Why Isaac Newton is INTJ (and a Narcissist)

Argument 1: Newton used Introverted Feeling (Fi) rather than Extroverted Feeling (Fe):

  • Introverted Feeling (Fi) deals with wonder and with the essence of things as opposed to aesthetic beauty and the common (Fe). Newton derided art as useless. And conversely, he was intensely interested in alchemy, writing some 10,000 pages of esoteric, non-scientific enquiry into the occult nature of matter and so on.
  • In describing his stance towards his fellow men, Newton said: “I do not know how I may appear to the world,but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Argument 2: Newton used Extroverted Thinking (Te) rather than Introverted Thinking (Ti):

  • As you probably learned in school, Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz (INTP) developed the mathematical instrument of calculus simultaneously. But where Leibnitz was interested in precision and in isolating and proving the principles of calculus for the sake of the principle itself (Ti), Newton’s system of calculus was messy and oriented towards utility – the solving concrete problems at hand (Te) – rather than towards principle itself. One could almost say that once Newton was convinced that his principles were true, he wouldn’t bother proving it true to others. – A classic trait of INTJs who, according to the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, deal in oracular tones and visions – in fact, in describing Newton’s oracular approach to mathematics, the Hungarian mathemematician George Polya said:

“As a young student, [Newton] began the study of geometry … he read the theorems, saw that they were true, and omitted the proofs. He wondered why anybody should take pains to prove things so evident.”

History has preferred the Ti approach of Gottfried Leibnitz over the Te approach of Isaac Newton as the latter’s was embedded in the solving of concrete problems rather than pure principle.

Argument 3: Newton used Introverted iNtuition (Ni) and displayed the ambition and narcissism that usually goes along with it:

As we have noted elsewhere on this site, both INTJs and INFJs often display traits of the narcissistic personality. In Jungian terms, this is because their primary function, Introverted iNtuition (Ni), is a perceiving function that is simultaneously imaginative and directed inwards. In other words, what they perceive within themselves appears to them as both more important and more true than the opinions of others. Of exactly this phenomenon the Ni dominant philosopher Schopenhauer said:

“It is only a man’s own thoughts that he really and completely understands. To read the thoughts of others is like taking the remains of someone else’s meal, like putting on the discarded clothes of a stranger.”

  • Reading up on Newton’s biography, it soon becomes evident that the man was secretive, non-sharing and tried to destroy his opponents. In other words, he had a great ambition (Ni) which he naturally sought to externalize (Te). One could almost be led to believe that Newton were an ENTJ if he weren’t so universally described as an introvert.
  • Furthermore, Newton was frequently described as unpleasant and self-serving. Of Newton’s grandeur and narcissism, the great psychologist and scientist H.J. Eysenck wrote:

[There was] a dispute between Newton and Leibnitz concerning the invention of the calculus. The two protagonists did not engage in the debate personally, but used proxies, hangers-on who would use their vituperative talents to the utmost in the service of their masters. Newton in particular abused his powers as President of the Royal Society in a completely unethical manner. He nominated his friends and supporters to a theoretically neutral commission of the Royal Society to consider the dispute; he wrote the report himself, carefully keeping his own name out of it, and he personally persecuted Leibnitz beyond the grave, insisting that he had plagiarized Newton’s discovery – which was clearly untrue, as posterity has found. Neither scientist emerged with any credit from the Machiavellian controversy … [but] Newton behaved similarly towards Robert Hooke, John Locke, and many others.

  • So besides vaulting ambition and displaying delusions of grandeur (well, perhaps not quite so delusional given his genius, but still), Newton also displayed the drive towards synthesis and unison that is characteristic of Ni. In fact, towards the end of his life, Newton attempted to unify all of his different productions (science, alchemy, and religion) into a single unified system even though, as we know from Kant, such a unison is impossible. And to top it all off, Newton would insist that there was nothing wrong with his grand-yet-impossible synthesis. Rather if it seemed wrong, it was merely because the mastery of his model was inaccessible to “lesser natures” – a classic defense of INTJs whose ideas meet criticism.

Thus, all in all we believe Newton to be an INTJ.

17 Comments

  1. I would debate the last point. Trying to unify all knowledge into a coherent system is characteristic of INTPs

  2. Yes, but INTPs try to *build* a complete system, one piece at time. Newton, as seen, *saw* in his mind a system and tried to translate it into an explicit language. When he realized he can’t do that, he said others can’t understand his vision. On the contrary, an INTP builds his system slowly, and checks always if any piece is well fit in.

  3. From my experience, INTPs have a horrible time understanding complex form. Failings in their application of strategic judgement seems to be the root of it. Unless trained otherwise.

  4. ARGUMENT ONE

    I think your article’s first bullet point has some serious problems… Fi doesn’t deal with “wonder” (I don’t think wonder is type related, though perhaps Ne types will follow their sense of wonder further than others).

    Fe doesn’t uniquely deal with aesthetic beauty (I think Feeling and Sensation functions are the functions mainly dealing with that, not just Fe). So Newton deriding art as useless is not an argument for him being Fi>Fe in my opinion – I’d say it would point to inferior Feeling, possibly Sensation, if anything. :)

    I wouldn’t put Newton’s interest in alchemy down to Fi at all. If anything it would suggest a strong preference (maybe dominant) for Intuition, if taken by itself.

    I don’t really see what that quote has to do with “his stance towards his fellow men”. :) It seems to me he’s merely describing his childlike curiosity. I agree the quote sounds very Fi though (actually INFP – I see Fi and NeSi in there). :) But one quote isn’t a lot to go on.

    ARGUMENT TWO

    I agree that Newton’s pragmatic approach leans much more towards Te than Ti. However, I do know some INTPs who can be very pragmatic about “obvious” details too – especially when the equations etc they are using are not a central part of the big idea they’re trying to understand, but just a side issue. Also, quite a few INTPs I know don’t like explaining themselves, so I’d say it was an INTP trait too. :) So there isn’t enough in the Leibniz comparison to say he’s definitely a Te>Ti type, I think.

    I do agree though, from my own reading, that Newton was a TeFi type and not FeTi.

    ARGUMENT THREE

    “Secretive, non-sharing and tried to destroy his opponents.”
    This does indeed seem very Te, and more SeNi than NeSi. Him being extremely ambitious also points more towards TeFi and SeNi.

    “Unpleasant and self-serving” and prone to narcissism. Taking everything said already, and this description by others who knew him (which certainly seems to rule out Fe haha), NTJ does sound much more likely than anything else.

    I can’t decide which though – INTJ and ENTJ seem pretty equal to me. It would be interesting to get more information about why you go for INTJ. :) I haven’t read a biography specifically about Newton, but from what I’ve read I’m confident about the xNTJ at least – are there any biographies you recommend? :)

  5. I don’t know, there are some good points. But it’s definitely not your best. :)

    So why INTJ over ENTJ? (Other than pretty much everyone saying he’s an introvert?) :)

  6. A lot of ENTJs (and ESTJs) come across as introverts as well, Te isn’t exactly the most socializing of the extroverted functions.

  7. Scratvh,

    I agree. In fact, I don’t think “introversion/ extroversion” has very much to do with Jungian typology, in the sense of how sociable a person is. To me, that’s a trait of the Big Five only (though there IS a correlation, in my opinion – strong Big Five extroverts are more likely to be Jungian extroverts etc).

    With Jungian typology, I’d change the terms “Extravert” and “Introvert” to whether a person is primarily “Objective” and “Subjective” instead.

  8. I’ll just pretend you have a charming speech impediment.

    Wasn’t it Jung who invented the terms introvert and extrovert to describe a function? Jungian usage vs common usage is quite far apart, but the same can be easily said of objective/subjective. In day to day usage objective usually means logical while subjective means emotional.

    It’s important, when using quotes to support a typing, to understand what exactly a person means when they use a specific term. A person with no knowledge of jungian psychology could easily characterize IFJs and ISPs as extroverted and ETJs and ENPs as introverted. Similarly the same person could state that an ITP is an objective person and an EFJ a subjective person.

    So I think that this quote:

    “One could almost be led to believe that Newton were an ENTJ if he weren’t so universally described as an introvert.”

    is not nearly enough to suggest INTJ over ENTJ. Neither are any other arguments in this article. Like Hannah, I’m 50/50 on which of them he is. Although I’ve haven’t read anything about him, unless you count The Baroque Cycle (fiction). Since Newton is featured first on the INTJ page I think a revisit might be in order.

    Also Gottfried Leibnitz is mentioned as an INTP, but he’s not featured at the INTP page. I for one would like to see him added.

  9. I agree with all of the criticisms, the article should probably be taken down. We have a ton of other things before we’ll have time to get back to Newton, but article submissions are welcome, and we help with editing and so on. :)

  10. Admins,

    I actually like the fact you’re willing to keep these old articles up on the site for people to read, even though you might no longer agree with them. It shows an admirable amount of intellectual honesty I think. :)

    I think they shouldn’t be hidden, but given their own “old article junkyard” section on the site. There’s a lot of great points in these lesser-known articles, even when the overall article isn’t so great, so it would be nice to see them all together in one place. :)

    I think having their own section will end the confusion about people not understanding these are views you no longer hold too. :)

  11. Thanks for the compliment, though, the context could be better. We’ve yet to find the time to take action on these. Maybe they could go on the OJJT. /Eva

  12. Eva,

    I don’t really visit the OJJT much. I think because I don’t like the fact people aren’t allowed to post comments/responses to the articles there, so it feels much “colder” — and, paradoxically I guess, less OPEN to typology discussion than CT. :)

  13. I think we’d open the OJJT up to comments if we could somehow weed out the one-liners etc. – like if someone writes a long piece on why person X is type Y, they shouldn’t face a slew of one-liners disagreeing, as on our Hitler page here on CT. On the other hand, anyone writing 300+ words can disagree with any of the articles on OJJT. That was our intention at least. :) / Ryan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *