We ought not to die, before we explain ourselves to each other


“…that we ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other…”

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wrote these words in letters to each other, after both had retired from public life. Each was a founding father of the United States of America and each served as President. Jefferson, an Architect Rational, was a Virginian, tall and lanky, and a brilliant writer, but middling speaker. He relied partly on John Adams, an arrogant Fieldmarshal Rational from Massachusetts, pudgy and cantankerous, but a brilliant bulldog of a public speaker to persuade others.

This combination of the two was a very powerful dyad. The theoretical and Engineering brilliance of an Architect and the pragmatic determination of the Coordinating Rational has been seen in other pairs such as Lincoln and Grant,  Einstein and Bohr, and Ulam and Teller. In this combination, these two founders helped shape the United States from the beginning based on both their temperament and character, a unique combination of personality at a crucial time in political history.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams’ reelection bid for President of United States. It was the most acrimonious election of the country’s young history, and is considered the starting point of political parties in American politics. This was an unexpected situation given that a few years earlier, Jefferson and Adams had worked well together in the framing of the Constitution and were two people tasked by Congress to write of the Declaration of Independence.

In Washington’s two terms of office was when Adams and Jefferson parted company, their visions for America differing.   They became political opponents.   Adams became very bitter when Jefferson defeated him in the 1800 election.  Adams retired to a Massachusetts, they didn’t communicate until Madison’s second term in 1812.  Their friend Benjamin Rush wrote a letter to Adams, hoping they would reconcile.  Time and retirement of both seemed to heal the wounds.  Adams sent the first letter and with that they proceeded to correspond for the rest of their lives: both dying on the Fourth of July, Independence Day, 1826.

So how was it they didn’t understand each other?

“On the question, ‘What is the best provision?’, you and I differ; but we differ as rational friends, using the free exercise of our own reason, and mutually indulging it’s errors.” [emphasis added]

They were Rationals, interested in theoretical solutions to practical problems. Once the United States was on a seemingly solid basis, the two began to differ in their vision of how the government of the United States should proceed. Adams was not trustful of the republican democracy and was a Federalist — more concerned with creation and protection of wealth and strengthening the central government, whereas Jefferson was not trustful with the aristocracy in the form of Federalists and preferred a more representative and more autonomous version of the electorate, Agrarian in nature. Jefferson had supported the French revolution. He even said to Abigail Adams, John Adams’ wife, in a letter: “I like a little revolution now and then.”

Jefferson explained “our difference of opinion may in some measure be produced by a difference of character in those among whom we live.” But I think that Jefferson, the Engineer, more a libertarian in nature, had a faith in the rough and tumble of local politics. He had more of a distributed notion of democracy in the form of States rights and individual freedom. But Adams, a Coordinator, viewed the educated man and the man of inheritance as equal combatants in the balance of power between different branches of government. Realizing the common man had little or no interest, or skill to be involved with government, Adam had worried about unchecked democracy.

As Jefferson surmised:

 “We acted in perfect harmony through a long and perilous contest for our liberty and independence. A constitution has been acquired which, though neither of us think perfect, yet both consider as competent to render our fellow-citizens the happiest and the securest on whom the sun has ever shone. If we do not think exactly alike as to it’s imperfections, it matters little to our country which, after devoting to it long lives of disinterested labor, we have delivered over to our successors in life, who will be able to take care of it, and of themselves.”

So both Adams and Jefferson had confidence in the American Temperament to prosper.

14 thoughts on “We ought not to die, before we explain ourselves to each other

  1. Fabio Bani January 2, 2013 / 2:59 pm

    Opposite Rationals are a good temperament combination. The Fieldmarshal is decisive and strong-willed whereas the Architect is open and informative. They complete each-other: the Architect gives to the unbending Fieldmarshal space with his/her flexible theories and provides to the Fieldmarshal the technological and theoretical support needed. On his/her side, the Fieldmarshal is one who efficiently can apply these theories in reality. In what other ways can they complete each-other?


  2. Peter Asp January 9, 2013 / 7:51 am

    Hmm, have you seen the book by Steven J. Rubenzer where a whole team of historians label Adams an introvert?


    • David Keirsey January 9, 2013 / 6:02 pm

      Technically we classified Adams as a Fieldmarshal Rational and we don’t use the term “introvert” anymore (Keirsey Temperaments only correlate with Myers-Briggs types). We use the term “expressive” versus “attentive” — if anybody knows anything about Adams would know he can’t keep his mouth shut. The “introvert/extrovert” scale is especially problematic for the Rationals. (And Historians don’t know anything about the Rational Temperament). The term “introvert” is a badly abused term. My father urges everybody to “abandon it.”

      And no, I haven’t read Steven Rubenzer — never heard of him. I am never very interested in consensus history.


  3. Peter Asp January 10, 2013 / 6:30 am

    You should, at the very least, check up on Rubenzer in order to “see what you’re up against.” I disagree with many of their typing and their methodology, but well… Consider giving it a spin and see.

    I don’t know if I follow your reasoning. Did Ayn Rand know how to keep her mouth shut? How about Newton?

    On another note, can you tell me why you changed your typing of Bill Gates from “attentive” to “expressive”? Obviously, in terms of behavior he strikes most people as an introvert, so what I am specifically interested in is why you labelled him as an expressive type to begin with? Because strong arguments have been made than going by Jung’s functions, Gates is a Te-dominant, but you and your father never used Jungian functions to begin with, so I am puzzled and I hope you can shed some light on this matter 🙂


    • David Keirsey January 10, 2013 / 3:52 pm

      On Gates, I have been aware of Bill Gates for over 35 years, check out my comments on him in the comments of http://blog.keirsey.com/2011/04/18/real-ideal-men/.  A long time ago I had read the hack job of a biography Hard Drive, which confused me (Mistake were made, but not by me) I now consider Gates, a Mastermind (Arranger) Rational.Newton and Rand? They didn’t suffer fools gladly. They were very Contending, but Attentive.  They were not Architects, which are the most easily indentifiable as Attentive.  I recommend Never at Rest to know about Newton and some physics.  There are no good bios for Rand.You might want to look at Eisenhower, Grant, Hoover, John Quincy Adams and compare them to John Adams. (but don’t use the letters)My father thinks that Jungian functions are confusing. I used to use the Myers letters, but they got me confused often when using them (ala Gates, …)   Jungian functions: never made sense to me; and I can’t remember them, for the life of me.


      • Peter Asp January 11, 2013 / 6:41 am

        Your response was very illuminating. I know how your interests are in computer and therefore, that it would be natural for you to be the one to type Gates. But then, I can take it that your father was not involved in pegging Gates as an Extrovert/Expressive at all?

        Why can’t I use the Adams letters? I read them, he seemed almost a rational-inventer(!) from them but I know that he can’t be! So what is it about the letters?


      • David Keirsey January 11, 2013 / 2:48 pm

        Yes, I can safely say most (except our mistakes 😉 typings are mine.  Except for Civil War generals, some Presidents (ala Presidential Temperament) and a few others, my father has not concentrated on biographies, autobiographies, or detailed analysis of individuals.Re: Adams — you have us on this, I have not read all of his letters. Originally, in Presidential Temperament, my father and Ray Choiniere only classified the Presidents (including John) via the eight roles (essentially ignoring the E/I scale completely), e.g., John Adams is included as one of the Coordinating (Fieldmarshal/Mastermind) Rationals.  Again, the Attentive/Expressive scale is more context dependent, such that my father doesn’t find it as useful in understanding Rationals overall behavior.  Tesla, by Myers letters, would be “Introverted” — but he is definitely an Inventor (Modeler) Rational via Keirsey Temperament.When you look at the statistics on the E/I scale of Keirsey Temperament Sorter — it is not bimodal.  The other three scales are definitely bimodal, statistically.  Of course, all “theories” are conceptual (and not perceptual), therefore it is important to decide which construct is more useful, not whether a construct is right or wrong.


      • Matt Tagg (@wamatt) January 11, 2013 / 9:13 pm

        “Jungian functions: never made sense to me; and I can’t remember them, for the life of me.”

        Wow. That’s quite absurd, given KTS is by and large, based off the work of Isabel Myers which built predominantly off Jung’s work not the greeks, despite the deliberate misdirection.

        It was Jung that did about 70% of the work and had the original core insights. Myers added much and I view Keirsey as brilliant in terms of its impact, but mostly refinement.

        You can rename things all you like “Architect” this, “Attentive” that, there are still the same underlying truths that govern our cognition. Where is the attribution?

        If you don’t understand the fundamentals (Jungian cognitives), how can you expect to have accurate consistent outputs?

        Saying KTS/MBTI and Jung are all separate models is a copout when they are so interlinked.


      • David Keirsey January 14, 2013 / 11:56 am

        “quite absurd” — really, tell me how you really feel. Where’s that old time religion, if it’s good enough for Brady it’s good enough for me.

        Would you say Einstein is just a refinement of Newton. Just an adding of more terms of a Taylor series expansion in multiple dimensions? Besides you are way off base. You discount (or don’t know about) Kretschmer, Adickes, Goldstein, Haley… To quote him, “among his modern influences he counts the works of William James, John Dewey, Ernst Kretschmer, William Sheldon, Jay Haley, Gregory Bateson, Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, Raymond Wheeler, Erich Fromm, Alfred Adler, Rudolf Dreikurs, Milton Erickson, and Erving Goffman.”

        Where is the attribution. Where’s Jung attribution to James and Kant? Jung helped Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers, but my father had read Jung long before Myers but couldn’t make much sense of his ramblings. Jung’s ideas were not unique: Goldstein and Adickes had the “N/S” distinction in “abstract” and “concrete” or “heteronomous” and “autonomous”. That people are different is what my father gives credit to Jung, and he doesn’t mention Jung’s messy mistakes in the area of madness. Frankly, you can keep your “the outflow of the libido from the subject to object” for yourself.

        And, of course, I am not my father.

        Never have said they are separate models, but they are really separate “theoretical models” just as Einstein’s and Bohr’s models are different models from Bohm’s model, and string theorists.


  4. Peter Asp January 14, 2013 / 5:49 pm

    Dear David Keirsey.
    I appreciate you taking the time to reply to me.
    I have discussed your typing with several people and I generally find them to be quite good. So good, actually, that I would really like to know more about which people (a) your father typed (b) you typed (c) you both worked on. I regard it as a matter of historical importance.

    So as you see, I take your imput seriously and I revere it.
    However, when you ask where Jung’s attribution to James and Kant is, I really feel like you have not even bothered to read Psychological Types, which explicitly credits the both of them.


    • David Keirsey January 14, 2013 / 11:02 pm

      Yes, you are correct I did not read very much of Psychological Types. It’s a tough slog. And I have low tolerance for most of “Soft Science” and even less for Philosophy (even though my father urged me to read guys like Cassirer, Watzlavick, Bateson, Haley, Wertheimer yada yada) — I had by necessity left most of them to my father. I quickly would fall asleep on those guys. Word diarrhea of the mouth. I am not a psychologist. I am more of a Chemist, Mathematician, and Information Scientist than anything else. I know a significant amount of Science and Mathematical history (and history in general). I have looked at the Jungian functions from Myers work, and again I have forgotten much of it — I also have read and have a physical copy of Myers original (brief) descriptions of the sixteen types (from 1958) a copy (mimeographed no less) that Isabel gave my father. I have been talking to my father about people and psychology, and other things for about 50 years.

      I would be interested in the exact references where Jung credits James, (and Kant). I will correct my mistaken view that Jung didn’t credit James for T/F dichotomy, if that’s the case. Frankly, Matt’s dismissive comments got my blood going.

      I can’t give you what you want regarding which specific people, you will have to assume that most are my selection and research, except as stated above. We have made some real stupid mistakes (rarely though) and of course EVERYBODY has their own opinion — and ignore us anyway. History is mostly fabricated, for better or worse.


  5. Matt Tagg (@wamatt) January 28, 2013 / 11:47 am

    David, it’s somewhat disappointing that you’ve resorted to censoring the debate, and left yourself with the last word, simply because you felt attacked or disagreed with the rebuttal.

    I would have expected a good deal more intellectual honesty from someone in your position.


  6. jason taylor June 22, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    Jefferson and Adams should be analyzed within the context of their cultural matrix of the Virginian and New Englander ruling classes. See David Hackett Fischer’s, Albion’s Seed.


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