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Introduction to Function Axes

Watch this article as two videos here and here

By Michael Pierce

The Judgement Axes

In general, the nature of the judging axes can be described in this way:

Fe/Ti asks ‘what do you think, and how can we communicate that?’

Te/Fi asks ‘what do you want, and how can we get it?’

These two attitudes can be summed up as ‘translating’ and ‘operationalizing’ respectively.

The one axis seeks to understand the logical form or structure (Ti) underlying various sentimental appearances (Fe); thinking along this axis is a bit like trying to construct an android, a structure of programming and framework on which a realistic, socially pleasing skin is placed. A good example of this is the logical project of Russel and Whitehead, who were trying to develop and justify an abstract system that could account for every proposition in varied human experiences, cultures and languages.

The other axis seeks to apprehend the hierarchy of desires (Fi) motivating the creation of various structures to accomplish those desires (Te); thinking along this axis is a bit like trying to construct a mechanical appendage controllable by a living, breathing human in order to accomplish certain tasks and thus fulfill certain desires. A good example of this is Newton’s development of calculus because he wanted to solve a specific problem and needed that framework to do it — not for its own sake (as was the case with the likely Ti preferring Leibniz).

This relates directly to CelebrityTypes’ observation of “NTP Knowing and NTJ Willing”, though my proposition is that this in fact applies across all types in the form of these judging axes, albeit with varying degrees of appearance. I believe that in the sense above, the Fe/Ti axis is more naturally wired to seek abstract knowledge, while Te/Fi is more naturally wired to make concrete its visionary will.

This is the primary basis for the philosophical conflicts between Fe/Ti and Te/Fi. This is demonstrated nicely by two quotes from famous philosophers representing each worldview:

“Behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or, more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain type of life.” — Friedrich Nietzsche (INTJ).

“…amidst all the variety and caprice of taste, there are certain general principles of approbation or blame, whose influence a careful eye may trace in all operations of the mind.” — David Hume (ENTP).

Hence, the Te/Fi attitude, represented by Nietzsche, assumes that people do things because they want to, they desire to, they have a passionate, sentimental drive to: desires and feelings are the metaphysical bottom-line, for which structure serves only as a vehicle. Meanwhile, the Fe/Ti attitude represented by Hume assumes that people do things because that is what makes sense to them: because that is the decision-making paradigm which they are working off of, and all feelings, motivations, and desires result from the way a person chooses to logically view the world, whether they realize it or not. Feelings and motivations are merely the skin of logically ascertainable principles upon which people operate.

These two views of the world are, of course, mutually inimical — they inevitably chase each other’s tails. Nietzsche says to Hume: ‘he stole that bread because he wanted to feed his family,’ to which Hume replies, ‘yes, that is true: but why did he want to feed his family? Because he is adhering to a familial principle,’ to which Nietzsche replies, ‘I suppose you could put it that way, but why is he operating according to that principle? It’s because he wants to, because he loves his family,’ to which Hume replies, ‘yes, but why does he love his family? It’s because that is his logical worldview…’

And so on.

It should be noted, of course, that this is regarding psychological structure, not content, as CelebrityTypes often says. A philosopher preferring Fe/Ti can most certainly agree with Nietzsche that people act according to desires, and not principles, and eschew all those supposed prejudices I’ve just attributed to Fe/Ti; yet notice what this philosopher has done: they have analyzed Nietzsche’s accusation into a logical principle that people do not act according to logical principles, and has then extended that logical principle to all people, getting underneath the sentimental ways they disguise this truth. As always, the actual structure of their mind has contaminated their content. The same thing applies to the Te/Fi axis.

One will also notice that this entire article, as well as all of my other articles, are clearly written from an Fe/Ti perspective: I am laying out valueless principles as the framework underneath people’s motivations and desires. I’m explaining the Te/Fi axis as a series of principles that they do not in fact realize they are adhering to in their focus on desires and motivations. Someone with that axis may very well restate these ideas in terms of the underlying desires motivating the Fe/Ti axis to construct and attribute logical systems to everything.

The Perceiving Axes

In general, the nature of the perceiving axes can be described this way:

Se/Ni asks ‘what is the bottom-line of the raw data?’

Ne/Si asks ‘what is the Truth behind the perspectives?’

These two attitudes can be summed up as ‘conjecturing’ and ‘examining’ respectively.

The one axis seeks to discover, envision or predict the potential course (Ni) plotted by their various raw experiences of things (Se); obviously the image I am summoning here is that of a scatterplot and line of best fit, though one could also summon the image of a researcher recording their observations and then forming overarching conclusions abstracted from that data. On the Ni side, a good example would be Karl Marx, who spent hours upon hours researching and observing social and economic conditions in society, from which data he developed his comprehensive theories of capital and dialectical materialism. On the Se side, a good example is Dale Carnegie, who, as CelebrityTypes pointed out in one of their function axes articles, is one of many Se types who concretize their wealth of experiences into practical wisdom, such as ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.

The other axis seeks to discover, cognate, or comprehend the true nature of things (Si) by compositing the uniting elements between various creative perspectives on things (Ne); the image I like to use here is of a diagram showing multiple perspectives of a 3-D object in 2-D space, where each perspective conceals something in order to reveal something else. A good example of this mentality can be found in the theories of Michel Foucault, who himself describes society as a series of power structure grids you can lay on top of the truth in order to reveal some things but conceal others, and our goal essentially should be to experiment with various power grids to discover the true limits or bounds of how human society can successfully be structured. Another example could be Martin Heidegger’s discussion of Being or existence, and how many different perspectives are required to observe it and get a full picture, because of our extremely subjective position in relation to the nature of our own existence, not to mention existence within the ever shifting realm of time.

Overall, Se/Ni is much more trusting of what we could call empirical or collected data, particularly data from direct experience, which is why, as CelebrityTypes was the first to point out, it tends to feel much more “intense and singular” of vision, because it is perfectly happy with direct observation and direct conjecture from the collected data. As CelebrityTypes says, “The person will stress one point of view (Ni), which is indeed frequently the viewpoint that generates the greatest yield here and now (Se). The singularity of observation involved will frequently lend a manifest and immediate quality to the Se/Ni type’s observations, which in turn tends to make them convincing.” This is because Se/Ni is naturally hooked into and derived from a direct and photographic view of the world.

A dominant Ni type, for instance, is constantly conjecturing from whatever data they have: it’s what they do, and that’s why these types will often feel like they have a lot to say on topics regardless of their expertise, because they can still conjecture an intriguing point of view from what little data they have; of course, depending on their skill, luck, and their sample size, it is not uncommon for their ‘lines of best fit’, as it were, to be off by some degree. In fact, Ni types are often used to this and, at least in my experience, can sometimes conjecture about how accurate their own conjectures are likely to be. Se conjecture like this too, believe it or not, just not as consistently, but it is part of what can lend that peculiar air of surety or confidence to the ESTP’s speech, or the driven spontaneity of the ESFP’s decisions. These types feel that they see something before them in glorious clarity and sharpness. How long that vision will last varies.

Meanwhile, the Ne/Si axis is not so trusting of direct experience, which is hardly a mystery, because their perception of reality is introverted, meaning they aren’t interested in direct and photographic reality, but in the ideal versions of experiences abstracted from reality (e.g. Socrates’ search for the overarching ‘idea’ of everyday things like dogs, beds, piety, etc., as opposed to individual instances of these things). This is why, as CelebrityTypes also points out, “The person will also be more careful and meticulous (Si) because there is an unconscious striving to contribute one’s observations to building a system which is valid not just in the here and now, but which is perceived to be true in general: To generate the type of knowledge that could conceivably end up in a future textbook on the subject.” The axis makes use of Ne’s multifaceted nature to accomplish this.

This helps illuminate a number of characteristics of Si and Ne individually: dominant Si types focus their energy on the apprehension and upholding of the Truth as it is carefully and cautiously composited and systematically tested for weaknesses; hence, their stereotypically thorough, cautious, and reserved nature, and why they are not so sure in idea-based conversation as Ni types: because of just that — they aren’t sure. Meanwhile, dominant Ne types, focusing their energy on the exploration and experimentation from various angles, have the same presence of doubt, which is why Ne types so often eschew dogma and may be perceived as intellectually ‘flakey’ or ‘capricious’ because they never truly commit to anything: it’s all experimentation and exploration, forming a composite Truth, though their trouble is they never want to stop. The Si’s trouble, on the other hand, is that they don’t want to start.

Concerning John Maynard Keynes, an INTJ, it was said: “[He spoke] on a great range of topics, on some of which he was thoroughly an expert, but on others [he had] derived his views from the few pages of a book at which he had happened to glance. The air of authority was the same in both cases.” Meanwhile, Bertrand Russell famously said that “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Coincidentally, history records a number of ENTPs and INTJs very much disliking each other.

This axis is also apparent in my own videos: you’ll notice there are quite a few of them, partly because I keep on redoing the same topics whenever I feel I’ve hit on a new perspective that I then can’t help but explain as though it were my new ‘doctrine’ because it suddenly seems so much more clear and beautiful and compelling than any previous perspectives, and I just want to get that pure idea out. Literally, after I do a video on a compelling subject, if I did it well, I’ll feel like I’ve emptied myself out, and I’ll very easily forget what it was that I just explained in that video. The idea dulls, I start finding some problems with it, and over time I mull it around with other material and then become bedazzled by the next rich synthesis.

Published in Michael Pierce