(?) Where does temperament fit in Descriptive Psychology?
Ossorio: If you look at the literature, temperament refers to a PC [Person Characteristic], very much like a trait, and it's different from most traits in that it's present from birth presumably, from very early on, and shows more than the usual persistence. It's harder to change temperament than it is to change traits or attitudes or PC's like that.
Now in the Descriptive formulation, you would go immediately to the Developmental Schema and to the formula that says, "You acquire a PC by virtue of having a prior capacity and the relevant intervening history." Now prior capacity you can trace all the way back to original capacity, which is what you have when you're born or whenever one dates your beginning. The capacity you have then is your original capacity. It doesn't really matter that different people will date your beginning at different times. The logic is exactly the same in any case. Wherever the beginning is, that's where your original capacity is covered.
Now every characteristic that you ever acquire has its potential in that original capacity. One of the exercises you could do with original capacity is to push the limits. Take away every characteristic that you know of and what's left? What's left is original capacity. Now if you apply the formula, and say, where is there room for play here? One of them is clearly, how long does it take, given the right history and the right capacity, how long does it take to acquire those characteristics? And for temperament, you would say, well that's one of those that you acquire quickly, if you have the original capacity for it, because it shows up very early on. So it doesn't take much of a history to acquire it.
Now, at the other end, the question might refer to, "If you have a notion like that, what do you do with it? What does it contribute that other PC notions like traits, attitudes, etc. don't contribute?" And as far as I can see, the only answer is the answer that's in the literature, namely temperament is early and it's hard to change.
(?)Aren't there some connections to embodiment? Couldn't you say that temperament has a basis in physiological sensitivities?
Ossorio: Yeah, but then you could say that about everything, including your scratching your ear right now. That has a basis in embodiment. Sure. Everything does. So that doesn't distinguish temperament from anything else.
Ossorio: No, it's trait-like in its nature, and I would say in terms of the existing taxonomy, it's a trait. And the difference between these and other traits, as I say is the early on and how hard it is to change.
(?) Could you say "He has a hostile temperament"?
Ossorio: Yeah, you hear parents say, "From the very first day he was a cheerful baby." Now that kind of language is the mark of, they're talking about temperament. You might say that temperament occupies one portion of the spectrum of possible trait-like characteristics.
Ossorio: I would resist that kind of tendency. [laughter] But it's not easy. Think how easy it is to make that move, and how hard it is to say "That's wrong." Any trait that's present at all, you could probably find precursors going way back, and who's to say that wasn't temperament starting from way back there that only shows up twenty years later. If you want to talk that way, you can. The facts won't prevent you, but you've lost something. You have lost the distinction now between trait and temperament.
(?) Would it be more like a style? You think of things like placid, excitable, cheerful, apprehensive. They don't seem to be so much what you do, but how you do it, more style than temperament.
Ossorio: Now remember style has to do with only performance, which is why it connects to how you do it. But cheerful, apprehensive ... Name a few temperaments and see what comes out. Give me some temperament terms.
(?) Placid. Sensitive. Tense. Irritable. Hyper. Shy. Difficult. Distractable.
Ossorio: Well it seems to be sort of 50/50. Most of the terms that we've heard seem to have some performance aspects. But keep in mind, that you might say it would have to, if it's something that you can recognize at an early age. What else do have to go by in a one-day-old baby other than performative sorts of things? For example, for someone who is irritable and that's his temperament, you expect it to show up in genuine irritation. It's not just the way he does things. And on those grounds I would say, "No, it's trait-like, even though it has significant performance aspects."
(?) The place of temperament now in contemporary psychology might be ... If we can demonstrate that itís physiologically based, then we can treat it with medication.
Ossorio: Well if that's so, then that's a good explanation for why suddenly people are talking temperament. But when you think of how many old ideas suddenly become popular, and all of a sudden you've got ten million PTSD's. You've got another ten million ADHD's. After you've been through that cycle a few times you get a little bit wary.
(?) Wary or weary?
Ossorio: Wary. [laughter] But, you also come to appreciate that it's easy to do that, that the facts will not prevent you from doing it.
(?) So thereís nothing to stop you from talking that way.
Ossorio: Yeah. The issue is, is there some advantage? And as you can see with the idea that you've lost a distinction that you really needed if you assimilate everything out to temperament, thatís a disadvantage. And I don't see any corresponding advantage.