Saturday, September 03, 2005

Post No. 29: Who Am I ...?

"Do not ask me who I am and do not ask me to remain the same." -- Michel Foucault

Who am I…? You’re sure you want to know…?

Don’t get too excited or worried… B-) As far as I know, I don’t have any secret identity which I can reveal to you all (unless, of course, the secret identity is so secret that even I am not aware of it) and neither was I ever bitten by a radioactive/genetically-modified spider thus granting me spider-like superhuman abilities (at least not yet anyway). Anyway, back to the question of: “Who am I…?”. Well, to be absolutely honest with you all, I’m afraid that I do not have any definitive answer to give you all since I myself am not totally certain about the answer. Of course, I’m quite aware about the physical characteristics of myself e.g. name, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age, height, weight & etc. However, contrary to what the materialist philosophers claim, a person is more than a physical being. Thus, from my point of view, in order to give a definitive answer to the question of: “Who am I…?” would requires me to have certain knowledge about both the physical and non-physical characteristics of myself and since I don’t have certain knowledge for the latter, I’m don’t suppose I can give you all a definitive answer to the question. So who or what am I…?

Does this “I” really exist? Is it as simple as what Rene Descartes claimed in his often quoted but seldom understood statement of “I think, therefore I am.” that since I am aware of my own consciousness, I must therefore exist? Or does Buddhism’s claim that “I” is just another illusion more true? Also, is there an eternal & unchanging “I” which can be defined? Or is this “I”, as claimed by Buddhism, just a convenient name for a collection of constantly changing physical & non-physical factors? Perhaps it was a realisation of the ever changing & relative nature of the self that inspired Foucault to make the statement which I have quoted at the start of this post? Is this “I” really structured by the three elements of the ego, the id and the super-ego as claimed by Sigmund Freud? Or is this “I”, in reality, more complicated & complex?

Well, I suppose that, similar to me, most of you all have and/or are being troubled, at certain points in time and to varying degrees, by such existential questions or the like. Also, I suppose that most of you all are and/or have being a quest to find out the answer to the question of: “Who am I?”. Well, so have I. On this quest to find out the answer, besides resorting to reading up relevant books and self-reflection, I have done quite a number of supposed personality tests. And amongst all these tests which I have taken, both for fun & interest, I found that the most accurate and credible results (at least more so than what astrology tells me what male Sagittarians are supposed to be like) came from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test. According to this test, I am most like an INTJ or an INTP. However, after reading the profile descriptions of both personality types, it is my personal verdict that I’m more like an INTP. Hence, what follows below is an amalgamated & edited collection of profile descriptions about the INTP personality type which I have complied from sources on the Internet. (For those who are interested, a free online MBTI test is available at and a collection of detailed profile descriptions of the 16 personality types, as classified by MBTI, is available at

Portrait of an INTP (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking & Perceiving) – Thinker, Architect & Intellectual

Private, intellectual, impersonal, analytical and reflective, the INTP appears to value ideas, principles and abstract thinking above all else. This logical type seeks to understand and explain the universe--not to control it! Higher education often holds a particular appeal to this type who tends to acquire degrees and amass knowledge over the entire course of life. Abstract or theoretical subjects are usually the INTP's cup of tea, and academic or research careers may seem attractive to this type. From science and math to economics and philosophy: just name the discipline, and you'll find INTPs perched on the loftiest rungs of theory and analysis. In whatever field they choose, INTPs take on the role of visionary, scientist or architect, and they usually prefer to make their contributions in relative solitude. The mundane details of life may be the INTP's undoing, since this type lives in a world guided by intuitive thinking. Often perceived to be arrogant and aloof, the quiet and sometimes reclusive INTP may have to struggle in the personal realm, as well, for feelings are not this type's natural forte.

As an INTP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things rationally and logically. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INTPs live in the world of theoretical possibilities. They see everything in terms of how it could be improved, or what it could be turned into. They live primarily inside their own minds, having the ability to analyse difficult problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations. They seek clarity in everything, and are therefore driven to build knowledge. They are the "absent-minded professors", who highly value intelligence and the ability to apply logic to theories to find solutions. They typically are so strongly driven to turn problems into logical explanations, that they live much of their lives within their own heads, and may not place as much importance or value on the external world. Their natural drive to turn theories into concrete understanding may turn into a feeling of personal responsibility to solve theoretical problems, and help society move towards a higher understanding.

INTPs value knowledge above all else. Their minds are constantly working to generate new theories, or to prove or disprove existing theories. They approach problems and theories with enthusiasm and skepticism, ignoring existing rules and opinions and defining their own approach to the resolution. They seek patterns and logical explanations for anything that interests them. They're usually extremely bright, and able to be objectively critical in their analysis. They love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. They love to discuss these concepts with others. They may seem "dreamy" and distant to others, because they spend a lot of time inside their minds musing over theories. They hate to work on routine things - they would much prefer to build complex theoretical solutions, and leave the implementation of the system to others. They are intensely interested in theory, and will put forth tremendous amounts of time and energy into finding a solution to a problem with has piqued their interest.

INTPs do not like to lead or control people. They're very tolerant and flexible in most situations, unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance. The INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people. On the other hand, the INTP is very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well, or when discussing theories which they fully understand.

The INTP has no understanding or value for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings. They strive constantly to achieve logical conclusions to problems, and don't understand the importance or relevance of applying subjective emotional considerations to decisions. For this reason, INTPs are usually not in-tune with how people are feeling, and are not naturally well-equipped to meet the emotional needs of others.

For the INTP, it is extremely important that ideas and facts are expressed correctly and succinctly. They are likely to express themselves in what they believe to be absolute truths. Sometimes, their well thought-out understanding of an idea is not easily understandable by others, but the INTP is not naturally likely to tailor the truth so as to explain it in an understandable way to others. The INTP may be prone to abandoning a project once they have figured it out, moving on to the next thing. It's important that the INTP place importance on expressing their developed theories in understandable ways. In the end, an amazing discovery means nothing if you are the only person who understands it.

The INTP is usually very independent, unconventional, and original. They are not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security. They usually have complex characters, and may tend to be restless and temperamental. They are strongly ingenious, and have unconventional thought patterns which allows them to analyse ideas in new ways. Consequently, a lot of scientific breakthroughs in the world have been made by the INTP.

The INTP is at his best when he can work on his theories independently. When given an environment which supports his creative genius and possible eccentricity, the INTP can accomplish truly remarkable things. These are the pioneers of new thoughts in our society.

INTPs are known for their quest for logical purity, which motivates them to examine universal truths and principles. They are constantly asking themselves and others the questions 'Why?' and 'Why not?' Clear and quick thinkers, they are able to focus with great intensity on their interests. They appreciate elegance and efficiency in thought processes and require them, even more so, in their own communications. They may be seen as unwilling to accept what everyone else regards as truth. While often low key in outward appearance and approach, the INTP is 'hard as nails' when challenging a truth. INTPs do not like to deal with the obvious. They are at their best in building conceptual models and developing unusual and complex ideas.

As children, INTPs are inwardly focused, often enjoying their own thoughts more than the company of others. They are full of questions, sometimes voiced, most often not. INTP children often challenge and even stump their elders. They enjoy fantasy, mysteries, inventing, thinking and doing things that may be somewhat atypical for other children of their age, and they sense their uniqueness early on. If INTPs are fond of books or games, it is likely that their choices will be the current rage. If and INTP is fond of music, it is likely to be of the unusual sort.

INTPs tend to either respect and go along with society's rules, or to question and rebel against them. Their response to these rules depends on how the rules might affect them. When INTPs do not like the rules, they are quick to find the flaws in the rule makers' thinking, regardless of their status, position in the hierarchy, or renown.

As young adults choosing careers, INTPs either set a course and work toward it quietly yet forcefully or continue to resist and rebel against society's expectations and irrational rules. They may either focus in depth on a major interest or move from one interest to another without showing others - friends, colleagues, and bosses - their reasons why. It is the process, the quest, that has been most interesting to them. Once they have found the answer, they do not often share it because the answer is obvious, and documenting the obvious is redundant. This attitude includes a tendency not to response or speak up in groups, because the INTP feels that what he or she was going to say seems so obvious that no one would want to hear it. As INTPs mature, they continue their quest for logical purity, but now it includes more balance in their activities.

The INTP is a relentless learner in areas that hold his or her interest. They often seem 'lost in thought,' and this characteristic appears very early. INTPs enjoy the life of the mind and the learning process, regardless of whether that process takes place in a formal sense. They are often characterized as life-long learners.

In school, well-rounded INTPs work on their assignments with a great deal of inward energy and interest that is usually not apparent to others. They tend to connect unrelated thoughts. As learners, they are able to find logical flaws in the thinking of others. They analyse these flaws and find ideas for further study. They go to great depths in their analysis. In taking exams, they prefer theoretical questions.

INTPs contribute a logical, system-building approach to their work. They like being the architect of a plan, because of the scheming and thinking involved, far more than being the implementer of that plan. Implementation tends to be drudgery. They are content to sit back and think about what might work, given their view of the situation. INTPs may ignore standard operating procedures. The hours that they spend are not what is important to them, but rather the completion of their thought process. When their projects are of interest to them, they can become mesmerised and may even work through the night. When their projects are not intriguing, their work is considered drudgery, and the INTP finds it difficult to stay motivated.

INTPs usually find a place in their work for using their logical and structured thinking. They enjoy work that allows them to abstract, to generalise beyond the data, and to build models. Flexibility is desired because INTPs like to 'do the job when they want to do it and as they want to do it.' They also prefer occupations in which the hierarchy is minimal and not important. This attitude seems from their firm belief that, to be legitimate, a hierarchy should be built on the competency of individuals who are logically placed according to their talents.

Some occupations seem to be more attractive to INTPs: biologist, chemist, computer programmer, computer system analyst, lawyer, photographer, psychologist, researcher, surveyor, writer and other occupations that allow them to use their logical thinking in appropriate ways.

INTPs exhibit the greatest precision in thought and language of all the types; they tend to see distinctions and inconsistencies in thought and language instantaneously. The one word which captures the unique style of INTPs is architect-the architect of ideas and systems as well as the architect of edifices. This type is found in only 1 percent of the population and therefore is not encountered as frequently as some of the other types.

INTPs detect contradictions in statements no matter how distant in space or time the contradictory statements were produced. The intellectual scanning of INTPs has a principled quality; that is, INTPs search for whatever is relevant and pertinent to the issue at hand. Consequently, INTPs can concentrate better than any other type.

Authority derived from office, position, or wide acceptance does not impress INTPs. Only statements that are logical and coherent carry weight. External authority per se is irrelevant. INTPs abhor redundancy and incoherence. Possessing a desire to understand the universe, an INTP is constantly looking for natural law. Curiosity concerning these keys to the universe is a driving force in this type.

INTPs prize intelligence in themselves and in others, but can become intellectual dilettantes as a result of their need to amass ideas, principles, or understanding of behavior. And once they know something, it is remembered. INTPs can become obsessed with analysis. Once caught up in a thought process, that thought process seems to have a will of its own for INTPs, and they persevere until the issue is comprehended in all its complexity. They can be intellectual snobs and may show impatience at times with others less endowed intellectually. This quality, INTPs find, generates hostility and defensive behavior on the part of others, who may describe an INTP as arrogant.

For INTPs, the world exists primarily to be understood. Reality is trivial, a mere arena for proving ideas. It is essential that the universe is understood and that whatever is stated about the universe is stated correctly, with coherence and without redundancy. This is the INTPs’ final purpose. It matters not whether others understand or accept his or her truths.

The INTP is the logician, the mathematician, the philosopher, the scientist; any pursuit requiring architecture of ideas intrigues this type. INTP's should not, however, be asked to work out the implementation or application of their models to the real world.
The INTP is the architect of a system and leaves it to others to be the builder and the applicator. Very often therefore, the INTP's work is not credited to him or her. The builder and the applier gains fame and fortune, while the INTP's name remains obscure. Appreciation of an INTP's theoretical work frequently comes posthumously-or the work may never be removed from library shelves at all and thus lost.

INTP's tend not to be writers or to go into sales work. They are, however, often excellent teachers, particularly for advanced students, although INTP's do not always enjoy much popularity, for they can be hard taskmasters. They are not good at clerical tasks and are impatient with routine details. They prefer to work quietly, without interruption, and often alone. If an organisation is to use the talents of an INTP appropriately, the INTP must be given an efficient support staff who can capture ideas as they emerge and before the INTP loses interest and turns to another idea.

Our "architect" is not merely a designer of buildings. There is the architect of ideas (the philosopher), the architect of number systems (the mathematician), the architect of computer languages (the programmer), and on and on. In short, abstract design is the forte of the architect and coherence is the primary issue.

So am I really an INTP? Is there more to me than just being an INTP? Well, I would not go to the extent of saying that “I= INTP & INTP=I”, though I think that it is quite an accurate & credible description of my personality, as I prefer to think that my identity is much more complex & complicated than that of an INTP. So, I have to say that I’m still on this long arduous journey to find a definitive answer to the question of: “Who am I…?”. Thus, I suppose my current answer to the question about who I am would be similar to the statement made by Foucault which I have quoted at the start of this very long post (for those who actually bothered to read this very long post till this point and have short memories and/or are overwhelmed by the amount of information in this post, I suppose you all have to scroll all the way back to the top of this post to see again what this statement is. I apologise for the any inconvenience caused.)

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