Michael Pierce is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Pierce’s piece represents his own insights and type assessments and not necessarily those of the site. In this article, Pierce elaborates on the concept of function axes.
By Michael Pierce
All types have one perceiving axis (N/S) and one judging axis (T/F). Each will always take one of two forms: The perceiving axis can be either the Se/Ni or the Si/Ne axis, while the judging axis can be either the Fe/Ti or the Fi/Te axis. I shall now attempt to lay out some differences between each of these.
The Judgment Axes
With regard to the judgment axis, Fe/Ti asks “What do I think and how can I communicate that?” while the Te/Fi axis asks “What do I want, and how can I get it?”
The Fe/Ti axis seeks to understand the logical structure or form underlying the phenomena that are encountered by the psyche. This discernment includes sentiment-related phenomena, which it approaches in an analytical manner, just as it may pertain to more mechanical analysis, which the Fe/Ti types then often take care to present in an agreeable manner and with a human face.
The Fi/Te axis seeks to apprehend a hierarchy of desires and passions that motivate the individual to create expedient arrangements in reality with the aim of furthering one’s ends and accomplishing one’s desires. Ultimately, the arrangements are there to serve the individual’s aims, and not in order to construct some impersonal, idealized model that can then be thought to be true for all time.
Hence it is my contention that the Fe/Ti axis is more naturally wired to seek knowledge that is abstracted from the individual’s personal situation, while the Te/Fi is more naturally wired towards making sure that the individual’s personal desires are transformed into reality. This distinction harks back to Sigurd Arild and Ryan Smith’s article, NTP Knowing vs. NTJ Willing, although in my opinion, the distinction holds true for all types, and not merely to NTPs and NTJs like they said. To put it another way, the reason their distinction pertains to all types is because these properties are in fact properties of the two judging axes, and not of NTP and NTJ types as such.
As is so often the case, however, the difference is clearest if we turn to philosophy where Nietzsche (the Fi/Te type) says:
“Behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or, more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain type of life.” – Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil §11
While Hume (the Fe/Ti type) says:
“… amidst all the variety and caprice of taste, there are certain general principles of approbation or blame, whose influence a careful eye may trace in all operations of the mind.” – David Hume: Essays (Alex, Murray & Son 1870) p. 138
Thus, in the Te/Fi attitude, we see that people are thought to do things because they want to, desire to, and have a passionate drive to: No matter what intricate logical justifications are produced, the real fuel of all spirited human activity will in the end be shown to be personal wishes and goals, that the individual is willing to fight to obtain or preserve. Meanwhile, with the Fe/Ti attitude represented by Hume, the reason people do things is because they operate under the influence of general principles, which they may not even understand in full themselves, but which nevertheless influence “all operations of the mind.”
It should be noted, of course, that these distinctions pertain to the psychological structure of consciousness, and not to its contents, as the other writers on this site so often take care to point out. That is to say, it is not impossible that an Fe/Ti type would end up agreeing with Nietzsche that everything ‘principled’ is really a masked power play that serves the promotion of one’s desires, as in fact, the Ti/Fe type Michel Foucault did, at least in part. However, the Fe/Ti style of thinking will still be his root metaphysical prejudice, as Ryan Smith has pointed out in Part 6 of this series. With Foucault, for example, we might say that what he did was essentially to analyze Nietzsche’s spirited accusation against principles and impartial logic on the basis of principles and impartial logic! He saw that even though people say they act on the basis of impartial principles, most of them simply don’t, and then made that his new principle, indeed extending Nietzsche’s argument to all people in a universalistic Fe/Ti fashion that would probably have been mildly amusing to Nietzsche himself. Though he had assimilated Fi/Te type contents, the structure of his consciousness was still opposite to that.
The Perceiving Axes
So much for the judgment axes. As far as the perceiving axes go, their general nature can be described as follows: Se/Ni asks: “What is the most likely outcome on the basis of the raw data?” while the Si/Ne axis asks: “What is the relative truth behind each perspective?”
The Se/Ni axis seeks to apprehend the most likely future outcome that we can expect, based on a raw and direct experience of reality. This configuration lends an unhindered and self-evident quality to the insights of Se/Ni types where they are often able to fuse direct experience of reality with compelling mental schemata for how to cognitively lock on to what’s going on in the world, as Boye Akinwande and Ryan Smith have pointed out in Part 4 of this series.
For its part, the Si/Ne axis seeks to cognize the most dependable and lasting qualities of phenomena, based on a tentative sampling of varying perspectives, with each perspective recommending some insights while lessening the importance of others (and concealing others still from view). This configuration leads to a more inhibited or indirect style of cognition on the part of the Si/Ne type where their contributions owe much more to an aggregate general wisdom that has formed over time than to acute observation of the present matter.
Hence, these observations effortlessly lead us back to what was originally said in Part 1 of this series: On balance, Se/Ni is much more trusting of, and interested in, whatever empirical data that is available and pertains directly to the matter at hand. As I have said, it is simply in the nature of Se/Ni to rely on direct observation and direct conjecture from the empirical data. As the original article said, the Se/Ni type will be cognitively engrossed in one perspective, which is coincidentally also likely to be the perspective that generates the greatest yield. There is a manifest and immediate quality to their insights, since they are naturally hooked into a more direct and straightforward perception of the world.
Even when Se is a person’s inferior function, one can still see this facet of the Se/Ni axis at play. All else being equal, a dominant Ni type takes in the least amount of factual outside experience of all the Se/Ni types. Yet if you observe them, you see them constantly mulling over and conjecturing from whatever data they do have. Oftentimes, they simply cannot help but do so, and so they often feel like they have a lot to say on a broad range of topics, regardless of their actual levels of expertise. Their saving grace, however, is the subjective originality of the Ni function, which frequently allows them to concoct novel and intriguing points of view, even on the basis of a few morsels of data that would leave others lost.
Meanwhile, the Si/Ne axis is far less trusting of direct observation. This is hardly a mystery, since their Sensation function is introverted. Where Se/Ni types are straightforward and direct in their object representations, Si/Ne types are more cautious and indirect, abstracting experiences so as to produce subjective mental facsimiles of them at the expense of cognizing them directly. This is why Part 1 of this series pointed out that Si types will frequently experience an unconscious striving to organize the contents of their experience into a mental regimen which is not just valid in the here and now, but which might conceivably end up in a future textbook on the subject.
Si types focus their cognitive energy on the apprehension of the carefully and cautiously culled characteristics of phenomena that have been proven to endure over time. Hence their stereotypically thorough, cautious, and reserved nature. Meanwhile, Ne types tend to focus their energy on provisional exploration and experimentation, where the subject matter is approached from various angles at once. The Si type’s caution can here be seen in the Ne type’s tendency to eschew dogma and never truly commit to anything. It’s all experimentation and exploration, with a series of tentative snapshots amassing to form a composite mental image, though their trouble is that they never want to stop. The Si type’s trouble, on the other hand, is that they do not want to start.
 Roy Harrod: “[Keynes spoke] on a great range of topics, on some of which he was thoroughly an expert, but on others [he had] derived his views from the few pages of a book at which he had happened to glance.”
 Nietzsche: “One should not know more about a thing than one can digest creatively.”