Paul Atreides: ISTP

Guest Post by Andrew, ENTJ

Dune series, Frank Herbert

Paul Atreides ISTP | Dune #MBTI #ISTP

Introverted Thinking (Ti): All his life, Paul has primarily thought using logic and rationality; this ability was honed by his training as a mentat (a human trained to think only with logic to the exclusion of emotions). As he starts to consume more and more spice, Paul can summon up virtually any factual information he wants to, but this is not enough for him; he has to analyze and evaluate the information he does access from all sides. Paul decides for himself which social norms make sense and which don’t, and once in a position of authority among the Fremen of Arrakis, he starts to do away with Fremen customs that he finds stupid or counter-productive (fights to the death among the strongest soldiers to establish the right to lead, sending the blind into the desert to die). He later does the same with high society on a galactic scale; as an emperor, he rejects attempts to constitutionally limit his authority, as his power (as only one person) is already limited. Paul is forever asking questions about things he sees or reads, whether the identity of a girl he sees in a dream, or if he is becoming the next Genghis Khan or Adolf Hitler.

Paul Atreides ISTP | Dune #MBTI #ISTP

Extroverted Sensing (Se): Although Paul has an analytical mind and an intellectual streak, he is very much a man of action. He was taught to fight at an early age, and he so good at using bladed weapons that he spars with his teachers – some of the best fighters in the known universe – on nearly equal terms when he is in his mid-teens. Paul is known to have complete control over his nervous system in combat, and his incredible reflexes allow him to escape death on multiple occasions, even when he is barely awake. Just by observing his family’s guests, he can pick up subtle clues as to who is there to spy on his father (Se-Ni). Paul doesn’t lead his armies from behind until he is well into his twenties; he prefers to personally take part in the carnage.

Paul Atreides ISTP | Dune #MBTI #ISTP

Introverted Intuition (Ni): Even before he starts taking large quantities of spice, Paul can sometimes tell what will happen in the future; he is certain that his father will die once his family settles on Arrakis, and sure enough, his father is killed after mere weeks on the desert planet. Paul has a mind for strategy as well as a penchant for fighting, and he knows exactly what must be done to save his own house from extinction, and to bring his enemies to heel. Paul is concerned about the future, and he will risk his life just to increase his power to see the future. Although he can summon up an infinite number of possible future scenarios, he never does so in practice; he prefers to concentrate on one outcome only. Paul is a visionary who hopes one day to turn the desert of Arrakis into a lush garden.

Paul Atreides ISTP | Dune #MBTI #ISTP

Extroverted Feeling (Fe): Paul is always concerned with what is best for his family and for his people, and he adapts without a hitch to the Fremen way of life, in which the community takes precedence over the individual. Although Paul kills when he must, he takes no pleasure when he takes lives. He is always uncomfortable that his destiny to re-invigorate the human gene pool necessarily involves galaxy-wide war, and he always hopes to find a more peaceful way to fulfill his destiny. As the war drags on, year after year, Paul starts to lament what he has brought to humankind; he has not only killed tens of billions, but wiped out whole societies as well. Paul impresses the Fremen by crying at a funeral, or “giving moisture to the dead” (water is a precious commodity on Arrakis).

Note: Before actually attempting to type Paul, I thought that his ISTP typing was a foregone conclusion. However, looking more and more into Paul’s character, I kept thinking to myself, “Could he actually be an INFJ?” Indeed, Paul is such a mature character with such well-developed functions that I found it hard to finally decide on an ISTP typing. Moreover, Paul is mostly assigned an INFJ typing while ISTP is pretty much never seen.

So why did I choose ISTP over INFJ? For one thing, Paul takes pleasure in physical activity, and he happily fights his teachers before any of his fights has ended in a death (Se is not his inferior function). For another, Paul can sometimes be impolite to people who, in his opinion, don’t deserve politeness; look how he talks to Gaius Helen Mohiam, an incredibly esteemed and powerful woman who is about to test his abilities, at the beginning of Dune (his Fe is relatively weak). Lastly, when he makes his first kill in one-on-one combat, Paul only feels the full weight of what he’s done after he makes the kill, not thinking about it before (his Fe and Ni are taking a back seat to his Ti and Se).

And as for some other typings of Paul: INTJ (another common mistyping) doesn’t work, as Paul is a clear Ti-Fe user with a very strong Se; and he is definitely not “the ultimate form of INTP,” as one person said (when has Paul ever shown any Ne?).

3 thoughts on “Paul Atreides: ISTP

  1. The ISTP vs. INFJ question at the end is really fascinating to me, since I’ve recently been trying to figure out the same problem for a different character, Aaron Burr from “Hamilton.” Some people say Bur’s definitely an INFJ; others say he’s an ISTP in a Ti/Ni loop (because he never seems to use Se much, except towards the end of the play). I personally lean more towards ISTP, mainly because it seems to me that his Ti function is considerably stronger than his Ni. His entire story arc is driven by his overwhelming curiosity about how things work; to the point where he decides to run for president JUST because he feels a need to find out what happens behind closed doors at the highest levels of government. (Aka, “The Room Where It Happens”) Also (like Paul Atreides) he’s definitely not uniformly polite, even when it’s in his best interests to be; which would seem to suggest low Fe rather than high Fe.

    But anyway, all this to say: I find it quite interesting how the INFJ and the ISTP can be a bit difficult to distinguish in practice, even though one might assume they’d be completely different since one’s a thinker and the other’s a feeler; which stems, of course, from them sharing the same functions in a different order.


  2. aw, fyeah Dune!!! Highest of five to Andrew! One of my favourite books ever, I love Paul Atreides, both in the book and in the “original” movie.


  3. Thank you very much for this site and for Your interest in MBTI and literature. It is very good. I look forward to read this book. Greetins from Europe



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