A Writer's Room of Requirement

A home for the many random insights that cross my mind from time to time.

Archive for the tag “ethics”

Myers-Briggs Personalities and Morality

After reading some of Carl Jung’s original work on cognitive functions in the last year, I’ve taken issue with the labels “thinking” and “feeling.”  The dichotomy leads novice typers to believe that all feeling types lack rationality and that all thinking types have all the warmth of cold, heartless robots.  Naturally, the truth has far more complexity.  Feelers use the same rational processes as thinkers and can demonstrate a certain ruthlessness when their families or values appear threatened.  Think mama bear with her cubs.  Similarly, thinkers often have strong bonds and deeply held convictions that can result in very powerful emotions.  We all use some form of thinking and feeling in our cognitive function stack.  Rather than pure concepts, T and F denote a preference in judgement for the subjective or objective.  In making their rational decisions, F types prefer to focus on the subjective aspects: how the decision will make them feel, how it will affect the people close to them, and whether or not it remains in keeping with their values.  T types focus on how much a given decision remains in keeping with objective standards: does it hold up under unbiased logic?  Does it fit with their understanding of good order and justice?

We all use both the subjective F function and the objective T function with one directed inward and one directed outward. All this theory boils down to four relationships between T and F in the cognitive function stacks of each of the sixteen types.  Extraverted thinking (Te) dominates introverted feeling (Fi) or vice versa.  Or introverted thinking (Ti) dominates extraverted thinking (Fe) or vice versa.  Each of these four relationships offer different ways in which we approach morality.  The amoral Ti, the just Te, the communal Fe, and the innocent Fi all judge their interpersonal relationships from vastly different viewpoints.

 

captain jack sparrow

The Amoral Ti-Fe (ENTP, INTP, ESTP, ISTP)

Let me begin with the worldview with which I possess the most familiarity.  While some would see the hedonism of the more sensing introverted thinker or the curiosity with darkness and iconoclasm of the more intuitive introverted thinker as immoral or unprincipled, we really just possess a staunch amorality.  The subjective value of a judgement rarely, if ever, enters into the decision making process.  We do not seek to do evil, we simply believe that an efficient structure does not require consideration of the good/evil dichotomy.  For us, morality simply does not apply.

When placed in the introverted realm of the mind, detached from the tangible, thinking becomes pure logic.  Thus, we often develop mental frameworks, our own decision making rubrics.  When a problem arises, we consult the worldview flowchart completely devoid of the subjective emotions of ourselves or others.

When feeling does enter the decision making process, it becomes extraverted outward.  We seek harmony and a certain espirit de corps within our social groups.  The more extraverted Amorals attempt to disarm others with our charm.  We try to cache hard truths in the form of joke or satire.  Look at Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Sasha Baron Cohen, or John Cleese.  Many of the world’s best satirists come in the form of the mischievous, nerdy ENTP.

The introverted Amorals take the philosophy of Ti to the extreme.  They make the best assassins and mad scientists.  Their sharp mental focus allows them to plan and pull off the perfect kill or delve ever deeper into ethically questionable science.  They can do this without conscience because we lack introverted feeling.  They have little empathy and few unimpeachable principles.  Poor, inferior Fe can only muster a mild “Doing it for the greater good” argument.  Captain Jack Sparrow verbalizes the motto of the introverted thinker best, “The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do.”

 

stannis

The Just Te-Fi (ENTJ, INTJ, ESTJ, ISTJ)

If only the four letters of a Myers-Briggs type matter and not the cognitive functions, you could speculate that all thinking types would get along.  Yet, as an ENTP I have felt more frustration in dealing with these extraverted thinking types than with anyone else.  When you look at the judging process, we have nothing in common.  Amorals use thinking as pure logic. The Just want to apply objective law and order to the outside world.  Amorals want to please their community audience, while the Just must adhere to their own deep, personal values.

I find that strict adherence to the objective letter of the law particularly frustrating.  Amorals take a live and let live philosophy, but the extroverted thinking type requires that everything and everyone fall into line with the most rational order.  I find this difficult because the best plan for the group often doesn’t work to my advantage.  Sensing Te types seem especially determined to adhere to the letter of the law even when it violates a more abstract logical exploration.  They fear that in the absence of order, all of society will collapse.  Perhaps, my own biases make me too hard on the Te type though.  Without their steadfast determination, other types would not have the ordered room to create and dance.  The Just naturally fall into positions of leadership.  You often find them at the top of businesses, bureaucracies, and structured religious organizations.

The Just would most likely utter the phrase, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.”  Their tertiary or inferior introverted feeling provides a core value system, a moral compass from which they do no stray.  Many  Just assume all other types have this same inborn morality.  Thus, adherance to their system of law and order doesn’t just come from some rule of man.  It must have a higher, nobler origination, perhaps even a spiritual origination.  When the law is violated, they show no mercy, because the offender has not only disobeyed the law, but they clearly ignored their own conscience.

However, the Fi of the Just remains underdeveloped when compared to the Fi dominant Innocent.  I have often found the Just easily offended and quick to anger when someone begins to poke at their deeply cherished beliefs.  I once traded quips with an ENTJ roommate of mine.  We fired little good-natured jabs back and forth at one another.  However, I could tell I went too far when I obliquely mentioned his wife and children.  All jest ceased.  His smile disappeared, his eyes stormed over, and he icily warned me to never cross that line again.  The Just do not like their sacred cows trifled with.

I can’t help but think of Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones.  He remains a shining example of The Just.  When Davos Seaworth fed Stannis’ starving men at Storm’s End, Baratheon offered the smuggler a Lordship as a reward for his bravery and loyalty.  Yet he also ordered his men to cut off the tips of the fingers on Davos’ left hand as punishment for his years of smuggling.  Justice must be served in all things and the cherished values must be protected.

 

teacher pic

The Communal Fe-Ti (ENFJ, INFJ, ESFJ, ISFJ)

The types with dominant extraverted feeling seek to create harmony among all people.  Naturally, they see themselves in an advisory role, teaching others good manners, encouraging personal growth, and building warm spaces where people can come together.  Their ethics tend to revolve around the best practices for the community.  They are the mother teaching her children to share, for sharing promotes harmony.  They are the educator preparing students for the future so they can contribute to society.  They are the Sunday school teacher trying to instill good values in his or her charges so they don’t criminally violate their peaceful society.  Fe types strive for community, in extremes from the Hippie commune where everyone works towards the common good to the family dinner table where we share a Thanksgiving meal.

Of course this cooperative spirit does not mean that the Communal hold as fiercely to principle as the Just Te or the Innocent Fi.  Their inferior Ti function, rather than standing on some symbol, strives to find the best possible objective outcome for their respective charges.  They seek firm facts that will benefit their society and push it forward.  For instance, they learn the facts so they can teach them to their students and they appreciate those facts because they objectively understand that education has proven effects on a person’s life potential.  The combination of Fe and Ti does not ask that everyone agree; it merely encourages everyone to work together towards the same objective goal of peace and harmony.

Of course that inferior Ti also has a dark side with Communal types.  I doubt that anyone can hold grudges like a spurned Fe dominant.  They will give everyone a long leash, but you can only threaten their community so many times before they write you off as a permanent villain.  The Ti and introverted perceiving function work together to sear the image of the chronic offender in their mind’s eye as a threat to their goals.  At that point, they will not hesitate to eliminate the threat with ruthless intensity.  A Communal makes a staunch ally and a terrible foe.

 

joan of arc

The Innocent Fi-Te (ENFP, INFP, ESFP, ISFP)

More than any other type, the introverted feeler enters this world with a well-defined internal moral compass.  Fi forces them to constantly explore their values and whether or not their decisions fall in line with those values.  It produces in these types a strong empathy that prevents them from wantonly disregarding their fellow man.  Fi types know right and wrong at their very core.  They strive for authenticity.  The Innocent feel uncomfortable betraying even themselves.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Innocent feel compelled to keep pace with the man-made standards of decency espoused by the Communal.  Whether honoring their own hedonism or striving for some abstract social justice, they must answer to a higher power.  The Communal would find the xSFP hippocritical as they indulge both their own strong sexual desires and a passion for their particular spiritual tradition, but the Innocent does not feel this way.  They remain honest to their own person when they follow their desire and they remain honest to their broader values and others by participating in rites or volunteering to help others.  This also means that the Fi type does not judge others.  If they must remain honest to themselves, how can they criticize others for doing the same.

While far from the most organized types, the weak extraverted thinking function of the Innocent strives to bring some sense of order to their life.  If they can develop their Te on some minimal level it greatly aids their Fi as they start their particular revolution. The SFP artist strives to organize their workspace so they can continue to produce stunning works of art.  It may also help them plan their careers, booking gigs or planning displays.  The NFP uses their Te to organize the people that often flock to their social movement.  For instance, their civil rights movement dies at the grass roots level if they cannot organize letter writing campaigns and sit ins.

Inspiration remains the essence of the Innocent and Fi.  The sensing Innocent crafts songs that inspire people to dance, they develop their virtuosity, or they craft a painting that transfers strong emotion into the viewer.  The intuitive innocent crafts art that calls on the symbols that speak to greater meaning.  They lead armies of change, incited by the Innocent’s charisma and true belief.  The Fi types do not have the “peace at all cost” mentality of the Communal.  They will stir up trouble if they feel the system creates a chronic inequality.  The Innocent wants us all to grow into better people.

 

Each of these four ethical views has a necessary place in society.  The Just keep everything stable and running, while the Amoral dare to imagine new technologies and ideologies that push the society forward.  The Communal create a standard of cooperation that all must live up to, while the Innocent inspire us to go above and beyond that standard.  Without any one moral viewpoint, society becomes imbalanced .

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