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Extroversion and Introversion: The Many and the One

By Michael Pierce

In this article (and video), I will be discussing in greater detail and refinement the ideas I originally presented in a letter to a friend: an approach to introversion and extroversion which I’ve found to be enlightening and fruitful.

There’s a saying: “There are two kinds of people – those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.” This is the new approach in a nutshell. One group emphasizes the existence of discrete categories while the other emphasizes the existence of the group in and of itself. This is my current view of introversion and extroversion: the one, whether intentionally or not, grants more weight and reality to its abstracted principles, categories, and interpretations, while the other grants more weight and reality to the instances themselves: to raw data, objects, and experience.

This is nicely illustrated by a classic philosophical problem of ‘the many versus the One’; that is, whether a higher reality should be bestowed on the many varied things of our experience, or upon a fundamental principle or single building block from which the variety of things is constructed and derived. For instance, Thales proposed that, at bottom, everything is a manifestation of water. Anaximenes claimed that it was actually air which accounted for all things. Anaximander said it was a mysterious element without properties. In every case, this more fundamental thing of which we do not have direct experience is considered more real and important to understanding the variety of things in the world than those worldly things themselves.

This dynamic and tension between our experience and the constructs of our mind is reflected in the tension between Plato and Aristotle. In brief, Plato propounded the famous ‘Theory of Forms‘, claiming that the world of sense experience is merely the shadows cast by more real, unifying Forms or Ideas of things which are only perceivable by the mind (e.g. the variety of different kinds of dog are all still ‘dogs’ because they participate in the higher Form of ‘doghood’). Aristotle, on the other hand, rejected the Theory of Forms for various reasons, preferring a more appreciative approach towards sense experience, claiming that the first principles of any science result from processes of induction, or reasoning from many instances to general principles (rather than the other way around). For Aristotle what is ultimately more important and real is not any Idea of something, but the raw substance itself from which we draw ideas.

Let me give one more example: let’s say you’re back in high school, and you feel you notice patterns in the student body that represent definable groups of people: for instance, you feel that you can observe common characteristics that set apart the band members, the jocks, the geeks, the artists, etc. – you might find percussions, brasses and woodwinds, all of which participate in the group of ‘band members’, which participate in the group ‘humans’, and so on. Now, both introversion and extroversion do this: the difference is primarily where they place the deciding weight. Introversion, being aversive to objects themselves, tends to prefer the company of its Ideas to which it relates and understands new information; in this way it tends to be, as CelebrityTypes suggests, “exclusive”, because preference always goes to the theory, and not to conflicting instances, with the caveat, ‘this is a general theory that generally holds up in all circumstances.’ Extroversion, meanwhile, is attracted to objects and wants to include them as accurately as possible in all of its calculations, making it “inclusive”, sacrificing elements of rigid theory or category in favor of the data within them.

We could say then, that introversion ‘abstracts’ ideas and distinctions from experience, while Extroversion ‘affirms’ its experience with ideas and distinctions. We could also say that introversion is seeking to align itself with internal standards (i.e. a priori archetypes) while extroversion is seeking to align with external standards (i.e. objective data a posteriori).

Of course, you will likely notice that my method for these articles and videos is particularly introverted, as I’m constantly trying to define as perfectly as possible an internal definition which I’ve abstracted from my experiences; but more on that in future videos.

So, briefly, we can apply this new definition of E/I to the functions and see what we get: Te would be, we could say, ‘affirming the facts’, giving us Aristotle’s induction while Ti would be ‘abstracting from the facts’, giving us, to some degree, Plato’s Forms. Fe would be ‘affirming value-judgements’, that is, including as much objective data concerning the value-judgements around them as possible in their own judgement of value; contrastingly, Fi would be ‘abstracting from value-judgements’, that is, forming theoretical value-judgements concerning the world, (though also tending to exclude those value-judgements which contradict their theory). Se would be ‘affirming real experiences’, while Si ‘abstracts from real experiences’ to form ideals to which they relate later experiences. Similarly, Ne ‘affirms the essences of things’, seeing them all laid out, including them all, getting looks from every angle and so forth, while Ni ‘abstracts from the essences of things’, meaning that like Si, it forms ideal essences to which it relates or contrasts new information.


  • Jung: Psychological Types Princeton University Press 1976
  • Melchart: The Great Conversation Oxford University Press 2014
  • Pierce: How Jung Saw E/I CelebrityTypes 2014
  • Smith: Why Plato is INFJ CelebrityTypes 2014

Published in Michael Pierce