Jung identified Socrates as an S type

In Psychological Types Jung says of Socrates:

“[T]he strongly rationalistic attitude of Socrates repressed the intuitive function as far as possible, so that it had to make itself felt in the form of concrete hallucinations since it had no direct access to consciousness.”

Meaning that according to Jung, Socrates had an S in his four-letter type code.

Reference: Jung: Psychological Types (Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 145-6

Update: After some fruitful comments offered below by the user Jungster, it has become clear to us that one could cut Jung some slack and not necessarily take his claim of Socrates as an S type at face value. We recommend that you read the comments. :-)

However, reading Jung, he actually makes two incompatible claims:

  • That Socrates has a “strongly rationalistic attitude” (meaning that his dominant function was either T or F).
  • That Socrates repressed intuition “as far as possible”.

Now by Jung’s own model of the functions given in Psychological Types, these two claims cannot both be true: If T or F would be be Socrates’ dominant function, then intuition could not be his inferior function, as Jung strongly implies, saying that Socrates’ intuition it “had to make itself felt in the form of concrete hallucinations since it had no direct access to consciousness.”

So, reading Jung in the most generous manner possible, then, we take the claim of Socrates being aF or T-dominant type to be more significant than the insinuations that intuition was his inferior function. This leaves us with Jung claiming Socrates to be an ES-J or IS-P type.

We would of course like to “rescue” Jung by saying that he could have meant that intuition was Socrates’ auxiliary function, but even allowing for the fact that Jung allowed for individual variations with regards to type, it seems untenable that intuition as Socrates’ auxiliary function should be repressed “as far as possible, so that it had to make itself felt in the form of concrete hallucinations since it had no direct access to consciousness.”

Update #2: Here is the wording from the 1923 version of Psychological types, which further corroborates our reading that Jung identified Socrates as an S type:

In a sense one might compare it [i.e. the intuitive function] with the daemon of Socrates : with this qualification, however, that the strongly rationalistic attitude of Socrates repressed the intuitive function to the fullest limit; it had then to become effective in concrete hallucination, since it had no direct psychological access to consciousness. But [unlike Socrates] with the intuitive type this latter is precisely the case. (boldface added.)

Reference: Jung: Psychological Types (PANTHEON BOOKS, 1953 [reprint]), p. 182

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For more on the correct way of reading Jung (and interpreting his claims) see here.

22 Comments

  1. well socrates was a great critical thinker and did leave very little to intuition i’ve always typed him and ayn rand as ST

  2. You’ve misinterpreted that Jung quote. Jung says it was Socrates’ “strongly rationalistic attitude” that resulted in the repression of intuition; not Socrates’ sensation. Look at paragraph 602 of PT and you’ll find the kind of repression of intuition that Jung thought applied in Socrates’ case. It’s the repression of intuition that Jung associated with J-doms (or at least Je-doms), not S-doms.

  3. We have looked at it. Can you try to rephrase what you take that quote to mean?
    On the face of it, it seems to say that Jung took Thinking to repress Intuition “as far as possible”. Of course, J-doms must repress Intuition to some degree, but they can never repress it “as far as possible”.

  4. Also, a function being repressed so far as to have “no direct access to consciousness” would seem to indicate that we are dealing with the repressed/inferior function, so on the face of it, one could even go as far as to say that Jung identified Socrates as ES-P or IS-J. But we are eager to hear your interpretation spelled out :-)

  5. I certainly wouldn’t try to read any precise meaning into “as far as possible.” I think “rationalistic” is the key word to focus on. Jung says it was Socrates’ “strongly rationalistic attitude” that repressed intuition and, in his description of Je-doms (half the “rational types”), Jung specifically describes their tendency (because they’re “rational”) to repress intuition, and for intuition to (accordingly) be unconscious and archaic. If Jung thought Socrates repressed intuition because he was an S, why would he have said it was Socrates’ “strongly rationalistic attitude” that repressed intuition? As you know, S is the other irrational function.

  6. Ah yes – we see that the word ‘rational’ should be taken to refer to the J functions in this context. Thanks for clearing that up. :-)
    You make a good case for the “rationalistic attitude” being the operator in the sentence. What we still wonder, though, is what the logic of saying that this attitude repressed intuition specifically, and not the P functions in general.

    So it appears that the phrase can be read both ways. Though we wonder if you have an interpretation of the other key point in the passage quoted above: That according to Jung, Socrates repressed intuition so far as to have “no direct access to consciousness”?

  7. On the issue of why Jung just referred to repressed N, rather than repressed N & S (or repressed P functions), that seems simple enough, given that the specific context of the reference was Jung introducing the reader to N-doms. I’m not familiar with “Socrates’ daemon” or why Jung thought it would be a useful example to help the reader understand the nature of intuition, but that appears to be the whole reason Jung mentioned Socrates at that point — and then Jung added, really as an aside, that, of course, in Socrates N was repressed rather than dominant because Socrates was one of the rational types (a T-dom, presumably).

    And “no direct access to consciousness” just sounds to me like the way Jung viewed unconscious functions generally. Jung thought that something like half of a typical person’s thoughts/feelings/behavior tended to be the result of their unconscious functions, but believed that, although the person would be “conscious” of those thoughts/feelings/behavior (or, in the example we’re discussing, Socrates’ hallucinations), they’d tend to be, in effect, in the dark about their real underlying roots. In other words, the reason Socrates had those hallucinations (which Jung viewed as intuition-based) was that he lacked the more “direct access” to his intuition that he would have had if his intuition hadn’t been repressed.

  8. Well, you are certainly doing an excellent job of “rescuing” Jung here :-)
    It seems you are correct again with regards to why Jung would only mention Intuition in that passage. With regards to the unconscious, however, we are not so sure. As someone else once noted, it seems that everybody who has read PT comes away from it with his or her own unique understanding of how the functions play out. In this regard we agree with Van Der Hoop that there could have been a greater conceptual clarity in PT. As for our own understanding, we read Jung to say that the two uppermost functions are conscious and the two lower ones unconscious. Von Franz then appears to have developed this idea to say that he tertiary function is halfway conscious and halfway unconscious, – a view which we find more in agreement with our own understanding of the types.

    Yet no matter which of these views is correct, it still seems that Jung is still claiming that Intuition is Socrates’ inferior or tertiary function and thus that he would, to our more modern understanding, have an S in his four-letter code.

    On the other hand, your point that the passage could equally well be read as Jung taking Socrates to be a J-dom is well taken. That does indeed appear to be Jung’s meaning when the paragraph is taken in context. Yet why he would add the qualifier that Socrates’ intuition was repressed “as far as possible” remains unanswered by all of us. You could very well be correct that one should simply pass that bit over, but none the less it is there and there is no obvious reason why it should be there except to say what it actually says: That Socrates’ intuition is repressed “as far as possible.”

    Thus, at this point I am making a note to myself that we should change the post tomorrow to take these two claims together: (1) That Socrates, according to Jung has S higher than N in his function-stack and (2) That Socrates, according to Jung was a J-dominant type.

    I still think a strong case can be made for “no direct access to consciousness” should be taken to refer to the inferior function, though. That would seem to be the most in line with Jung’s other work on dreams and so fourth: The thing which you repress comes back to you in the guise of perceived outside forces. Likewise, Von Franz wrote her essay on the inferior function, which also takes this general view of the inferior function: – That is it the only function that has “no direct access to consciousness.” In any case, it makes no sense to us to say that the intuitions become hallucinations if N was Socrates’ auxiliary function. Do you agree? We would very much welcome your views on this. :-)

    PS: Much too much has been made of Socrates “Daimon”. You can find it in Plato’s Apology. It appaers almost more like an aside, – a rhetorical set-piece from Socrtes in the speech and it is not really featured in the other dialogues. Basically, Socrates says that the daimon is a voice that warns him whenever he is about to do hazardous things. And that, with time, he has learned not to fear doing such things, for if the voice isn’t there, how could it be dangerous? We repeat that we think too much has been made of this little nugget, as it is largely insignificant when viewed against the entire Platonic Corpus on Socrates. But if we were to place this phenomenon of the Daimon somewhere in Jung’s portraits of the types, it sounds the most like the description of the Si-dom’s intuition, lol. :-)

  9. You’ll get no disagreement from me with respect to your statement that “there could have been a greater conceptual clarity in PT.” That’s an understatement and, consistent with that, I think you’re making a mistake in trying to figure out, from what little Jung says in that paragraph, whether Jung thought intuition was Socrates’ auxiliary or tertiary or inferior function. Jung said inconsistent things about how conscious and unconscious the two middle functions would tend to be, and certainly allowed for differences from one individual to another (and over the course of a person’s life) in terms of how differentiated either might be.

    If I had to pick a “most typical” Jungian model, I’d say auxiliary more conscious/differentiated than unconscious/undifferentiated, largely supporting the dominant, and tertiary more unconscious/undifferentiated than conscious/differentiated, largely supporting the inferior. (In 1952 Jung referred to the tertiary as the “auxiliary” of the inferior.) But that model is obviously inconsistent with par. 602, where Jung says that both N and S tend to be pretty much repressed for a Je-dom because their irrational nature conflicts with the Je-dom’s rational attitude. (Note that he specifically says that N and S “share the same fate as feeling in the case of [a Te-dom].”) So… you know… if you want consistency, maybe read somebody else, right?

  10. Addendum to previous comment: When I discouraged you from trying to nail down whether Jung thought N was Socrates’ “auxiliary or tertiary or inferior function,” I should have just said “auxiliary or tertiary.” Assuming Jung viewed Socrates as a “rational” type (J-dom), I’d say there’s no question Jung would have said his inferior was the other rational function in the opposite attitude from the dominant.

  11. Last comment: Agree that Jung has this notion of two-vs-two when it comes to the functions. That is also how van der Hoop read Jung. We don’t put much stock in such an interpretation, however. We’ll try to flesh out how we conceive the inferior function and the tertiary function in our upcoming book :-)

    Personally, I still think that we should go to the maximum lengths that we can in order to extract Jung’s claims about whom he thought what type. Occasionally that might mean “cutting a heel and clipping a toe” but – I personally feel like Jung was asked for it; saying e.g. that Luther was introverted in one book, and saying that Luther’s theology should be taken to represent extroversion in another. And doing the same with Adler, Kant and many more. However, I will be sure to show your comments to my coadmin and see what she thinks :-)

    That email you have punched in, which only we admins can see – is that your real email?

  12. Where did Jung say Luther was an introvert?

    And yes, that is a real email address that belongs to me, although not one I check very often.

  13. I’m looking at a Google Books copy. If you’re talking about Jung saying (on page 66), “Like all introverts, in his conscious he tended to remain academic,” that’s a reference to Jung’s patient, not Luther.

    Is there somewhere else where he refers to Luther as an introvert?

  14. Socrates is one of those few guys who shed large doubt on the functional ordering as we use it today. To me, he is a mix of ENTP and ESFJ: I once regarded his ENTP tendency as marginally stronger, but now I’m undecided.

    I believed he employed his “repressed” function(call it X), no matter which one of the Si-Ne, Ti-Fe would be, more than the average X-dominant person typed on this site.

    With the current interpretation of Jungian functions, I regard him as untypable. Using Keirsey’s bare letters, I’d type him as ENFP(I ultimately believe his Fe slightly edges his Ti and his Ne slightly edges his Si), but this obviously makes no sense using functions, since, to my knowledge, humans can hardly get nearly as devoid of Fi as Socrates(He also shows no signs of Te, actually).

    I’d give his functional ordering as the following:
    1. Ne
    2. Fe
    3. Si
    4. Ti

  15. Why do you find it so hard to assess his type?

    We agree that he did not exhibit a preference for Fi/Te, so he must have had Fe/Ti, as is incidentally also visible in him. Hence he must be NTP, NFJ, SFJ, or STP.

    ESFJ submitting his whole life to repressed Ti would be an exciting interpretation under a classical Jungian framework that makes it a point of pride to admit exceptions.

    But let’s have your two most cogent reasons that falsify the ENTP assessment.

  16. I’ll write a longer reply tomorrow when I’m more free, but for now:

    He had a lifelong philosophy of obedience to the law, something along the lines of “obey the bad laws so that evil people won’t disobey the good ones”. This doesn’t sound like really repressed Si to me.
    His suicide(specifically, the reasons why he chose death) shows Fe, Si, and Fe again: all the reasons he gave have little to do with Ti(in fact, one of them is very much against Ti). They do however, very subtly hit to Ne. Some say that when you’re very stressed you behave very different from what you actually are; others say that only in great danger you reveal your true nature. I tend to believe the latter.

    Note I’m not saying you should move him to ESFJ. I’m just saying that, under the functional ordering we use today, he might have no type.

  17. RE: He had a lifelong philosophy of obedience to the law, something along the lines of “obey the bad laws so that evil people won’t disobey the good ones” This doesn’t sound like really repressed Si to me.

    People with a legalistic mindset discount the reliability of ethical reasoning to achieve ethical outcomes. It goes something like this: “you feel it’s not fair? Well, TOO BAD!”

    This indicates a repression of F. Not a repression of “Si.”

  18. To clarify, I think obedience to law indicates T (a repression of F), and does not indicate the presence of introverted sensing (“Si”).

    And to place into context, I am arguing that dibafe’s observation of Socrates is only evidence that Socrates is a thinking type, not evidence that he was not intuitive.

    I find the other example that diabafe furnished (i.e. suicide) also very thought provoking. If Socrates believed that his execution would influence Greek society, then I’d agree the his “suicide” has basis in F (evaluative decision making).

    But, if he simply can’t allow himself to say what he considers gibberish, and is true to his beliefs, then I would say the evidence indicates (again) a T type. Very specifically, he is a introverted T type (Ti), not interested in reconciling his beliefs with ones advanced by others.

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