MBTI and Philosophers

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I got David Keirsey's Please Understand Me II for Christmas, so I've been thinking a lot about personality type. Most philosophers I know tend to be ENTP or INTP, with some INTJ or ENTJ. Almost all of the philosophers whose type I know or can guess easily fall into those four types. I, on the other hand, am ISTJ, so I'm been wondering how personality type affects the interests and work of philosophers. For instance, I'm pretty sure William Alston is also ISTJ, and his work is pretty distinctive. Rather than coming up with a whole philosophical perspective, he tends to survey and evaluate the work already out there, developing things in smaller ways than the systematic work of a David Lewis. I tend to be better at drawing distinctions and working out the possible views than I am at developing a position of my own. I'm certainly much better at criticizing arguments than I am at offering any new ones.

Philosophers reading this who know (or are pretty sure of) the personality type of influential philosophers or philosophers I know, then I'd be interested in knowing what it is. If you have any insights into how this affects philosophers' interests of work, I'd also appreciate your thoughts.

For more info. on Myers-Briggs types, see David Keirsey's site, Personality Pathways, or this nice summary.

3 Comments

I'm an ENTJ, which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. Here are a few famous people in the major categories you mentioned. I know Martin and Ford both studied philosophy as did Bill Bennett. I found the bulk of philosophers in the INTP category.

Famous ENTJ:
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Richard M. Nixon
General Norman Schwarzkopf
Harrison Ford
Steve Martin
Margaret Thatcher
Al Gore
Lamar Alexander
Dave Letterman
Newt Gingrich

Famous INTP:
Socrates
Rene Descartes
Blaise Pascal
Sir Isaac Newton
C. G. Jung
William James
Albert Einstein

Famous ENTP:
Alexander the Great
Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart
Sir Walter Raleigh
Thomas Edison
Lewis Carrol
Marilyn Vos Savant

Famous INTJ:
Augustus Caesar
William J. Bennett
William F. Buckley, Jr.
Michael Dukakis
C. S. Lewis
Rudy Giuliani
Donald Rumsfeld
Colin Powell
Thomas Jefferson
John F. Kennedy
Woodrow Wilson

12-29-03 2:47 pm

I wonder how you concluded your preferences are for ISTJ. Did you validate these preferences? Because I confess to being a little skeptical. Something I've seeb is that mature IN_Ps sometimes test as ISTJ because they are developing their tertiary function, introverted Sensing. But it isn't their dominant, of course. I recommend you read a variety of type descriptions and not take the score you got on some test as the Final Word. Dr. Linda Berens' type descriptions can be had on Amazon for about $5 and are the best I've found (they're based on real people interviews instead of hypotheticals). Good luck!

Also, let me warn you about using the Myers-Briggs materials to reinforce stereotypes. Most of the philosophers I am familiar with tend to be NFP or NTP, because philosophy seems to be a favored activity of extraverted iNtuition.

-Vicky Jo :-D

I'm well aware of how people misuse this stuff. Keirsey warns of it, as does every single other professional who writes about it.

As for my preferences, anyone who knows me well knows that I'm extreme in all four of I, S, T, and J. I've taken many different tests, and I can give you good reasons why certain questions on certain tests aren't very good for evaluating what they're supposed to be evaluating. You seem to be talking to me as if I don't know anything about the test or the typings, but I probably know more about this than some professionals in the field. When I set my mind to know something, I learn everything I can about it in painstaking detail (not a P trait, nor really an N trait).

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