Was C. S. Lewis an INFP by David Botton

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Another famous dead guy that the experts with a lot of letters after their names MAY be missing the boat on is C.S. Lewis.

Everybody has Lewis down as an INTJ, simply because he was so terribly intellectual. And I admit that he very well could have been. However, there are some pretty strong indications that he could rather have been an INFP.

Let’s take a look:

1. Lewis was loathe to anything having to do with finances, so much that his finances were in complete disorder until he met TJ Joy Davidman, who promptly took charge and organized them. This tendency to avoid dealing with finances is much more in keeping with an NF than an NT.

2. After Davidman died, Lewis again let his financial house fall into disarray such that, at the time of his death, it was found that he did not prepare at all well for who would have legal control over his works. As a result, control first went to his alcoholic brother, who quickly lost it to a carpet-bagging groupie-type named Walter Hooper, who apparently fabricated many things about his and Lewis’s life, and may have even added some works to Lewis’ cannon, though they may have been written by someone else (see the book, “The C.S. Lewis Hoax” by Kathryn Lindskoog). Hooper maintains control to this day and nobody gets to C.S. Lewis’s legacy but through him. Now, this sign of lack of preparation would seem to be much more in keeping with a P than a J personality type in Lewis.

3. Lewis was known for diligently writing back to those who wrote to him. While an INTJ might feel the need to be so DILIGENT about the personal stuff, an NF would be more inclined to write back simply because an INF, despite the huge need for introversion, needs and enjoys people a lot. An NF wouldn’t have to force himself to be diligent or anything; an NF would simply write back because he was being himself. (This would seem to rule out the question of Lewis perhaps being an INTP–from my own personal experience, INTPs don’t tend to respond to personal letters a whole lot…for certain, they do so less than INTJ or INFP…after all, INTPs are the LEAST emotional of all Types…they simply are bored by such stuff.)

4. Lewis said that he had had a huge penchant to follow science, but that “the Lion of Mathematics” stopped him from pursuing it. Now, both an INTJ and an INFP could have this interest in science (see Isabel Myers-Briggs’ “Gifts Differing” and how she records this INFP tendency towards science); however, when it came to math, NFs as a rule do not do as well as NTs–usually not until some kind of people-oriented meaning can be ascribed to those impersonal numbers and symbols.

5. Lewis records that he had a live-in teacher, quite likely an INTP, influence his learning greatly when he was young. He calls this character “Kirk” in his autobiography. Such a profound impact by an NT instructor would likely shape an NF to sound a bit like an NT years later in his life.

6. Lewis records (again, in his autobiography) that, after his mother died when he was very young, and after his very emotional father showed a tendency towards hysterics after that, Lewis said he learned early on to distrust emotions. I think he was severely scarred by this, and it may have stunted his emotional growth. INFPs, while emotional like the other NFs, are nevertheless the least outwardly emotional of all the NFs, and so, if an NF was going to have his emotions stunted and come to resemble an NT, the one who would most likely look like an NT would be INFP.

7. Anthony Hopkins, in the movie “Shadowlands”, which was very LOOSELY based on the life of C.S. Lewis (i.e., the film changed a heckuva lot of the man’s real life in portraying him) played Lewis as very stoic, very NT-like. But when you read the writings of Lewis, you  do not get this impression at all. The man was bubbling with enthusiasm and emotion underneath. This could be still an INTJ, but I think we need to consider that it could also be an INFP. I just wonder if the folks doing the Typing of Lewis are not Typing Anthony Hopkins’ character, instead of the real Lewis.8. Lewis’s astounding intellect could go either way: BOTH INTJs and INFPs tend to be, in general, notoriously high on the IQ charts.

Contact DAvid at : dbotton@teacher.com

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~ by nancyfenn on April 15, 2007.

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