Great article. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is actually really well-founded and is a useful tool.
What's your type? http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp
The Pitfalls of Professionalism
A certain amount of specialization is necessary to handle any large task, or any large body of knowledge. But the barriers we set up between specialties tend to become overdeveloped. The professions acquire an inertial mass that deadens everything they touch. We confront a proliferation of disciplines and -ologies, most of which function primarily to protect their own professional turf. We fragment learning at the expense of the richness and flexibility that should be inherent in a living body of knowledge.
It is difficult, in the present climate in this country, to come out against professionalism in any field. The prevailing culture in our organizations and institutions is strongly biased toward a deeply embedded 'rational/empirical' approach that favors professionalism. We glorify science and technology, opt for increased role specialization in all fields of human inquiry and put our faith (more or less blindly) in credential-granting institutions and hierarchies. We increasingly believe that if we are to be taken seriously we must acquire (a proliferating array of) 'professional' credentials, and pursue status in 'the professions', often at the cost of neglecting the pursuit of 'truth'.
In every field of human endeavor we seem to see increasing professionalism - even in those fields where this development is particularly suspect. For example, we expect our elected officials to be 'professional' politicians, in contrast to valuing increased democratic participation of the citizenry at large, despite the fact that this often puts us at the mercy of 'experts' and despots. Last night I heard a TV commentator suggest that in our justice system juries should be replaced by judges, as judges are 'professionals' who would better 'understand' the 'scientific evidence'. This is truly dangerous stuff.
Because there is such a strong bias in favor of professionalism, because it is so obviously and indisputably good in our society, we may feel hard-pressed to conceive of its alternative. What might we suggest in lieu of 'professionals'? Surely not 'amateurs', a word that evokes a peculiar and unacceptable image of science as a 'pastime', and the scientist as dilettante.
Contrasting professionalism with 'amateurism' merely stacks the deck in favor of the 'professional', as far as I am concerned. It is my contention that what we should be comparing the 'professional' scientist to is not the amateur, but the real
scientist! And, as a matter of fact, this is basically what Thomas Kuhn did do, quite some time ago, in his seminal work in the field of philosophy of science -- he distinguished between 'normal' science and 'revolutionary' science. Let me briefly explain this distinction. Part of what it is to be a 'professional' is to 'profess, declare, or avow an opinion, belief or practice'. It involves a 'declaration of belief in and obedience to' a particular paradigm and its associated matrix of theories and practices. And declarations of belief in prevailing paradigms and obedience to the specific rules established within such paradigms can be anathema to the search for truth.
The normal scientist (who might also be called the 'professional scientist') works within
a given paradigm, according to the rules of that paradigm - whereas the revolutionary scientist struggles to work with
competing paradigms (and hence often with ambiguity and paradox), facilitating shifts
from one paradigm to another. The revolutionary scientist, in order to do her job, must be able to step out
of the current paradigm - no easy task. Because it is so very difficult for someone who is immersed in a paradigm to transcend it, as Kuhn and many others who have followed him have pointed out, revolutionary scientists are usually outsiders
. They are not
the 'normal' scientists, who have established themselves so deeply in the prevailing paradigm that they have difficulty identifying and challenging the tacit assumptions associated with that framework. The outsider, precisely because she is not wed to the prevailing paradigm, is not limited to 'professing' the theories that that paradigm judges to be 'valid' and 'relevant'.
Theories are paradigm-specific entities; theories relevant in one paradigm are irrelevant in another. For instance - what appeared 'relevant' to Einstein were treated as 'anomalous' facts, totally irrelevant, to propents of the prevailing paradigm of the day. When one announces that there is only one set of 'relevant' theories which everyone should learn, he is tacitly coming down on the side of the 'normal' scientist, who (by definition) is more concerned about 'professing' the views of a particular paradigm than facilitating shifts in paradigm (ie, 'scientific discovery'). The 'revolutionary' scientist, who is almost always a paradigm outlaw, is more likely to balk at the word 'relevant' employed in this way, as this very word is often used in the attempt to discredit his or her best work. [To see how this happens you have only to look at recent biographies of the pioneers in 'chaos science' - many of whom had trouble in acquiring credentials in their 'professions', as a result of their pursuit of what was seen as 'irrelevant' interests by 'the professionals', even while they were making their most significant scientific discoveries!]
The difference between amateur and professional is that professionals are taught to be highly self-critical. The hallmark of a real scientist is to doubt one's own most cherished ideas and theories. It is mainly the revolutionary
scientist, the outsider, who characteristically demonstrates this capacity for self-criticism. The 'normal' scientist, our 'professional', characteristically does not. For the epitome of self-criticism is the capacity to shift paradigms, to uncover deeply rooted paradigmatic assumptions, to question
the 'relevancy' of seemingly relevant facts, and notice the significance of seemingly 'irrelevant' facts. And this capacity is the hallmark not of the normal scientist, but of the revolutionary scientist.
It may be the case that all scientists, whether 'normal' or 'revolutionary' types, are critical
(for, after all, they are mainly 'thinking' types - predominantly 'NTs'). But most direct their criticism to others (and characteristically put themselves in the position of defending, not criticizing, the 'professions' to which they have gained admittance at great personal expense).