Attitude = The “attitudes” are so named because, at the highest level of sophistication, each one’s point of view represents an equally valid but opposed opinion that we can only side with as a matter of perspective or preference. One never wins out over the other, but each will see itself as “the default state” of things and the right way to begin all epistemology. Each attitude will see its opposite as fundamentally incorrect in how it frames reality.
Abiotic reasoning treats itself as non-organic and sees the world as an assortment of mechanical objects interacting without discriminating between the dynamics of a rock, a tree or a fish. I use the word “abiotic” to describe the T orientation because I believe it’s role in the human brain is to process information from an inorganic place. This is not meant to be “realistic” in the absolute sense. The thinking of the T attitude can error in seeking to frame reality in an abiotic matter when it is instead deeply biotic and requires biotic considerations for it to be grasped in any intelligible way. It is not the case that “T” is more logical if we take “logical” to be synonymous with coherent or right. The abiotic view of the world can be less descriptive of what is happening, and evidence this blindness by making poor predictions and assessments of the truth of a situation.
An excellent way to illustrate what T is and isn’t is to make use of the fictional commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data is a good example to use here because he’s an android who actually wants to be a human, meaning his motivations are aspiring towards the biotic, but his nature is ignorant to the biotic. Because of this, the drama that surrounds him is accurately portrayed as the difficulties of the T orientation attempting to interface, in good will, with the opposite (F) orientation. It would be a fallacious metaphor if Data was intellectually arrogant and repressing emotions, as we see with Spock. Data does not think himself correct for being how he is, but instead sees the deficiency in his lack of emotions or ability to metabolize in that direction. We are, after all, talking about information metabolism and not the attitude of the heart. The genuine T orientation is not a beef against emotions, it’s is not a repression, it is not an opposition to feelings, but an ignorance to them; one that often leads to befuddlement and limited awareness.
Now I would like to contrast commander Data against Jean-Luc Picard from the same series. We see countless times in the drama of Star Trek that Jean-Luc Picard accurately reads the situation and develops response strategies because of his integration of the F dimension into his reasoning. Picard is an example of an integrated T and F perspective, one that is biotic firstly, but also able to step back and see things in an abitoic fashion. And while he’s less “advanced” than Data, it’s Picard who often has the right conclusion, not because he has more computational power than Data, but because his conclusions are drawing more directly from all the available information — which includes the emotional registers of people, and the phenomenology of the heart. This is very important to keep in mind because T =/= accurate. In fact, quite the opposite, T is a sort of deliberate restriction of information that cannot triumph against an approach that is holistic if all other variables are equal.
There’s a dissociative element to T, again going back to Data and how he doesn’t “get it” when his socializing endeavors don’t go as anticipated. Another example would be an unwitting Te-lead CEO who just doesn’t understand that firing the PR department wouldn’t make him more revenue, because it would sour public relationships among employees and thus lead to lesser net corporate efficiency. A more clever Te CEO would anticipate this cause-effect, but you get the picture. A blindness to the emotional register leads to calculations of this sort that are schizoid/aspie in nature, and ultimately inaccurate.
It may be paradoxical to suggest that humans can even think abiotically, due to how we are all embodied organisms. But as we see with schizoid personality disorders, autistic disorders and sociopathic disorders, the human brain is able to disconnect from certain biotic aspects and reason from a place that acts as though it is inorganic. Even if it’s technically impossible to not be human and not think like a human, we see very clearly that humans attempt to pretend as if they can. Or, rather than using the word “pretend”, we should say they believe and act as though from a non-human place, often at the ignorance of the whole of their own body and its needs.
And while schizoid and autistic disorders highlight this proclivity in the extreme, a more moderate form of it exists with such regularity in the population that it evidences itself as a general feature of our psychology and human diversity. I should also note that the T orientation is not an inability to feel. It would instead be more accurate to say that there’s a segregation, in thoughts, between the limbic component, wherein the limbic facet is metabolized through a separate compartment
Biotic reasoning treats itself as organic, with all organic aspirations and challenges, and sees the world as a theater through which the drama of life is conducted. Biotic reasoning differentiates the living from the non-living; applying a different judgment criteria to organisms by sourcing from the intelligence of the body. Via the body, it reasons from the premise of the life-principle, where right and wrong are legitimate categories that can be acutely defined by evaluating how actions/ideas/thoughts affect or destroy life with the use of the emotional register as an information source for determining what is pain-inducing and pain-reducing. This attitude relates chiefly to the human experience, but can also be applied towards the universe at large.
But just like the abiotic attitude, the biotic attitude is also wrong. The biotic perspective places the drama of life as phenomenologically central, and frames the rest of life from that starting premise. When taken to the extreme, this translates to a theology where the universe itself is seen as a domain existing for no other purpose than to play out this ethical narrative. And this is no accident. It is precisely what our evolutionary history has programmed us to think, since an organism’s role (and indeed the purpose for all the computational power of our brains) is to more acutely succeed at the drama of life. For that matter, we are primed to view life as a “game” with archetypal components at play and a drama with a final result at the end.
The fallacy in this suspicion is clear, as we humans are not the center of the universe. Yet the habit of this attitude will be to weave intention into all elements of reality, because it is within its perspective to treat every aspect of life as somehow intertwined into the story of organisms. It projects an energy onto objects that cannot be said to exist in these objects themselves in any objective sense.
But the abiotic perspective is correct in stepping outside of this drama and evaluating all things from a decentralized place, with no special consideration being given to any part. Indeed, even that very biology has given us this capacity and we would not have developed the abiotic perspective if it were not also true that reality operates in an inanimate and mechanical fashion. Our evolutionary record found it fitting to give us the unprivileged view because it reflects reality and works to better describe it in some situations.
Now, the abiotic perspective would claim that the biotic phenomenon is a subset of an abiotic universe, while the biotic perspective would see the abiotic as a useful tool that exists for, and loops back to, its prime drama which remains central. And these two perspectives/preferences remain in an eternal debate.
The N attitude can be summarized as extrapolative information processing. In a computational sense this is already being demonstrated by programs such as Adobe’s Content-Aware Fill, which sample surrounding data in order to fill in the blanks that exist. The N attitude triangulates between adjacent data points and infers what the missing points are. But because of this, the N attitude is inherently wrong since anything that is extrapolated is unjustified and not technically true until verified. The entirety of the N attitude is a product of guesswork, whether it’s intelligently done or not. In the worst case scenarios, the N attitude lends itself to farfetched theorizing, correlation-causation fallacies and fuzzy thoughts. In more optimistic scenarios it can estimate the general look and feel of the missing data points, but rarely does it ever do so in precise detail. The estimation is always of a lower resolution than reality.
But when the N attitude is wholly believed, the unseen is taken to have a reality that exceeds the seen or tangible. Patterns are sensed to exist as more descriptive of reality than the physical component of reality itself. Ideas may develop that “we are all patterns”, that the universe is a pattern, and that everything is correlated and associated with everything else. Worse still, the N attitude will diminish the number of data points it draws from, and maximize the number of trendlines it extracts.
One morning a dog may bark outside the window, the clouds may be unusually dark and the news channel reports the death of a favored celebrity. The N attitude then comes to believe “today will be a bad day” or in worse scenarios “something bad will happen to me today.” But the facts of the dog’s barking, the clouds and the celebrity are disconnected and have no relevance on what may happen to them that day, yet the N attitude will nonetheless believe a greater force is at play since all things can be associated. The N attitude is responsible for our belief in Astrology, I-Ching, Tarot and other meditative exercises which make use of our ability to correlate information in order to evoke our inner realities via projection.
But speaking in the strictest sense, these extrapolations or superstitions are fantastical and technically wrong. When the N attitude is habitual, it leads to a surreal experience of life, as events are registered more for their implicit patterns than their concrete truth. In some cases what is remembered is only the extrapolation while the few points from which that association/impression emerged may fall completely out of consciousness. This can lead to a hazy, amorphous experience of life that moves further and further away from accuracy and into the realm of delusion.
The word abstract is used as synonymous with extrapolative in CT, but it is not synonymous with conceptual. As we have been discussing above, every component of the mind has a conceptual reality. The entirety of the mind’s operation is conceptual: dealing with thoughts, ideas and imagination. Abstraction, in this context, refers very specifically to the treatment of information as unanchored from physicality and able to exist in a disembodied form and giving priority to the unseen.
The S attitude can be summarized as literal information processing. The truth of the world is measured by the evident, not the unavailable or imagined. That which is seen, felt, experienced and heard (whether presently or previously) is viewed as real. The S attitude is more than the simple registration of the sensory world, it is the attitude that such information takes priority in the framing of what constitutes real. The scientific view of the world is an example of this literal epistemology, as well as kinesthetic and experiential approaches to life. However, it is not necessarily the case that the evident constitutes the entirety of the universe. An opposite point could be made for the universe existing as an algorithm or as pure information, where themes that transcend the principle of locality or causality are taken to be part of the overall operation.
The literal view of the universe is questionable at higher theoretical levels, but also at the personal level. As finite processing systems, humans rely on extrapolation to navigate reality and not doing so would lead to serious dysfunctions. The majority of our actions involve guesswork and if this guesswork was not accurately reflecting reality, we would fail to thrive and it would not have survived into our species. It therefore follows that extrapolation is correct enough most of the time to be considered true. If factoring in our intuitions, which are probabilistic, leads to better outcomes than acting solely based on the data we know with certainty, then it suggests reality exists as a network of information where the present condition is but the latest instance in a wider tapestry. The purely literal view is akin to taking a still frame from a movie while not seeing that still frame in context of the whole film. What has not yet happened is not any less real than what has happened.
And while it may be taking things too far to say the universe is “nothing but” a pattern, to say patterns are not as real as the tangible would be discarding half of the truth. Reality is not just this present moment but also how every aspect of the moment is influenced by the past and even by the future. The universe is best seen as the start, end, and everything inbetween, all at once, as a whole. It is everything that has happened, could happen, or will happen.
The general attitudes are rarely experienced in isolation, and we all possess a mixture of all four. And as philosophers have aimed to tackle the question of truth through the ages, each has expressed their own unique mixture of these four attitudes within their work. Nietsche said it best in his book Beyond Good and Evil:
“It has gradually become clear to me what every great philosophy up till now has consisted of – namely, the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography; and moreover that the moral (or immoral) purpose in every philosophy has constituted the true vital germ out of which the entire plant has always grown.”
Each man embeds within his philosophy the bias of his own attitudes/preferences, making sense of the world from that vantage point. Below is a rough sketch of how our distribution of ideas may be mapped: