By Dr. A.J. Drenth
I have found Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, particularly his four-quadrant model (see below), a most helpful theoretical tool. From a philosophical perspective, the four-quadrant model provides a broad overview of different epistemological (i.e., how we go about knowing things) as well as ontological (i.e., the nature of reality as we understand it) categories and perspectives. This model is also pragmatically useful in categorizing different knowledge / interest domains along with their related career fields/disciplines.
Myers-Briggs typology is similar to Wilber’s model in several respects. Perhaps most significant is the fact that both utilize broad parameters, allowing them to accommodate and incorporate the widest range of variables. They are also similar in their acknowledgement of the validity of diverse perspectives and methodologies. Moreover, both Wilber and typologists agree that mental structures (e.g., Myers-Briggs type) color our perspectives / conceptions of reality. In light of these similarities, this post will map the eight Jungian functions (Ni, Si, Ne, Se, Ti, Te, Fi, Fe) onto specific quadrants of Wilber’s four-quadrant model. This mapping can provide, among other things, insight into the worldviews, epistemological preferences / biases, and career interests of the personality types in a given quadrant.
Wilber’s model is constructed according to two primary axes. The vertical axis distinguishes between individuals and groups. This is consistent with our commonplace differentiations of “I” and “we,” singular and plural. The horizontal axis involves a differentiation of interior / subjective / intersubjective perspectives from exterior / objective perspectives. Philosophically, this has been described in terms of consciousness versus form as well as mind / spirit versus matter. Wilber’s two axes intersect to form four quadrants:
Before exploring the four quadrants, it is important to recognize that none of them are mutually exclusive. At no point can a given quadrant be completely divorced from or reduced to another. This by no means invalidates the different realities and perspectives represented by each quadrant, but merely illustrates their interconnectedness and interdependence.
Upper-Left Quadrant (UL): “I”
The UL represents the world of the inner self, including personal thoughts, feelings, intuitions, and values/meanings. While this quadrant is often explored through introspection (Fi, Ti, Ni), it can also be studied more systematically through disciplines like typology. NJ types, as well as P types (esp. IPs & NPs), commonly display interests, worldviews, and epistemologies associated with this quadrant. They often think in terms of psychology, philosophy, and/or spirituality. Philosophically speaking, they gravitate toward “Idealism” over “Realism.”
Lower-Left Quadrant (LL): “We”
The LL represents the shared world of meanings within groups and cultures (i.e., intersubjective/ interpersonal meaning). At least in modern humans, much of our meaning is generated and conveyed through language. While UL meanings and LL meanings are certainly interdependent, certain personality functions are more interpersonal (Fe, Ne) or rely more heavily on culture to supply their worldview/ interpretations (Si). Fields such as hermeneutics, semiotics, history, anthropology, and religious studies are dedicated to further elucidating this intersubjective realm.
Upper-Right Quadrant (UR): “It”
Both the UR and LR quadrants take an external or “objective” approach. While sometimes classified as “empirical,” they are really no more empirical (i.e., rooted in experience) than the left-hand quadrants. Both right-hand quadrants use similar methodologies, roughly summarized as observation (Se) and the formalized, quantitative approaches of modern science (Te). Philosophically speaking, both right-hand quadrants involve a preference for “Realism” over “Idealism.” The UR differs from the LR primarily in its objects of study. The UR focuses on understanding individual entities/organisms from a physical/external perspective (e.g., biological sciences).
Lower-Right Quadrant (LR): “Its”
The LR focuses on systems involving collections of entities/organisms: planets, societies, economies, ecosystems, etc. Like the UR, observation (Se) and formalized, quantitative approaches (Te) are commonplace in the LR. While the LL focuses on meanings and other inner experiences that emerge from such collectives, the LR describes their characteristics and mechanisms as viewed from without.