Something Lost with the Demise of  the Classic Theory of Temperaments

The classic theory of four temperaments has its origins in medical theory of ancient Greece. The basic idea was that the human body, and for that matter everything else was a combination of four humours, which themselves were combinations of  for basic qualities, namely, hot, cold, dry, and wet. The four temperments were sanguine, melancholic, choleric, and phlegmatic.

Two basic versions circulated. One was that the sanguine temperment contained the optimal blend of  humours, whereas the other three were deviations from the ideal blend.  The dominant version was that the four tempermants were all imperfect blends. Within  the Christian community, Jesus Christ was of course thought to have had a perfect blend of humours.

This classic theory started to wane when medical science began to replace the humoural theory with modern concepts of physiology and neurophysiology.  This occurred in several stages, beginning with the Scientifiic Revolution of the 17th century and ended with the rise of neurophysiology in the 19th century.

Meanwhile, a theory of three temperaments appeared within popular culture, and a version of it became Sheldon's theory of the ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.  

More recently, a theory of five tempermants, or rather five dimensions of temperaments.  They are known as the Big Five.

My purpose for presenting the above historical summary is that the theoretical framework for the Big Five is not based upon the belief that the ideal is a perfect blend of oppositive humours and temperaments. To state it differently, a blending of opposites/polarities is not a core aspect.

The point I am wanting to make is that, although there are factors in our society that value moderation, we  no longer have a theory of personality that promotes moderation or emphasizes that polar opposites cannot function together if no middle ground is found. One exception would be the Mayers-Briggs typology, though the underlying reason is that its basic categories have their origin in the classic theory of temperaments.

William James: wrote,
The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons are cogent for us only when our inarticulate feelings of reality ahve already been impressed in favor of the same conclusion" (Varieties, near end of Lecture 3).

James seems to be saying several things here. To me what he wrote here gets to the centre of why he was appreciated in his own times, and stilll appreciated today for his insights into the psychological side of being human.  He managed to find a place for both tangibles and intangibles.  He found room in his thinking for so called objective knowledge yet also personal knowledge and yet avoided the excesses of each when on their own. 

In my own language he tried to blend together observer and participatory information.  He was not a polarizing presence.  I suspect he was a more psychologically integrated person than most of us.