By Boye Akinwande
INTJs and INFJs share the function arrangement of dominant introverted intuition and inferior extroverted sensation. Both types are less cognizant of the momentary and immediately tangible aspects of reality than they are of questioning the ‘givens’ that exist at the root of reality. Indeed, as Isabel Myers has said of them, they “regard the immediate situation as a prison from which escape is urgently necessary.” They aim to effect this escape through some sweeping change in the mental perspectives which we have on the world.
In our own work on function axes, we have further developed the ideas of Myers and Jung. We’ve pointed out how the introverted intuition/extroverted sensation axis is in effect different from the extroverted intuition/introverted sensation axis, no matter where these functions are placed in the individual’s psyche. If one accepts these elaborations, one could also say that another common feature of the INTJ and INFJ types is that their mental operations aim at a kind of unconscious subjective synthesis – they brood and ponder for long periods of time in order to arrive at the singular, ideational perspectives that – in their eyes, at least – have the greatest potential for transforming how they and others view reality.
However, while INTJs and INFJs are alike because of their shared intuition/sensation axis, they are also different because their feeling/thinking axis diverges. INFJs prefer extroverted feeling and introverted thinking (in that order), while INTJs prefer extroverted thinking and introverted feeling (also in that order).
Now, for the INFJ’s part, this means that many INFJs can come off as heavily studious and intellectual, due to the coupling of dominant intuition with introverted thinking. Examples of such Ni-Ti INFJs with a studious bent include Plato and Jung.
Some typologists like to believe that if someone ideational appears to be leading with introverted intuition, then that person must be an INTJ. For example, to this day many Jungians and Jungian authors claim that Jung was INTJ (that is, an introverted intuitive with auxiliary extroverted thinking).
However, as we have just said, INFJs can equally well be “intellectual,” due to the presence of their tertiary Ti. It is therefore not enough to say that an introverted intuitive who is intellectual or philosophical must be INTJ. One must determine whether their thinking is extroverted or introverted in order to truly decide whether they are INFJ or INTJ.
Let’s look at bit at INTJs. As said, INTJs have auxiliary extroverted thinking. Since their thinking is directed outwards, they prefer for their judgments and plans to be orientated towards the actionable. While their ruminations and visions might be just as lofty as those of the INFJ, the concrete takeaways from their thought tend to be much easier to translate into practical reality. They want to construct a clear path from abstract vision to concrete reality; to shake the world with their thought in a way that makes the “impossible” possible.
If the INFJ’s combination of introverted intuition and introverted thinking tends to make them ivory tower-like, contemplative, and academic, the INTJ’s combination of introverted intuition and extroverted thinking makes them want to seek a more direct transformational impact on reality. INTJs tend to very much insist that their visions can be translated into concrete reality.
Now, INFJs, on the other hand, don’t look nearly as much to reality in terms of the development and direction of their own visions. Their external judgments tend to be centered around people, but as said, their intellectual contemplations tend to be more ivory tower-like. In a way, their intellectual contemplations are even less empirical than those of the ENTP and INTP types who, after all, take some stock of external reality through extroverted intuition. In another point of comparison, INFJs often resemble NTP types in the way they let impartial (and some would say: impractical) logical principles govern the entities of their cognition, but INFJs typically do not spend as much time and energy developing these principles to the highest possible level of unbiased impartiality. For INFJs, their introverted thinking principles tend to be looser, because the end goal of their cognition isn’t to adhere dispassionately to the principles themselves (as it often is with NTPs). No; with INFJs, the goal is rather to use these principles loosely; as buttresses that hold together an altogether more abstract (and as it were: pre-principled) vision fraught with personal meaning and archetypal implications. In other words, while it may look NTPish on the surface, the true structure of the thought of INFJs is often of a kind that goes beyond the bounds of rationality and legalistic logical deductions.
At this point, some readers may feel that we have given an undue amount of attention to introverted thinking in INFJs, and not enough to their extroverted feeling, which is after all superior to their thinking. So let’s look a bit more at their feeling.
With all of the F types, their thinking will often be subservient to their feeling, as Myers said. With FJ types, their preference for extroverted feeling tends to mean that they seek to align their sentiments with those of others. In intellectual matters, this means that the values of other people often exert a considerable influence on the internal visions and philosophies they build. This is one reason why INFJs are often able to bypass the strictures of mere logic in their thinking in order to unite seemingly contradictory sentiments and sympathies in the ideational realm. A good example of this disposition can be found in the work of the philosopher John Rawls, who manged to fuse together the seemingly contradictory values of liberty and (economic) equality. Rawls is commonly recognized as the greatest political philosopher of the 20th century, but as a system of principles, his work has often been criticized for being logically incoherent. For our purposes, the point is exactly that Rawls did not construct his philosophy by following the principles wherever they led him. Instead, he crafted a philosophy that articulated and united the conceptions of justice and fairness that most people held around him. Had he followed his own principles more strictly, he might have ended up in different philosophical territory altogether.
We have now spent quite some time exploring the thinking side of the INFJ. But what about the feeling side of INTJs? Indeed, just as INFJs have a prominent thinking side, so too the INTJ has a prominent feeling side. In INFJs, where extroverted feeling interacts with introverted intuition, there is a tendency for them to formulate a vision that takes on the character of a unified whole embracing all of humanity. Spinoza and Schopenhauer come to mind as good examples here.
In INTJs, however, their introverted intuition interacts not with extroverted, but with introverted feeling. Since their sense of value and sentiment is directed inwards, INTJs tend to hold more singularly and stubbornly on to their vision. They will often come across as more unyielding and hard-headed. With many INTJs, there is also a tendency for them to romanticize their vision, originality, and determination – to see themselves as the proud loner, rising against the narrow-mindedness and slave morality of the herd. Friedrich Nietzsche is by far the best example here, but one could also name Heraclitus as a classic example. In some cases, it is almost as if the INTJ sees the resistance and disagreement of others as confirmation that they are on to something, indeed that they are truly brilliant and must continue to hold fast to their vision, powering through any opposition in order to consummate the truth that they alone have seen. In this respect, they are often quite different from INFJs, who – even when they want to appear as proud loners – often cannot help but let their politeness and fellow-feeling get the better of them. In this way, even when INFJs are regarded as ‘proud loners’ by the public at large, they are often more like sphinxes – mysterious, sensitive spirits that have sealed their true natures off from the world – whereas the INTJ is more of a tenacious, singular seer, very confident of their own views and very determined that these should be heard by all the world and triumph.