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February 1992 WISDOM OF THE WEST

(Reading this in the 2010s gives the impression I was feeling a bit self-important -- a condition influenced by the flattering praise of the NF type by Keirsey and Bates in "Please Understand Me." The authors compare NF type people favorably with Greek god Apollo, who stood "as a direct link between the gods and man, giving man a sense of mission, showing man how to continue in his search for the sacred" and had also "the accompanying desire to plumb the profane, the ugly, the corrupt, and the fleshy." We are informed that "so extraordinary is his goal that not even the Apollonian himself cal talk about it in a straight-forward way. It defies his description." And the Apollonians make up only about 12 percent of the population. We are not only becoming Greek gods, we are rare. I swalalowed the bait and took myself a little too seriously as you can see in the section "The Global View.")

(The second line in the diagram, Sensing-iNtuiton, refers to how you get information; the next to how you process it; and the last, Judging-Perceiving, refers to what you do with it. Judging means deciding; Perceiving means not deciding.)


by Travis Hardin

MYERS-BRIGGS personality types are in. And Rosemary, a fellow Mensan, had declared me an "INFP." Curious, I went in mid-December to my friendly home-town social worker to take the short form 70-question Keirsey Sorter. The test and its bountiful interpretations appear in Keirsey and Bates' Please Understand Me, 1984. Here's how I scored:

...interpreted as XNFJ, X meaning neutral, or equally introverted and extraverted.

So what? The implications-that's what In mid-January my friendly social worker discussed my type with me, the iNtuitive Feeling type. I have long been an apologist for science, believing-no, knowing-that truth is found by Sensing and Thinking. Note that what I test to be and what I think I am are opposites. Note Rosemary snickering over the same irony. Note the need to reconcile the conflict. Very well; I attempt the reconciliation under three headings.

1. A rational definition of intuition.

I reject the notion that intuition is a source of knowledge that springs up fully formed and fully certain, independent of cause. Instead, as I pointed out in a talk before the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown a few years ago, some philosophers believe intuition ought to be explained as a rapid and subconscious processing of information in ways not understood linearly.

While rolling across the Yucatan sand one day in pre-drug-war times, stoned, many amazing insights came to me, but the only one I remembered is the hitchhiker insight. Question: If a driver picks up hitchhikers, but makes a choice in each case as it pleases him, what goes through his mind in that brief time between seeing the person and applying the brakes? A long check list, I believe: Look at face. Look at shirt, hat, pants, shoes, luggage. Look for possible weapon or threat Look at age, sex, weight, cleanliness. Consider weather, traffic flow, own schedule, circumstances of hitchhiker. Identify a commonness. Decide. Apply brakes. Time? Three seconds. Decisions per second? Maybe approaching two digits. Explanation? Subconscious and extremely rapid observation and reasoning, called intuition by one and all. To define the process, however, as immediate and certain apprehension, without further explanation, is a hasty conclusion.

Now I'm drying dishes. I drop a spoon. I reach out and stop its fall with my shoe. Next I drop a sharp, heavy knife. Do I "know intuitively" not to put out my foot to stop it, or do I think? I say (1) There is a stimulus; (2) one interprets the stimulus; and then (3) one acts upon the interpretation. Albert Ellis' RET theory also contains the important middle step, in which a universe is contained.

2. Thinking as subordinate to feeling.

This rationalization is simple. If I don't feel well, I'm unable to think well. If threatened, I feel it. Free thought is suspended until the threat is gone.

My intellect, and perhaps yours, is like a fragile spring flower. Under favorable conditions, it will blossom. Friendly and relaxed relationships free from threat are favorable. Coarse strife and fear, on the other hand, tread upon and crush my intellect, because they tread upon my feelings. My intellect is subordinate to this body and its emotions.

Does being a feeling person mean I think less? I met the requirement for Mensa-I must think well. If my feeling is stronger, then I must feel intensely indeed. How intensely? Unpleasantly and constantly hyper-aware and hyper-anticipatory—squirrely.

3. The global view.

I, an intuitive person, defend science. I believe it is the way to truth. But I look at science from above it From above, I admire the care and patience of scientists as they cement one grain of sand at a time to their complex edifices, forming outlines and patterns I can already make out. While scientists are moving grains of sand, in the laboratory of my mind I move galaxies of concepts in one sweep. I embrace science in the encompassing spirit of Carl Sagan, but I see in general, without Sagan's knowledge of specifics.

I look at humanity from above it, with amusement and often with disgust as we behave with pathetic predictability. I often imagine what humanity could be if a benevolent galactic branch manager were active in this department of space focusing its groups and institutions on a purpose.

I look at philosophy critically, from outside its conventions. Isn't that what the philosopher is supposed to do?

True to the type, my goals are extraordinary. I appreciate extraordinary people like you, many of whom can share my thoughts and feelings.