Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Information Aspects

The basic goal of my research program for the last several years has been to define the semantics of Model A, in an irrefutable mathematical way. This post will describe a major step in that direction, which is the definition of the information aspects. The description here will be informal; a more formal description will come at a later date. But you can consider these definitions essentially definitive, I do not expect them to change substantially. Normally I don't make a distinction between the IM elements and aspects because it is not really a clear distinction (and it implies the question of how they come to be in exact correspondence), but in this context we are approaching them from a more metaphysical and general standpoint. In fact my research suggests that there are eight aspects and 16 IM elements — but I digress.

These definitions may seem overly general. But in fact this was forced by the evident relations between the aspects — in other words you cannot explain why Se complements Ni and conflicts with Si without this level of generality.

Notice that, unlike types, the information aspects need not be mutually exclusive. Fe is expression but all information can be expressed, every aspect is associated with a type of action that manipulates it (Se), etc. But of course in the standard conception of socionics you cannot have more than one type. In fact we may say that this is the defining trait of a type, it is a level where cognition (information processing) and behavior acquire mutually exclusive traits. By their nature the information aspects are so general that they overlap by necessity.

These categories have multiple levels of description, probably more than the conventional two levels of aspects and elements, and some of which we will touch on here. But the purpose of this article is to describe them in their metaphysical essence — which explains how they relate to one another in relations of complementation and conflict. 

The Irrational Aspects


Si: Presence, Quality, Well-Being

Si in its essence is absolute stasis and presence. It is the present state. As a process it seeks to maintain what is present, as opposed to acting to change it. Action is the opposite of perception and in fact changes what is present so we may also say that Si is responsible for passively perceiving what is present.

However, a state of absolute stasis is incomplete, given that it cannot change or improve. When the starting point is lacking this presents a problem. This is where Ne comes in — it adds potential to Si's state. At this higher level Si attempts instead to preserve the *quality* and equilibrium of the state, allowing for improvement rather than resisting all change as a rule.

A state in which change occurs but quality is maintained is a state that has life and well-being. Life is maintained through a dynamic cycle of satisfying needs and disposing of waste — homeostasis. Health is a way of measuring the well-being of the physical body.

So together, Si and Ne seek to preserve and increase the quality of the present state — they are present-oriented despite Ne being essentially about what is absent and potential.

Ni: Conception, Negation

Ni in its essence is that which does not exist or is not present. As a process it generates and recognizes what is not by negating what is. This is a conception that occurs within the mind as opposed to being received from the senses. This imagined state is by its nature disconnected from the real world but it can turn into a vision or a goal or an intention provided that such a connection is made.

The past and future are accessible through the imagination so they fall under the purview of Ni, but Ni is not limited to time.

Psychologically Ni means inherent dissatisfaction with what exists. From the perspective of Si, Ni is like death in that it seeks to negate what is present. But provided that it moves in the right direction Ni can lead to greater life.

When it becomes connected with action (through Se), Ni means a future goal state to work towards and plan for. Thus it is concerned with meaning and purpose, and cautiousness so as not to fall into danger, error, or misguidance from the goal.

Ne: Generation of potential

Ne generates potential, possibilities. It does this in a way that does not replace or exclude what is present but adds to its potential. Indeed we can say that it negates negation by coming up with more possibilities in addition to some initial possibility. So Ne is fundamentally positive. Moreover, there is no limit to how many possibilities can be imagined so there is no need for exclusivity. One need only select one for the purposes of actually taking action. When Ni does generate multiple possibilities it does so depthwise, maintaining direction ("homeorhesis") and getting farther from what is present, while Ne does so breadthwise, remaining adjacent to what is present. From the point of view of Ni this sideways movement is deviation, but in the generic case it is beneficial to have more potential at your disposal.

This adjacency means that Ne is focused on generating possibilities that are not only conceivable but accessible through an actual action that can be taken in the real world. So we can also say that Ne generates choices or options.

Ni is associated with the end goal of action (telos) while Ne is associated with new beginnings in which action becomes possible. Or one can say that Ne is the question while Ni is the answer. Or that Ne is the unknown and Ni is certainty, possibility and necessity, opening and closing.

Conceivability is a prerequisite for accessibility, but expanding possibility is a prerequisite for limiting possibility. That is, the first direction that comes to mind may not be the right direction. So Ni and Ne actually complement each other in this way.

Se: Impact, Action

Se makes an impact, i.e. it makes an actual, observable change on what is present. Without Se the other three irrational aspects are inert and cannot actually change or improve anything. Se makes an impact through action and/or words (expression). In a way expression is just a type of action, but there is also a distinction between performing an action yourself and getting someone else to do it. Action means leaving or disturbing the initial comfortable state of Si — so it is in this sense Se is opposed to Si and complementary to Ni, as it actualizes the image that Ni has formed in the future state. So Se and Ni are future-oriented in their joint values: Se actualizes Ni's vision and Ni guides Se's action. Action is always pointed at some future goal, no matter how near — it gets you from here to there.

So Se is also associated with the intensity and apparent change which results from action — movement through the space of possible states as well as physical space. This expands the space that you occupy; movement is always an expansion. Ne by contrast is "mental movement" or mental change, and not actual change which means affecting the perceptible state of things.

Action depletes vital resources, meaning our energy or what Jung called libido. From the perspective of Se, Si seeks to maintain a deficient state of stasis, but we also need rest to replenish our vital energy and allow for further action, so they complement each other in the long term despite being mutually exclusive states.

The Rational Aspects

Fi: Individual, Character

Fi is personal identity — character. That is, it characterizes the nature of the subject, which is the human being or self, as opposed to the world which is the object. The information associated with ethics is personal and therefore fundamentally about people. In reality the identity of the thing is the thing itself.

Notice that identity means the aspect that stays the same, so really it should be associated with Fi rather than FeNi, but for clarity we'll use the word character. The basic way that a person is characterized is by their actions. Words may lie but actions don't lie. So Fi measures whether a person is truthful or not by comparing their words with reality and with how they behave. A person who says what they see is honest and a person who does what they say is sincere. Truthfulness is the basis of all character and determines whether a person is reliable and trustworthy.

Similar to Si, Fi is inert and inactive on its own. The self does not need to act or express (or even perceive) anything but this is also the only way that it is known.

As a process Fi is focused on maintaining the integrity of the self and its intentions, and protecting it from external influences. Other people may or may not align with the nature of one's self in various ways so in a derivative way Fi is also about relationships. The more someone is like you or close to you the more they are a kind of second self or extension of the self.

Personal identity includes both future and past actions. Gamma Fi is focused on the past aspect, which means the actions one has already, observably taken. Delta Fi is rather focused on the future aspect, what kinds of actions a person may potentially perform in the future.

Ti: System, Structure

Just as Fi is the nature of the individual, Ti is the nature of the world. One is the subject and the other the object, the witness and the witnessed, one personal and one impersonal. The world is a system that contains the individual and in general many individuals. So a system means something unifying or global which has internal structure and unites its different parts or members together. Therefore Ti is also concerned with rules and laws (both prescriptive and descriptive), which define the general nature of a system such as society or the physical world, how they operate and their structural integrity is maintained. When joined with Fe it determines a common language and value structure that maintains group integrity.

So Ti maintains the identity and integrity of the system. For Beta Ti this means its order, so that each part is in its place. For Alpha Ti it means its generality, so that it applies to any situation that may exist within its purview. On a social level these correspond to hierarchy and inclusiveness respectively.

A system is impersonal due to including many individuals simultaneously and therefore transcending (or ignoring) their personal nature and differences between them. So TiFe values are collective and are opposed to Fi which is local and personal.

Ti and Fi both share in being essentially static on their own, Ti being something like Kant's noumenon. But the objective world of Ti is in reality the source of phenomena and not separate from them.

Te: Observation

Te is the process of gathering information about the world through observation. So it is fundamentally a passive process, like Ne. Knowledge is a fundamental type of resource and so Te by extension seeks to gather useful resources. Knowledge is a resource in that it guides action and allows us to make correct choices.

Gathering resources increases the self so Te complements Fi in its focus on the self and strengthening its integrity.

Logic is about what is objective but Te is the part that we actually observe in a dynamic sense, rather than what exists (Ti). Then again, in the long run these are the same: if something has a certain characteristic then it will eventually become apparent in the sum total of observations made about it.

Fe: Communication, Expression

Fe is the act of communication of information. If nothing else, communication conveys information about one's current internal state, i.e. it is expression. This includes emotional expression but is not limited to it. More specific and traditional definitions of Fe and Ti have struggled to make sense of why Emotion and Logic should complement one another — this problem is solved by recognizing that Fe is needed to disseminate the values of Ti to greater society, i.e. Fe in its essence is about any and all communication.

We communicate what we see and know, so in distinction to Te, Fe is what remains when the objective content of communication has been removed — i.e. it is the form. In distinction to Fi it means the dynamic aspect of identity. So TiFe valuers view personal identity as fluid and systemic identity as static, and vice versa for TeFi valuers.

Inter-Aspect Relations

So to summarize, we have the following types of information — what have been called macroelements or domains, i.e. what corresponds to the strength dichotomy:

Sensing = presence, actuality
Intuition = absence, possibility
Ethics = subject, self, personal information
Logic = object, world, impersonal information

These words are various ways of describing the same thing, included for clarity and not due to any ambiguity in the underlying construction. They make it clear what is essential and what is derived.

And we have the following types of values, which are directions that the psyche moves in:

SiNe = present-oriented values
SeNi = future-oriented values
FiTe = self-oriented values
FeTi = world-oriented values

The final presence trait is boldness which corresponds to introversion and extroversion. Extroverted aspects are processes while introverted aspects are the entities or states or objects that these processes act upon. In other words, as processes introverted aspects seek to preserve a state and extroverted
aspects seek to initiate a state. But in their essence the introverted aspects are the states or entities themselves.

So the fundamental dichotomies of IM aspects correspond directly to the fundamental dichotomies of functions. This is certainly not a coincidence, and by how Model A works they are independent in a certain sense for the rational and irrational
aspects. We may call them subdichotomies, so that sensing/intuition is one subdichotomy corresponding to strength and ethics/logic is another.