Many have acknowledged Lenore Thomson's Personality Type An Owner’s Manual as one of the best places to start in understanding what the functions are.
It was more recently, looking back over all of this, and coming to understand the whole Jungian framework better, that I've found a common thread to understand the functions through: "relationships". Not just personal relationships (which is what we often use them for in understanding type), but relationships of objects in general.
Perception encourages us to process sensory impressions as they occur.
Judgment prompts us to organize our sense impressions by focusing on the ones that happen regularly enough to recognize and predict. (p253).
Descriptions from the chapters on the functions:
Se: Sense impressions as they occur
Si: stabilize our sense impressions by integrating them with ones we remember (past experience)
Ne: unify sense impressions with larger [outward] contexts
Ni: liberate sense impressions from larger contexts; patterns are part of us; the way we make sense of information and energy impinging on our systems
[Notice, both Si and Ne deal in “integrating” or “unifying”, while Se and Ni deal in individual or “liberating”. This is why the functions work in tandem].
Te: shared qualities objects have in common used as a standard of sequential order
Ti: the variables [essential dynamics] in a situation related to our intended effect.
Fe: measure our options for relationships against an external standard of behaviors
Fi: encourages a personal relationship to an evolving pattern (e.g. how a given situation would affect the person)
[You can deduce from this that both T and F deal in "relationships", and that while F is relationships of a "personal" nature, T is relationships between objects:impersonal].
When our souls become immersed in spacetime, marked by a physical body in a particular location and time, we divide existence into past/future, ahead/behind, up/down and left/right.
Ever since, we’ve been psychically to try to mend the rifts in one way or another.
So we spend our lives depending on the material world we were split from in order to survive, and try to merge with it by either getting in harmony with it, or conquering it.
We long for an existence beyond this world of spatial and temporal polarities, where separation is undone, good and evil are resolved, and we no longer have to depend on the environment for survival. Our attempts to create this now (through our ego-driven enterprises) often end up blurring polarities such as good and evil. We just cannot inegrate the data that goes against the path we have set for ourselves.
Heterosexual desire is at its root a psychic attempt to reintegrate what was split off from us when we were developing into our own gender (which too often focuses too much on the body and the physical pleasure. Still not sure how the dynamic translates for homosexuals).
So all of the polarities and every object and event are connected by some form of relationship to one another, and it’s the nature of these relationships that provide the data for our cognitive functions.
Human egos divide (abstract) reality into opposite poles in terms of these relationships, and usually takes one side of each over the other. This creates imbalances in our perspective, as concrete (“mixed together”) reality ends up being neither of the extremes people always veer towards.
We each have impressions of reality, or “truth”.
We observe and assess the relationships between things in organizing our impressions.
“Observation” of truth:
tangible (what is right before you; static relationships)
conceptual (background, contexts; mobile relationships; what it means or might be done with it)
“Assessment” of truth:
technical (impersonal; relationships between objects)
humane ([inter]personal; relationships between people)
Orientation of truth
external (localized, immediate)
internal (universalistic, which can only be processed internally since we are not omnipresent).
(I found that it’s actually harder to come up with better terms to differentiate the perception attitudes than it is for the judging attitudes, since N got described in terms of “motion”; i.e. “where it’s heading”, which is easy to misinterpret, and all perception is described in terms of “sense impressions”, which makes us think of S.
I use “mobile” instead, as it’s not about actual motion, but rather just the mobility of possible relationships. –As in “pattern abstracted from one situation to give meaning to another” as I’ve seen it put. It’s not the object N is looking at that’s “heading” anywhere; it’s a pattern that can be taken from another object and matched to this one. All together this creates a matrix of possible connections.
To use Fundamental Nature of the MBTI (MBTI functions explained orhttps://web.archive.org/web/20131004..._functions.htm) illustrations, if the S focus is represented by individual points, the N is the background space between them, represented by the dotted lines connecting points).
[Bruzon: “The Sensor is obviously aware of the motion component, but within the reality structure, this takes the form of fact, rather than process.” iNtuition “often provides intelligence and the ability to understand complex ideas and relationships.”; i.e. the complexity of the relationships is the real “motion”].
Putting it all together:
We are social creatures, and our Persona forms as we try to adapt to the social environment (i.e. expectations) around us, and what’s left out of this becomes the Shadow.
(Even if we say we don’t care what others think, we still like to think of ourselves in ways that would “look good” to others. Like being strong, honest, etc. even if we do it in ways that don’t look like those qualities to others).
This further creates more polarities, between the perspectives we choose to accomplish this, and their opposites.
The ego chooses the orientation and form of “truth” it finds it uses best for these adaptations (indicated by the emotional reward given when successful). The other orientation and truths become subdued; still there, only not given as much weight. At least one other mode of truth will be preferred, since we must both observe and assess. So the mode of the opposite method of processing will become “auxiliary” and also take on the opposite orientation (for the sake of balance).
Different, partially dissociated senses of “I” will focus on each of the other modes of truth, and in either orientation.
“The [first] four functions” of each type are simply what the parts of ourselves that are the main ego achievers, the ego supporters or guides of others, the less mature uplookers, and the inferior-feeling seeker of completeness will focus on. More negative versions of these will reverse the orientations, generating “the other four”.
Function definitions Resultant dominant perspectives Se: observing immediate static relationships experiencing life as it comes Si: observing through a storehouse of static relationships filtering life through familiar fact Ne: observing immediate mobile relationships exploring conceptual contexts as data arises Ni: observing through a stored sense of mobile relationships exploring conceptual contexts not yet externalized Te: assessing immediate impersonal relationships establishing logical order Ti: assessing wholistic impersonal relationships making sense of things using logical order Fe: assessing immediate [inter]personal relationships establishing social harmony Fi: assessing wholistic personal relationships look at life through the lens of human values
So if we want to know which function is being “used” in a given situation, we need to ask:
1) Are the relationships observed between objects/events static (each one “is what it is”), or are they mobile (patterns that can be abstracted from one situation to give meaning to another)?
2) Are the relationships being assessed in a fashion impersonal (how things work), or personal (how they affect self and/or others)?
3) Is the data being derived from an external, immediate source, or an internal, often more far reaching source?
(Now I’m willing to use “personal”, along with “impersonal”, where before I suggested “humane” for Feeling, because framing it in terms of “relationships” avoids the double meaning of “personal” as also an introverted perspective. Using the concept of motion instead of “concrete” or “tangible” avoids the misconception that any dealing with tangible items isn’t iNtuition).