Jung’s Typology and Philosophy

In this text I will speak some of Carl Jung’s Typology, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and its relation to philosophy, making a parallel to Immanuel Kant and the term “philopsychy”.

Several philosophers, including Wittgenstein, Rorty and Habermas have expressed sympathy with the view of philosophy as a kind of therapy. The therapy they thought of is of course different from the psychotherapy of Jung – but still I think connections can be made. This is one of the reasons I find it interesting to take a closer look at the typology of Jung, which he used in his psychotherapy.

Short introduction to Jung’s Typology

In Jung’s typology there are three dichotomies, the perceiving functions, the judging functions and extraversion/introversion.

The perceiving (information-gathering) functions are Sensing (S) and Intuition (N)
The judging (decision-making) functions are Thinking (T) and Feeling (F)
All of these functions can be either Introverted (I) (libido/interest directed towards subjects) or Extraverted (E) (libido/interest directed towards objects)

All people need to use all these functions. However all people also develop some functions more than others. Developing one function or attitude is always at the cost of its opposite. I.e. if you use your intuition a lot, your sensing will become more uncontrollable.

As all people develop more in certain functions, it leads us to the different personality types. Everyone will have one dominant (primary) function, and another auxiliary (secondary) function. If your dominant function is perceiving (Sensing or Intuition), your auxiliary function will be judging (Thinking or Feeling) and vice versa.

There are 8 possible dominant functions, and as every dominant function can have either of two different auxiliary functions, it leaves us with 8 x 2 = 16 different personality types. Here is example of the different sensing types:

Introverted sensing with thinking as auxiliary function (MBTI: ISTJ)
Introverted sensing with feeling as auxiliary function (MBTI: ISFJ)
Extraverted sensing with thinking as auxiliary function (MBTI: ESTP)
Extraverted sensing with feeling as auxiliary function (MBTI: ESFP)

Differences between Jung and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

According to MBTI, if your dominant function is Introverted your auxiliary function is Extraverted and vice versa. According to Jung, if I understood correct, that need not to be the case. Both Jung and MBTI agree though that the 4th (“inferior”) function is the opposite of the 1st (dominant) function (say your dominant function is Introverted Sensing, then your inferior function will be Extraverted Intuition).

Another difference is that MBTI adds Perceiving(P)/Judging(J) as a separate category. This determines whether your dominant function will be perceiving (N or S) or judging (T or F). Extraverted perceivers will have a perceiving function (N or S) as dominant function, however for Intraverted perceivers it’s the opposite – they will have a judging function (T or F) as dominant function. Same pattern applies for Judging. Spontaneously this does sound a bit weird I think. If you are introverted and more of a perceiver than a judger, why cannot then your dominant function be perceiving (that is Intuition or Sensing)?

Applying typology and it’s role in philosophy

This typology has been criticized for not being scientific. I will not try and discuss it’s scientific value on a deeper level here (edit: now I’ve written a blog post where I discuss that issue: MBTI:ers, Jungians and Scientists). I think that the typology can be helpful, but it’s important to not make overhasty conclusions about it. There is a danger in using typologies like these to label people. Rather I would like to see it as a source of inspiration to help understand people. It is very common to project oneself on others. For example, Carl Jung himself claimed that “it took him a long time to discover that not everybody was a thinking (or intellectual) type like himself”. Learning about other types, can help you widen the perspectives on how others can be different. Instead of using this typology to determine your opinion about people, you can use it to widen your imagination of who they can be.

Ray Monk argued it’s important to know the biography of a philosopher in order to understand in what manner they are writing. In similar sense I think one can argue that it can be helpful to have a grasp of their typology. Different types are likely to have different criteria of what is relevant and, quoting Rorty, “fruitful philosophical controversy is possible only when both sides have the patience to investigate their opponents’ criteria of relevance” (ref) .

In the links below I try to type some philosophers:
Wittgenstein MBTI, Why he was Introverted iNtuitive (INxJ)
Habermas and Rorty MBTI, Introverted Thinking vs. Introverted iNtuition

Is this philosophy?

Jung’s typology is a part of psychology, psychology is a kind of science, and I’ve argued that philosophy is not a science. However, we can consider what Wittgenstein said in his text philosophy of psychology, “Is scientific progress useful for philosophy? Certainly. The realities that are discovered lighten the philosopher’s task, imagining possibilities”

A philosophic approach to Jung’s Typology, means we shouldn’t try to determine its accuracy – but rather it’s possibilities.

A scientific approach to Jungian Typology could be asking questions such as:
Which person is an extraverted feeler? Is the MBTI more accurate, than the typology by Jung? How come some people are introverted and other people are extraverted?

Taking a philosophic approach one could ask questions such as:
What’s meant by feeling and what is meant by introversion? What’s the difference between introverted feeling, and extraverted feeling? Can we imagine other categories? (it’s not unproblematic to claim that this is ‘philosophical questions’ though – I’ll speak more of this later on)

Jung and Kant

Jung studied Immanuel Kant extensively, and regarded Kant as his favorite philosopher. Some people have looked closer into this, and found striking similarities between the typology of Jung and the categories of Kant. Professor Stephen Palmquist writes:
“Jung’s four functions (sensation, intuition, thought, and feeling) correspond directly to Kant’s four main categories (quantity, quality, relation, and modality), while Jung’s three ways of experiencing each function(introvert, extravert, and their combination in the integrated personality) correspond directly to Kant’s three manifestations of each category (e.g., the three moments of quantity: unity, plurality, and totality)” (ref)

Palmquist coined the concept “philophychy” (soul-loving). He gives examples of how Kant’s categories, just as Jung’s typology, can be used in counseling, dealing with practical problems. To me it appeared a bit strange. But also I found it interesting and enjoyed it for its originality. I haven’t heard of anyone using Kant’s philosophy in a practical sense like this before.

Further Reading

MBTI:ers, Jungians and Scientists – Blog post where I compare the MBTI community, Jungians and their critics.
What is so special about Jungian Typology?
The task of philosophy is to use ”introverted intuition”? – In this blog post I argue why introverted intuition is central in philosophy. Also I discuss the difference between introverted intuition and introverted thinking.
http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Jung/types.htm – “Chapter X” in Psychological Types by Carl Gustav Jung
Jung and Philosophy by William R. Clough (This article is mainly relied on Jung’s book “Psychological Types”)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator – MBTI on Wikipedia
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp – There are many Jung Typology/MBTI-tests on the Internet. Here is one of the most popular
http://www.personalitypage.com/ – One of many pages where you can read about the different personality types
http://www.celebritytypes.com/philosophers/index.php – A page trying to MBTI-type celebrities
http://npcassoc.org/docs/ijpp/PalmquistV3N1.pdf – “Kant’s Categories and Jung’s Types as Perspectival Maps” by Stephen Palmquist
http://cdn4.libsyn.com/philosophybites/Ray_Monk_on_Philosophy_and_Biography.mp3 – Ray Monk talking about Philosophy and Biography (Audio)


About Dandre

Former student of philosophy, maths and literature. Now studying master program in sociology. Some thinkers of central interest include Ludwig Wittgenstein, C. G. Jung and Pierre Bourdieu.
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2 Responses to Jung’s Typology and Philosophy

  1. heathermoya says:

    “Instead of using this typology to determine your opinion about people, you can use it to widen your imagination of who they can be.”
    I really like how you’ve put this. I was initially sceptical about the typology because of the points you’ve made about the danger of labelling people. However, like you I now believe it can help us to understand others.

    • Dandre says:

      I think so too, and perhaps more important – understand oneself. But I think one also should be very cautious about it. Especially the MBTI, and people writing about MBTI, I found to be highly delusional. I’ve been fooled by it over and over again. The writings of Jung I do respect more.

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