It’s interesting (at least to me) the things that go “click!” in my head while I’m reading stuff. Things I come across throughout the day, or the week, or the month will ferment in the recesses of my psyche until they’re distilled into a thought. Or they just rot back there until flushed away…
Anyway, due in part to our recent sparring sessions, I spent some time this afternoon back over at Tim Lambert’s Deltoid where last week I took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test that told me I was an INTJ (Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging) personality type. I didn’t at that time follow the links to see what that was supposed to mean, but I did note that Tim’s type was INTP (Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving,) not far at all from mine. This evening I went back and followed the links and read this assessment of the INTJ personality type:
To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of “definiteness”, of self-confidence. This self-confidence, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature; its source lies in the specialized knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age. When it comes to their own areas of expertise — and INTJs can have several — they will be able to tell you almost immediately whether or not they can help you, and if so, how. INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don’t know.
INTJs are perfectionists, with a seemingly endless capacity for improving upon anything that takes their interest. What prevents them from becoming chronically bogged down in this pursuit of perfection is the pragmatism so characteristic of the type: INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion “Does it work?” to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms. (Guilty!) This in turn produces an unusual independence of mind, freeing the INTJ from the constraints of authority, convention, or sentiment for its own sake.
INTJs are known as the “Systems Builders” of the types, perhaps in part because they possess the unusual trait combination of imagination and reliability. Whatever system an INTJ happens to be working on is for them the equivalent of a moral cause to an INFJ; both perfectionism and disregard for authority may come into play, as INTJs can be unsparing of both themselves and the others on the project. Anyone considered to be “slacking,” including superiors, will lose their respect — and will generally be made aware of this; INTJs have also been known to take it upon themselves to implement critical decisions without consulting their supervisors or co-workers. On the other hand, they do tend to be scrupulous and even-handed about recognizing the individual contributions that have gone into a project, and have a gift for seizing opportunities which others might not even notice.
In the broadest terms, what INTJs “do” tends to be what they “know”. Typical INTJ career choices are in the sciences and engineering, (Guilty!) but they can be found wherever a combination of intellect and incisiveness are required (e.g., law, some areas of academia). INTJs can rise to management positions when they are willing to invest time in marketing their abilities as well as enhancing them, and (whether for the sake of ambition or the desire for privacy) many also find it useful to learn to simulate some degree of surface conformism in order to mask their inherent unconventionality.
Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ’s Achilles heel. While they are capable of caring deeply for others (usually a select few), and are willing to spend a great deal of time and effort on a relationship, the knowledge and self-confidence that make them so successful in other areas can suddenly abandon or mislead them in interpersonal situations.
This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation (which most types consider half the fun of a relationship). (Also guilty!) To complicate matters, INTJs are usually extremely private people, and can often be naturally impassive as well, which makes them easy to misread and misunderstand. Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense. (Absolutely, positively guilty!) This sometimes results in a peculiar naiveté, paralleling that of many Fs — only instead of expecting inexhaustible affection and empathy from a romantic relationship, the INTJ will expect inexhaustible reasonability and directness.
Probably the strongest INTJ assets in the interpersonal area are their intuitive abilities and their willingness to “work at” a relationship. Although as Ts they do not always have the kind of natural empathy that many Fs do, the Intuitive function can often act as a good substitute by synthesizing the probable meanings behind such things as tone of voice, turn of phrase, and facial expression. This ability can then be honed and directed by consistent, repeated efforts to understand and support those they care about, and those relationships which ultimately do become established with an INTJ tend to be characterized by their robustness, stability, and good communications.
I found this fascinating, because the actual personality test is laughably simple, but this description fits my personality to a tee. My wife emphatically agrees. She told me to frame the printout for future reference.
Then I read the personality profile for Tim, INTP:
INTPs are pensive, analytical folks. They may venture so deeply into thought as to seem detached, and often actually are oblivious to the world around them.
Precise about their descriptions, INTPs will often correct others (or be sorely tempted to) if the shade of meaning is a bit off. While annoying to the less concise, this fine discrimination ability gives INTPs so inclined a natural advantage as, for example, grammarians and linguists.
INTPs are relatively easy-going and amenable to most anything until their principles are violated, about which they may become outspoken and inflexible. They prefer to return, however, to a reserved albeit benign ambiance, not wishing to make spectacles of themselves.
A major concern for INTPs is the haunting sense of impending failure. They spend considerable time second-guessing themselves. The open-endedness (from Perceiving) conjoined with the need for competence (NT) is expressed in a sense that one’s conclusion may well be met by an equally plausible alternative solution, and that, after all, one may very well have overlooked some critical bit of data. An INTP arguing a point may very well be trying to convince himself as much as his opposition. In this way INTPs are markedly different from INTJs, who are much more confident in their competence and willing to act on their convictions.
Mathematics is a system where many INTPs love to play, similarly languages, computer systems–potentially any complex system. INTPs thrive on systems. Understanding, exploring, mastering, and manipulating systems can overtake the INTP’s conscious thought. This fascination for logical wholes and their inner workings is often expressed in a detachment from the environment, a concentration where time is forgotten and extraneous stimuli are held at bay. Accomplishing a task or goal with this knowledge is secondary.
INTPs and Logic — One of the tipoffs that a person is an INTP is her obsession with logical correctness. Errors are not often due to poor logic — apparent faux pas in reasoning are usually a result of overlooking details or of incorrect context.
(Portions in red are my emphasis.)
Tim is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
Then, later this evening I was reading Megan McArdle (Jane Galt) concerning the Rice testimony before the
witch hunt, err, 9/11 Commission, wherein Megan said:
The energy expended trying to blame this failure on someone–George Tenet, Louis Freeh, Condoleezza Rice, or whoever–goes beyond mere regular partisan bashing. It seems to me to express an underlying conviction that of course someone could have stopped this – it’s only a question of who. For the commission, especially, it’s an unacceptable answer; they simply cannot turn to a frightened American public and tell them that it’s really too bad, but we live in a scary world.
Not that this is any kind of earth-shattering revelation, but it struck me – once again – how it is that people justify civilian disarmament to themselves.
It’s somebody else’s responsibility to stop evil.
If one is detached from, and even oblivious to the world around them; if one is immersed in the theoretical without acknowledging what actually works versus what is ideal; then one can build a philosophy that justifies acknowledging a right to self-defense, but at the same time justifies complete civilian disarmament. That philosophy must deny that “we live in a scary world,” and it must rely on someone else to be responsible. In this case, some unknown person or persons in the employ of the government. The idea that it’s a scary world and that people in this world do evil things with intent is something that has to be avoided, because it runs contrary to the philosophy. The philosophy says that if everyone (save the government) is disarmed, then people will stop doing bad things. If you are attacked, the responsible party is not the attacker, it’s that ephemeral other who is responsible for your safety and failed to secure it.
It’s a wonderful theory, but it doesn’t match reality.
It doesn’t WORK in this scary world we live in.
On the other hand, from a pragmatist’s viewpoint (mine), recognizing the actual risk means acknowledging that my probability of being on the receiving end of a violent encounter is pretty damned low – but non-zero. I know what I know, and I’m acutely aware of what I don’t know. It also means acknowledging that the odds of a government official being present to protect me and mine is at the critical moment approaches even closer to zero, so I’d prefer the option of being armed – just in case. I therefore strongly object when others, who don’t seem to acknowledge that “we live in a scary world,” want to tell me I can’t because doing so is in violation of their philosophical world-construct.
I acknowledge their world-view. I just understand that it’s wrong.
I guess that appears as “simple arrogance to the less decisive,” eh?