Psychological Types

Excerpt from Jung: A Biography, by Deirdre Bair. Published in 2003 by Little, Brown and Company.

From Chapter 19: “The Work of a Snob and a Mystic,” pp. 286-288

When Jung published Psychological Types in 1921, Freud was among the first to read it – and to dismiss it as ‘the work of a snob and a mystic, no new idea in it. . . . No great harm to be expected from this quarter.’ The book is, as Freud also noted, ‘of enormous size 700 pages thick.’ His main objection was that Jung was still insisting, as he had done since he published Symbols in 1913, that there could be no ‘objective truth’ in psychology because of ‘personal differences in the observer’s constitution,’ or, as Jung now defined it, ‘typology.’ Jung wrote Types with Freud’s primacy of sex and Adler’s power firmly in mind and eagerly expressed his differences with both.

In a very real sense, the book’s genesis occurred around 1913, when Jung separated from Freudian orthodoxy; arguably, his entire oeuvre leading to the 1921 publication can be read as notes toward a gradually emerging unified theory of typology. Freud’s shadow looms over this work, as Freud’s extraversion and Jung’s own introversion provide a convenient explanation for why they were unable to harness their differences. Extrapolating from himself and Freud and seeking to explain how individuals perceived the world and related to it, Jung offered other famous historical feuds that originated in intellectual disagreement. His examples were religio-philosophical, among them St. Augustine and Pelagius, Tertullian and Origen, and Luther and Zwingli. From philosophy and literature he employed Nietzsche’s distinctions of Apollonian and Dionysian; Wilhelm Ostwald’s classical and romantic attitudes; Carl Spitteler’s differentiations of Prometheus and Epimetheus; and Goethe’s diastole and systole, terms coined to indicate expansion and contraction.

The book is a stunning compilation of Jung’s extensive reading, but there are no references to anything he had not read before he wrote Symbols. He simply examines the type problem as it occurs in the many writings that would serve as his workhorses for many years to come, the standard references he would trot out repeatedly to support theoretical positions. Fortunately, he chose well, for he culled works that are the finest in (among others) poetry, psychopathology, aesthetics, modern philosophy, and biography. He devoted a chapter to William James’s types, particularly the characteristic pairs of ‘tough’ and ‘tender-minded’ opposites, which he examined in many different ways. He acknowledged that the type problem has fascinated humankind forever, from ancient astrology to palmistry, phrenology, physiognomy, and graphology, and to those most recently as Wilhelm Ostwald and Otto Weininger. Jung admitted that he had chosen to write only of those theories that supported his own but did not insist that his was ‘the only true or possible type-theory.’ Admitting this allowed him to fault James’s typology as ‘almost exclusively concerned with the thinking qualities of the types.’ His criticism of James drew heavily on the views he had expressed in his earliest letters to Schmid and that he continued to hold: of Pragmatism, ‘which restricts the value of ‘truth’’; of Bergson and ‘intuitive method,’ ‘élan vital,’ and ‘durée créatrice’; of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra; and of Schopenhauer and Hegel, who since his school days had provided Jung with corroboration for whatever idea he sought to prove.

Jung saved his own typology for the last chapter, which comprised the final 150 or so pages of his text. To the ‘attitudes’ of introvert and extravert, he added four further differentiations called functions. To ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking,’ he now adopted Schmid’s and Toni Wolff’s suggestions and gave equal status to ‘intuition’ and ‘sensation.’ Feeling and thinking he grouped under the rubric of ‘rational,’ while sensation and intuition became ‘non rational.’ He now acknowledged the importance of non rational functions to the development of the psyche, because they allowed for a priori knowledge, something he had stabbed at but could not spear in the dialogue with Schmid. ‘A type theory must be more subtle,’ he believed, and in his schema, the two attitudes and the four functions thus permitted a grand total of eight possible psychological types.

In the years following the 1921 publication, Jung was asked repeatedly why he had proposed a system composed of two types, four functions, and eight possible types. ‘That there are exactly four is a matter of empirical fact,’ was his consistent response:

The four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable. Nothing prevents our shifting the cardinal points as many degrees as we like in one direction or the other, nor are we precluded from giving them different names. It is merely a question of convention and comprehensibility.
— C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, pp. 93-94

But few persons, it seemed, read the book as Jung intended. By the time it had gone through multiple printings in many languages, he felt compelled to address the ‘regrettable misunderstanding[s]’ that had turned the book into ‘nothing but a childish parlour game.’ He complained that even within the medical profession his typology was used to slot patients into his system and give them corresponding ‘advice.’ He insisted that his ‘typology is … not in any sense to stick labels on people on first sight: It is not a physiognomy and not an anthropological system, but a critical psychology dealing with the organization and delimitation of psychic processes that can be shown to be typical.’

He believed that the primary value of his book was ‘not merely for the obvious, all too human reason that everyone is in love with his own ideas,’ but rather ‘for the objective reason that it offers a system of comparison and orientation which makes possible something that has long been lacking: a critical psychology.’

~Deirdre Bair, Jung: A Biography, pp. 286-288