“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -- William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Temperament Theory

A Very Short History of Temperament

©2008  Walter R. Smith

 

Temperament theory has been around for about 2,500 years. The early Greek philosophers noticed that people had one of four personalities. The Greek physician, Hippocrates (c 370 BC) compared these personalities with bodily fluids. He said that if a person had a preponderance of:

 

            Blood, they were cheerful

            Black bile, they were somber

            Yellow bile, they were enthusiastic

            Phlegm, they were calm

 

The number four also seems to be a foundational number of life. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon said that living creatures are quadriform, which explains the need for four gospels, four corners of the earth, allusions to the number four in the Book of Revelation, and other references to the number four.

 

Hume, Kant, Voltaire, and Rousseau all considered the four temperaments a matter of common knowledge.

 

Throughout history, other philosophers, psychologists, clergymen, doctors, and teachers have also acknowledge the existence of four personalities.

 

Dr. David Keirsey (b.1921), a psychologist and author of Please Understand Me, has made Temperament theory accessible to the average person in modern times. He calls the four personalities Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationals and assigns an animal to describe each personality.

 

 

 

Artisans (SP)

Fox

 

Core needs and values: Freedom and ability to make an impact on others

 

Pleasure seeking

Excitement

Bold

Spontaneous

Artistic

Adaptable

Sensual

 

Language: concrete

Behavior: utilitarian

 

ESTP—Promoter

ISTP—Crafter

ESFP—Performer

ISFP–Composer

 

Guardians (SJ)

Beaver

 

Core needs and values: Belonging and responsibility

  

Traditional

Industrious

Manages resources well

Law abiding

Responsible

Adapts carefully

Seeks stability

 

Language: concrete

Behavior: cooperative

 

ESTJ—Administrator

ISTJ—Inspector

ESFJ—Provider

ISFJ–Protector

 

 

Idealists (NF)

Dolphin

 

Core needs and values: Meaning and significance, unique identity

 

Enthusiastic

Inspiring

Meaning in life

Empathy

Receptive

Sees potential

Humane

 

Language: abstract

Behavior: cooperative

 

ENFJ—Teacher

INFJ—Counselor

ENFP—Champion

INFP–Healer

 

Rationals (NT)

Owl

 

Core needs and values: Knowledge, self-control, and competence

 

Logical

Objective

Curious

Skeptical

Visionary

Scholarly

Reasoning

 

Language: abstract

Behavior: utilitarian

 

ENTJ—Fieldmarshall

INTJ—Mastermind

ENTP—Inventor

INTP–Architect

 

 

The difference between Temperament Theory and Type Theory is that Temperament deals with communication and behavior that is driven by peoples’ core needs and values whereas Type is interested in how we think. While Keirsey uses many Type terms, he, nevertheless, believes that we can only see what people say and do and not how they think. 

 

People communicate either abstractly i.e., they talk about ideas, or concretely i.e., they talk about what is directly in front of them—about things they can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. People behave either in a cooperative manner i.e., they want to do what is right or in a utilitarian manner i.e., they do what works—what it takes to get the job done. They do not worry about whether or not it is the right thing to do. Keirsey also assigns roles to the sixteen types. See the above chart for an overview of each temperament.


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