God did not create people with a predetermined type of introversion, extroversion or ABCD, unlike someone who is born with a sweet tooth and someone who likes salty, people have the freedom to choose understanding-based behaviour. The so-called most introverted person also desires friends, and the so-called most extroverted person enjoys solitude at some point. Personality types do not exist or do not exist outside of language. Even though people may exhibit personalities and characteristics, it needs to be interpreted in the concrete real world, not determined by internal mechanisms hypothesized by artificial concepts. People can change according to their understanding and environment. People want to understand themselves through psychological concepts or frameworks, but their real feelings can be repressed by such concepts; people must understand themselves by understanding the society they are in and by putting themselves in the real world to live, by committing themselves to a specific vocation, a group of real people. To choose how to live is not a matching game, it’s a decision.
What shall we do and how shall we live? This has been one of the most difficult questions for everyone from ancient times to the present.
Weber discussed the value of science to this most important question, and he quoted Tolstoy who gave a direct answer: there is no value. Science can’t help us on this one.
What is the meaning of science as a vocation, now after all these former illusions, the ‘way to true being,’ the ‘way to true art,’ the ‘way to true nature,’ the ‘way to true God,’ the ‘way to true happiness,’ have been dispelled? Tolstoy has given the simplest answer, with the words: ‘Science is meaningless because it gives no answer to our question, the only question important for us: “What shall we do and how shall we live?” That science does not give an answer to this is indisputable. The only question that remains is the sense in which science gives ‘no’ answer, and whether or not science might yet be of some use to the one who puts the question correctly. — Max Weber
But now, in an age profoundly influenced by psychology in the past few short decades, there are probably many people who no longer agree with Weber’s 100-year-old answer. Psychology is the discipline of the human mind and behaviour. Through a variety of conceptual abstractions, experiments, data and models, we believe that there is an inner mechanism that can be grasped, and through psychology, we can better understand ourselves. Just like personality tests give confused young people a simple and direct reference, I am the INTJ type! Whether it is employment or marriage, we can do a few multiple-choice questions to discover our personality and strengths, the job we are suitable for, our so-called primary love language, or even what type of partner we should look for.
The science of helping our work and marriage, reducing anxiety and leading to happiness, nothing sounds better than this. Psychology tests, concepts and articles are everywhere and young people are no longer obsessed with horoscopes. People make appointments with psychologists when they have problems and no longer go to church to seek help from pastors - that’s not scientific.
Science is indeed too helpful and too powerful. Scientific experiments, classifications, controlled variables, data analysis, this set of approaches are like a ruler. A ruler can measure our distance from the sun, and we can hardly resist the urge to use a ruler to measure how much our partner loves us.
His target was not merely, as he had put it in the Blue Book, the damage that is done when philosophers ‘see the method of science before their eyes and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer questions in the way that science does’; it was, more generally, the wretched effect that the worship of science and the scientific method has had upon our whole culture. Aesthetics and religious belief are two examples – for Wittgenstein, of course, crucially important examples – of areas of thought and life in which the scientific method is not appropriate, and in which efforts to make it so lead to distortion, superficiality and confusion. - The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk
The world of human behaviour and spirituality in itself is a great temptation as an object of scientific research. Wittgenstein stated its fatal problem 50 years ago：
“The confusion and barrenness of psychology is not to be explained by calling it a “young science”; its state is not comparable with that of physics, for instance, in its beginnings… For in psychology there are experimental methods and conceptual confusion… The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems which trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by” (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1968, II xiv, 232e).
For example, a recent study I heard about studying happiness correlations required test subjects to record how happy they feel at certain times of the day, from 1 to 10, with 10 being the happiest. The next step could then be a correlation model and conclusion with income, health, education, faith, and other factors. This is so crude as to be unbelievable! Can our feelings in each moment, regardless of happiness and pain, be compressed into a simple number? The happiness of enjoying a good novel, holding the neighbour’s dog, reuniting with a friend, enjoying work, and eating chips and pizza - although they all can be called happiness—which is just a nature of our everyday language, there is no categorical or quantifiable essence of happiness from which to abstract. What’s more, everyone can have their scoring tendencies based on their understanding of the experiment. Why not use 1 to 10,000 to get a more precise number? This number has no meaning whatsoever.
In the last episode of Better call Saul, the main character, through a religious-like confession, voluntarily gave up his freedom and the person he loved most, and finally started to use his original name again. Life just may have such depth that any attempt to analyse it with abstract concepts or quantify it with numbers is like blasphemy.
We want to know ourselves too much. It is easy to feel like a screw in a machine in this modern age, a replaceable one on an assembly line, whether it is a doctor or a programmer, and it is hard to find that unique part of myself that is truly mine in our work for most of us. We turn to psychology, we get to know ourselves by discovering whether we are introverts or extroverts, INTJs or ESFJs, people who most enjoy the so-called quality-time love language. We self-prove the validity of such categorization through our own experience as if gradually we begin to know ourselves.
Weber was alerted a hundred years ago to the cult of “personality” and “personal experience”.
Now, whether we have scientific inspiration depends upon destinies that are hidden from us, and besides upon ‘gifts.’ Last but not least, because of this indubitable truth, a very understandable attitude has become popular, especially among youth, and has put them in the service of idols whose cult today occupies a broad place on all street corners and in all periodicals. These idols are ‘personality’ and ‘personal experience.’ Both are intimately connected, the notion prevails that the latter constitutes the former and belongs to it.
But isn’t it a bit ironic that a tedious work life already makes us feel like machines, and we want to understand ourselves, but then we fit ourselves under some category of packaged words through another set of ready-made technical frameworks, just like classifying machine parts according to a standard.
We use numbers to quantify physical pain, now we come to quantify joy. We divide people into introverts and extroverts, and now there are 16 or more ABCD categories.
Too much of modern life is spent through screens and media, where we learn about the world through concepts while being too easily compelled and isolated from actual life and others. The desire to categorise through technology is too strong in a highly compartmentalised society, taking us further and further away from both reality and self.
The craving for generality is a philosophical sin. These clever abstract concepts are invented like the reflection of a dry hand, but “seek to grasp the blood‐and‐the‐sap of true life without ever catching up with it.”
All the frameworks and concepts of psychology must be based on the induction of external observations of people and everyday language. Introversion and extroversion can be seen as packaged summaries of some other words, such as whether or not one is talkative and friendly with strangers, and each person may and does tend to behave in a certain way at a certain time, but these two words do not explain or predict such behaviour; they do not go even one step further than words such as talkative. Humans have the freedom to behave based on understanding and can become like a completely different person in a single day for a variety of different possible reasons. Before you try to prove what kind of person someone is or do your DNA research and try to relate those concepts, you’ve assumed that those artificial concepts somehow exist before or outside of our language, that they exist nakedly before observed behaviour, just like our biceps determine the weight of our barbell curls, our introversion/extroversion/personality traits determine our behaviour, but in reality, they are not the same as biceps, they do not exist outside of our language. We observe external behaviour and can’t help but imagine that there is an internal mechanism like the biceps.
Personality traits and ideal types give you a false sense of pleasure as if you have discovered yourself; in real life we look for relevant life experiences that can be attributed easily, making ourselves further slaves to the concept. This is neither helpful in discovering and recognising the possibilities and complexities of reality, but more likely to suppress and replace the true sense of self.
Concepts create feelings and suppress real feelings.
People certainly have innate differences, like a love of sweet or salty. But the differences in each of our understanding-based behavioural choices, why she loves to talk and he doesn’t, are not based on our innate intrinsic differences or endowments which is just a non-existing bicep we tend to imagine and believe, but on our different understandings, we each have of the real world, based on the different situations each life is in. The choices you make concerning your understanding are ones that you can decide and change on your own.
I refuse to score moments of happiness, to believe in a classification of character that exists beyond language, to think that one can categorise love, no matter how many different types it is abstracted into, and how romantic the descriptions used for each one are. Love can only be celebrated in poetry and painting, and the possibilities inherent in human beings lie outside the realm of what science can explore.
Every moment, whether I speak or remain silent, whether I want to hug or give a gift, depends on the people present that day, on my relationships and my understanding, and I have the freedom to decide and take responsibility for that choice, even though I endlessly do the wrong thing, but nothing secretly decides things for me within me, outside my understanding.
Stop asking what I like or what’s my personality, answers to these questions are usually so barren that even though they can be spoken about, it’s useless because it has nothing to do with the real environment you live in.
If I were to take a set of personality tests and get that I am logical and verbally analytical, the recommended career would be as a lawyer. It sounds sensible. But that answer is superficial. Do the so-called logic and ability to speak well determine whether I go into law or is the specific state of justice in a country, the legal process, the salary, and the relationship between law and society more important in determining whether I choose to become a lawyer, the latter of course! It is the latter that is the part one needs to understand. It is not necessary to think much about one’s so-called logical and linguistic abilities, instead to look at the real situations and dilemmas faced by legal people in one’s society, to consider whether one can face such pressures and whether one finds such lawyering important and valuable enough, to interact with people who have already become lawyers, to gain practical experience and understanding. Lawyering has little to do with so-called linguistic and logical gifts, let alone the existence and importance of such so-called gifts.
Since it seems to me that science, psychology and personality tests are unlikely to be of any practical help to the question at the beginning, how do we answer it?
How do we know ourselves, what shall we do and how shall we live?
Most of us, admittedly, have the urge to make ourselves important, we want our lives to be worthwhile, and there is nothing wrong with that; but it is only when one devotes oneself so completely to a specific vocation, to a specific group of people, that one is completely indifferent to oneself, that one can reveal one’s personality.
In the field of science only he who is devoted solely to the work at hand has ‘personality.’ And this holds not only for the field of science… the man who makes himself the impresario of the subject to which he should be devoted, and steps upon the stage and seeks to legitimate himself through ‘experience,’ asking: How can I prove that I am something other than a mere ‘specialist’ and how can I manage to say something in form or in content that nobody else has ever said? ‐‐ such a man is no ‘personality.’ Today such conduct is a crowd phenomenon, and it always makes a petty impression and debases the one who is thus concerned. Instead of this, an inner devotion to the task, and that alone, should lift the scientist to the height and dignity of the subject he pretends to serve. And in this, it is not different with the artist. — Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation”
Like it or not is a superficial question, don’t ask what’s your gifts or your interest or your personality, ask what’s important. It’s not about finding some so-called ideal type of yourself first, it’s about learning more about the society around you and choosing what’s important to act on, it is in action that one learns about oneself. What specific options are you currently facing in your life is the question to consider, such as what services your church offers that you can get involved in.
Devote yourself to specific matters and do so because they are important to you. Feelings of importance are about your knowledge of the details of the real world, and how you feel about specific things and people. For example, my pastor and his wife collect nearly expired food from multiple supermarkets and distribute them to those in need in the community every week.
People choose to do this because it matters, because of the real feeling of being in the place.
It’s a decision, not a matching game, based on your understanding of not only yourself, but more importantly, the world, or shall we say, your God.
As a Christian, I tend to ask whether I have a missionary gift; how can I find and use my strengths within me to make something good? But instead, a good servant always has his eyes mainly on where the people need him, which table is dirty and where he can serve. James Hudson was sleepless at night for the sake of thousands of unsaved souls and thus chose to spend his life as a missionary in China. If he had a so-called missionary gift, it was revealed in that arduous day and night of missionary life.
All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them. Our hearts should be moved with Christ-like compassion, when we think of them “scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd" and our whole souls should cry to the great Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers to seek these lost ones, that they may be saved. —James Hudson Taylor
From one of my favourite missionary books, Mountain Rain:
It is interesting that James did not feel his gift was in preaching, either at home or abroad. … The plain truth is that the Scriptures never teach us to wait for opportunities of service, but to serve in just the things that lie next to our hands.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11 NIV
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:10-12 ESV
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25 NIV