Consequently it's a mistake to attempt to categorize human activities, or even all forms of cognition, as one function attitude or another. By itself, stroking your cat is not the sort of thing where those kinds conflicts arise.
Instead of categorizing human activities or cognitive processes with two-letter codes, we might understand Lenore's theory by asking which aspects of a single activity or part of life provide the cues that each function attitude tracks. We could describe what each attitude brings into focus with a question:
- Se: What is happening now? What stands out and gets attention here? What is my gut reaction to it? What do I feel like doing right now? What needs no explanation?
- Si: What are the facts? What label can I put on this situation so I know what it is and how to deal with it? What is my personal stake here, that I need to keep my eye on? What is the known region that is my business to protect against the unknown?
- Ne: What is the big picture that this is a part of? How could we incorporate some of the broader context, so we get new information that will change our present understanding of the situation? What will change this situation into something else? What's next?
- Ni: How is our way of interpreting this situation actually shaping the situation? What would we see if we looked at this situation not in terms of any interpretation at all, but just as it is, agnostic with regard to interpretations or context? Where are my blind spots? What unintended consequences could arise from a given action?
- Te: How does this meet or fail to meet the appropriate criteria? What are those criteria? What goal are we trying to achieve, and what action in the present situation will move us in that direction the fastest? Who knows the most about this, and should therefore be deferred to?
- Ti: What is the truth, regardless of what anyone thinks and regardless of any predefined categories or criteria? What causal factors are in play, what potential do they have, and what whole do they form? What is my part in the overall system? What does the whole need me to do, to create/restore/continue the harmony or principle that keeps it alive?
- Fe: What are my obligations in this situation? Who else has a stake in this and what are their concerns? What action will people recognize as placing me for them or against them, and where do I want to stand?
- Fi: What is truly good? What living need calls out to be fulfilled, simply because of who and what we are--as opposed to our social status, achievements, track record, past agreements, past good or bad deeds, or anything else that would justify saying that one "deserves" or "has earned" something? What is the truly beneficial thing to do, regardless of obligation or social recognition? What is the moral "true north" that I should follow in this or any other situation, and what does it demand of me here and now, regardless of consequences?
These questions don't define the function attitudes (e.g. one could ask "What's the truth?" from a left-brain state of mind, but then it wouldn't be Ti), but they hint at them indirectly, by indicating what seems most relevant to each way that the brain represents matters of ego orientation.
Notice that these questions aren't each limited to any activity or particular sphere of life. Each applies to everything, and the answers you get can pull you in different directions. Thus you must choose. The need to choose is the basis for distinct types
The Introverted perspectives draw upon our innate, inherited potential to think and understand, without regard to present-day opportunities or social conventions.
- Introverted Sensation (Si) tunes you in to the chaos, unpredictability, and unknowability of the concrete world, leading you to value whatever few signs you can find that have stable meaning. For example, the stripes of tabby cats might hold a particular meaning for you, and you might come to treasure that. As an epistemological perspective, Si leads you to view anything from outside a familiar context as dangerous and untrustworthy. You are in tune with the fact that nearly all possibilities lead to destruction. For example, if you're designing an airplane, nearly all combinations of the variables fail. Of the possible combinations of wingspan, wing placement, wing shape, fuselage shape, and so on, there is only a tiny subset that make an aerodynamically workable plane--and then only if you get a whole lot of other things just right, too. All of life is like that, only much more complicated. We live only in the small islands of the world that we've grown up with and are suited to us. And we can't possibly know why these small islands are relatively safe. As an ethical perspective, Si leads you to protect the integrity of the things and signs that we depend on. This usually takes the form of setting up barriers against the unpredictable. For example, saving for a rainy day (hardships come at unpredictable times) or inspecting buildings for fire safety (so people can trust that "being inside a building" is a sign of safety against the elements). Within these barriers, where all is trustworthy and familiar, we can survive and enjoy what is precious to us--for a while.
- Introverted Intuition (Ni) focuses on what is inexpressible--the incommensurable and chaotic things that exist outside of any conceptual framework. For example, what do you hear in the theme-and-variations movement of Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 131? There is a meaning there, but you can't put it into words. Any attempt to put it into words will result in only a tawdry parody of the reality. Better to remain silent. As an epistemological perspective, Ni leads you to view all signs as meaningless or even deceptive, not necessarily connected to what they're supposed to represent. The true reality is something that exists beyond all signs and appearances, and can only be apprehended by a kind of direct intuition. To learn truth, one must learn to see through appearances--to make contact with a reality that cannot be seen or said. As an ethical perspective, Ni leads you to hold yourself apart from and unaffected by the meanings that others attach to words and events--to keep your own vision pure and pursue your own path regardless of evidence, reasons, or the opinions of others.