Find Enlightenment

personality types for philosophers
by Tom Radcliffe

Date: 2000-10-11
Forum: Enlightenment
Copyright: Tom Radcliffe

Self-understanding is big business, and nothing sells like simplicity. The recent collapse of Freudian mythology has left the field wide-open to Freud's many smaller competitors, and Enlightenment is proud to take the forefront in this market, targeting the rapidly growing niche of Self-Understanding for Philosophers.

Freud's fairy-tales worked because his audience was familiar with the myths they were based on. I'm pretty sure the fall of Freudian psychology had more to do with the decline of classical education than the rise of scientific psychology. When people had to ask, "Who is this Oedipus guy anyway?" the myths lost their power.

It follows that philosophers need something that resonates with their deepest knowledge if they're to have a simple-minded way of classifying themselves and all the people around them. Pseudo-technical classification like the Myers-Briggs scale or homily-based types such as those provided by Enneagrams, or the wealth of other schemes, ancient and modern, for answering the question Who am I? just won't do for philosophers.

To fulfill this burning need I've consulted the Wisdom of the Fairly Old and mixed it -- using a method deeply shrouded in mystery -- with some modern ideas culled from the Latest Research to create Philotypes (TM) -- the 13 basic philosophical types! Using them you can find out who you really are.

Here are the Philotypes (TM) -- guaranteed to be neither mutually exclusive nor jointly exhaustive, capable of being mixed and matched at will to allow infinite self-understanding in the best Freudian tradition:

  1. Platonic/Socratic
  2. Aristotelian
  3. Epicurean
  4. Stoic/Aurelian
  5. Augustinian
  6. Thomist
  7. Baconian
  8. Ockamian
  9. Newtonian
  10. Lockean
  11. Humean
  12. Kantian
  13. Randian

Here are the descriptions to go with the types, in which I've tried to be about equally unfair to everyone:

1) Platonic/Socratic

You are convivial and love the company of others, especially when it lets you show off your superiority. You are never so happy as when surrounded by a bevy of sycophants. You have unsupported but superficially plausible opinions on every issue imaginable, and are well-armed with leading questions that allow you to deconstruct the opinions of others, no matter what they be. You state your opinions forcefully and eloquently, leaving your audience in a state of blissful, uncritical admiration. You tend to be more talk than action, and when it comes to putting your ideas into practice you may turn out to be less than convivial after all, lapsing into strident, authoritarian legalism, which makes people look at you funny. You like to write fairly thick books full of deep philosophy and homo-erotic banter.

Adjectives: Convivial, narrsisitic, engaging, authoritarian

2) Aristotelian

You want to know everything, including everyone's opinion of everything, and to make perfect sense of everything. You leave not only no stone unturned but also on occasion uproot larger trees and smaller islands in your pursuit of knowing everything. You speak in short, cryptic sentences that leave your friends talking about you for hours afterward, arguing about the uncertain but obviously very deep meaning of what you've said. You think the practical is beneath your concern, which sometimes leads you to make silly mistakes. You are convinced that since everything is connected to everything else you can extrapolate from the known to the unknown with great assurance, which sometimes leads you to reach far beyond the facts to perfectly general false conclusions, which makes people look at you funny. You like to write thin books full of thick arguments.

Adjectives: Curious, cryptic, meticulous, grandiose

3) Epicurean

You love pleasure and beauty in all their forms, and continually seek to better your appreciation of them. A convinced atomist, you see fine distinctions everywhere, sometimes missing wider integrations. In the true Epicurean spirit, you sometimes swerve, following your sense and fancy to find new and deeper pleasures, living every moment in a state of supersaturated sensory, emotional, spiritual and intellectual experience. You find ugliness, stupidity and discomfort jarring and enormously irritating and go to great lengths to avoid them, which makes people look at you funny. You write fragments of books that later get burned by the Church.

Adjectives: Hedonistic, rational, sensitive, refined

4) Stoic/Aurelian

You cultivate indifference to your surroundings, and are capable of ignoring your own needs for far longer is healthy or good, which often leads you to be morose without knowing why. Your indifference is not the same as insensitivity -- you can see the beauty of the world, but you try not to respond to it for fear of the pain it will cause you in the end. You try to know all things equally well, and always do what is right, but often fail to account for your own needs in deciding the right thing to do. This lets others manipulate you, which is another thing that makes you morose without knowing why. You are capable of thoughtlessly denying your own needs, which makes people look at you funny. You write thin books about how awful everything is and how little it matters.

Adjectives: Stolid, unswerving, dutiful, purposive

5) Augustinian

A volatile, curious and expressive person, you are torn continually between impossible choices. You keenly appreciate both the pleasures of the world and the peace of temperance and chastity, and find yourself flip-flopping between them. You tend to binge on pleasure and then retreat to an almost monastic existence, but can't maintain either state for long. You want badly for others to understand you, but are quick to dismiss them when they ask questions you think are silly or mis-directed. You have strongly settled opinions on every issue, but love to argue, mostly for the pleasure of crushing your opponents with the weight of your arguments, which makes people look at you funny. You write extremely long books and strike people you disagree with over the head with them.

Adjectives: Volatile, flamboyant, manic-depressive, energetic

6) Thomist

A unifier and observer by nature, you see the mind as an instrument for appreciating the world without participating in it. You are a watcher, a contemplator, who can stand by and observe without being swept up in events. You never let your love of fine distinctions allow you to forget the unifying principles of the world, so you are as happy reflecting on a single leaf as you are contemplating the vast infinity of space, which makes people look at you funny. You write beautifully flowing books that prove that everything is something.

Adjectives: Calm, contemplative, harmonious, thoughtful

7) Baconian

You have a fascination with machinery and mechanism, and suspect that the whole universe is a vast organic machine. You sometimes wonder where the "off" switch is, and what would happen if you flipped it. Your commitment to empiricism sometimes leads you to get lost in the wonder of the details, and your tendency to lapse into mathematical discourse and inappropriate uses of the word "orthogonal" make other people look at you funny. You write thick books at a moment's notice full of ingenious ideas that are widely reviled by the intellectual leaders of your day.

Adjectives: Clever, insatiable, thorough, mathematical

8) Ockamian

An expert with sharp instruments, you need to take care not to cut yourself. You are much given to disputation and prefer to live in poverty over taking goods you feel are tainted by their worldliness. You are deeply committed to human freedom and reject the notion that there is any final authority over and above your own thinking, which makes people look at you funny. You write books describing how everyone else got it all wrong.

Adjectives: Pugnatious, anarchistic, idealistic, consistent

9) Newtonian

You are the smartest person who ever lived, equally capable in the worlds of mathematics, experimental science, theology and alchemy. You work obsessively long hours and are a complete perfectionist, often revising entire documents for the sake of changing one or two words. You suffer from periodic bouts of depression and paranoia, sometimes induced by your interest in strange chemicals, like lead and antimony. You have never had sex and are never likely to, which makes people look at you funny. You write long books that describe arcane ways of proving universal truths that you discovered using much simpler means that you are afraid to tell people about.

Adjectives: Intelligent, depressive, obsessive, humourless

10) Lockean

You like to begin with what you know and follow it to its logical end, never forgetting that you do know it. You ask, "To what in reality does this or that refer?" when faced with difficult questions of meaning and concepts. You also ask, "How do we come to know this or that?" You cast your net widely and examine all the strange fishes you pull up in it with equal ardor, looking for the ones of greatest interest, which you dissect carefully and then eat for dinner. Always practical, you can be overly dismissive of what appear to you to be purely theoretical considerations, which makes people look at you funny. You write long, complex books that everyone has heard of but no but Carolyn one has read.

Adjectives: Systematic, logical, humorous, practical

11) Humean

You are suave and polished, a triumph of style over substance. Your smooth appearances make people find you convincing even when spouting the most arrant nonsense. You think it is possible to prove that proof is impossible, and tell the tale so well that hardly anyone notices your arguments are self-refuting. A convinced sceptic, you lie awake nights wondering if the sun will rise tomorrow, and can't get to sleep properly until it does, which makes people look at you funny. You write books that exhort people to burn them.

Adjectives: Graceful, polished, convincing, dishonest

12) Kantian

You are precise and regular in all things: thought, dress and habits. You strive to find order in the universe, and insist on imposing order upon it when it does not conform to your expectations, which you hold to be universal. You believe that everything that you believe is necessarily true, to the extent that you believe it is impossible for anyone to believe otherwise, which makes other people look at you funny. You write very long books that purport to be the last word on their subjects, and sometimes are.

Adjectives: Insightful, rigorous, rigid, boring

13) Randian

Steeped in dialectical methods of Russia's Silver Age, you see both sides of every question and transcend them in a way that proves everyone but you has always been wrong about everything. You believe that any admixture of evil and good will be overcome by evil, and so fear and loathe any possibility of error. You are a raving lunatic, which makes other people look at you funny. You write books that are longer than anyone else's.

Adjectives: Paranoid, creative, dogmatic, angry

So there you have it! Pick and choose! Be one Philotype (TM) in the morning, another in the afternoon and a third in the evening! Mix and match Philotypes (TM) as the day progresses, wake up a Kantian and segue seamlessly into a Baconian, or try a three-some: Randian, Newtonian, Platonist, say, for a paranoid, humourless autocrat.

I think this new means of classifying people will catch on like wildfire, rapidly replacing Enneagrams and Meyers-Briggs as the delusion-of-choice in philosophical circles everywhere.