Since there continues to be confusion about our method and approach to typology, we’ve made this video to clarify what it is we do and why we do it and hopefully dispel any lingering misunderstandings.
The first choice of any approach to typology is to select what sources one will admit into one’s theoretical framework. Unfortunately, most typologists online never come around to making this choice and so put themselves at the mercy of a random heap of typology texts they’ve happened to come across.
In our case, the foundational texts for our approach can be imagined as a pentagon, the edges of which are: C.G. Jung, M.-L. Von Franz, J.H. van der Hoop, Isabel Briggs Myers and our own contributions and texts. (For some reason, a lot of visitors seem to think that we have never bothered to spell out our method, but in reality, we have published hundreds of articles on typology on our website and been cited by several universities, peer-reviewed journals and the Isabel Briggs Myers Memorial Library.)
This means, for example, that one of the best-selling books on typology ever, namely David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me and the theories offered there is not admitted into the framework that we use for making sense of typology.
But here is another thing that we do and which, as far as we know, we are the only ones to do: We combine the above-mentioned theoretical approach to Jungian typology with a Popperian epistemology, which, in a nutshell, means that we accept that inductive arguments cannot yield foolproof results.
Since the problem of induction has never been solved, this means that almost all knowledge is tentative. That is to say, both the theoretical framework for understanding typology and individual type assessments can never be regarded as complete, but always exist in a state of refinement and evolution.
However, most online typologists simply never accept this point. Not only do they rely on a random heap of contradictory typology knowledge; they also present their type assessments as if they possessed some final merit that could absolve them from having to observe the evolutionary approach to typology.
They also do not seem to understand that the best way to further the business of typology is to isolate and present one’s arguments as neatly and cleanly as possible, or – if one finds oneself on the other side of the fence – to present neat refutations of the arguments others have levelled as cleanly as possible. This is what Popper called the process of ‘conjectures and refutations.’ Instead, they seem to rely on exactly the method that Popper cautioned against, namely to flood their interlocutors with a “full tide of lofty images and words” as if to cover up the individual nuts and bolts of their case in an attempt to present it as an irrefutable whole that must be agreed to. Frequently, they also attack the person behind the arguments, instead of attacking the arguments.
On the other hand, while many typologists are ignorant of these epistemological issues and have no conscious or consistent methodology, academic psychologists seem to accept the Popperian epistemology, but then draw the wrong conclusion from it: They assert that since the exercise of function-based typology cannot be falsified in the same way as more empirical models of personality then one should abandon the practice of typology altogether. These academics typically hold this position in the name of not “going beyond the facts.” But ironically, in a Popperian epistemology, the facts themselves can never be made to suggest much, since what people take to be “facts” and “data” is itself determined by the state of knowledge of a given field at a given time. A good dose of deductive theory and extrapolation will always be needed to make sense of things, and this is doubly true of typology.
In other words, the weight of the evidence behind, say, a type assessment such as Plato being INFJ, can never be finally established. But the claim can become more and more. probable as the claim attracts attention and accumulates evidence in its favor as well as successfully withstanding counterarguments.
Now, concerning our approach to typology, we want to return to the matter of one’s theoretical framework. We have previously given several overviews of our approach – our work is non-behaviorist, psycho-dynamic, and function-based and takes a minimalist view of the scope of type – but one thing we’ve never said is that ours is the only possible approach to typology. There is an almost infinite number of approaches that one could take to typology and one could still be right within one’s own framework for understanding the discipline. For example, one could look at the dichotomies and not the functions. Or even if someone said they were using a function-based approach, they could differ from us, since we, following von Franz and van der Hoop, hold that the functions pertain to consciousness, whereas most people online who say they’re going by functions tend to tie functions to behavior rather than consciousness.
In this way, one’s theoretical framework for approaching typology can be likened to the language one speaks. As anyone who speaks more than one language will know, there is not always the possibility of a perfect translation. Yet we all use the same terminology; INFJ, ESTP, Fe, Fi, and so on. What you get when you see an online free-for-all discussion about someone’s type is like 20 people, all shouting at one another because they think they understand what the other party is saying when they hear the letters “INFJ”, but in reality they are all speaking different languages. That’s why method and a processual view of knowledge is so important to typology.
Bizarrely, another thing that is often seen in typology is a jejune skepticism presented as a big insight. In this respect, typologists actually resemble academics in presenting themselves as uniquely critical and seasoned by refraining from entering the fray at all. For example, someone will make a long and studious argument about why person X is type Y and, without bothering to actually engage with the argument – without bothering to find fault with the argument – someone will say that it’s not possible to develop typology in that direction or to adequately conjecture the type of famous people at all. Nothing is easier than consigning oneself to such simplistic skepticism and, far from being a sign of critical thinking, it should be considered a sign of facile laziness. There are many important questions where uncertainty will blot out some of what we can know – for example, when exactly Jesus lived or what year Alexander invaded India – but that doesn’t mean that we should stop studying these questions or developing our knowledge and conjectures of them at all, of course. And nor does it mean that any conjecture on the matter is as good as any other.
- For a historiographical overview on the history of type assessments of Plato in the literature, see our article Why Plato Is INFJ.
- Though we do not accept Keirsey’s general theoretical framework, we do accept his criticism of Intuition as pertaining more to introspection whereas Jung and Myers had described a mixup of introspection and introversion. We also concur with many of Keirsey Sr.’s type assessments, which he presented before we did, which is a strange thing given that we use different theoretical approaches.