Psychology of Politics, Development of Society

I’ve been thinking out some complex issues and data.  In particular, my mind has been stuck on the issue of liberal and conservative. 

This relates to personality types and traits, but furthermore it relates to genetics.  Scientists have discovered specific genes that correlate with specific tendencies of political attitudes.  That isn’t exactly surprising as trait research has already determined many psychological differences are passed on from parent to child.  But this is particularly paradigm-shifting on the level of politics.

I plan to write more about this, but I just wanted to outline my thinking for the moment.  There are multiple facets that interrelate in ways I’m trying to determine.

There does seem to be an evolutionary angle that would be very important.  Different genetics enhanced species survival as humans developed ever more complex societies.  One theory I came across proposed that liberal genetics are a more recent evolutionary adaptation.  As humans spread out from Africa, specific traits became more desirable: curiosity, openness to new experience, adaptability, empathy, diplomacy, ability to imagine new possibilities and consider multiple perspectives, etc.  These are all traits that research has proven are correlated with each other, and they together seem to create the framework for the liberal attitude.  Still, the older genetics remained useful because any given society would still need the majority of its population to be fairly conservative in order to create social stability and cohesion.

This development happened when humans were still hunter-gatherers, and so at that time the genetic differences wouldn’t have been as magnified.  With the rise of settled agrarian cultures, an entirely new way of social organization became possible.  This was a traumatic time in the devlopment of the human species.  It’s been a while since I’ve read Paul Shepard, but as I recall he saw this era as being pivotal where something irreversibly switched in the human brain.  This was the beginning of civilization.

I was just tonight reading again some of Derrick Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe.  I consider him to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.  I’d forgotten much of the specific ideas in this book, but one particular thing stood out.  He goes into great detail about how civilization rests on the back of slavery.  Every civilization was built with slave labor (including the early democracies).  Even the modern industrialized nations with their supposed democracies and free markets are dependent on slave labor and sweatshops in the third world countries.  Many of the earliest immigrants to the Americas were indentured servants and slaves.  Civilization as we know it would collapse if there wasn’t some class of people enslaved or in oppressed servitude. 

(I also wonder how this fits in with prostitution as the oldest profession and temple prostitutes who lived in servitude.  In early civilization, prostitution represented the civilizing of primitive desire as the temple prostitutes served the highest ideal of their societies and the temples they worked in were at the center of those cultures.  The example that comes to mind is “The Epic of Gilgamesh” where the wild man is civilized by a prostitute.)

Jensen’s explanation of all of this is just brilliant.  Combined with Shepard’s work, this explains a lot about how we became this way.  The earliest records of humans are about the laws upholding civilization and these laws speak about slavery (e.g., Code of Hammurabi).  The Old Testament in various stories and the 10 commandments promotes slavery.  The Christian Gospels even promote slavery.  The Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all were dependent on slavery.  Until modern times, few people even thought too much about slavery being a bad thing.

However, some people back then began to question such issues.  During the Axial Age, the origins of modern Enlightenment ideals began to take root.  Those early ideals were in complete conflict with the very structure of civilization and that conflict persists to this very day.  So, where did this conflict come from?

Earlier in social development, humans perceived the world animistically.  According to Julian Jaynes, the very understanding of the individual as clearly separate from the world didn’t even fully exist throughout much of early civilization.  It was a slow shift while individuality formed.  As division of labor in society became more important, so division of labor within the human mind became more important.  The world and the gods stopped being experienced as immediately alive realities.  The world became objectified and so did humans.  Individuality and objectivity go hand in hand, and this is what allows for the objectivication of humans in the form of slavery.

This growing sense of individuality came to a crisis point during the Axial Age.  The brutality of slavery had become very apparent, and people began hoping for something more.  People were less satisfied to simply be in servitude whether to other people or to the gods.  The divine had become distant within hierarchical society, and in response the desire for divine closeness became extremely strong.  Humans started to perceive the divine as being among humans which is reminiscent of the animistic past, but this divine closeness was now built on a relationship of individuals as equals.  The first communes formed which was out of which Christianity took root.  However, Christianity and all of the Axial Age religions were brought back in line with hierarchical slave society, and the brief glimmer of the Axial Age prophets was almost entirely forgotten for the next thousand years.

However, it was never entirely forgotten.  The Axial Age ideals were the liberalism of their day.  I wonder if that liberal urge that kept popping up relates back to the genetics that first formed when humans left Africa?

It seems like there has always been this push and pull within human society that is shown in the the earliest historical records.  Since civilization began, this concept of progress formed.  Civilization is dependent on endless progress and this seems to relate to its dependence on slavery.  In order to maintain a slave population, the early civilizations (as well as later civilizations) were forced to be constantly at war by attempting to conquer other people.  Enslave or become a slave.  Endless progress, endless growth, endless conquering, endless usurpation… which continues to modern civilization as well (even if endless wars now have a larger global context). 

This is where I’m feeling a bit murky.  Civilization is simultaneously built on this ruthless progress, but civilization wouldn’t have been possible without those early liberal traits of diplomacy and whatnot.  This seems to be a part of that internal conflict that is the very fabric of civilization.  As society became more hierarchical and more divisioned, the liberal traits of curiosity and experimentation were focused towards technological innovation.  Even fairly early in Greek society, a well-educated leisure class had already taken hold (with Socrates being the ultimate representative).  The liberal instinct in some ways became even more important as empathy and diplomacy would’ve been absolutely vital during this time of cultural clash.

There was a shift that happened after the Axial Age.  The liberal instinct had a temporary burgeoning in society, but the liberal instinct was looked upon with ever greater suspicion as Empire building became the central impulse.  The Roman Empire as it was inherited by Christianity was quite oppressive, and it didn’t take long for the heresiologists to oppress the liberal impulse within Christianity itself.  This is where many see the proper beginning of Western civilization.

Ever since that time, the conflict between the liberal and conservative impulses has led to much violence.  But, with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance, the liberal impulse began to have greater influence than it had in a long time.  Also, progress began to happen more quickly.  The liberal impulse is the gas pedal of civilization, but this is balanced with the brake of the conservative impulse.  The fight between the two hasn’t been pretty.

The main issue isn’t specific beliefs or values.  Liberalism and conservatism are relative tendencies.  What was liberal during the Axial Age has become the norm for modern Western civilization.  Generally speaking, even modern monotheists have forsaken their own texts in denying slavery.  The conservative impulse wants to hold on to what has become the norm which is perceived as being traditional.  It’s not important, however, that the perceived traditional values actually correspond to the actual historical tradition.  For example, family values have been centrally important for all of Christian history, but what Christians today consider as family values isn’t what the early Christians considered family values (and Jesus himself didn’t value family at all).  So, liberal and conservative are dependent on the historical context which is always changing with the endless progress that we call civilization.

This has served us moderately well up to this point.  Even so, we find ourselves at a new crisis point and so some people conjecture that we’re experiencing a new Axial Age.  It does seem that the level of cultural mixing in modern society hasn’t been seen in Western civilization since the earlier Axial Age.  The religious sensibility forming now is to Christianity as Christianity was to Judaism, and I think this would explain why fundamentalists have essentially created a new religion that has little to do with early Christianity (which fits into the ideas of Karen Armstrong).

Much of what I’ve talked about can be explained using the model of Spiral Dynamics which would add a lot of much-needed detail.  The history following the Axial Age I somewhat explained in my post Just Some Related Ideas and Writers which basically follows a Jungian view of Western development.  But there is a further aspect that is more central to my thinking at the moment.  Along with Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe, I’ve also been re-reading Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini.  The two books make for good companions as they both analyze Western society from different perspectives. 

Giannini’s book is helpful because he is coming from the Jungian tradition, and more importantly he combines his roles as Jungian analyst and MBTI practitioner.  He carefully considers Jung’s view on personality as it fits in with Western sociohistorical development.  He sees a split in our society between tendencies towards the personality types of ESTJ and INFP with the former dominating the Western psyche since sometime shortly after the inception of Christianity.  Essentially, ESTJ and INFP are just a more complex way of saying conservative and liberal.

However, this more complex language is helpful because it’s grounded in decades of psychological research.  Also, it brings me back to where I began this post.

(I want to note one other book: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  The author discusses two issues relevant to this post.  He discusses Max Weber’s theory about how rationalization and bureaucratization increases as society becomes more complex and hierarchical.  He also discusses Ernest Harmann’s boundary types.  He mentions research that shows thick boundary types with their conservative attitudes tend to promoted to upper management in hierarchical organizations.  Any major organization is hierarchical and so our society in general is ruled by thick boundary types which is just another way of stating the theory Giannini puts forth.  These highly promoted people tend to have thicker boundaries than even the average person and so the people at top perceive and behave differently than the lower classes.  A seeming implication of this is that even Washington Democrats will be more conservative than the average liberal.) 

The reason I’m so interested in all of this is two-fold. 

The most obvious reason is that the conflict between liberals and conservatives is the most intense that I’ve seen in my lifetime.  And it’s a rather personal issue as I’m liberal and my parents are conservative. 

Secondly, I suffer from obsessive curiosity syndrome.  I feel compelled to try to understand the society I was born into.  There seems to be a narrative to our culture and I suspect that it’s our collective unawareness of this narrative that keeps us stuck in it.  We play these roles we are given and we come to identify with them.  Some of this is genetics and so can’t be changed, but genetics are just predispositions.  I want to believe that the liberal and conservative impulses don’t have to be eternally at odds.  Maybe I’m just a dreamy-eyed liberal with my head in the clouds.

 - – -

Let me give this some more contemporary context.

I’ve been doing some web research on personality types/traits, political attitudes, and career predispositions.  Here are some of the ideas I’m tossing about at present:

The problem with liberal and conservative as labels is that they’re highly relative.

The vast majority of scientists and journalists identify as liberal (or at least they do in the US), but it just means that these groups of people identify as more liberal than how they perceive the general population of their particular society.  In the most general usage, conservative means what is traditional or conventional and liberal means what is not limited to the traditional or conventional.  As such, liberal journalists are only moderately liberal.  They’re liberal because they aren’t perfectly aligned with the average person (or rather they don’t perceive themselves as such), but they’re clearly moderate in their being closer to the mainstream than they are to radicals on the fringe.

However, different societies will vary greatly in their political spectrum.  It’s probably true, though, that scientists and journalists in any society will be comparatively more liberal because those professions seem to demand a liberal mindset (at least liberal in terms of personality traits).

The further issue is how close is the correlation between liberal as political self-identification and liberal as personality trait.  Research on personality traits show that they can’t be categorized as either/or, black/white.  Some people are on the extreme ends, but most people are near the middle.

There is no one way to define these terms.  Liberal and conservative can apply to many issues, and so a person can be simultaneously liberal on some issues and conservative on others.  And any given issue can only be labelled as liberal or conservative relative to the context of the societal norms and the historical era.  Many political positions that seem conservative in a modern industrialized society would be deemed liberal (even radically liberal) in pre-modern and non-industrialized societies.  Liberal and conservative are labels that are inseparable from confounding factors of individual and collective development.

With development, other issues such as intelligent and morality have to be considered as both of those relate to intelligence.  There is a correlation between liberalism and IQ (i.e., traditional methods of testing intelligence), and so that probably explains much of the reason for scientists and journalists identifying as liberals.  As a personality trait, liberalism signifies openness towards new experiences and curiosity towards new information.  Higher education is largely defined by new experiences and new information.

Nonetheless, plenty of people with more conservative personalities go to college as most of the population is fairly conservative personality wise (or rather according to MBTI statistics the conservative SJ temperament represents the largest portion of the population; the question then is how well does the SJ temperament represent the normal definition of political conservatism).  These college educated conservative types tend to be drawn to careers in law, politics, and business.  Most interestingly is the fact that policymakers tend to identify as conservative.  But, even in liberal fields, the top administrators in hierarchical organizations (which includes every major private and public organization) will be more conservative than what is the norm even for the general population.  Scientists may be liberal, but the administration of scientific labs and the corporate funding for science likely is controlled by conservatives.  Journalists may be liberal, but the editors, owners and CEOs of media companies are generally more conservative. 

(The so-called liberal media bias is false.  It may have once been true when newsrooms were independent and reporters were more free to do their own thing.  But in recent decades (because of pressures to increase profits) reporters have been increasingly told what to do by upper management (this is based on a lot of research I’ve done and isn’t an just an ideological claim).  However, this isn’t to say that media is precisely conservative biased in any simple sense.  Let us just say there is conflict of biases where the conservative bias at the moment has gained the upperhand.)

Social liberals are going to be more interested in intellectual inquiry and social conservatives will be more interested in ideological norms.  Because of this, most social scientists and those interested in social science will be moral liberals (research supports this conclusion).  As for moral conservatives, they’re either less interested in or else actively mistrust social science research and theory.  For example, the evidence that certain psychological traits and types (personality, moral inclinations, political ideology, behavior, etc.) are largely inheritable undermines the idea that everyone is completely responsible for themselves as individuals (which is a major aspect of moral conservatism).  The tendency to see human nature as complex is more attractive to the social liberal, and so the liberal attitude is more open to the possibility of nature being equal to or greater than nurture (which could explain why they have a more open view of family values).  The reason why evolution vs creationism seems so central to the culture wars may be because it reflects on the large-scale the same issues of nature vs nurture (I’m a bit unclear on this point).

I’ve come across the theory that conservatives tend to look at media and art in terms of how it serves or undermines their ideology (i.e., the perceived ‘norm’).  This would be supported by the Christian cultural critic who I heard speak a few years ago.  She discussed the need of morally conservative Christians to use film and pop culture to promote their views.  Immediately after this talk, I went over and looked at a William Blake exhibit which presented his vision of the relationship between religion and art.  

There couldn’t have been a better contrast between the conservative and liberal views.  Blake’s art was inspiring because it didn’t represent ideology in any simple way (i.e., no overt political messages, no promotion of group norms).  Instead, Blake’s art pointed towards truths that transcended mere politics.  I sensed that Blake wasn’t limiting himself to his own preferred bias.  

Is the conservative view of art as ideology comparable to the conservative view of news as ideology?  I’ve noticed that many conservatives don’t see a difference of the bias of Fox News from the bias in more liberal news, but to many liberals this is an insult.  I’ve noticed that quite a few liberals seem to idealize intellectual objectivity as a moral value, and they’re not content with the cynical view of extreme conservatives.  The social conservative tends to see humanity as fallen and traditionally this fallen nature included the failure of human reason.  Social conservatives are more mistrusting of reason which explains why they mistrust science (be it Darwinian evolution or climate change).

By the way, this also relates to the tendency of most comedians to be liberal.  Humor is very much related to curiosity and openness to experience.

Anyways, it’s all very interesting.  Journalists, Scientists, and comedians all are dominated by self-identified liberals and Democrats.  I remember offhand that only 6% of scientists (including in the hard sciences) identify as Republican.  That does seem to be saying either something about human nature (psychology, genetics, etc) or something about modern culture… or, as I suspect, a bit of both.

 - – -

I’m, of course, speaking of liberal and conservative in their most extreme manifestations (i.e., exaggerated stereotypes).  It’s important to keep in mind that as personality traits the population distribution is found mostly in the middle rather than on the polar opposite ends.

Also, liberal and conservative don’t always equate with Democrat and Republican.  For example, earlier last century Republicans were the liberal party especially in the South.  So, when I speak of liberal I’m talking about an attitude based on personality traits and not party affiliations which represent shifting labels of shifting demographics.  I was looking at data from the Pew Research Center.  Their definition of liberal corresponds with Democrat only slightly more than it corresponds with independent.  I’m willing to bet, though, that if Democrats dominated for a couple of decades the number of liberals identifying with independent would increase just as how recently many have left the Republican party.

As for psychological attitudes, I do wonder if the way society is structured is causing these genetic traits to become increasingly magnified.  I was thinking that this possibility could be a contributing factor to the present intense political conflict.

Here is a theory I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years.

I’ve looked at mappings of demographic data.  Liberals are concentrated in urban areas in and around cities.  Conservatives are spread out in rural areas.  However, a confounding factor is that ever since the Industrial Age began people have been slowly migrating to cities.  This is how liberals became concentrated in cities in the first place, but the population in general has now become concentrated in cities.  For this reason, cities are more ideologically diverse and so liberals have been forced to adapt to diversity which happens to be one of their talents anyhow. 

The other result is that rural areas have become less diverse and more extremely conservative.  This makes me wonder if conservative politics has become more radicalized partly because of this concentration.  Even the moderate conservatives would tend to move to the cities leaving behind the most extreme conservatives (those who are so resistant to change that they’d rather remain even in poverty-stricken areas).

Ignoring the possible genetic component, our political system by itself would magnify the concentration of extreme conservatives in the rural areas.  American democracy is representative.  In an attempt at fairness, sparsely populated rural areas get more representation per capita.  What this means is that extreme conservatives get more representation per capita.  The result of this is that public debate gets pushed to the right.

This is important as sometimes presidents get elected even though the majority of the population voted against them.  How does a president lead a country when he doesn’t represent a majority of the population?

Also, the media focuses on the extremes.  The rural areas represent the far right-wing.  The Republican politicians tend to be moderate conservatives, but the more radical conservatives of rural areas hold great sway.

 - – -

I don’t know what to make of this, but it’s very interesting.  It seems our entire political system is rather messed up.  I’m hoping by placing US politics in a larger context that I’ll be able to see beyond the polarizing tendency of public debate as it gets shown in the media.

Anyways, it goes without saying that all of this is largely speculation and hence tentative.  I am basing my speculations on actual data, but it is very complex.  Trying to disentangle the threads is difficult if not impossible.  The challenge of making sense of it is only slighly lessened by the fact that some great minds before me have written some insightful books.

MBTI: Functions vs Traits, Criticism & Correlation

I have an interest in psychology in general, but anyone who reads my blog knows that I have particular love for all things Jung (specifically Jungian typology as it was more fully developed with Myers-Briggs).  I came to MBTI through my studies of Jung and esoterica.  I was studying Tarot and noticed some correlations people had made between the card suits and Jungian functions.

However, like Jung, my interest in the esoteric is rooted in my desire for truth and so I’m not content to look at pretty diagrams of possible correlations.  So, I’ve studied the theoretical and scientific side of it well enough that I have a broad grasp of all the details and different viewpoints.

Anyone who has been on a type forum or checked out the variety of info available on the web quickly will realize that there is much debate and disagreement.

There is Myers-Briggs versus Kiersey, and then there are Berens’ Interaction Styles that attempt to bridge the two (also, Berens based her model on that of DISC which is something entirely else).  There is Beebe’s function roles which puts the functions in one order versus Thomson who puts them in another order.  Then there is the Russian field of Socionics which (mixing in some other theories) interprets Jung entirely different than Myers-Briggs (and some of the Socionics supporters claim that Kiersey fits their model the best).

The real interesting debate, though, is those who claim that the MBTI isn’t scientific and that Trait Theory (the favorite Trait Theory being FFM, aka the “Big Five”).  It’s this last area of disagreement that I was just now considering in some recent web-searches, but it’s something I’ve considered off and on these last couple of years.  I would gladly give up MBTI if it proved entirely or mostly false an unuseful, and so it’s an important to determine what is presently known.

There are several criticisms often stated:

  • Limited peer review research
  • Bimodal theory is disproven by trait research
  • Unreliability because of low incidence of test result repeatability
  • Neuroticism is excluded

Well, I don’t plan on answering all of those criticisms.  I’m not an expert and so my opinion isn’t all that important, but I am a very curios cat.  I will say that I doubt at present any absolute conclusions can be made.  These are worthy criticisms to consider, but further research is required.  Also, even if the MBTI is imperfect and requires improvement, that isn’t a reason to scrap it.  Research improves theories and so thinking of MBTI as a static belief system is far from helpful.  Furthermore, Jungian typology goes beyond just the MBTI (in more than a half century, numerous theories and tests have been created, and some of these are based on different premises such as not forcing bimodal results).

Here are some things that I found interesting which support various aspects of the MBTI:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Wikipedia)

What Did Isabel Do? Insights into the MBTI

A “Big Five” Scoring System for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Hierarchical Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Score Reliability Across Studies

Reliability of the MBTI® Form Q Assessment

Myers-Briggs and Four-Type Structure

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Mapping to Circumplex and Five-Factor Models

MBTI is NOT a pseudoscience. Check your facts, nay-sayers!

MBTI: INFPs & INTPs, Global Chatter & Theory

I was talking to someone online about INFPs and INTPs.  It reminded me of my days at which is a now defunct forum.  :(  *sigh*

It was nice to summarize my experience and understanding.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts here with some links to cached pages from the INFP forum.

 - – -



Your query amuses me. I understand. Life is more confusing than the strict personality types can portray. It took me a long time to make sense of it all.

I guess theoretically I could be a Thinking person. It doesn’t really matter to me how I’m labelled by others, but I’ll give you the reasons I identify with INFP.

I took many online tests and I always tested as INFP. I joined an INFP forum and it was utterly amazing how similar I was to many people there. I did meet some other INFPs who were more of an intellectual bent (afterall, INFPs have Ne just as much as INTPs). I finally took the official test (including the Step II) and I tested as INFP.

I’ve had to study theory to a great extent to understand my sense of being an INFP (by the way, many INFPs love theory especially as it relates to psychology as the MBTI was developed by an INFP; I had my best discussions on an INFP forum with a mix of INFPs and INFJs).

There are two ways of understanding an extremely intellectual INFP.

First, there is Beebe’s function roles. The auxiliary for INFPs is Ne which when strongly developed can lead to an intellectual bent. INFPs use Ne to deal with the world and so intellectuality is one way INFPs learn to adapt (and to protect their Fi). This especially makes sense when you consider that the INFP’s inferior (Te) is also (according to Beebe) their aspirational. INFPs, as long as they don’t become psychologically stunted, will always feel lacking in the Te department and will be drawn towards this ability (either in developing it or attacking it).

Apparently, I inherited my grandmother’s INFP-like genetics; but, as I was raised by two Te parents (one being a dominant Te intellectual), I had Te modelled for me. I aspire to prove myself to my dad through intellectuality, but in INFP fashion I see intellectuality as an ideal of truth (i.e., authenticity; there is no greater ideal for an INFP).

Secondly, there is MBTI Step II. I’d recommend you check out this test and maybe take it as it gives a much more nuanced view of type. Each function is broken down into 5 factors. Very few people fit perfectly into a specific type, but on any given factor it isn’t unusual to be strong. A factor that goes against the overall function description is called out-of-preference (OOPs).

There were only 2 OOPs in my test. I was strongly Questioning rather than Accomodating (which the latter is a factor of Feeling). And I was strongly Methodical rather than Emergent (which the latter is a factor of Perceiving). So, to be precise, I’m a Questioning, Methodical INFP: who is precise, challenging and wants discussion; and who is more intellectually organized.

However, there is one further aspect to consider. In the MBTI Step II results, it is also shown how your results compare to others who test as the same type. It’s perfectly normal for an INFP to test as strong in Questioning and Methodical. Interesting!

Furthermore, from a traits viewpoint, type theory doesn’t make any sense at all. Most people test in the middle rather than strongly to either side. Barcode (barcode9588) points this out in her later videos and as INTP she is drawn to the scientific precision of the traits model. However, as an INFP, I think the Jungian model captures a more subtly nuanced understanding that science as yet doesn’t know how to test for.

I hope that is helpful. If you want to study it more for yourself, I can give you some website and book recommendations.

I’d be curious to know what type you’ve tested as. Are you wondering about Thinking and Feeling in your own experience?

Nice to meet you,

 - – -
Do you ever visit online typology forums? I learned the most about typology in discussions with people of the same or similar type as it helped me to understand why differences exist. Maybe it’s an INFP thing, but I appreciated seeing how people wrote about their experience as it related to type descriptions and theory.
That relates to your first question. For an INFP, subjectivity and objectivity aren’t as easily separated… and it seems somehow different than it is for most INTPs.  But, in general, my observations are that a less mature INFP will have less sense of objectivity and a less mature INTP will have less sense of subjectivity. 
The difference is that both an INFP’s auxiliary Ne and their aspirational Te can attract them to objectivity (logic, rationality, etc.), but an INTP also has auxiliary Ne and so is more rooted in the abstract.  The INFP’s Fi balances the abstract Ne whereas the INTP’s Ti magnifies the abstract Ne.  Or that is how it seemed to me when dealing with INTPs on various forums including INTP Central.
It’s hard to describe the difference and I don’t know if you understand what I’m trying to communicate.  There are different aspects to this.
First, INFPs’ greater potential for mixing subjectivity and objectivity allows for them to be (when mature and confident in themselves) more aware on multiple levels. What I mean is that INFPs can divide or spread their focus on what to an INTP may seem like unrelated areas. 
A group of INFPs discussing a topic will be just as wide-ranging as a group of INTPs in terms of ideas.  But the INFP group won’t focus as exclusively on just the ideas.  INFPs love ideas and love abstract theory.  It’s just INFPs also love relationships, emotions, and subjective values; and INFPs are equally trusting of rational thought and non-rational hunches. On top of that, INFPs (along with INTPs) love imagination and considering possibilities, and so they’ll go where ever their curiosity leads them.
For INFPs, they simultaneously think and feel out a set of ideas and the people discussing those ideas. INFPs are very aware of the subjective and inter-subjective.  They can learn to be very good at reading people, and so they look at what is assumed/implied and not just what is overtly stated.  INFPs can be downright paranoid about the unstated. They want to know a person’s motivation… the person’s true, authentic self even. A discussion is not only an opportunity to learn new information or a new perspective but also an opportunity to observe human nature in action.
This is why INFPs love MBTI. It allows them to simultaneously explore the subjective and objective.  INTPs, on the other hand, love MBTI maybe just as much but they focus on theory and data to the extent that (especially in a debate) they can almost forget that psychology is about real people (i.e., non-abstract entities; although well-developed INTPs can be extremely perceptive of others; as it’s their aspirational, INTPs potentially could develop Fe more than INFPs).
Furthermore, there is also an element in how ideas are seen to be connected and how they’re communicated.
Thinking causes INTPs to be more competitive and it can give an aggressive (or even snarky) edge to their Ne (this is more how an INFP perceives it and not how another INTP might perceive it). Feeling causes INFPs to be more collaborative and it can give a more child-like imagination/playfulness to their Ne (also, it causes the INFP to become more emotionally invested in or even identified with the ideas/views being discussed or rather what is perceived as being behind those ideas/views). Of course, the situation can be entirely different when other function roles are in play such as being in the grip of the inferior (when INFPs can become very intellectually combative and dismissive; I recently wrote a blog post about Beebe supposedly considering INFPs to be the most judgmental type –
Also, INTPs can at times be extremely nitpicky. If an INTP isn’t relaxed, it’s hard to know what they actually think because when INTPs feel uptight or on the defensive they can become overly analytical and confrontationally contrarian.  Even when relaxed, INTPs often act less immediately friendly (i.e., easygoing, inviting, emotionally open; especially a group of INTPs where they can sometimes require a hazing period for new members).  INFPs, however, want to be included and want others to feel included (i.e., touchy-feely; on an INFP forum, smiley faces and *hugs* are very common and new members are made to feel welcome). They would rather laugh with you than at you. 
INFPs are less concerned about analytical details or even the exact logic (although they can learn to highly appreciate those things if it becomes central to their value system).  INFPs have a slightly more holistic way of thinking than even INTPs because for an INFP thinking includes the subjective.  Ideas are about abstract and objective thought, but ideas are grounded in human experience and profound feelings/values which aren’t always so easily communicated.  If the INFP never fully develops their intellect and never learns to integrate their Fi and Ne, then they might feel very divided and pulled in too many directions.  Some INFPs avoid this fate by simply not developing their intellects and dismissing objective thought by idealizing something else (love, peace, God, universal health care, etc.).
Of course, both types are similar in that they use Ne to perceive connections and patterns, to create models that express their internal understanding.  The main difference to understand is between Thinking and Feeling.
INTPs will appear more formalized in their thinking (more analytically careful, more logical, more concerned about precise definitions).  As such, INTPs focus on distinctions (which applies equally to people as to ideas… meaning that many INTPs probably feel more autonomous or even isolated than INFPs).  INTPs have more clear sense of what is intellectually correct or false, and so temd to be very intellectually opinionated.  I think this can lead to a hierarchical way of thinking we’re ideas are ranked according to their superiority (this may be even more true for NTJ types). 
INFPs, on the other hand, are more accepting of different ideas as simply being different intellectual perspectives.  They’re less attached to intellect in general (but specific intellectual ideas or theories may become entangled with their deeply held values) and so are more open to trying to understand another’s perspective (as long as the other is willing to do the same).  INFPs have a clear sense of right/wrong, but it just plays out differently on the intellectual level.  Instead of focusing on distinctions, INFPs want to know how ideas (like people) relate (because ideas also are experienced subjectively… not just thought but felt and contemplated upon, and must be translated into their personal Fi understanding).  As a model of thinking, relationship leads to a more lateral (rather than hierarchical) way of determining truth.  INFPs are emotionally snesitive and so they don’t enjoy heated debate as much as INTPs.  INFPs, instead, seek out agreement and common ground.  A correct idea is only as meaningful as it’s connection to authentic understanding (which includes the authentic truth of what it means to be human).

Did I end up answering your questions?  Much has been written on these topics in books, websites and forums… certainly, my view is just one of many.  I’m not sure if I’m in a position to conclusively answer your second question about the possiblity and commonality of rational/logical INFPs.  I have met many intellectual INFPs, but extremely intellectual INFPs do seem relatively uncommon as compared to INTPs.  According to theory, no INFP is primarily intellectual in the sense of the NT pairing.  A more practical possibility to consider, using trait theory, is whether there are people who not only are in the middle of Thinking and Feeling but who are born with or learn early on a proficiency in using both.  To tell you the truth, I haven’t looked extensively into trait theory and so I don’t know what researchers have concluded.
Anyways, all that I’ve written is based on my studies of the typology theories of others, but it also includes much of my own theorizing based on my own observations.  I can’t claim I’m absolutely correct in my conjectures.  It’s just what has made sense to me up to this point. 
If you’re interested in seeing the origins of my personal theorizing, I did manage to dredge up a few cached pages from a now defunct forum (
INFP subypes?
Page 2 (not found in Google cache)
Thinking Styles and You: Part II
Levels/Layers of Individuality
As I remember it, I started the “INFP subtypes?” discussion thread before I had heard of the MBTI Step II.  So, my theorizing in that thread probably can for the most part be explained by Step II’s more detailed factor analysis, but it was fun to look back at my developing thoughts on the matter.  I mentioned in that thread Dario Nardi’s subtypes as presented in his book Character and Personality Type.  Nardi claims he based his subtypes partly on his own observation of working with clients combined with some theoretical knowledge such as life themes, but I’ve never come to a conclusion about whether Nardi’s subtypes make sense to me (I will say I like the series of books that were made by Dario Nardi and Linda V. Berens which are some of the best introductions to type theory, and I’m very intrigued by Berens’ Interaction Styles).  I generally prefer to think in terms of Beebe’s role functions (see these articles: Evolving the eight-function model; and Type and Archetype - Part One and Part Two). 
There are a lot of other good resources out there: Personality Type by Lenore Thomson and The Lenore Thomson Exegesis Wiki, Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini, Facets of Type and Functions of Type by Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler, Building Blocks of Personality Type by Leona Haas Integrity in Depth by John Beebe, and Pathways to Integrity by Blake Burleson.  If you prefer learning by discussing with others, then I’d recommend the forum Typology Central which has a good mix of different types and is a very active community.  If you want an even more detailed understanding about personality, I’d research other models such as Trait Theory (Big Five, for example, has been correlated with MBTI) and Ernest Hartmann’s Boundary Types (there are some books and research papers on the topic, but here is a short introductory article, How “Thin” Are Your Boundaries?; also these types have also been correlated with MBTI and are similar with many other psychological categorizations).  The closest to an overview on my thoughts on personality types can be found in my post Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place.

Personality Theory and Research (videos)

I was just watching Youtube videos about MBTI and other personality systems.  I started watching videos of INFPs as I test as an INFP, but I won’t post any of those videos.  I just wanted to collect some of the interesting videos that weren’t about specific people talking about a specific type.

The person going by the username barcode9588 has a Youtube channel (In the Middle of Nowhere) filled with many videos about the theory of MBTI.  She says she is an INTP and I’m glad some INTP felt motivated enough to create these nice explanatory videos.

Vicky Jo also has a Youtube channel (Type Insights) also with a number of videos about MBTI.

The rest of the videos are a mix (including some more odd and humorous videos).

The Story of INFP

I just had the odd experience of coming across my own writing in another person’s blog.  This person was quoting something I wrote from a forum.  I can’t remember when I wrote it, but it probably was a couple years ago.

Ne (extraverted intuition) for INFPs

From an infp perspective (this is very good.. found myself laughing…and probably the most enlightening description that I found so far:):
-what is Ne
You could think of an INFP’s Ne as a loyal servant who walks the perimeter of the grounds carrying a lantern before it and with a guard dog by its side. Maybe the guard dog is Te. The Ne is the face that greets visitors at the door like a butler. Ne checks the gates and doors, and secures the windows. It ensures that its master isn’t disturbed in doing his important work in the study, and it dutifully brings the dominant what it needs whenever called.

I’ll just add that Ne the servant sometimes takes his job so seriously that he wanders off the grounds following the tracks of an animal that might be dangerous and picks up scat to bring back to the master, but Ne gets easily distracted and follows another track that crossed the original track. This tracking goes on and on, and the servants backpack gets overloaded with specimens…but miraculously in what seems like aimless wandering it ends up back at its master house. Tired, Ne goes back inside satisfied at having done a good job, gives the specimens to the master and goes to the Ne’s sleeping quarters.

Si is the master’s personal secretary who never leaves the house, and with Ne tired out Si takes over some of the servant’s duties. When someone knocks at the door, Si responds in fear and uncertainty double-bolting the door. Si runs up to tell the master that their is a horrible monster lurking outside, and they try to decide whether to sic the Te dog on the potential intruder. They both cower huddled together in the study frozen in inaction.

Ne wakes up, goes downstairs and answers the door. It turns out it was just a girl scout selling cookies. Ne politely buys some cookies and brings them up to the master’s study with two glasses of milk. The Fi master says he wasn’t afraid and that he was just about to take care of the problem himself.

Here is another description I gave differentiating between INFJs and INFPs (I’ll share the link as well even though it doesn’t lead anywhere):

Fi wants to simply clear a path through the woods, but wants the woods to remain as is. Fi wants the woods b/c the trees enclose the path. Fe sees the woods as material to build a structure w/ in which people can live. Fi wants to build also, but wants it to be unobtrusive. Also, Fi is mostly considering the individual and so it is just making its own way through the brush. Others may follow, but that is secondary. Also, I’d say Fi is making a path into the woods rather than out of the woods. Fe enjoys the woods too, but wants it as a nature preserve that can be used for human needs. Both find value in the woods.

Fe is the missionary that comes to the stone-age tribe of Fis hidden deep w/in the ancient trees. Fe invites Fi out into the open. Fi has never seen the horizon before and runs screaming back into his protective home. The Fi tells this tale of adventure to the excited tribe who listens in awe to his great feats and becomes a hero in the telling. Meanwhile, the Fe is thinking what a strange fellow.

All of that brings back some good memories.  The first place on the web that I spent time on was INFP Global Chatter.  It felt like my home on the web.  It was such an amazing feeling to meet a group of people who were so similar to me.  That is why it’s sad to see that the forum is presently down and nobody knows if it will ever be back up again.  I’m sad.  :(

Some INFPs from that forum have migrated to a new forum:

Mandalas of the Mind

I like diagrams.  There just fun.

I love the scientific side of psychology, but my love of science is only equalled by my love of esoterica.  I must admit that I became curious about MBTI through my studies of Tarot, and only later researched the science of it.  I’ve always sought the connections of various areas of human knowledge such as through Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics.  However, no amount of abstract theorizing can beat out an aesthetically pleasing diagram, a mandala of the intellect.  A mandala doesn’t objectively prove anything in and of itself, but it does give insight into higher truths of the human mind and possibly of reality itself.





Political Identity, Myers-Briggs, Spiral Dynamics

I’ve written off and on about the relationship between politics and personality.  It seems obvious to me that there are two distinct ways of viewing the world… or actually there are many distinct ways but I tend to simplify it into two.  Myers-Briggs is the best single system to understand the nuances.  I’ll limit this discussion to the four functions: the Perceiving functions of iNtuion (N) and Sensation (S); and the Judging functions of Thinking (T) and Feeling (F).   The following is me speculating according to my present understand which is incomplete and everchanging (I’m an INFP afterall).

(I’m going to assume anyone reading this already has a basic knowledge of the subject.  If you don’t have a basic knowledge and are interested to learn more, it’s easy to find numerous summaries through search engines or by going to Wikipedia.  Or else you could look at my old posts… there is a decent summary of personality types that can be found on my About page and I’ve also written about Spiral Dynamics many times before.)

I’ve read of one argument that points out a cultural difference.  Asian culture tends to emphasize the Perceiving functions and Western culture tends to emphasize the Judging functions.  Basically, what this means is that we Westerners prefer clear conclusions and results.

There is an easy way I’ve come to understand the difference between Thinking and Feeling (but keep in mind I’m somewhat biasing my interpretation according to ST  and NF).  Thinking is about separating, analyzing, seeing the parts… whether of things, ideas or people.  Feeling is about connecting, relating, seeing how the parts fit together.  Thinkers believe people should serve principles.  Feelers believe values should serve people.  The difference is who or what gets the blame.

A simple example is that I’ve heard a conservative say that abstinence should be taught in schools even if it was shown to be ineffective towards preventing pregnancies and STDs.  The principle was important and we must strive towards (and enforce this striving upon others) even when we fail.  It’s because we fail that we need to enforce principles ever more strongly.

I just explained the difference between iNtuition and Sensation in the concluding comments of my previous post (My Response to the News):

Conservatives ‘fear’ change because they tend to want the world to stay the same or else to return to some idyllic past.  Conservatives are interested in the concrete reality of the present which is built on a sense of continuity with the past.  They’re more comfortable with what is familiar.

Liberals ‘hope’ for change because they tend to want improvement and progress.  Liberals are interested in imagined possibilities that even though not entirely real in the present have the potential to be real in the future.  They’re more open to new experiences.

These distinctions are important, but they’re hard to clarify in terms of everyday reality.  I think that our culture is shifting from a Judging mentality to that of Perceiving.  Whether or not that is the case, it seems difficult to make a clear distinction between the functions.  According to American politics, iNtuition and Feeling have become identified with eachother and likewise with Sensation and Thinking.  In the past, the American ideal was the ESTJ, the man of power and action, the authority figure who takes control and gets things done.  But this is shifting… towards what it isn’t clear.

There is a mix of issues that is hard to distinguish.

Certain social situations place greater value on particular personality traits.  In the patriarchal agrarian society of early America, a practical-minded ESTJ had a great advantage.  With time, however, we as a culture have come to value the abstract and imaginative abilities of iNtuitives.  The NF idealist has particularly come into its own in 20th century America with the growing emphasis on civil rights and with the renewed sense of democracy after WWII.  The individual who can take care of himself is less useful in the (post-)modern complex world.

Another confusing factor is that conservative Sensors will naturally idealize what is or what was no matter the specific social context.  Sensors idealize the past agrarian culture of small town America partly for the simple fact that it’s where our culture came from.  But put a Sensor in Russia and they very well might idealize Stalinism.

It’s just a matter of how the person perceives the world.  The Sensor perceives the concrete which is grounded in what is known and familiar.  The iNtuitive looks past what is and perceives what is becoming or what is possible.  They have a hard time simply accepting things just the way they are.  So what it worked in the past.  The present isn’t the past and we must change as all of the world is always changing.  The Sensor would agree the world is changing but would see this as a negative, something to be resisted.  The big picture and wild dreams of the iNtuitive mean nothing to the Sensor.  What can realistically be done right here and now?  We can’t ignore the past, but must work with the way things are.  Humans don’t fundamentally change.  What worked in the past will still work or can be adapted to present circumstances.

Society develops and the 21st century will be different than the 20th century.  The Sensors of the 21st century will idealize the 20th century and the iNtuitives will be looking further into future possibilities.  The Sensors are the brakes and the iNtuitives are the gas, and so history lurches as the two fight for control.

To really understand why conservatives and liberals come to their respective values, one would have to look at social development models.  Spiral Dynamics is a good example.  Conservatives are less open to further development than iNtuitives or else they’d rather have development happen more slowly.

A large part of the population is still in the Blue meme which emphasizes social order and hierarchical authority.  The Blue meme represents our recent collective past.  It’s the foundation the modern world is built upon.  Liberals often forget this and underestimate the power of influence it still has on society.  Obama has fallen into the same liberal intellectual trap that many Democrats have fallen into.  Most people don’t value the intellect over everything else.  The ideals of objectivity, rationality, and intellectual fairness are still fairly new to the human species.  Most modern people have some intellectual ability, but most people aren’t primarily influenced by intellectual arguments no matter how logical and factual (this is why experts tend to make bad debaters).  Obama needs to touch upon the emotional core of the argument or else fail.

Liberals forget that emotion and intellect need not be opposed.  In Myers-Briggs, it’s taught that we should strive to accept our inevitable differences all the while striving to bridge the divide.  Similarly, if one wants to convince the public of a particular change, then it’s best to ground it in the past… which interestingly is what Obama is now trying to do by switching to a moral stance.

Obama Calls Health Plan a ‘Moral Obligation’

“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”

Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place

In some recent posts, I’ve discussed personality types and other psychological factors that distinguish one person from another.

Fox and Hedgehog, Apollo and Dionysus

Horror and Typology

The Paranormal and Psychology

This subject is an interest of mine that goes back many years and my interest in psychology in general goes back even further.  I’ve always sought explanations for human experience and psychology is one of the best fields to look for helpful data and theory.  Psychology is also a good place to find connections between other fields: narratology and folklore studies, paranormal, religion, politics, etc.  I really became fascinated with psychology through Jungian typology and traits theory which connects to tons of fascinating research spanning the past century (and much from the last half century is cross-cultural research using large sample sizes).  Correlations and meta-analysis of varied research has offered clearer insight into many elusive factors of the human psyche and socio-cultural behavior. 

Psychology became even more interesting for me when I read George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal in which the author discusses experience and hermeneutics at the edge of mainstream science.  Along with discussing the trickster archetype, he details the relevance of Hartmann’s boundary types.  Upon further research, I learned that research on boundary types correlates with other research on personality types and traits, and of course Jung’s theory of personality types connects with his theory on archetypes.  Even further research has helped me to understand how central psychology is to the UFO field and paranormal in general.  Basically, this was an area that promised many further connections.

I’ve been recently focused on the connections between genre fiction (especially SF and Horror), philosophy (especially Pessimism), religion (especially Gnosticism) and the paranormal (especially UFO experiences).  There isn’t any grand reason my mind is focused on all of these subjects (besides general curiosity in all things weird and countercultural), but it does all fit together (more or less, in my mind that is).  To be specific, my friend has been reading a lot of Thomas Ligotti and other horror writers.  This has caused me to read more horror (and dark weird) fiction and discuss it with my friend… which has led me to read Ligotti’s philosophizing and the blog writing by related people (Quentin S. Crisp and Matt Cardin).  Because of Gnosticism and other reasons, Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs have been on my mind and the latter happened to be a favorite writer of Ligotti. 

 As you see, one thing leads to another and I at times can get obsessive in following certain leads.  My brain was being swamped by connections and so I wrote a post about it.

Just Some Related Ideas and Writers

I had initially noted in earlier posts some similarities and differences between William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick and between them and Thomas Ligotti.

PKD, ACIM, and Burroughs

Burroughs, PKD, and Ligotti

My interest in such things is very personal in many ways, but I think the socio-political angle is at least as interesting.  Psychological understanding is probably needed in poltical discussions more than anywhere simply for the reason that politics seems to attract many people who lack subtle understanding (if any at all) of the human mind and behavior.  I wrote about this in a post a while back.

Morality, Politics, and Psychology

In looking into psychological research in context of “abnormal” experiences, I came across one particularly interesting piece of data (which I believe can be found somewhere in one of the numerous links in my post The Paranormal and Psychology).  Someone mentioned that UFO experiences are more common along the coasts of the US than in the midwest.  I haven’t seen this data, but I have seen data that shows liberals are more concentrated on the coasts and in highly populated areas (i.e., urban areas) and that shows conservatives are more concentrated in the interior and in lowly populated areas (i.e., rural areas).  So, it would be logical that UFO experience would correlate with liberal politics.  Research has shown that liberals and conservatives tend to have different personalities.  One of the major factors is that liberals tend to have more “openness to experience” (a particular trait that has been well researched).  This Openness also correlates to MBTI’s (Jungian typology’s) Intuition function and Hartmann’s thin boundary types (amongst other correlations). 

Anyways, it’s not simply a matter of different ideological persuasions, but psychological tendencies that we often are born with (and which tend to remain stable throughout our lives).  Liberal types aren’t simply open to believing in the weird.  They’re actually open to experiencing them.  A liberal believes in the paranormal because they’ve experienced it, and the conservative disbelieves because they’re experiences don’t include the paranormal.  However, even if a conservative did have a paranormal experience, they’d be more likely to try to explain it away or make it conform to their cultural expectations (such as fitting it into the doctrine of the religion they belong to).  Because of psychological and other factors, I truly doubt that people hold their viewpoints for primarily rational reasons, but I have no doubt that humans are very talented at rationalizing.  Another thought I had was that people’s beliefs aren’t exactly disconnected from reality.  It’s just they’re limited to one perspective on reality.  The conservative and the liberal each explains in a perfectly valid way the data of their experience.  The problem is that it only applies to their own narrow experience, but from an evolutionary point of view this may be no problem at all.  Both views are helpful or maybe even necessary for the stability of society.  Either side is wrong in claiming their beliefs are absolutely true.  Nonetheless, the conservative belief about human behavior applies to conservative humans and ditto for liberal beliefs. 

However, accepting each as a valid viewpoint would be criticized as pluralism by many conservatives (in particular moral conservatives).  Does this mean that a liberal has a better chance of understanding the conservative position than the other way around?  Maybe… depending on what we’re focusing on.  This could be explained that we aren’t just dealing with types here, but also social development such as understood by spiral dynamics.  Liberal as a personality trait wouldn’t be helpful in understanding conservativism, but liberal pluralism as a stage of development could potentially give someone greater perspective to understand previous stages of development (which is where the majority of the population is still at).  I’m less interested in the latter for this post.  I just wanted to point it out because this a complex subject with many factors and I’d rather not make simplistic judgments.

It is important to point out that these distinctions aren’t absolute.  The average person isn’t at the extreme opposite ends, and our pscyological attitude can change depending on situation.  Even so, most people tend to spend most of their time in one mindset or another.  Furthermore, people tend to seek out others similar to them and careers that are conducive to their thinking style.  A liberal-leaning person living in a rural area is more likely to move to an urban area and so this is how genetics become concentrated.  Liberals will tend to marry liberals and tend to have liberal kids, and the same for conservatives.  This wasn’t possible in the past because people didn’t move as much, but modern society has created a situation where human genetics may be diverging into two type of people.  This reminds me of a species of rodent (or something like that) that I saw on a nature show once.  There were two genetically distinct variations of males.  One set of males mated for life with a female, but the females weren’t so loyal in their affections.  The other set of males would have sex with any female and the females of this species were willing (when their spouses were otherwise distracted).  The children of the loyal males grew up to be loyal and the opposite for the other type.  I’ve always suspected this might be the case for human males as well, but even if not the general principle might apply to humans in other ways.

It can’t be denied that humans do like trying to divide eachother up into categories.  I was reading an article titled “Burrough-sian Gnosticism In His Own Words” by Sven Davisson which can be found in the journal The Gnostic.  I was already familiar with Burrough’s ideas along these lines.  He considered himself a Manichaean and it was from this that he founded his own typology of people: the Johnsons and the Shits.  The Johnson Family was a designation that came from turn-of-the-century hobo culture.  A Johnson was someone who was a basically good and trustworthy person, someone who would help when such was needed but otherwise would mind his own business.  On the other hand (from the article): “A shit  is one who is obsessively sure of his own position at the cost of all other vantages.”  Upon reading that, I immediate thought that it sounded like an extreme version of a hedgehog type of person (who knows one big thing)… which is approximately an MBTI type with Sensation function (most notably represented by Kiersey’s SJ temperament), a thick boundary type, someone low on the trait ‘openness to experience’.  I was also reminded of a quote (by someone other than Burroughs) about a missionary (to paraphrase): “You could always tell the people she helped by the hunted look on their faces.”  My guess is that Burroughs was making an extreme distinction that could otherwise be stated with more psychological subtlety.  Taking as an extreme, it’s hard to disagree with Burroughs about the Shits of the world, but I’m sure he was intelligent enough to realize that not everyone exists at the extremes.

I also think the distinction between hedgehogs and foxes relates to the attitudes of universalism and pluralism.  I was thinking about  this latter category because of my reading another article in the journal The Gnostic.  The article is “Magic and Gnosticism” by  Will Parker.  I won’t say much about it right now as I haven’t finished the article yet, but I’ll point out that I’m thinking about his ideas in terms of George P. Hansen’s discussion of Max Weber’s theory of the process of increasing rationalization in Western society.  I plan on blogging more about this where I’ll also bring in how certain personality types are most likely to gain positions of power in certain types of organizations.

Horror and Typology

This post will just be a jotting down of connections.  I ordered some books recently and they came in the mail today.  New books mean new thoughts.  Yeah!

Okay.  Two of the books are Metaphysical Horrorby Leszek Kolakowski and The Thomas Ligotti Readeredited by Darrell Schweitzer.  They’re more or less related in their respecitve subjective matters.

Kolakowski writes about the problems of philosophy and the question of meaning.  Many philosophers have come to the conclusion that philosophy is at a dead-end.  Kolakowski calls this anti-philosophy.  It seems to me that the Pessimistic philosophy of Zappfe and Ligotti could be categorized as anti-philosophy.  So, Kolakowski’s analysis and response would be helpful in seeing Pessimism in the larger context of the development of Western thinking.  He writes about Descartes and horror which reminded me of Cartesian anxiety, but I don’t think he uses that specific terminology.  I first heard of Cartesian anxiety in discussions about the relationship of enactivism and integral theory (which are theories that speculate about the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity).  Kolakowski also writes about the phenomenologists (i.e., Husserl and Merleau-Ponty) who tried to respond to Descartes’ mind-body dualism.  Phenomenology was a major influence on enactivism and is of interest to integral theorists.  Also, in the volume of the Collapse journal that published Ligotti, there was an essay related to these ideas (“On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl” by Graham Harman)… and Ligotti considers Lovecraft to be one of his most important influences.

The Thomas Ligotti Readerhas an essay by Ligotti: “The Dark Beauty of Unheard Horrors”.  In it, Ligotti references Lovecraft quite a bit and he uses a specific quote from Lovecraft that I’ve seen in a blog by Matt Cardin (Autumn Longing: H.P. Lovecraft).  This isn’t surprising as Cardin is a fan of Ligotti’s writing and he even has several essays in the Ligotti Reader.  Both Ligotti’s essay and Cardin’s blog cover a similar set of ideas.  This dark aesthetic appreciation of the world can be put into the context of phenomenology and enactivism (autumn longing is an experience that I’m sure many phenomenologists and enactivists would understand).  In the essay directly after Ligotti’s, Cardin discusses the topic of liminality in terms of Ligotti’s fiction.  The liminal is another concept that deals with the meeting of and mixing of categories such as subjectivity and objectivity and also the personal and the collective.

One further thought involves something Ligotti brings up in his essay.  He describes two tendencies in horror writing… that of making horror concretely specific and that of making horror emotionally evocative.  This relates to Ligotti’s desire to present the horrific directly which he acknowledges as ultimately being impossible.  He, in a sense, wants to decontextualize the experience of horror.  A horror that has no form is all the more horrific, but a horror story by its very nature needs form.  In the essay, he recognizes that “Of course, mystery actually requires a measure of the concrete if it is to be perceived at all: otherwise is only a void, the void.”  This sense of a hard to grasp truth that must be approached subtly also reminds me of his style in writing about Pessimism in the Collapse journal. 

There is a sense I get from Ligotti’s non-fiction writing (and his writing in general) that feels like he is circling around some singular insight.  Along with his desire to free this insight from the constraints of the concrete, what it makes me think of is my experience of dealing with a particular person who was a very good example of dominant Introverted Intuition (Jungian typology).  I use Extraverted Intuition (Ne) much more and there is a clear difference to the two styles of thinking.  When Extraverted, Intuition thinking style goes off in a million directions sometimes simultaneously.  It scatters and looks for connections, for context.  When Introverted, it’s the complete opposite.  It focuses in such an inward fashion that it attempts to leave the concrete entirely and so it’s hard to communicate.  The Introverted Intuition type (Ni) has a very convoluted communication style that is plodding and meandering, but there is a core insight around which it all revolves.  Going by Ligotti’s fiction and non-fiction and his interviews, that is the way his thinking seems to me (according to my Ne-biased view). 

Also, there is the aspect of pessimism in Ligotti’s writing (by which I’m not referring specifically to his ideas about philosophical Pessimism).  In that Introverted Intuition causes a desire for freedom from context, there can be a conflict with exterior reality, the concrete world (Extraverted Sensation).  Ligotti’s story “The Shadow, The Darkness” seems to be an expression of what I’m sensing.  The way Ligotti describes Grossvogel’stransformation feels like a dominant Ni type’s experience of an eruption of inferior Se (or something like that… anyways, not the way a dominant Se type would experience it).   Ne types are often just as detached from the concrete, but their abstract and imaginative thinking is focused outward.  The expansive nature of Ne can lend a quality of optimism as there is a sense of infinite possibilities (although this would also include negative possibilities as well).  For example, I’m a very depressed person with Ne (althought it’s secondary/auxiliary rather than dominant).  The expansiveness of Ne counteracts my depression all the while the abstractness of Ne exacerbates it, but no matter how dark my thinking when I consider possibilities I feel inspired and even a bit hopeful.  Ligotti’s thinking challenges me and I meet that challenge by seeking to give his ideas a larger context.

I could go on with my thoughts, but those are the basic ideas rumbling around in my brains.

Fox and Hedgehog, Apollo and Dionysus

I’ve been thinking about the difference between types of thinkers which is a continuation of my analysis from the post prior to this one.

 Just Some Related Ideas and Writers


Systematizers and Non-Systematizers

One distinction I made was between those who tend towards the systematic and those who don’t. 

The systematizersmay be wide-ranging in their interests or not, but either way they have a focused mentality.  Even if wide-ranging in their interests, they’ll still try to connect everything not just as a set of relationships but in the context of a specific theory or model, a single idea or belief.  They may expand outwards, but the core of their thinking remains solid and everything new is judged in terms of it.  This kind of intelligence can seem clever in that it’s complex (or simplistic depending on your perspective) to organize so much data into a single view, but it also can have a practical side to it as it’s part of a desire to bring order. 

Quite differently, the non-systematizer has a methodology that would appear (at least from the outside) as random.  They may end up with quite a variety of things and yet the only clear connection between them all is simply the person them-self.  The non-systematizer’s methodology is more personal and intuitive which means it might not make much sense or seem worthy to anyone else.  Still, they may make new discoveries that the more methodical person would never come across.  Non-systematizers are the artists who lives in creative chaos, and so the ups and downs of their lives may tend to be magnified.  The unexpected good can come from this attitude of faith, but a lack of planning can lead to immense troubles.  It’s not that they can’t see the big picture, but rather they see too big of a picture without the ability or desire to focus in.  They see so many possibilities (and they don’t want to discount any of them) that it’s hard for them to make judgments of probability.  They’re reluctant to consider what the systematizer might point out as inevitable consequences.

The systematizer is more conservative, more careful.  They don’t just trust fate, but would rather take control of events.  The systematizer is a bit of a pessimist.  In being systematic, they make clear judgments about what does and doesn’t belong, and if it belongs they want to know precisely where it should be situated.  This is the conservative mindset that believes if things are left to their own accord bad things will happen.  The conservative prizes order and furthermore believes that order must be continually reinforced. 

The non-systematizer is more liberal.  Their outwardly haphazard ways may seem irresponsible to the conservative systematizer.  However, the non-systematizer has something of a faith that is grounded in an intuitive insight.  Such a person makes up for a lack of organizational thinking with an intuitive grasp of what matters.  They could be thought of as more individualistic and idiosyncratic simply for the reason that their vision of life is hard to articulate. 

The liberal non-systematizer believes there is something inherently good to people and if not disturbed this goodness will naturally manifest.  The conservative systematizer, on the other hand, worries about all of the ways things can go wrong.  It’s hard to surprise them because they see the consequence of actions from a mile away (or at least think they do).  While systematizers are aware of boundaries even when they cross them, the non-systematizer might simply not notice or else not care.  The systematizer might be inclined to say that the non-systematizer is oblivious in not noticing the seemingly obvious, but the non-systematizer might simply feel that they’re focused on what is important at the moment.  They follow what inspires them, what excites them.  This may not seem responsible, but it does have its practical benefits in that the non-systematizer might notice specific details that the systematizer would miss by looking at the “big picture”.  Even though the systematizer may think of themselves as a realist, they may actually be taking in less data from the real world.  The apparently irrelevant that the non-systematizer wastes their time on might turn out to be relevant afterall.

Foxes and Hedgehogs

This distinction I’m making is somewhat related to the fragment of writing by Archilochus:

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

Isaiah Berlin used this quote to divide people between two kinds of thinkers.  It’s sort of useful.  The fox survives by its wits and by ranging widely.  So, the fox can’t just focus on one thing but must apply its intelligence to a broad array of sensory detail.  The hedgehog is a simpler creature having one good talent.  It doesn’t need to worry too much about the larger world because it has its spines to protect it.  So, the hedgehog can focus narrowly. 

Approximately, the hedgehog is the same as my systematizer and the fox is the same as my non-systematizer.  The only difference would be that I believe Berlin was arguing that foxes are more practical and can make more realistic judgments for the very reason they’re not filtering the world through a single idea or theory.  This may sometimes be true.  Someone too attached to a particular theory will be obviously biased, but on the other hand someone who entirely lacks theoretical knowledge won’t have the context to make sense of the data.  Even though I see hedgehogs as being more practical in terms of the basics of life, the fox might have an easier ability to learn and integrate some of the hedgehog’s talent than the other way around.  The foxes talent is mental flexibility and so this would be helpful in learning abilities outside of one’s natural talent.  So, potentially a fox could make a better expert in that they could have a broader range of tools.  Although, it seems reasonable that some hedgehog types might gain some fox abilities such as if they were raised by a fox type.

Jung’s Typology and Nietzsche’s Dionysian and Apollonian

So far, I’ve only given two broad generalized types.  I feel the need to use the more defined ideas of Jung’s typology to clarify my sense of these categories.

The two functions that get the most attention in our society are those of Thinking and Feeling(maybe for the reason that they most closely associate with gender differences).  These are the Judging functions and they roughly equate with the conservative and liberal attitudes.  Thinkers (I’m specifically focusing on the combination of Thinking and Judging which translates as Extraverted Thinking) idealize principles and judge by principles.  Feelers (specifically, Feeling Perceiving; Introverted Feeling) idealize values and judge by values.  Thinking is about objective order.  Ideas and people need to be ranked.  Something is socially acceptable or not and each thing must be subordinate to its proper place.  People should first consider their social role and its attendant responsibilities.  Feelers see things less clearly as the significance of values can only be determined according to each specific situation.  A simple way to think about this is that a Thinker believes people should serve principles and a Feeler believes values should serve people.  In terms of thinking styles, its a question of whether ideas connect people or people connect ideas.  Also, it relates to a difference between a focus on the objective versus a focus on the subjective (which would include the inter-subjective).

These two types can also be thought of in terms of the Jungian functions Sensation and Intuition.  These originated from Jung’s study of Nietzche’s understanding about the Dionysian and the Apollonian.  Jung’s theorizing seemed to at least initially to conflate Sensation and Intuition with Extroversion and Introversion.  For Jung, Intuition had an inner quality that particularly connected it to the unconscious.  Others have pointed out how our society idealizes the ESTJ type (Extroversion Sensation Thinking Judging) and particularly identifies this as a masculine ideal.  As such, the systematizing hedgehog seems more or less correlated with the ESTJ type and the non-systematizing fox with the INFP type (Introverted iNtuition Feeling Perceiving).  By the way, the distinction between Judging types and Perceiving types doesn’t originate from Jung.  The J/P distinction comes from MBTI and I sense that this particular distinction might fit best the categories of systematizing hedgehog and non-systematizing fox.  (For my purposes, I’ve decided to emphasize the connection between all of these categories and so I’m using the ESTJ and INFP types as generalizations to portray a larger trend within our society, but these are only 2 of the 16 MBTI types.)

Going by Intuition (in particular the Extraverted Intuition of the INFP), the fox is ruled by an expansive curiosity.  Going by Intuition and Feeling, the fox has a strong aesthetic sense (represented by the fox’s playfulness).  This means the fox sees value beyond what is rationally useful and rationally explainable.  To return to Nietzsche’s division, Apollo isn’t about rational order but rather aesthetic order: beauty and balance.  The Dionysian is pure sensual experience but not aesthetic appreciation.  The Dionysian sensuality is embodied and so active rather than contemplative.  On the other hand, the Dionysian is also the tragic because it’s so clearly grounded in the concrete world of limitation and death.  Dionysus is the god of masks, but he isn’t separate from those masks.  Dionysus is precisely what he presents himself to be and nothing more.  Apollo, however, points beyond the obvious. 

In terms of Jung’s typology, it’s useful to clarify rationality.  Intuition is about abstractions and this connects with the common notion of Apollo as being the god of rationality.  It’s true that Intuition is about the world of ideas, but it’s also the world of imagination.  Rationality, in a more objective sense, is clearly a product of Sensation which is concerned with concrete details and facts.  A Sensation type tends towards literalism in that something is what appears to be.  Sensation is the rationality of the typical research scientist.  They think the data should speak for itself, but of course hidden in this attitude are certain conservative assumptions about the data and the world in general.  This lack of subtlety and nuance is what leads to the tragic.  A hero is tragic when they can’t see outside of their situation.  This is the connection between the scientist obsessed with studies of causation and the tragic hero who is trapped in a world of fatalistic causation.  This is the vision of Noir in particular.  The Apollonian, from a very different perspective, sees the forces or ideas that are greater than them, but these greater things help to transcend the mind beyond the predetermining causes of matter and society.  As such, it’s less of an issue of resignation or struggle.  Rather, it’s an attitude of possibility.  (By the way, I’d say that Neo-Noir includes examples of these two attitudes of utter nihilism and hopeful quest which is an aspect that; Thomas S. Hibbs writes about this.)  Then again, maybe the Dionysian only seems tragic from the perspective of Apollonian.  From the perspective of the Dionysian, it’s simply reality.

I sense this is part of the context of my thinking about how Freud and Jung relate to pessimism and optimism, but I’m not sure exactly how.  Maybe the Dionysian concrete world is only tragic when isolated from the Apollonian, when the apparent is taken literally.  The Dionysian should be taken at face value, but Dionysus’ face value is a mask that must be looked through (by putting it on).  Maybe the Freudian tendency to pathologize is to make a literalistic judgment instead of imaginally entering the experience itself.  The Jungian view in some ways seems Apollonian in that it looks beyond but maybe the only way one can look beyond is by looking within.  I’m thinking that Apollo and Dionysus are two sides to the same thing, but you can only see the one you’re not inhabiting.  The Dionysian seems tragic from the view of the Apollonian, but to put on the mask of Dionysus one can then see the beauty of the Apollonian.  As Kafka said, maybe the only suffering we can avoid is our own resistance to suffering. 

In my own world of ideas, Ken Wilber and Carl Jung personify the hedgehog and the fox.  Both have studied widely, but the former systematizes according to very clear models and theories whereas the latter spent decades slowly spiralling around ideas that interested him.  Even as Wilber’s ideas evolved, his central conception remained unchanged and his new thinking merely accreted to it.  Wilber methodically built upon what he perceived as solid ground.  Quite differently, Jung’s ideas often seemed ungrounded and yet somehow still very tangible.  Jung was very much interested in helping people (and it could be easily argued that he has helped more people than Wilber), but much of his philosophizing had no direct practical value (such as his writing a book about UFOs).  Related to the Freudian and Jungian distinction, I’ve read some critics who have argued Wilber pathologizes the types of experiences Jung focused on.  Wilber’s over-arching model is based on his desire for the transcendent.  Freud wasn’t interested in the transcendent, but maybe what Wilber and Freud share is a resistance to entering the depths.  To enter the depths is risky as Dionysus can be a violent god, but going by the stories of Dionysus it might be even riskier to resist his power.

In case anyone is curious to study Jungian typology further, there are a few books that are helpful in elucidating types in terms of ways of viewing the world.  Most pertinent might be Lenore Thomson’s Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual (trust me, it’s much better than it’s title conveys) and there is also a very useful site about her work (The Lenore Thomson Exegesis Wiki), but three others that I’d recommend are Compass of the Soulby John L. Giannini, Integrity in Depth by John Beebe, and Pathways to Integrity by Blake Burleson.  These books explore Jung’s ideas about personality beyond simply categorizing people as types.  There are also several books about the ideas of Jung and Nietzsche which would discuss the Apollonian and Dionysian.  The book I have on the subject is Nietzsche and Jungby Lucy Huskinson, but another one that might be good is The Dionysian Self by Paul Bishop and there are at least a couple of books about Jung’s seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

Prodigal Son, Boundaries, and Trickster

Let me add another set of thoughts.  

I have a friend who is attracted to the story of the prodigal son and so I was wondering if it works as another example of what I’m trying to articulate.  In terms of that story, maybe the prodigal son would be the fox and maybe the son who stays home would be the hedgehog.  This relates to boundaries for the prodigal son leaves the boundary of home.  He must leave in order to return changed.  The home is often a symbol of self-identity, of consciousness and ego.  To leave that behind is to enter the unknown, the unconscious.  And in the process he lost everything he had been given.  But the story seems to imply that he also gained something by his experience.  It seems to me that this isn’t a story about the journey everyone has to take but rather about the journey of a certain kind of person. 

It’s similar to the fairytales about the three sons who each individually try to accomplish some deed.  The two older brothers try first.  They have specific talents and plans, but they fail.  The last to try is the youngest son who isn’t strong, brave or smart, but he succeeds.  The point apparently is that he succeeds because of his openminded attitude towards life and other people.  As such, he seems more like a fox.

There are many ideas that relate to boundaries.  Hartmann’s boundary types correlate with Jungian typology to an extent.  People tend towards thick or thin boundaries which is a basic element to how people relate to the world.  George P. Hansen, in analyzing the paranormal, writes about these boundary types and connects it with the Trickster archetype(Keith Thompson also writes about the Trickster and boundaries in terms of the paranormal and further uses the difference between allegory and literalism).  The Trickster is involved with both the creation and the breaking of boundaries.  The Trickster is somewhat of a tragic figure at times and seems more connected to Dionysus than Apollo, but in certain ways he is more in between them (and in between any sets of opposites).  The Trickster is something like Adam in that in some stories he brings death into the world.  The Savior, on the other hand, is the Second Adam in that he transcends death (although, Saviors tend to have Trickster qualities as well).  In the book Christ In Egypt, Murdock writes about the Christian conception of the savior as it relates to Egyptian mythology.  Horus is the corollary to Christ and the name Horus relates to the term horos which means boundary.  The boundary has much significance in religion and in ritual.  Boundaries create liminal spaces and also create order in the world.

Some Previous Thoughts

This is an excerpt from an old blog post:

A recent discovery of mine is research showing that the MBTI correlates with Ernest Hartmann’s boundary types.  Let me go into more detail here because this is an important part of my viewpoint.  There are four components to the MBTI: Introversion vs Extraversion (E/I), Sensation vs Intuition (S/N), Thinking vs Feeling (T/F), Judging vs Perceiving (J/P).

(1) Introversion and Extroversion seem to have the least correlation to boundary types, but there were some aspects to it that seemed to fit.  Introverts tend to have more of an ability to focus intensely and for long periods of time, and they tend to be more territorial about personal space.  Extraverts, on the other hand, are drawn outwards and so are more easily distracted by their environment.  Here is a relevant quote from Hartmann’s book Dreams and Nightmares:

“Those who have taken psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, report that under the drug’s influence they have thinner boundaries in a number of senses.  On the other hand, taking stimulants such as amphetamines, or for some people, antidepressants, definitely produces a thickening of boundaries.  In the most extreme case, people given large doses of amphetamines first become intensely focused; they are the opposite of distractible, keeping their thoughts entire on one line of thought.”

(2) Sensation and Intuition have the highest correlation to boundary types according to the studies.  Simply put, you can think of the difference here being between those who tend towards the concrete and those who tend towards the abstract, but there are many other dimensions to it.  Another interesting aspect is that Sensors tend to be more conservative basing their decisions on past experience, whereas Intuitives are more innovative because they can more easily see future possibilities.  Obviously, Sensors (and in particular the SJ temperament) are the practical sort of person who sees reality for what it is (based on what it was).  Some Intuitives, on the other hand, may seem like daydreamers, but Intuives also tend to be the innovators.

The concrete preference of Sensors is what makes them thick boundary types.  Things are clearly what they are and each thing is clearly distinct from other things.  Sensors have commonsense.  The abstract preference of Intuitives lends them to thin boundaries.  Distinctions are more blurred.  Because they can more easily shift distinctions, they can see new relationships between things.

In this symposium, I’ve definitely noticed the contrast between the practical-minded realists and those drawn to more theoretical understandings and far-reaching (or over-reaching if you prefer) possibilities.  As I believe, it’s not a matter of either style being more correct.  To speak from a green vmeme perspective, it takes all types.

(3) Thinking and Feeling are slightly less correlated to boundary types, but there are some important connections.  Thinking is about principles and rules with a focus on autonomy.  Feeling is about values and morality with a focus on relationships.

There is a fairly strong split with most Thinking types being male and most Feeling types being female.  This same division comes up with boundary types.  Thick boundary types tend to be male and thin boundary types tend to be female.  To understand this archetypally, this relates to the animus and the anima.  To understand this in the real world, this relates to the conflict between Integralists and New Agers.  It has been pointed by others how the Integral movement is dominated by men.  Also, you could think of this division in terms of Ken Wilber’s Grace and Grit or the movie The Fountain.

(4) Judging and Perceiving are an interesting division that was original to Jung’s typology.  Studies have shown that J/P doesn’t test as separate from S/N with young children, and so there is some developmental aspect to this (whether biological or psychological).  In MBTI, J/P simply determines which function you Extravert, but it can be looked at as its own category and there is some correlation to boundary types.  Judging types like order and conclusiveness.  Perceiving types are more about creative chaos and they prefer to keep their options open.

With J/P, I sense a similarity to a division between two kinds of thinkers which brings me back closer to this symposium.  I’ve seen distinctions (here and here) made between Ken Wilber and William Irwin Thompson.  This partly seems like a difference between a systematizer and a bricoleur.  Interestingly, William Irwin Thompson’s son (Evan Thompson) co-wrote some books with the enactivist crowd.  So, this made me think of the possible differences between enactivism and tetra-enactivism.  From what I’ve read, Varela seems to have intentionally avoided systematizing his ideas, but then Wilber took Varela’s ideas and systematized them for him.

The bricoleur is a term I’m using in its relationship to the George P. Hansen’s book The Trickster and the Paranormal(2001).  Hansen uses the term bricoleur as one way of describing the Trickster archetype.  Hansen also brings up Victor Turner’s ideas of liminality, anti-structure, and communitas.  Enactivism questions the traditional assumptions of science and so blurs the boundaries somewhat.  Varela was influenced by phenomenology, and Hansen says that ethnomethodology was similarly influenced.  Ethnomethodology (along with sociology of scientific knowledge and studies of experiment expectancy effects) puts the scientific endeavor into a very different context.


There are also some other blog posts that cover similar territory as this one.

Political Party, Morality, Personality, Gender

Morality, Politics, and Psychology

Jung and Typology, Gnosticism and Christianity

Concluding Thoughts, Personal Context

These are just some thoughts, some connections… tentative as they are.  I haven’t fully articulated the possible significance of this line of thinking.  I’ll surely be returning to this more in future posts.

By the way, going by some of my blog posts, someone might conclude I was a hedgehog.  I do have a slight tendency at times to systematize, but it isn’t exactly my inherent nature.  When younger, I had an extremely unsystematic mind, but was raised by two extremely systematic parents.  I not only learned how to be systematic, but learned to highly value it.  My mind is a chaos of ideas and impressions.  I’m more systematic in the way Jung was.  Jung was capable of thinking systematically in order to clarify some set of ideas, but he wasn’t attached to the results.  Jung’s thinking was eternally tentative.  Likewise, ideas in my head tend to constellate together organically rather than my trying to fit them into a particular theory.  Also, I’m an INFP type.  INFPs are the penultimate artist living in creative chaos (you should see my room), but INFPs have Thinking as their inferior which means (according to Beebe’s theory) its what we aspire towards (for example, the systematization of Jung’s typology in the form of the MBTI was accomplished by an INFP).  This aspirational Thinking was magnified in me as my parents are Thinking types.  So, I may aspire towards systematic thinking, but unlike my parents I’m completely impractical about it.  Even when being systematic, I’m lost in the abstractions and imaginations of my mind.  My systematizing still is subordinate to my creative chaos.

I’ll add some last thoughts.  There are many reasons for thinking styles.  Personality type and traits are just some of the most obvious or at least the easiest to understand. 

In light of this, I’d say that hedgehogs may or may not be systematizers, but their one big idea or belief would tend towards the systematic in that everything is filtered and ordered accordingly.  However, a hedgehog may or may not inherently have a systematic personality.  For instance, someone who experiences some trauma or life changing experience can become a crusader fighting against or for something.  If someone was abused as a child, they may become an advocate for children as a career and they may take this on as their central sense of identity.  Another type of experience would be something like a spiritual vision or an alien abduction.  If the person openly speaks of this experience, they might become polarized into an extreme position because of negative reactions from others.  There is an attraction to becoming a hedgehog for having such a clear sense of vision or purpose can be very motivating and comforting.  This often happens in conversion experiences where a person actively prosyletizes their new found belief and organizes their whole life around it.  Brought to the extreme, this one big thing becomes their whole reality (like a conspiracy theorist).

Foxes too can become the way they are through life events and experiences.  If someone rebels against some belief system they were raised with, then they may become the complete opposite and try to deny all belief systems.  Or else psychiatric conditions can create tendencies.  Personally, depression has probably encouraged a fox attitude in me by how it scatters my psychic energy.  But another depressed person might turn to a belief system to conserve their energy or else become obsessed with something to counteract the lack of focus.  I do at times become obsessive with certain subjects which does seem a direct response to depression, but the scattermindedness always prevails.  I know that for me it’s a combination of personality, moods, and general life experiences. 

I’ll say I wouldn’t mind having some transformative experience that turned me into a hedgehog because I’d probably get a lot more done.  Plus, most great thinkers who are remembered as being great by historians are almost exclusively hedgehogs.  Rightly or wrongly, hedgehogs have the most direct influence on society.  The experts with strong opinions are the ones that get to be the talking heads on tv.  The foxes who can see multiple perspectives have a hard time getting to a clear point and so their opinions don’t make for good sound bytes.  Foxes probably make for bad debaters as well.  Foxes either end up creating convoluted websites or else writing tomes that few ever would read (or writing blogs).  If a fox can’t learn some hedgehog abilities, they might as well give up trying to communicate.

There are reasons to be critical of typing people at all.  Most people don’t perfectly fits into any given category.  Hartmann talks about this in terms of boundary types and MBTI practitioners recognize this.  People may act differently in different situations.  Someone may have a focused mind at work where they’ve learned to implement a particular model or system, but at home they may pursue a wide variety of subjects and ideas completely outside of or even contrary to their work mindset.  So, an academic might simply accept a hedgehog-like attitude just to fit in, but secretly hold doubts or alternative views.  A religious person, in particular, may act like a hedgehog, not just to convince others but even to try to convince themselves.  As such, this person would look for all the ways this belief system can be supported in order to assuage their doubts.  On the other hand, a person who is confident in their hedgehog thinking may be less vocal and so may not even be noticeably hedgehog-like.  Still, despite situational behavior, most people probably have a basic personality or personal preferences in their thinking style and will act that way when given the freedom to just be themselves.


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