This article is no longer part of the main site, but remains online for documentary and historical reasons.
We have had requests for the typing of Ben Stein as INTP, with one person saying he hardly conforms to the persona of ‘intellectual loner’ and suggesting he must be some sort of Te user instead. We agree that Ben Stein is not a stereotypical INTP (we think he is Antisocial which, with regards to the functional level of personality, is more common for E-TPs), but we believe him to be one nevertheless.
To get closer to Stein, consider his writings. Stein shares his personal story and philosophy of life in the book How Successful People Win: Using Bunkhouse Logic to Get What You Want in Life. His story is that he started out rather passive in life, but then he noticed that people who were less smart than him and his friends were nevertheless enjoying more of life’s bounties.
This observation (which hits the sorest spot in the Antisocial psyche) bugged Stein so much that he started observing the behaviors of those people around him who got ahead even though their intellectual merits were questionable compared to his own. What Stein observed was essentially all of the psychological dirty tricks that are anathema to Introverted Thinking.
In an unusual move for an INTP (but again one that is consistent with the every-man-for-himself attitude of the Antisocial personality) Stein then experimented with emulating the behaviors he had identified, and what he found was that behaving in these ways indeed opened doors that had previously been closed to him. In other words, Stein started out as a passive observer of life, then used detached analysis to identify how to get what he wanted, and finally he bit the bullet that he would have to work at behaving in ways that do not come naturally to him. What makes him different from your standard INTP persona of “intellectual loner,” then, is that Stein was motivated to change himself, whereas most other INTPs (who lack the Antisocial drive to jockey for position in life) do not find it worthwhile to start consciously using the dirtiest tricks of psychology to get their way.
Here are a few quotes from Stein’s own mouth:
Those high achievers were on a different railroad line altogether. Those girls and boys who found happiness in their work and in their homes were definitely operating off a set of instructions unlike the ones that had been issued to the rest of us. On the coldest of psychic mornings, when our engines would barely turn over, their motors would always start on the first try.
[Once] I was rather certain that I could differentiate between the useful [things that I had observed] and the useless attitudes – those that led up and those that led nowhere – I took the first hesitant, tentative steps toward actually behaving in the ways that seemed to lead somewhere promising.
It hurts to acknowledge that life is as arduous as it is, but that acknowledgment will help you over many a rough period in the long run. Further, it is fundamental knowledge to the successful in the world. They take for granted that the world is a tough place. So should you. It’s part of accepting reality.
So that, in a nutshell, is our rundown of how Stein can be a Ti dominant, even though his derived persona is very different from most other INTPs on the site. Want more? Watch this:
In this clip, Ben Stein interviews Richard Dawkins (another INTP). The two men are on opposite sides of the intelligent design debate, so one might well expect the exchange to get heated and emotional, but as it turns out, their discourse is quite civilized. Both men exhibit a behavior that is regrettably uncommon in such exchanges: Each man lets the other finish without interrupting, and also each man carefully listens to the arguments that the other party is presenting and replies to what was actually said, rather than replying to a strawman version of that argument.
Stein has a fairly lowkey, Socratic style. He simply asks one question after another, in a strategy that could best be described as (attempting to) give Dawkins the rope with which to hang himself. Now, we are not saying that Stein’s debating technique is completely fair-minded, because he does use some of those dirty tricks which he observed as a youth (such as using ominous music and cutting to voiceover); but overall he does maintain the pose and debating style of an NTP type.
Stein’s Lessons to Himself
Yet another way to approach the topic of Stein’s type is to look at which lessons Stein thought it important to stress to himself in his book on parenting, Tommy and Me: The Making of a Dad. Does an Ne type need to remind himself to look at a matter from multiple perspectives? Rarely. Does an Si type need to remind himself to give meticulous and precise details? Not really. On the other hand, a person will frequently find value in the distillation of points related to his or her non-dominant function into concrete, bite-sized lessons. So which lessons does Stein find it important to stress to himself? Let’s see:
Do not allow your children to be rude. I always tell my son that he can feel any way he wants. He can be sad or happy, energetic or slothful. This largely cannot be controlled. But how he acts toward those around him can be controlled. He is not allowed to turn his back on adults as he is talking to them, to fail to answer others when they greet him, to talk only about himself, to use other boys’ toys and not share his own.
He is expected to show some respect for the pain of those around him, to congratulate those who succeed, to have some empathy for others’ feelings. He is expected to know that while he is the apple of his Dad’s eye, he is not the center of everyone else’s universe.
By insisting upon something above minimum politeness, I make sure he gets some notion that others’ feelings are worth taking into account. If he can get that into his little tow head, he will have learned the most basic foundation of human interaction. (boldface added)
The lessons themselves may come in a form that is reminiscent of “traditional morality,” employing a “rude-polite” axis, and will no doubt make the Keirsey-inspired readers in the audience relegate Stein’s lessons to Keirsey’s notion of the SJ temperament. But to our mind, the thing to note is how the individual components of Stein’s conceptions of politeness are not conflated into a whole: Stein is very ardent with regards to distinguishing between one’s inner state, which, according to him, “largely cannot be controlled,” and then one’s actual outward behavior, where he thinks people almost owe each other some measure of appropriate common courtesy. Our main point in responding to the notion that Stein’s lessons to himself attest to an SJ temperament is that the duality that Stein allows for – feeling slothful on the inside while being obliged to showcase politeness on the outside – is simply not consonant with Keirsey’s portrait of the SJ morality. In Keirsey’s conception, SJs do not experience a discord between their personal feelings and desires and what they perceive their duty to be and so they do not have to consciously struggle to live up to the latter; rather they experience their feelings and desires as aligned with their duty – a phenomenon known as psychic equivalence.
“If only children were more like computers”
What else does Stein have to say about child-rearing?
Patience is indispensable. Children are not computers. Behavioral flaws cannot be corrected by flipping a switch or rewriting a few lines of code. You have to correct them a lot to get even the beginnings of improvement. This is standard. If you try to correct by force or terror, you get a terrorized child, not a correct child. Patience has the highest payoff of any virtue in dealing with children. (boldface added)
In the above excerpt, Stein reveals that he is also not a parent to whom continual parental discipline, in the form of extroverted judgment, comes naturally – wouldn’t parenting be so much easier if one could simply ‘rewrite a few lines of code’ in the child’s head and be done with it?
Finally, throughout the book Stein emphasizes the importance of respecting the child’s individuality and independence which is again typical for the hands-off parenting style of a dominant introverted judger and decidedly atypical for the Keirseyan notion of the SJ temperament.
Exit Keirsey – Enter Jung
Furthermore, leaving Keirsey and returning to classical Jung, we would add three more points to our analysis of Stein’s lesson above: (1) The Feeling that Stein touts in his lesson – the kind of feeling which he regards as ideal – is Fe and not Fi. (2) The aforementioned duality in Stein’s analysis of politeness (one can feel slothful on the inside and this cannot be controlled) makes it – all other things being equal – more likely that he is an introverted judger than an extroverted judger (for the latter will more often try to force their inner state to comply with whatever outwards behavior they have determined to be the right one) and finally: (3) Stein’s imposing an obligation on others to exhibit Fe regardless of their inner state resembles the moral law of Immanuel Kant where people must dutifully struggle to live up to an impossible standard of morality and obligation to their fellow men regardless of their inner state. Could it be that this longing towards Fe – a longing that is a the same time imbued with a certain impossibility, a fait accompli – attests to a repressed, inferior state of affairs with regards to Stein’s Fe?
We think that it does.