By Michael Pierce
David Keirsey called them “Inventors,” and elsewhere they are called “Visionaries” and “Originators.” All three of these nicknames emphasize the creative aspect of the ENTP, and especially the nickname “originator” implies that the ENTP starts new things but has trouble seeing them through to the end. The ENTP is stereotyped as a quick-witted, ever-skeptical, and highly inventive devil’s advocate; a shrewd lawyer or entrepreneur, uncovering the silly irrationalities of humanity through clever observation. This isn’t an inaccurate caricature, but it is still a caricature and over-emphasizes some aspects while severely downplaying others.
As always, let’s break down what constitutes the ENTP functionally.
They are a Perceiving type, meaning that they prefer extroverted perceiving and introverted judging. This means that they base their judgment criteria on subjective, inner information, while simply observing and drinking in objective information and experiences. You could say that they are more receptive towards the outside world and more aggressive towards their inner experience.
Their preferred way of doing this is through extroverted intuition and introverted thinking. Extroverted intuition is innovative: it perceives and seeks out new possibilities from objective data, finding the ones with the most promise and bringing them to fruition. Introverted thinking is deductive: it seeks to develop an internally consistent logical system by deducing all the necessary implications of a set of premises.
Third, they are very similar to the INTP; both prefer Ne and Ti. The ENTP, however, prefers Ne more than Ti. Nevertheless, they are in some sense the same type, or at least sister types. I personally like to call NTP types the “Thinkers,” because they combine a passive, multifaceted examination of possibilities in the world with rigorous ordering and logical deduction within their minds, thus appearing to quietly observe the world and ponder it. Of course, “Thinker” is merely a nickname to help me remember the NTP nature, and it does not mean that NTPs are the only type that thinks, or the best at thinking, or even more likely to pursue a career or lifestyle that is centered around this kind of stereotypical thinking.
The ENTP, then, is a “thinker” for whom the objective observation of possibilities is more important than their inner logical principles and deductions. They are primarily concerned with discovering, creating, and innovating, in other words, living off of everything new and exciting.
The word I use to remember the ENTP nature is “multifaceted.” This word is not meant to describe the ENTP, but rather the way they go about things. The distinguishing characteristic of the ENTP is their great interest in viewing all the sides of an idea without any specialization into one perspective, in other words, the ENTP wants to see all the sides of an issue, rather than be an expert in just a few. This is a manifestation of their dominant Ne, which favors more and more possibilities, or a broader sweep of all the possibilities, rather than a few fully formed and complete possibilities.
In the case of the ENFP, this appetite for diversity often appears as a sort of poetic wanderlust and need to be unfettered because of Fi’s individualism. With the ENTP, however, their Ti does not value or think about what it wants, but simply what is and how things work. Ti is deductive, and it wants to exercise control over internal ideas and impressions by integrating them into a perfect system. Thus the ENTP’s Ne often appears more academic, dispassionate, or scientific; they explore possibilities by examining their logical implications, seeing where they end up and if there are any contradictions along the way.
Thus, the ENTP is curious and investigative. As Friedrich Nietzsche said of Socrates, he was “the eternal investigator of all things.” And as Socrates himself is credited with saying: “[I] have never left off seeking after and learning every … thing that I could.” Unlike the INTP who seeks multiple perspectives in order to perfect their system, the ENTP creates a system to better seek out multiple perspectives. When the INTP adds another facet into their system, it is a celebration, an induction into a grand council, but when the ENTP adds another facet to their system, their mind plays a funeral march, for that facet no longer has potential; it’s been used up. This drives the ENTP to learn everything; they want to see all the possibilities, all the ideas; they don’t care if they only get a glimpse of it, for even a glimpse would teach them something new. They would sacrifice a secure place to settle for a chance to go out and survey a hundred new things.
This investigative nature of the ENTP includes two more distinct characteristics: their skepticism and their capacity in debate.
Firstly, skepticism, which I give a specific definition in the ENTP’s case: because the ENTP seeks to view all the faces of an object and rebels against the stagnation and limitation of settling on one particular side alone, they tend to play the devil’s advocate, questioning and challenging every established viewpoint. If you show them a coin, they will naturally wonder what the other side looks like. If you give them a proposition, they will naturally wonder what its opposite is, and if that is not perhaps more desirable. This can obviously frustrate or frighten people; the ENTP’s skepticism can give them a rebellious flair, especially when they question cherished beliefs. Socrates was put to death for his endless questions, disruptive opinions, and encouraging the youth of Athens to do the same.
Another effect of this skepticism is the ENTP’s uncertainty. As Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” The ENTP knows full well there are two sides to the coin and that dogmatists limit themselves to only one side, and because there are so many perspectives on things and so little time to explore them, there is no way to be absolutely sure of anything. The ENTP doesn’t mind this, as it means they never need settle down and can continue searching and learning for the rest of their life. However, this can result in the ENTP becoming nihilistic and brooding, as they may conclude that there is no truth or cause worthy of their commitment.
Secondly, the ENTP is famous for their capacity for debate. The ENTP, loving to examine multiple sides of an issue, often excels at this art, but unlike the ENTJ they are not usually interested in proving a specific point, but love debate for its own sake, because it provides a wonderful opportunity to examine many sides of multiple issues and thus come closer to the truth. The ENTP may engage someone in argument and debate for pure fun; however, the ENTP may often find their desire for a rousing Socratic discussion woefully unrequited, or misunderstood as aggression on the ENTP’s part.
The ENTP’s tertiary function is Fe. While this is repressed in the INTP, who often has difficulty navigating or communicating pleasing appearances, the ENTP is not so disadvantaged. Fe greatly helps their debate skills, as they can better judge the emotional intentions of their opponent and reciprocate. They can adapt to the various sentimental dialects of people they encounter and better communicate with them, naturally assuming that anyone can learn anything so long as its universal, underlying logic is presented in the best way. The ENTP’s Fe gives them an interest in communicating with the masses, and Ti believes in universally true, logical principles. Thus the ENTP can have a great capacity to bring difficult concepts down to Earth so even the common layman can understand them.
The ENTP does, however, repress their Si. In the ENFP this intensifies their wanderlust and fear of being tied down. While this same sentiment may be shared by the ENTP, and is often manifest by their desire to keeps things new, fresh, and interesting, it is not the most prevalent or noticeable difficulty they tend to have. Si is often difficult to describe: I have often used the metaphor of a painter. To elaborate on this idea, let’s take a look at Se, which of all the functions has the most direct relationship to objects, because it looks at things, people, ideas, events, and the general state of affairs with a sharp lens. The difference then, is that Si does not view the state of affairs directly, as its own object, but subjectively, by looking at how the state of affairs has affected them, impressed them, and how it relates to past impressions. What it sacrifices in direct and photographic clarity it makes up for in comprehensiveness and history. Si is not meticulous because it only focuses on the details, but because it focuses on everything including the details. This makes it harder to associate the event or thing with other things, but not because Si sees less than intuition, but because it sees more, and therefore takes longer to form conclusions, but is guaranteed more accuracy and precision.
So, with all of that in mind, the ENTP, preferring to look outwards with a blurred lens, neglects to look through the sharp lens on their past experiences and impressions of details. In other words, in their investigations they may ignore or put off important details in favor of a new possibility or fascinating association; they tend to “sweat the small stuff.” For instance, an ENTP scientist may come up with an ingenious idea of how to go about curing cancer. As they investigate this idea they run into some details that threaten to invalidate their method, but they put those off until later in their haste to explore the raw idea more. The ENTP can sometimes be too hasty or enthusiastic with implementing their ideas, wrongly assuming that the small stuff will work itself out or prove insignificant in the wake of their great idea’s pure momentum. For the ENTP, the idea always seems more substantial than the details, but in reality the idea is a balloon and the details are sharpened thumbtacks.
So, in summary, the ENTP has a multifaceted perspective, curiously investigating all facets or viewpoints on an idea or object, playing devil’s advocate and engaging in debate for its own sake. They are ever skeptical and questioning in order to discover more possibilities, and their Fe can demonstrate a certain charm or brilliance in presenting things to the public. However, they repress Si, which tempts them to put off the “small stuff” and overestimate the substance of their new idea.
Thanks for reading, and for all the ENTPs out there, thanks for searching out fresh perspectives and asking the difficult but necessary questions.
Watch this piece as a video here.