Mountain Math Software
home consulting videos book QM FAQ contact

PDF version of this book
next up previous contents
Next: Feeling versus thinking Up: Values and evil Previous: Pleasure and pain   Contents


Jung's typology

Jung saw universal `types' in human personality These types are all present in all of us, but there tends to be one predominant type or normal mode of organizing our experience. The types are both complementary and competitive. One can gain insight into oneself and others by understanding the structure that Jung described, but one must not interpret it too narrowly or literally. The reality that underlies this simple intellectual model is far more complex and problematic than any description of it can suggest. I urge you to read Jung, but I will give a brief summary to provide context for my remarks.

Jung begins his description by noting two approaches to evolutionary success. One can have many offspring with few defenses and a limited chance or survival or one can, at the expense of lower fertility, invest more in the individual, equipping each with more defenses and a better shot at surviving to reproduce themselves. This fundamental tradeoff can appear in many forms. Some individuals limit their activities and carry them on intensively. They are inner directed or introverts. Others are extensive in their activities and of necessity less intense. They are extroverts. We live in a strongly extroverted culture and thus introversion tends to be viewed in inferior terms and seen almost as a defect. Jung, who considered himself an introvert, did not see it that way. Introversion and extroversion are attitude-types.

The attitude-types ... are distinguished by their attitude to the object. The introvert's attitude is an abstracting one; at bottom, he is always intent on withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object from gaining power over him. The extrovert, on the contrary, has a positive relation to the object. He affirms its importance to such an extent that his subjective attitude is constantly related to and oriented by the object[32, ¶557].

In contrast to the attitude-types Jung defined the function-types. These refer to the predominant mode of processing information and the orientation of that mode. The rational types process information somewhat like a von Neumann computer. They organize experience in a framework of cause and effect. The irrational types process information somewhat like a neural net. They organize experience in a framework of patterns with more complex and higher dimensional structures than the linear processing of a von Neumann computer.

Thinking uses rational processes, and its own laws or models, to bring elements of both internal and external experience into conceptual connection with one another. Feeling uses rational processes to recognize the value of an experience or situation. Thinking relates experience to a conceptual framework in which internal consistency and coherence are primary. Feeling relates experience to a framework of what is valuable or important. One strives for a coherence of results rather than a conceptual coherence. Saying contradictory things in different situations may be the best way to get coherency of results. The two functions may be in accord. For example, if there is a physical threat, understanding how to avoid this is what is important. In dealing with other people these functions are often in conflict. Statements that will enhance the feeling situation are often not in accord with ones own conceptual framework. Saying what you believe to be objectively correct can get you in a lot of trouble or alienate people who's opinion is important to your well being.

At a superficial level thinking and feeling types can be mutually attractive and compatible. The feeling type reacts to enhance the feeling situation and thus it seems to the thinking type that they have compatible conceptual frameworks. The feeling type is able to move the situation to what is of value because the thinking type is largely unaware of how these movements are being controlled by the feeling type. This superficial attraction and compatibility can lead to a fundamental impasse if too deep a relationship is attempted. The superficial compatibility comes from the inherent differences that gives each their own sphere of influence. If either tries to move out of their sphere the fundamental difference becomes apparent.

The sensation types are oriented by the patterns they recognize in internal or external experience. The intuitive types are oriented by patterns that indicate where a situation came from or where it is leading to. ``In intuition a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence[32, ¶770].'' The same is true of sensation. When we recognize our friend's face we cannot say what steps we went through to do this. Intuition and sensation are pattern recognition processes. The difference is that sensation focuses on the content of an internal or external experience. Intuition focuses on the precursors of an experience or where an experience might lead. We cannot explain pattern recognition the way we can explain a rational process. That does not mean it is beyond rational or causal explanation. We can describe how a neural net comes to recognize a pattern. We can break this up into causal steps although these are nothing like the causal steps in a rational deduction.

This typology is the basis of the widely used Myers-Briggs personality assessment. The rational and irrational types of Jung bear a stinking resemblance to the comparatively recent left brain and right brain discoveries in biology.

We all have all of these capabilities. We have different strengths and weaknesses. We develop and differentiate them to various degrees. We orient ourselves and our experience in different ways.

To the degree that we one sidedly develop one of these attitudes and functions in our consciousness there will be a compensating effect from our unconscious. The function types form pairs of opposites. Thinking is opposed to feeling and sensation is opposed to intuition. Of course we can think about both the value of an action and its objective meaning. However feeling is not thinking about value. Feeling is organizing experience from the standpoint of feeling. A Star Trek episode illustrates this in a way that puts a very negative light on it as one would expect in a thinking dominated culture. Captain Picard is being tortured by an alien that wants to break him. He is shown five lights, but told that there are only four and asked how many lights he sees. Each time he answers five he experiences intense pain. He never gives in, but, when he discusses the incident later, he confesses that at the end he saw only four lights.

Any one of these primary functions can be the dominant approach we use to deal with the world. As we grow with experience we are better able to integrate all of these functions into conscious decision making. To the degree that we have failed to do so the function exists in an undeveloped and unconscious state. It still influences our actions. One way this happens is though projection where we see magnified in others what we are blind to in ourselves.

The functions are necessary and all active in each of us. They are the source of great internal and external conflict in life. They are how nature deals with the complexity of the world and our fellow creatures and the limited knowledge than any of us can have of that world. Conflict is a necessary precondition for creativity. Conflict is what motivates us to try a new approach.


PDF version of this book
next up previous contents
Next: Feeling versus thinking Up: Values and evil Previous: Pleasure and pain   Contents


Mountain Math Software
home consulting videos book QM FAQ contact
Email comments to: webmaster@mtnmath.com