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Please Understand Me II - The Rationals

Please Understand Me II - The Rationals

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Published by Mark Novbett
The chapter regarding rational (NT) of the four Character Type categories from the book - Please Understand me II by David Keirsey.

(c) David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II.
The chapter regarding rational (NT) of the four Character Type categories from the book - Please Understand me II by David Keirsey.

(c) David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II.

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Published by: Mark Novbett on Apr 02, 2012
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02/27/2014

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6
Rationals
To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly tograsp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.
This is how Albert Einstein concluded his essay,
 My Credo,
a statementsumming up his philosophy of life, and expressing the essence of hisfascination with science. Einsteins insatiable curiosity about the secrets of the natural world, coupled with his prodigious (and reportedly rather arrogant) ability to comprehend the structure of “all that there is,” enabledhim to change fundamentally the way in which, not just physicists, but alleducated people look at the universe. From 1905 to 1925, Einstein notonly conceived the theory of relativity, but he made indispensable contributions to new understandings of thermodynamics, the nature of light, atomicstructure, and quantum physics, and created in the process nothing lessthan the first new model of the universe since Isaac Newton’s, over twocenturies earlier.A truly astonishing achievement for any human being, but particularlyfor someone who was considered a slow-learner as a child, who droppedout of (and was then expelled from) his secondary school, who graduatedfrom a mere technical college with a teaching diploma, and who, of all hisclassmates, was passed over for a teaching position and post-doctorateappointment. Rejected by academia, Einstein went his own way and took a job at the Swiss Patent Office, where he evaluated the plans of would-beinventors, correcting errors of design, and deciding (he could do this almostinstantaneously) if an invention would work. In his youth, Einstein hadenjoyed building models and playing with mechanical devices, and so hiswork at the Patent Office taxed him very little, and left him free in hisspare time, and on his own, to do the theoretical work that would changethe face of physics for the rest of the century.Professorships at leading universities soon came his way, and as hisfame grew so did the legend of his eccentric character. Shy and reservedas a child, with a calm detachment from all personal ties, Einstein grewinto an thoroughly self-contained young man. Though popular with hiscolleagues and students, he remained remote, enjoying the company of other brilliant friends, but letting none get close to him. And then in his
161
 
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 Rationals
later years he became the very icon of the absent-minded professor, theabstracted, fuzzy-haired scientific genius all but unaware of his socialcontext. Stories about his forgetfulness are legion, but one is delightfullysuccinct: on his way to an important meeting, Einstein telephoned his wifeand asked, “Where am I and where am I meant to be?”One thing he never forgot, however, throughout his long and celebratedlife: what he called “the never-ending task of Reason.”In the mid 1970s, while writing
Please Understand Me,
I chose theGreek god Prometheus to represent these Rationals (Myers’s NTs), namingthem the “Prometheans.” Myth has it that Zeus commissioned Prometheusto fashion a creature to live on earth with the animals. The animals hadalready been given many different means of survival, weapons and defensessuch as fangs, claws, and horns, fur, feathers, and shells, not to mentionpowers such as strength, swiftness, and flight. Very few protections andpowers were left to give human beings, so Prometheus decided to providehis creation with gifts outdoing those of the animals. First he shaped Mandifferently, upright like the gods; then he went to heaven and stole firefrom the wheel of the sun, giving this precious knowledge to mankind asits means of surviving among the animals, even of triumphing over them.This gift of fire, however, cost Prometheus dearly. Zeus, CEO of theGreek Pantheon, was so enraged that mortal humanity had been givendivine knowledge that he condemned Prometheus to live forever chainedto a barren rock, with, in some stories, a vulture eating daily at his liver(‘liver’ symbolizing life-sustaining). But Prometheus suffered this agonywith dignity and serenity, for his was the noble cause of imparting tomankind knowledge of light and energy (symbolized by fire) in defianceof authority. Prometheus, the god of pre-learning (‘pro’ = pre + ‘metheus’= learning), secured for humanity the powers of science and technology,thereby rescuing human beings from helplessness and ignorance, eventhough he had to rob heaven to do so.In the 1980s I chose the Owl as the Rational’s totem animal. Owls areamong the most efficient winged predators, rarely missing their prey owingto their keenness of sight, swiftness, and timing. With their ability to see inthe dark, and with their oversized talons, owls surpass even the hawk andthe eagle in their ability to spot and to seize their prey. And this is verymuch the nature of Rationals, particularly in abstract matters: to penetratethe dark recesses of nature with their keen insight, and to grasp ideas withtheir sharp intellects. It is no wonder that, of all the animals, it is theprofessorial owl that best serves as the symbol of Rational pragmatics.Looking back, I remember meeting only two Rationals during the waryears. The first was another cadet like me. We were buddies during preflightand primary flight training. After that, only one other, an engineer sentalong with my squadron to oversee our use of a giant rocket. Then ingraduate school after the war I met two students and one professor in thepsychology department who were Rationals, the rest of the students and
 
Platos Rationals
163
professors seemingly quite different from us. Strangely, I found the professors and students in the philosophy department more given to reason thanthose in the psychology department. Finally, in the thirty years I workedfor schools in corrective counseling I met so few Rationals that I keptlowering my estimate of their numbers. My guess now, as I’ve said elsewhere,is that they’re no more than five or six percent of the population. In anycase that ought to be enough of these strategic pragmatists to keep scienceand technology advancing at a steady pace.
Plato’s Rationals
Plato’s word for men like Einstein was ‘
dianoetic
’ which roughly translated means “dialectical thought”—coordinate thought, parallel reasoning,ratiocination—hence he considered this type as the “Rationals.” Plato regarded the Rationals as serving a particular function in society: to studynature and figure out ways to tame it, that is, to make the natural orderconfluent with the social order. Not, mind you, to violate Nature, but tocivilize it.A generation after Plato, his student Aristotle defined logic for theWestern world. Aristotle said that the “Dialectical” types (Plato’s Rationals)try their best to be accurate, to get things straight, to sort things out, inorder to avoid errors in reasoning. Logic, he said, tells us how to avoidsuch errors. One way is to realize that whatever we can identify is unique,has an identity, no matter how hard it is to distinguish it from other things.For example, though two peas in the same pod may seem identical, theyreally aren’t, and careful scrutiny will reveal their difference. This is Aristotle’s Law of Identity. The other cornerstone of Aristotelian logic is thatthings that are identifiable in a given context are either one thing or another,and so can’t be both. For example, there is no such thing as half man andhalf beast, such as a Centaur, even though we can imagine such a creature.This is Aristotle’s Law of Contradiction. These two rules of logic arecalled “truisms,” meaning that they are obvious even though unprovable.But provable or not, to violate them is to talk nonsense, something thatAristotle’s Dialecticals are careful to avoid doing.Galen named the Rationals the “Phlegmatics.” The word ‘phlegmatic’has come to mean disinterested, bland, distant, seemingly detached fromsocial involvement. And indeed these Rationals, concerned as they arewith logical investigation, seem detached and distant from others, whoconclude that this type has no interest in social reality. This conclusion iscorrect in the sense that when the Rationals are concentrating on somecomplex problem they do detach themselves from their social context andremain distant until they solve the problem. At that moment they are notinterested in others, but that does not mean they do not care about others.They are just as caring as any other type when they are focused on thosethey care about.

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