Rational Maverick

In Memoriam

It is the first anniversary of my father’s death.

Professor David West Keirsey
(August 31, 1921 – July 30, 2013)

I always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library — Luis Jorge Borges

I was born into even a better paradise.  My father was wordmeister (a studier of words) and a personologist (a studier of persons), and a book reader: A Rational Maverick.  And I was just like him — well sorta’.  He was born in the 20’s and I was born in the 50’s.  Two ages of innocence:  he after WWI and me after WWII.

He had different upbringing than me, but we were of the same Temperament (Rational), Role (Engineer) and Type (Architect).  A kind of a natural science and engineering type of person: a nerd, in modern argot. I naturally graviated towards being a scholar in quantitative reasoning and the use of words, because of his and my mother’s library of life. He had naturally became a scholar in qualitative reasoning and the use of words.

I began reading when I was seven. Read (most of) a twelve-volume set of books my parents bought, Journeys through Bookland. Read countless novels thereafter, day in and day out. I educated myself by reading books. Starting at age nine my family went to the library once a week, I checking out two or three novels which I would read during the week. Then, when I was sixteen, I read my father’s copy of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. I read it over and over again, now and then re-reading his account of some of the philosophers. (Long afterwards I read his magnificent eleven volumes—The Story of Civilization. I also have read his The Lessons of History many times, this being his brilliant summary of the eleven volumes.)

I mention Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy because it was a turning point in my life, I to become a scholar as did Durant, thereafter reading the philosophers and logicians — anthropologists, biologists, ethologists, ethnologists, psychologists, sociologists, and, most important, the etymologists, all of the latter—Ernest Klein, Eric Partridge, Perry Pepper, and Julius Pokorny—of interest to me now as then. [Turning Points, David West Keirsey, unpublished]

When I started to discuss (and soon to debate) things with my father, we discussed logic and the use of words.  I had become a reader too, rather naive and ignorant as children are, however.  Luckily, my father had learned what it meant to learn.

The second turning point occurred when there came a sudden, drastic, and permanent change in my life. In May 1942 I was drafted. I quit school immediately and joined the Navy to become a fighter pilot. Why fighter pilot? Because as a child I had read every book I could find about the fighter pilots of the first world war, finally resorting to 5 cent pulp books, many well written (I have no idea why these planes and their pilots fascinated me). So when called to war I could not imagine my engaging in any other kind of warfare. Not that I wished to go to war. Far from it ─ I wished to pursue, not the enemy, but college studies. Even so, I found flight training fascinating but challenging and hazardous, many cadets failing to pass the frequent tests at each stage of training. Incidentally, it was during flight training that I learned the crucial difference between education and training. An educated person has acquired knowledge; a trained person has acquired skill. An effective person has acquired both. [Turning Points]

He was able to go to college on the GI bill, renew his scholarship, and to continue “action” research (as he called it) when the War ended.

In January 1946 back to college. We lived in my wife’s parents’ home in Costa Mesa until the summer, at which time we moved to Claremont, this because my wife’s parents let us live in their (refurbished) garage. Indeed, we chose Pomona College in Claremont, not for its many merits, but solely because we had a place to live in. What a stroke of luck! Claremont was a college town housing no less than seven colleges, each unique and well known, one of them being Claremont Graduate University, my place of study for thirteen years, I resuming my interrupted life as a scholar.


I attended Claremont Graduate University—the fourth turning point in my life.

Claremont Graduate University had a clinic in which I practiced counseling troubled persons for four years.

Pursuant to writing my masters thesis I studied ten persons said to have high blood pressure without physical disease or defect, then called “essential hypertension.” Met with each person many times for many months, using personality inventories and what was then called ‘associative anamnesis’ in which they told me the story of their lives while I asked them to go into more detail about their more disturbing experiences, taking copious notes all the while. No one had ever paid such rapt attention to them and tried so hard to understand how these experiences affected them, or accepted everything they said without criticism. It was on the basis of this method of interviewing that Carl Rogers built his notorious career, he giving the method names such as ‘non-directive counseling’, ‘reflective listening’, and ‘active listening’. Practicing the method early on and thenceforth gave direction to my career as a counselor of both troubled and troublesome children and their parents and teachers, and as a trainer of those who would practice such counseling, and finally as a writer on personality, counseling, and madness.

I found all ten persons to have the same personality, what I would much later call the Guardian. It was this long study of persons’ lives that set me on my lifelong career course. Thus I became a person watcher. Wrote Personality in Essential Hypertension for my MA degree. [Turning Points]

My father would go on to be a clinical school psychologist for the next 20 years, collecting and inventing corrective intervention techniques and developing Temperament Theory.  We would discuss experiences and his ideas, and many of the ideas that he got from the hundreds of books in his growing library.  Then there was:

The Book

Bates and I wrote three books, one of them titled Please Understand Me, the contents taken from transcriptions of my lectures and conversations with Bates, she the scrivener. When Bates died I gave the manuscript to her sister to have it published. Her sister did nothing about it for a whole year, so I then retrieved and rewrote the manuscript entirely and, finding no publisher, published it myself in 1978—a turning point.

The book had a strange history. It started as sixteen separate “portraits of temperament”, these being expansions of the sixteen “psychological types” of Isabel Myers, a novelist who was devoted to Carl Jung’s ideas on personality. Had the college book store print each portrait separately on typing paper, sixteen sheets clipped together, put in a manila folder and sold in the college book store. Sold five thousand copies the first year (1975). When Please Understand Me was written, the sixteen portraits were in its appendix, probably the reason the book still sells thirty or so years later and has been translated into a dozen foreign languages. [Turning Points]

He would go on the write or contribute to more books: Portraits of Temperament, Presidential Temperament, Please Understand Me II, and Personology.

He never completed Dark Escape, his magnum opus on Madness, a manuscript that he worked on and off for 60 years.  Some day I would like to publish it or a subset in some form.  Some of the work is at his blog site that I created for him,  http://professorkeirsey.wordpress.com

I continue to wander in the library of life, sometimes reading or rereading books that my father wrote or read: with thought in new regions that my father never could go to, but wondered about.

7 thoughts on “Rational Maverick

  1. goodrumo July 30, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    If a person does not keep pace with their companion, perhaps it is because they hear a different drummer. Let them step to the music to which they hear, however measured or far away…


  2. Sigurd Arild August 12, 2014 / 10:54 am

    Dear David Keirsey

    I think it is a problem for scholarship that scholars are unable to separate your type assessments from those of David West Keirsey. You have on your own blog mentioned that you and your father disagree on a number of people’s types. As the family inheritance is left to you, it is also natural that you would discover inaccuracies and update the official “Keirsey verdict” on people’s types. Yet in the interest of scholarship, and in memory of David West Keirsey, I think it would be a great help to scholars if you could provide a record detailing the claims of David West Keirsey vs. the claims of David Keirsey. I thank you in advance,

    Sigurd Arild


    • David Keirsey August 12, 2014 / 11:53 am

      Yes it would be difficult to separate my specific individual assessments with my father from afar. Unfortunately it is difficult to separate them in some cases even to me. We debated for about 50 years, me defering to him in the beginning and in the end he relied on me in the ending. Bottom line, he did not talk about too many specific individuals so the ones mentioned explicitly in PUM I, Portraits, Presidential, and PUM II, would be the few that he “approved of” at the time. His individual illustrations, were an afterthought in his mind. Except “half” of the Presidentials, he didn’t do in depth research into the individuals, often.

      He relied on me for specific examples in Personology (and he screwed up a couple of times even then).

      When I “started to help” (circa 1995) I was mainly concerned in coming up with examples, because he was the go to ‘theory guy’ (although I had my contentions too). He was NOT as interested theoretically in “typing” individuals, because remember Keirsey Temperament is a model: there is no such individual that is e.g., an Architect Rational — that is “me” David Mark Keirsey. The Architect Rational is a model of me, not me. Again, both he and I were of the William James school – what is the cash value of the model.

      So essentially “most of the specific typing” should not attributed to my father except when explicitly referred to PUM I,Portraits,and PUM II, and one should assume the rest are mine. We didn’t disagree significantly, in the end, besides he wasn’t in “typing” per se except in the service of theory. Maybe some day I will discuss my or my father’s probable royal screw ups: for example, Lincoln, Nightengale, and Lindbergh. But I have so much to do for my own “Relational Science and Comparative Complexity” I can’t promise much.


  3. Khaled Al-Sayer September 5, 2014 / 9:29 pm

    What about Lincoln?


    • David Keirsey September 7, 2014 / 11:29 am

      My father initially “typed him” as a Guardian (an SJ) at the time of the writing of PUM circa (1976) — worst the cover of hard cover version of the Please Understand Me (luckily few exist, they are collector items) has a illustration of the figure of Lincoln in the Guardian box. He was “deceived” by Lincoln’s “reported” melancholy, of course, — (the death of his son, his first love, the burden of the civil war) would make anybody depressed. Mistake were made, but not by me 😉


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