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INTP: A Jungian Cognitive Function Analysis

98035 Views 36 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  Alea jacta est
Stolen from Personality Nation by @simulatedworld

INTP, or Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiver, is a label borrowed from MBTI nomenclature and now applied to the Jungian Cognitive Function set {Ti, Ne, Si, Fe}.

Dominant: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

"I guess more than anything I just want things to make sense. I frequently feel like most people around me make decisions based on totally irrational criteria and it's hard to see how they can miss the basic building blocks of common sense logical reasoning and decision-making. I like to work with systems, especially theoretical systems of ideas that represent concepts that interest me--the more complex and interrelated, the better. There's something aesthetically appealing about designing and reworking systems; creating symmetry that suggests a sense of total systemic completeness is something that brings me a lot of enjoyment. It's really important that things remain fair and consistent--if I don't feel I'm being treated fairly or reasonably, I will speak up and explain in detail exactly what's wrong with the flawed reasoning that's being used against me. I go to great pains to maximize clarity and conceptual precision when I'm dealing with others, and I expect them to do the same. If I can't establish a clear definition of an idea, then how can I connect it meaningfully to anything else?"

INTPs firmly believe that conceptual analysis and evaluation is not for the faint of heart. What they're after is no less than absolute correctness, definitional precision, and universal truth. Almost quixotic in this idealistic search to grasp the nature of everything, INTPs believe everything can ultimately be defined, categorized, and succinctly systematized into a single unified conceptual picture--even if that degree of completeness is not something humankind can ever expect to achieve.

Unlike INTJs, who resist strict conceptual definition until empirical evidence renders it indisputable, INTPs must categorize and define their ideas into clearly distinct blocks before they can even begin a discourse or exchange of information. Dominant Ti creates such a keen awareness of definitional specificity that INTPs often garner a reputation for nitpicking that borders on neurotic and may drive other types up the wall. (After all, you can't spell "nitpick" without "INTP".) And while they may sometimes abuse this ability in order to play games with others or establish their own intellectual superiority, more often than not, they simply recognize definitional differences to a much finer degree of detail than most other types are even capable of discerning. Until we know precisely what our words denote and connote, we can't even make any meaningful differentiations--which are, of course, the foundation for everything.

INTPs most often find work in areas where they can apply their sense of internal structural identity to complex systems of ideas where they can broaden the scope of a problem and discover a new area in which to work out all of the intricate relationships that make up the defining characteristics and total framework thereof. For Ti, practical application is rarely much of a concern; INTPs are in the business of idea development for the sake of learning and cerebral expansion. If they can map out an area of reality that as of yet lacks definition, INTPs may find a sense of purpose by feeling they've contributed to the development or clarification of humankind's understanding, demystifying something previously not understood.

It's hard to overstate the importance of fitting everything in the universe and the entire realm of existence into Ti's overarching sense of the total causality of all the relationships, properties, and axioms that make up the definition of everything involved in life as we know it. When a new piece of information contradicts Ti's previously understood rule set, there is no choice but to retreat into private introspection until the inevitable error in reasoning is discovered and the causal chain of deduction repaired, checked, and double checked for consistent flow of rhetorical integrity. Each piece of a system implies the necessity of other pieces filling counterbalancing but symmetrical roles: with enough If/Then statements and explanations of possible conditions and situational exceptions to them, literally everything can ultimately be mapped out and explained and shown to adhere to a global sense of logical predictability. The universe cannot function any other way. If we're still running into wrong conclusions, it's either because we started with bad premises or we haven't created enough subsections of systemic explanation yet: either way, the answer always lies in further analysis and reevaluation.

Like all Ji dominant (IxxP) types, INTPs are, above all, people of principle, and they will defend those principles to the death (especially if you try to debate them!) The search for truth outweighs any transient cultural values, transcends any perceptual bias or interpretive difference, renders irrelevant any lesser or arbitrarily chosen values, and represents the ultimate ideal to which all should feel privileged to have even the most fleeting encounter with. It is of vital importance to the INTP to seek knowledge purely for the sake of understanding, and to uphold his sense of logical integrity in the process. Anything less would be, well, illogical.

Auxiliary: Extroverted iNtuition (Ne)

"Overthinking, overanalyzing separates the body from the mind / Withering my intuition, leaving opportunities behind."
--Tool, "Lateralus" (lyrics by Maynard James Keenan, INTP)

Unfortunately, the INTP's primary interests and skill sets are often esoteric at best, frequently not lending themselves to much use in terms of connection and interaction with other human beings. While the INTP may spend tremendous time and effort developing incredibly thorough understanding of numerous multi-faceted concepts and ideas, he may find himself woefully unable to articulate their meaning or significance to others without some method by which to connect abstract concepts to that which his fellow man already understands.

When developed well, Ne will bestow the INTP with a number of positive balancing characteristics, ranging from awareness of and desire to play to the expectations and interests of her audience to cross-contextual perception of conceptual similarity and an accompanying (and somewhat unexpected) ability to teach these concepts to others who lack understanding. For many INTPs, this becomes one of the most valuable and far-reaching gifts that Ne has to offer--she may find, much to her surprise, that her natural talent for noting structural similarities between the seemingly unrelated allows her to rephrase the most abstruse hierarchies of ideas into surprisingly understandable unifying explanations with which her audience can readily identify. This ability marks one of the more substantial and notable differences between INTPs and INTJs: while Ni intuitively grasps conceptual symbolism quite readily, the INTJ's comparative inability (or simple disinterest in trying) to "translate" such abstractions results in a peculiar communicative disconnect which INTPs are frequently much more able to mitigate through Ne.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Ne grants the INTP not only a broader understanding of the vast interconnectedness of his various intellectual pursuits, but a sense of playful creativity and an excited enthusiasm for new possibilities for the future. When Ne is developed poorly, and the INTP is left with TiSi, his ever-looming sense of self-doubt and imminent awareness of the incompleteness of his own understanding may lead to extreme social isolation and dejected burnout from repeated failures at attempts to navigate the confusing and illogical world of external interaction. Ne encourages the INTP to remember that, no matter what the failures and inadequacies of today have wrought, tomorrow will be a new day full of new possibilities for different approaches, connections, and changes. If the current model doesn't feel consistent, we can always adjust it, rework it, or tweak its variables and turn it into something else tomorrow. The possibilities are endless--they're already out there, waiting to be found, and it's up to us to rearrange the pieces until we find them.

Ne, ideally, should serve to balance out Ti's insistence on deductive perfection through complete information by allowing the INTP to "fill in the blanks" and make rougher, more intuitive guesses at information he may not yet possess or fully understand. As Ti would prefer to work with If/Then statements which provide unifying explanations of wide ranges of theoretically absolute data, the failure to consult Ne may often result in an uncomfortable unwillingness to take action or make any attempt at something until the INTP feels he has complete enough information to solve for the entire causality of the system in his mind. Properly developed Ne leads the INTP to accept the reality that life is full of uncertainties, and that if we refuse to act without knowing all the variables, we never really learn or progress. When he gets stuck at a critical juncture, Ne reminds him to just veer off and try something different--even if it may not work every time or provide a complete explanation, it might lead him to just what he needs to see in order to discover the next step in the process. It allows him to break out of his shell and try new things just in case something unexpected happens, and it's this sort of vibrant curiosity that combines best with Ti's tireless thirst for truth and knowledge to produce a well-rounded and psychologically balanced INTP.

Tertiary: Introverted Sensation (Si)

As a tertiary function, Si can have a variety of balancing effects on the INTP's total cognition. It tends to work best when Ne has already been allowed to grow and develop as Ti's natural assistant and counterpart; however, it's worth noting that, like all tertiary functions, its effects can be potentially damaging if overused or interpreted out of context.

The most essential purpose of Si is to provide a sense of comfort in familiarity, in the idea that our internal maps of undifferentiated information work best when we're able to sustain them with a consistent flow of concrete sensory data, and that we should be wary of people, places, and situations that the map has not yet charted. For INTPs under the influence of tertiary Si, this can generate a certain degree of cynicism and potentially even irrational distrust of situations they've experienced before and associated a negative connotation with. INTPs may develop curious suspicions about the adverse effects of their surroundings on their physical health; they may select insignificant sensory details to use as scapegoats for their inability to produce consistent work. ("I'd be churning out fantastic material here if only these morons could get me some half decent coffee!")

Si's influence, in its infancy, may lead INTPs to avoid new experiences or block out possible new approaches or changes in methodology that may very well have improved the development of their ideas or increased the range of options available to them. "I've tried and it didn't work" can become something of a mantra that allows the INTP to both avoid the uncomfortable nature of leaping into the unknown with incomplete information, and build more support for the superiority of his personal convictions and subjective beliefs about the nature of fairness and reason.

Given enough negative reinforcement, as TiSi loop sets in, the INTP may even develop a habit of avoiding the very situations and mindsets that his personal growth requires most in order to move forward. Utterly convinced that the deck is stacked unfairly against him, he may devolve into bitter cynicism about the coldly inconsistent nature of the harsh, stupid, and illogical universe around him. Sensitive about his failures in the social arena, especially, he may convince himself that the only people worth interacting with are those who feel "safe" in that they espouse the same kinds of views with which he is already familiar: locked into a self-serving loop of subjective logic and subjective reinforcement of the kind of experiential data that supports it, he may simply resign himself to the fate of being alone and unappreciated, comforting himself with grandiose and romantic ideals of being "the only one with any real integrity" or "the only one who really cares about The Truth."

The problem with pouring on too much Si too quickly is that it may lead to a tendency to ignore Ne development. The INTP already has plenty of depth, and plenty of subjective perspective; what she needs to do first is develop a sense of the objectively observable effects her ideas have on others so that she can connect their perspectives to her own and learn to communicate the significance of her convictions meaningfully. Blocking this growth process with more encouragement to indulge in more of the same familiar experiences will only cause regressive development.

When granted a more balanced and positive role, Si should serve not as a mere excuse to remain forever entrenched in one's experiential comfort zone, but as a useful counterbalance to Ne's tendency to fly off the rails and become lost in its own excitement. While Ne teaches the INTP to let herself go and reach out to embrace the random, Si reins her back in and reminds her that, sometimes, there's a very good reason we've become familiar with a certain form of experience: it's what's best for us and it keeps us out of trouble. It reminds us to pay attention when things start to push too far out of our comfort zone for our own good, and helps us to avoid repeating mistakes that we've already made and (hopefully) learned from.

Lastly, Si should grant the INTP a sense of real connection to the actual experiences represented by the theoretical ideas he is constantly mulling over in his head, which will contribute to his slow-developing ability to concretely identify with where others are coming from. It's one thing to be able to explain to someone why an idea should work in theory and point out how clearly consistent and logical it is; it's quite another to be able to honestly say, "Because I've been there and I've tried it for myself, and I know from experience that it genuinely works." Being able to offer that kind of backup for their arguments can help INTPs transcend the theoretical basis from which they normally operate, endearing themselves to others in a way that only real world experience with real world issues can.

Inferior: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

At the bottom of the barrel of the INTP's cognitive makeup lies the oft-unconscious and mostly neglected counterpart to Ti's personalized logic: the collectivized ethics and cultural expectations represented by inferior Fe. Right out of the gate, INTPs are naturally distrustful of extroverted judgment: they feel that decision-making is something that rightfully belongs to them and them alone, and that the idea of letting other people's expectations taint the depth and purity of their primary focus--for such questionable purposes as making people get along, no less--is, at least consciously, seen as a disturbing affront to their right to individualism and free thought.

"Why should I be expected to get along with anyone whose beliefs clearly represent incorrect logic and poor reasoning? It's not my fault people are too stupid to realize their beliefs are ridiculous!" Earlier in life, dominant Ti may have an exceptionally difficult time even understanding why getting along with others is desirable in the first place. If those people can't be trusted to make rational decisions according to the indisputable reality of The Truth, it can't see any value in associating with them at all. The way angry, adolescent INTPs develop social circles around this common belief represents one of the great ironies of the Jungian world.

Insistent that emotion is, by nature, a fundamentally invalid form of reasoning, INTPs may actually become emotionally attached to the idea that their decision-making is unemotional and therefore perfectly rational and "objectively superior" to other competing value systems. By asserting that Ti's subjective logic represents absolute or objective truth, they conveniently avoid both having to confront their own emotional needs and having to accept that their preferred method of reasoning does not represent absolute dogmatic truth. They will continue to cite "facts" and "scientific evidence" based on their own subjective sense of truth, using Ti's own axioms as proof of its ultimate correctness, never realizing the ultimately circular nature of their own declarations of self-superiority. When they meet other INTPs who feel the same way they do, the fact that someone else identifies both feeds Ti's conscious desire to be The Most Correct and Fe's subconscious desire to share a collectively derived ethical viewpoint with a larger group.

Try as they might to deny it, beneath the surface of the unconscious, inferior Fe (aided by auxiliary Ne) does drive INTPs to seek social acceptance and emotional connection; however, they often find themselves so hopelessly clueless at understanding and adjusting to social cues that they quickly develop intensely negative associations with the whole process of attempting to share themselves with others, content to interact only with those whose beliefs are consistent with their own, and thus non-threatening. In this way, INTPs may actually act out inferior Fe by seeking out like-minded friends and acquaintances who dislike the idea of having Fe standards forced on them, thus forming Fe-oriented bonds based, ironically, around the idea of disliking the very social expectations that end up creating the common ground on which they identify. "Don't conform to society--be a nonconformist like us!"

By attacking the systems of collective ethical expectations they so despise on a conscious level, they fulfill their own subconscious needs for cultural and familial camaraderie by replacing "I'm right" with "We're right"--but good luck to any member of that group who disagrees with the precepts of correctness by which it defines its membership!

Eventually, once Ne and Si have fallen into their rightful places and developed properly, inferior Fe should grant the INTP the much-needed realization that sometimes family and friends should come before theoretical correctness. Even if it's wrong or illogical or unfounded in science, if he wants to keep friends and family around, or hold a consistent job, or participate in social situations with any degree of discernible success, he must develop a desire to adjust to their emotional and ethical needs and preferences, even if he cannot see an imminently "logical" reason to agree with them.

This duality of thought ("I think it's illogical" + "I can still see the value in it and respect it as an equally valid form of reasoning") is something that takes many INTPs a long time and a lot of soul-searching to grow into. It requires, above all, the realization that even if absolute truth exists, it's not really possible or logically plausible to believe any single human being can access or understand it directly--the addition of competent Fe into his cognitive hierarchy will allow the INTP to admit that yes, even he is subject to emotional bias, and even he has practical reasons to adjust his ethical outlook according to the feelings and needs of those he holds dear.

Once the INTP is able to simultaneously value the idea of truth and admit to himself that his own opinion cannot constitute the entirety of it, he will begin to realize that balancing his personal convictions against collective moral evaluations can actually move him even closer to the transcendent vision of universal truth and integrity around which his entire life is centered--and who knows? He may even develop some deeply meaningful personal connections along the way!
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I've been dealing with this stuff my whole life. It's taken me almost 30 years to get decent at realizing that nobody sits in the rational center and that even with all of our best instruments the absolute truth is probably inaccessible to us.

What you see is relative to where you're observing from.
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