In an earlier post we argued why the physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is ENFJ. And if you are into physicists that are in the habit of making science-popularizing performances, you may also be familiar with the British physicist Brian Cox, whom we estimate to be ENFP. These two men showcase how Extroverted Feeling (Fe) and Introverted Feeling (Fi) play out in different types that set out to fill the same functional role, namely that of science popularizer.
Starting with deGrasse Tyson, the thing to notice is that he builds up a common vision for the audience – a vision in which the audience has a part to play. In this keynote speech, deGrasse Tyson spells out, “What we’ve gotta do: … that we have to double NASA’s budget.” The feeling process is out there. It’s objective, for others to see in full and to participate in. Likewise, as we quote deGrasse Tyson on the main site:
Tyson: “When [we do something like going] to the moon, everybody knows about it. And everybody becomes a participant in some way. Either an actual participant … or [as] an emotional participant, because they embrace the idea.”
Compare Brian Cox
Introverted Feeling (Fi), on the other hand, is about one’s own personal experience, personal values and the intense, subjective experiencing of them. Where Fe creates an exterior, tangible judgment, and is therefore objective, Fi, by contrast, creates an internal, intangible judgment and is therefore subjective. As Jung said in his portrait of the Fi types, the outer signs of Fi are but a pale shadow of the inner richness of the subjective experience. In fact, in Jung’s words, the outer signs of the Fi process are but a “parallelism,” that is to say, their outward demeanor is often harmonious and inconspicuous, but at the same time a trained observer will notice little cues that the outer inconspicuousness is but a vestige of the delight that the Fi type is experiencing on the inside, in a subjective form that cannot be directly communicated to others.
If Fi seems hampered when compared to Fe with regards to popularizing, that is because – as opposed to Fe – Fi’s first order of business isn’t about communicating with other people at all: Fi is about depth and intensity of feeling within the Fi type himself, and external objects as well as other people are entirely secondary to Fi.
This is also why Fi types are generally better artists than Fe types: Fi champions the personal vision, – take it or leave it – while Fe tries to appease and align itself with the current state of affairs. And as a general rule, appeasing and aligning detracts from intensity.
Like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox is on a popularizing mission to increase public awareness of and interest in science. But as Cox is an ENFP and interacting with other people in a directive (judging) manner isn’t his core competency at all. (Cox’s dominant function, Extroverted Intuition, can also interact with people, but during such interactions, Ne types take on an informative rather than judging role.)
So directing people toward doing specific things is not Cox’s primary competency. He does not deploy the tools of direct emotional persuasion that deGrasse Tyson has. As we have said before, when deGrasse Tyson presents a piece of information, the “correct” attitude (i.e. what he wants us to think or feel about something) is already obvious even before he reaches any conclusion or presents any actual argument concerning the subject.
This is the typical modus operandi of Fe’s persuasive powers. Fe persuades by manifesting an air of nobility about a given standpoint – an air that engages the audience’s feeling function and implicitly lets the audience know that if a contrary opinion were to be expressed, this would disturb the general well-being in the room.
Fi persuades by being sympathetic
Yet as we have said, Brian Cox does not have a preference for Fe. Because Cox’s judging function (Fi) is the opposite of deGrasse Tyson’s judging function (Fe), we must also expect that Cox’s manner of persuasion is the opposite of Tyson’s, and indeed it is.
Instead of persuading his audience by appealing to tangible, external objects (like deGrasse Tyson says: “We build a suit of launch vehicles that will enable us to go…”), Brian Cox stresses instead the personal enthusiasm that is generated by increased funding for science, in this case the CERN supercollider: Cox repeatedly stresses how exciting the work on the supercollider is to him.
Undeveloped in the outwardly judging manners of deGrasse Tyson, Cox’s means of persuasion are indirect: Cox’s entire presentation takes the form of a narrative (i.e. informative rather than directive). During his presentation he offers a series of innocuous jokes and repeatedly laughs in an engaging, disarming manner, seemingly at nothing in particular. This produces the effect in us that we find Cox sympathetic and harmless, perhaps even slightly submissive. (Here it is important to note that this point pertains to Fi and to Cox’s specific expression and manner of using Fi; not to all NFP types in general.)
So instead of appealing to externals, like Tyson, Cox talks about the personal intensity of his feelings and values regarding astrophysics. If we find him interesting, we can listen, and if not, we can tune out. Again Fi is ‘take it or leave it,’ where Fe strives to engage the entirety of the audience.
So taken together, Fi is subjective, largely inexpressible, and also indirect in its means of persuasion. As Jung said of the Fi user: Because the primacy of his feeling is directed inwards, the Fi user must struggle to “convey it to [his] fellow man in such a way that a parallel process takes place in him.” That is to say, Cox must try to convey his inner, subjective and intense value judgment to us, even though that is largely impossible, because by its very nature, Fi pertains to a person’s inner life.
Incidentally, that is why we have included the following quote about Brian Cox on the site:
Jane Fryer: “There’s something about his … poetic descriptions [and] bubbling emotions … that demystifies science and makes it fascinating.”
As it happens, poetry is a particularly apt vessel for conveying Fi outwardly, and as our INFP page can testify to, many of the world’s most famous poets have been INFPs. This is because poetry is in itself a parallelism. Poetry can only express the seeds, the bare essentials of a mental image; the process of the mental image’s unfolding will have take place in the receptive reader’s mind. Like Fi’s, poetry too, attempts to express the inexpressible. Poetry, too, persuades by indirect means, and by eliciting the instinctive sympathies of the reader, rather than by the conscious analysis that can be more readily applied when gauging prose.
In short, Brian Cox describes an approximation of his personal enthusiasm and feeling (Fi) and then it is up to his audience to react to that as they see fit. Like an artists’ production, his message is ‘take it or leave it.’ In contrast, Neil deGrasse Tyson urges his audience to accept his message by enveloping it in an atmosphere of warm unity, making it difficult for the audience to ignore or reject his message without breaking the emotional bond he has forged.