuality will be, and the closer we get to our own time, the more clearly defined the concept of individuality will be.[4] With regard to typology, this meant, for Jung, that the functions are over-separated in the psyche of us moderns. Jung furthermore believed that this over-separation, where each function is clearly differentiated and separated into a dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, or inferior level in the psyche, is actually a source of psychological unhealth.[5]

In his studies of Indian philosophy, Jung found the spiritual concept of an all-encompassing, highest consciousness, namely Brahman, and in Psychological Types, Jung uses the concept of Brahman to represent the meta-cognitive, ineffable integration of the functions that emerges when the personality is developed enough to go beyond the opposites that are inherent in the functions.[6]

To this end, Jung warns the student who wishes to realize Brahman against the dangers of regarding the scientific worldview as comprehensive (and as fact would have it, there is indeed no scientific proof that the scientific worldview can be rendered exhaustive).[7] Jung’s point here is not that he is against science as such; he simply recommends that we regard it as a way of knowing, rather than as the only way of knowing. According to Jung, regarding science and logic (or any other one-sided perspective for that matter) as the only possible mode of inquiry shuts the conscious mind off from the totality of psychic life, thus causing the highest form of consciousness to elude us.

As an example of what happens when the functions over-separate, Jung mentioned Friedrich Nietzsche as a thinker whose Intuitive and Thinking functions were separated too greatly from his Feeling and Sensation functions. Lacking any conception of Brahman as a spiritual mediator of psychic life, Nietzsche was eventually led to declare himself his own god.[8] However, according to Jung, the overly active distinction between the functions that was active in Nietzsche’s psyche could not be upheld, and the neglected functions of Sensation and Feeling eventually came crashing into consciousness through Nietzsche’s spasmodic and pseudo-religious championing of the Dionysian.[9]

Jung’s Examination of Brahman in ‘Psychological Types’

In Psychological Types Jung discusses the Indian concept of supreme consciousness (Brahman) as a fifth function (or rather meta-function) that regulates the interplay of opposites in the psyche. Jung treats Brahman approvingly, and he regards it as a means (if not the means) to mediate the oppositional character of the functions and for the individual to develop his personality beyond the tyranny of the individual type (each of the 16 types being really a limitation on consciousness, sorted according to the functions).

To Jung, Indian concepts such as rta and dharma possess a purity and arcane quality that are virtually unknown in the West. One reason for the potency of these concepts, according to Jung, is that they owe their origin to the introverted traditions of the East which quell the psychic noise of the opposites through meditation. In deep trance-like states, the wise men of the East realize a type of consciousness that is beyond functions, allowing them to unearth insights of the greatest arcane significance from the depths of the Collective Unconscious.[10] Hence in Jung’s view, Indian concepts like rta and dharma are purer as archetypes than the ones that are seen in the West (such as ‘The Trickster’ or ‘The Wise Old Woman’) since our archetypes are still embodied in human form, whereas Indian concepts have reached the stage of pure ideas.

However, though Jung grants the Indian archetypes a greater degree of conceptual purity than their Western counterparts, he nevertheless disagrees with Indian traditions such as Buddhism and Vedanta when these traditions assert that the individual is able to achieve complete liberation from the personal ego the way that Vedantins achieve moksa or Buddhists achieve nirvana. On this point of disagreement, Jung’s philosophical outlook is distinctly Western in the sense that he asserts that any complete negation of the personal ego is by definition impossible. As Jung would have it, should a Hindu or Buddhist master actually succeed in shedding the personal ego entirely, he would soon find himself in a state of psychic death.

indiaAs I just said, Jung’s argument against the possibility of nirvana or moksa is that it is by definition impossible. And though he warned us against trusting too much in reason or science as the only ways of knowing, Jung’s argument against the possibility of a state of consciousness devoid of the personal ego actually seems to do just that: Jung appears to draw the logical distinction between a subject-bound experience of reality and then reality-in-itself, as first drawn by Immanuel Kant, and then concludes that, by definition, insofar as there exists a supreme mode of consciousness in which the personal ego does not exist, “we do not exist.”[11] In other words, Jung agrees that there is such a state as supreme consciousness beyond the functions (Brahman), but he denies that this state is devoid of the notion of a personal ego.

However, the Vedic seers of the Upanishads had already addressed arguments such as Jung’s more than a thousand years before he voiced them. According to the Vedantins, in the supreme state of consciousness, we are beyond the mundane reifying functions that provide us with skewed perceptions and judgments fitted to the understanding of our personal subject. In this state we perceive only Brahman as the singular and supreme object, devoid of all difference. And it follows, then, that in this state of consciousness, the personal subject, too, is simply a part of the supreme One; the unity that has no duality and no knower. In other words, it is a state of consciousness where the knower gets lost in the known.[12] In this consciousness there is only a supreme intuition without the slightest trace of distinction between subject and object, thus leaving no place for the personal ego at all.

Jung between Ego and Self, Atman and Brahman

“…for the ego gropes in darkness while the Self lives in light…” – Katha Upanishad I.3

As we have seen, while Jung accepted the existence of Brahman as a psychic entity capable of regulating the opposites of the psyche, he denied the Indian conception that the personal ego can fuse with Brahman, thus negating the existence of the personal ego altogether. That was not Jung’s only point of divergence. While Jung did perhaps postulate Brahman as a meta-function in Psychological Types, he nevertheless found himself in disagreement with the Vedic seers of India who had seen Brahman as a completely transcendental object, which was indeed the only true object, and which was devoid of all distinction. For Jung’s part, he preferred to think of Brahman as having separated into multiple instances of the same basic form, similar to how DNA has the same basic structure in all individuals but we nevertheless speak of each individual as having his own DNA, rather than conceiving of DNA as a single super-entity that is essentially the same in all individuals.[13] Hence, while the Indians say there is one Brahman that is a supreme transcendental object devoid of distinction and multiplicity, Jung saw Brahman as a diversified entity, spread onto each instance of life in the cosmos, somewhat like how DNA is active in encoding the genetic instructions in all living organisms.

From the perspective of Indian philosophy, Jung’s version of Brahman is neutered and “made safe” to protect his dearly-held notion of the personal ego. According to Vedanta philosophy, the world may indeed appear to be multifaceted and dualistic to us, but as the Katha Upanishad says, in the supreme mode of consciousness we look upon the world and ascertain that “there is here no distinction at all!” Indeed, from the standpoint of Vedanta, mistaking the apparent multiplicity of the world for the actual truth about Brahman is one of the hallmarks of spiritual ignorance.[14] To the individual who has realized Brahman, the seeming multiplicity of colors and sounds that surrounds us is really no more than a series of dream objects. True insight removes the false multiplicity to reveal that there is only the supreme object of Brahman that is completely without distinction or difference.

Another way in which Jung drew on Indian ideas was in connection with his well-known distinction between the ego and the Self. The Jungian opposition between the ego and the Self has become very popular, and has even made it into pop culture and instances of New Age literature that have nothing to do with Jung or Jungian circles at all.

According to Jung, the Self is defined as the true center of the individual’s total consciousness (defined as the person’s ego consciousness + his personal unconscious + the Collective Unconscious) in the same way that the ego is the center of ordinary consciousness (defined as ego-consciousness alone). Regarding the genealogy of these ideas, it is not unfair to say that Jung appropriated the distinction between Atman and Brahman from Indian philosophy and repackaged the borrowed concepts to serve as ego [Atman] and Self [Brahman] in his own work.

When we briefly discussed the concepts of rta and dharma above, we saw that Jung gave precedence to his theory of the Collective Unconscious when accounting for their explanatory power: Rather than granting that these ideas were unusually compelling in their own right, Jung posited that they owed their appeal to their unique relation to his own concept of the Collective Unconscious. In the same way, when appropriating the concepts of Atman and Brahman for his own use, Jung would deny that he had merely repackaged them from Indian philosophy: Embarking upon a line of argument that posited the Collective Unconscious to be primordial to other ideas as he did, Jung claimed that Atman and Brahman were really “universal ideas” of which the Indians had furnished but one possible proof. Hence in Jung’s view, he was not merely repackaging Indian ideas, but giving expression to “universal ideas,” which in his versions were uniquely adapted to the psychological temperament and intellectual climate of the West.[15]

One may legitimately ask whether it was really necessary to refurbish the Indian concepts to fit with a Western agenda the way Jung does. One particularly dark perspective, which has been levelled at Jung in the past, is that he needlessly reinvented several Indian and Chinese concepts and then presented them to the West as his own ideas.[16] What Jung’s genuine motives were in this regard we cannot know for certain, but whatever may be the case, it is certainly true that today many of the concepts that Jung acquired from Indian philosophy are often referred to as Jungian concepts with no mention of Oriental influences or Indian philosophy whatsoever.

Functions Unite in the Self, not in the Ego

As we have seen, Jung (1) acknowledged Brahman as a meta-function capable of reuniting the functions in the psyche, thus enabling him to achieve a state of consciousness beyond the individual type, but (2) denied that such a state of difference-less consciousness could ever entail liberation from the personal ego. In other words, Jung would agree that we can go beyond the constrictions of consciousness set for us by our psychological type, but he would maintain that, even in this state of supreme consciousness that lies beyond types, there would still be the notion of a personal ego as this concept has usually been defined in the Western tradition. Though the two concepts are somewhat confounded in Jung’s typology (the ego usually being identified with the top three functions), the personal type is not all that there is to the notion of a personal ego: At a deeper level, there is also the notion of the ego as a structure-imposing agent that reifies and delimits external occurrences, allowing them to be perceived as objects, and imposes subject-object distinctions upon psychic perceptions, allowing us to perceive ourselves as different from the world around us.

As the initiator of this discussion in modern times, Descartes had said that the only thing we can be sure of is our own cognitive activity. Adding to that, Kant had postulated that the categories by which we experience reality are inherent in us, not in the things in themselves. Finally, Freud had said that the delineating consciousness functions not just by breaking undifferentiated reality down into impersonal and seemingly objective categories, but that the ego also keeps specific intra-psychic contents out of consciousness as a means of economy and defense. It is this quintessentially Western conception of the ego that Jung regards as indispensable to the concept of psychic life and which he denies that the supreme consciousness of Brahman can ever blot out.[17] To go quickly:

  • Rene Descartes (1596-1650) introduced a method of radical doubt in his books Discourse on Method and Meditations. In these books, Descartes resolves to doubt everything that can possibly be doubted. Senses can be doubted, of course, as can notions about objects existing in time and space. Likewise, dreams and hallucinations can present us with illusory information about the real. According to Descartes, however, there is one thing that human beings cannot doubt: The fact that we are having thoughts. Even if the entirety of the mental contents in our cognition is an illusion, the thoughts about the illusion must still be there. “The thoughts exist,” reasons Descartes, “and therefore the thinker must also exist.” Hence his famous dictum, I think therefore I am. Descartes’ examinations into the nature of cognition and his acceptance of the cogito – the ‘I’ – as the foundation of all further knowledge form the backdrop for later Western conceptions of the ego.
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) analyzed and mapped out the innate cognitive predispositions that are connected with human cognition and demonstrated by means of logic how our faculty of reason must by definition be insufficient to make sense of the whole of reality “in itself” (i.e. as it exists independently of our cognitive apprehension of it). “What we can know,” says Kant, ”is really only our own rendition of reality, broken down into comprehensible categories like space and time – not reality in itself.” According to Kant, reality as it exists apart from our human cognition of it must forever remain beyond our grasp. While we may have insight into some semblance of the real, the totality of the real can never be comprehensively rendered by the finite capacities of human cognition.
  • Sigmund Freud’s (1856-1939) contribution to the Western conception of the ego consisted of two main parts: One is the image of the ego as akin to the myth of the charioteer from Plato’s Phaedrus, where the ‘I’ corresponds to a charioteer that must steer a chariot pulled by both a dark horse (representing appetites and desires) and a white horse (representing ‘spiritedness’ and honor).[18] Here, by analogy, the Freudian concept of the ‘I’ is akin to the charioteer, suspended between drives and instincts (the dark horse or Id) and ethics and morality (the white horse or Superego). Freud’s second contribution, as already hinted, was to point out how the ego blots out information that it technically already possesses (such as the memory of childhood abuse) in order to keep functioning normally and prevent itself from being overpowered by the weight of one’s negative memories and insights.

It is this specifically Western conception of the ego that Jung perpetuates, albeit in his own unique synthesis of the concepts handed down to him:

  • From Descartes (directly or indirectly), Jung took the idea that the knowing ‘I’ is the starting point for all knowledge and experience and that one’s own personal consciousness is something that one can be more certain of than external objects and phenomena.
  • From Kant, Jung took the opposition between the contents of subjective consciousness, which can be known, and the totality of objective reality, the accurate cognition of which lies beyond the limits of ordinary human consciousness.
  • From Freud, Jung took the notion of the ‘I’ as not just an epistemological, but also a psychological agent, while leaving behind the Freudian contention that the ego is inherently antagonistic towards the unconscious (and vice versa).

In his review of Indian ideas, Jung censured the Indians for being “pre-Kantian”;[19] i.e. for believing that they could rid themselves of the confines of the subjective and limited personal ego and accurately cognize the totality of objective reality through contact with Brahman. It is true that the Indians have never proven that their postulated state of supreme consciousness is comprehensive or even possible. But on the other hand, neither Jung, nor Descartes, nor Kant ever proved their assertion that a thinker was necessary for the experience of thought.[20] With both sides lacking in proof, the question remains a metaphysical one; a matter of taste in ideas. Even Jung would admit that he believed his argument to be true by definition, rather than by way of any actual proof.[21]

Mystical Experiences in Indian Philosophy and Jung

“You see, I am not a philosopher. … I am a medical man. I deal with facts. This cannot be emphasized too much.” – Jung: Personal Interview given in 1952[22]

“I am an empiricist and I am concerned with facts. The thinking of [my] critics is two-dimensional, and they have no respect for psychological facts.” – Jung: Personal Interview given in 1955[23]

“I am an empiricist with no metaphysical views at all.” – Jung: Personal Interview given in 1959[24]

A point that we have previously covered on the site is that whenever Jung was accused of being “mystical,” or a speculative metaphysician, he would defend himself by claiming that he was merely an empiricist “following the facts” that had presented themselves to him in his medical practice. Quite aside from the glaring question of why no other psychiatrist ever arrived at the same conclusions by “merely following the facts,” there is also some confusion of definitions here: Today empiricism is commonly taken to mean that the veracity of one’s claims can be demonstrated by means of controlled, repeatable experiments, and in that sense, Jung was certainly no empiricist.

santoneYet in another, more traditional sense, empiricism refers to a methodological outlook where one orientates oneself by experience, following raw experience and mental impressions wherever they lead without recourse to reason-based interpretations of these experiences by way of first principles and pre-conceived thought-categories to moderate one’s conclusions. This is the sense in which Indian philosophers, from both Vedanta and Buddhist lineages, can be called empiricists (the Buddha, especially, can be called an empiricist since he refused to answer metaphysical questions, citing as his reason that the answer was not given in experience). It is in this experience-based sense of the term ‘empiricism’ that Jung, too, can legitimately be called an empiricist, since he certainly did seem to follow the gist of his own impressions wherever they led him (even when they led him to contradict himself).

Jung rarely cared much for controlled experiments or the scientific method, and his choice of subjects often led him to speculate on matters which escape all means of scientific testing.[25] As a result, one might have expected Jung to be sympathetic to the Indian philosophers of Buddhism and Vedanta, since their claims were the children of a method and epistemological outlook that resembled his own. However, that was not quite the case: As we have already seen in this essay, Jung categorically denied the contention set forth by the Indians that there is such a thing as a supreme state of consciousness akin to nirvana or moksa where the subject is completely liberated from the influence of the personal ego. The Indian “evidence” for the claim of nirvana or moksa was that this egoless state had been revealed to them by way of direct experience, in other words, by the very same way of knowing that Jung always deferred to when charged with the fact that there was no hard evidence for his theory of the Archetypes or Collective Unconscious. “My proof,” replied Jung on more than one occasion, “is that the evidence supporting these theories was given to me in experience.” As Jung would have it, his critics were two-dimensional rationalists with no respect for the “psychological facts” of direct experience.

All the more surprising, then, to find that in refuting the “empirical” findings of Indian philosophy, Jung would suddenly become a rationalist himself. In Jung’s own words: “[The Indians] do not recognize that a ‘universal consciousness’ is a contradiction in terms, since exclusion, selection, and discrimination are the root and essence of everything that lays claim to the name ‘consciousness.’”[26] In other words, the personal ego must by definition be present, even in the experience of nirvana or moksa, since otherwise we would lack the faculties of discrimination that the Western philosophers have postulated to inhere in the ego.[27] Jung, the self-styled empiricist who was “not a philosopher,” and who only dealt with “the facts of experience,” has now suddenly become a consummate rationalist and even a pure-blooded Cartesian to boot!

Besides the self-styled empiricist’s complete surrender to rationalism, another incredible thing about Jung’s repudiation of Indian philosophy is the fact that Jung’s own claims are far more elaborate than those of the Indians. The Vedic seers contended themselves with one major concept, namely Brahman, which is a supreme state of consciousness that is devoid of duality and distinction and at the same time the source of all the cosmos. But Jung, on the whole, was far more licentious, postulating not just the Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, but also the Anima and Animus, insight into the Kantian noumenon, the Self, the Shadow, and a whole range of other unfalsifiable concepts. And when faced with the objection that there was no scientific proof for these theories, Jung always defended himself by claiming that the proof of these concepts was given in experience.[28] In other words, Jung himself made profligate use of the same epistemological method that he denied the Indians.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Jung held a bizarre double standard on this point: He defended himself by pleading empiricism when others accused him of being unscientific, yet chided the Indians for making use of the same approach when he did not agree with their conclusions.

Jung’s Provincialism in Warning against Indian Philosophy

“…nowadays far too many Europeans are inclined to carry Eastern ideas and methods over unexamined into our Occidental mentality. …For what has issued from the Eastern spirit is based on the peculiar history of that mentality, which is most fundamentally different from ours. … [It is] not applicable to us.” – Jung: Personal Letter to Oskar Schmitz[29]

“[Eastern ideas and symbols] are a foreign body in our system – corpus alienum – and they inhibit the natural growth and development of our own [Western] psychology. It is like a secondary growth or poison.” – Jung: The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga[30]

As this essay has shown, Jung was profoundly influenced by Indian thought – not just with regard to his theory of psychological types, but with regard to the structure of his thought as a whole. Yet at the same time, Jung often warned his fellow Westerners against taking up the insights of Indian philosophy as if they were universally valid. As the quotes above have shown, Jung thought that the Indian concepts needed to be changed into a form that was more in line with the cultural history of the West in order for them to be applicable to the Westerner. As Jung saw it, the insights of one regional group were not directly applicable to that of another.[31] This type of regionalism informed Jung’s thinking on not just the relations between Indians and Occidentals, but also on the relations between Germans and Frenchmen, Catholics and Protestants, and Germans and Jews.[32] (One wonders all the more, then, how Jung could chide the Indians for being “pre-Kantian.”)

With regards to his theory of psychological types, Jung’s warning to Westerners not to dedicate themselves to following the insights of Indian philosophy may be interpreted as naming an instance of the type of activity that would also contribute to the modern phenomenon of over-separation between the functions. In taking it upon himself to cultivate a foreign spirituality as if it were regionally his own, the Westerner would, according to Jung, only intensify the split in the functions of consciousness, thereby worsening the problem.[33]

However, the problem of a divided consciousness can be approached from any number of angles. In Jung’s case, he found it advisable to borrow the concepts of Indian thought, but replaced the specifics by dressing them up in Western names and images and presenting them as distinctly ‘Western’ ideas. As mentioned, his cultural outlook was heavily regionalistic: Indian philosophy and concepts for Indians, European philosophy and concepts for Europeans, and Jewish philosophy and concepts for Jews. The individual who ventures outside the cultural traditions of his nation or race might find some stimulation thereby, but in Jung’s view, such an endeavor will ultimately be pitiful and inhibitive to growth.

In our case, we often tell our readers that the cognitive functions are not about mental contents, but about the mental processes that handle those contents, with each function being, in principle, capable of handling any type of content. It is my contention, therefore, that the functions are not in themselves malnourished simply because one chooses to expose them to contents that are foreign in origin. Of course, Jung may have a point in saying that if the Westerner takes it upon himself to ardently follow an Oriental spiritual tradition (such as Vedanta), then that commitment will in the end become something akin to a process, wherefore the distinction between processes and contents cannot be neatly upheld. But for one thing, Jung’s warning is not merely that the Westerner should not convert to Vedata or Buddhism; his admonition is that it is better for a person to study the concepts and history of his own regional tradition (e.g. the Greeks over the Indians) and that the Westerner should be careful about studying Indian or Chinese thought too much.

For my part, I should say that it is hard to see how Jung could arrive at this conclusion, given that he himself was a passionate student of Indian philosophy. I would contend that Jung’s conclusion that the insights of Indian thought are not applicable to Westerners is at least in part a reflection of his own psychological provincialism; it need not be true in all cases.

Conclusion: Jung’s Crisscross between Indian Philosophy and the West

As we have seen in this article, there can be no doubt that Jung was profoundly influenced by Indian philosophy. And while he did at times take care to credit the Indian influences on his thought, Jung’s reception of Indian philosophy also evinces the traces of a love/hate relationship with this foreign influence, which seemed both dangerous and alien to him, but which had nevertheless succeeded in developing a spirituality based on introvertive insights –  something that he felt was lacking in the West.

It will be seen that Jung’s thinking was situated between two worlds: When Westerners accused him of not being rigorous enough, he sought refuge in Indian and other Oriental thought systems in order to find confirmation for his “empirical” method and “mystical” manner of thinking. But then when Indian thought confronted him with conclusions that were disagreeable to him, he would conduct an abrupt about-face and seek refuge behind the breastworks of that same Western rationality which he himself had criticized as ‘limited’ when it dictated that the evidence for his own conclusions was lacking.

In this article I have also argued that Jung’s famous idea of the relationship between the ego and the Self was essentially a Westernized version of the Indian opposition between Atman and Brahman. The whole normative element of typology (i.e. using its insights as a starting point to eventually go beyond types), as developed by Jung, appears to be intimately tied up with the Indian concept of Brahman as the supreme mode of consciousness that exposes all difference and opposition as void. The normative aspect of Jungian typology is one that has been largely neglected. In fact, I know of no other writers on the subject, besides James Graham Johnston and myself, who have followed Jung in further exploring the normative side of his typology. By far the overwhelming majority of theorists and writers in this field have preferred to remain quintessentially Western and have ignored Jung’s admonition that the purely descriptive approach to typology is “nothing but a childish parlor game.”[34]

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is declared that “where there is unity, one without a second, that is the world of Brahman. This is the supreme goal of life. … Those who do not seek this supreme goal live on but a fraction of this joy.”[35] There is a strong case to be made for the exegesis that this is how Jung thought about psychological types as well – the person who does not realize Brahman in his lifetime remains a slave to his functions and lives through life on but a fraction of his full potential.


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

Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought SUNY Press 1985
Jung: Alchemical Studies Princeton UP 2014
Jung: C.G. Jung Speaking Princeton UP 1977
Jung: Civilization in Transition Princeton UP 1978
Jung: Letters vol. I Routledge & Kegan Paul 1973
Jung: Psychological Types Princeton UP 1990
Jung: Psychology and Religion, East and West Princeton UP 1975
Jung: Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche Princeton UP 1975
Jung: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious Princeton UP 1969
Jung: The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga Princeton UP 1996
Jung & Schmid-Guisan: The Question of Psychological Types Princeton UP 2013
McLynn: Carl Gustav Jung – A Biography Black Swan 1997
Murti: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism Munsiram Monoharlal 2013
Nagy: Philosophical Issues in the Psychology of C. G. Jung SUNY Press 1991
Russell: History of Western Philosophy Routledge 2004
Wilson: Consilience Abacus 1999


[1] Jung: Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche §747
[2] Nagy: Philosophical Issues in the Psychology of C.G. Jung p. 32
Indeed, it would seem that on several counts Jung’s instinctive reading of the Indian texts resembles the methodology of the solipsistic Yogacara Buddhism – a form of “mind only” Buddhism which postulated that only the personal consciousness was real.
[3] Jung, in Jung & Schmid-Guisan: The Question of Psychological Types p. 78
[4] Jung: Psychological Types §8
[5] Jung originally used the name ‘auxiliary function’ to apply to both the secondary and tertiary functions. I have used the modern terminology above as it offers more precision.
[6] Jung: Psychological Types §330
[7] Wilson: Consilience p. 7
[8] Jung: Alchemical Studies §163
[9] Jung: Psychological Types §235
[10] Jung: Psychological Types §336
[11] Jung: Letters vol. I p. 247
[12] Murti: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism p. 217
[13] Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought p. 34
[14] Murti: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism p. 242
[15] Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought p. 52
[16] Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought p. 82
[17] Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought p. 134
[18] Plato: Phaedrus 246a–254e
[19] Jung: Psychology and Religion, East and West §956
[20] Russell: History of Western Philosophy 3.1.9
[21] Jung: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious Princeton §520
[22] Jung: C.G. Jung Speaking p. 206
[23] Jung: C.G. Jung Speaking p. 270
[24] Jung: C.G. Jung Speaking p. 414
[25] McLynn: Carl Gustav Jung – A Biography p. 316
[26] Jung: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious Princeton §520
[27] Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought p. 52
[28] McLynn: Carl Gustav Jung – A Biography p. 312
[29] Letter dated 26 May 1923
[30] Jung: The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga p. 14
[31] Coward: Jung and Eastern Thought p. 86
[32] Jung: Civilization in Transition §354
[33] Jung: Alchemical Studies §8
[34] Jung: Preface to the Argentine Edition of ‘Psychological Types’
[35] Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.3.32