PTypes - Personality Types
PTypes Common False Values Sensitive Values

Values of the Conscientious Type


Why do people do the things they do? What people believe will benefit them, they judge to be good; what they believe will harm them, they judge to be bad. Their beliefs about what is good and bad constrain them to act as they do (Seddon, 2007, pg. 88).

Generally, the Conscientious type believes that mental control, interpersonal control, control of one's environment, and control of one's fate (Horney, pg. 197; Salzman; Mallinger, pg. 28) are good. Perfection and order are also valued as primary goods.

The Stoic doctrine that things not in our power are neither good nor bad can be deduced from a number of other core Stoic beliefs. (see G. Sterling).

  1. Virtue is the only thing genuinely good (see K. Seddon), and vice is the only thing genuinely bad.

  2. The only things in our power are our beliefs and will.

  3. Virtue and vice are types of acts of will.

  4. Ergo, virtue and vice are in our power.

  5. Ergo, things not in our power are neither good nor bad.

The following seem to be the core value beliefs of the Conscientious type. These beliefs give primary value to external things, things not 'in our power' (Seddon, 2005, pg. 219). Therefore, they are false judgments of what is good and bad.

  1. Work is good. Idleness is bad. Keeping busy, working, productivity, and achievement are good. Inactivity, idleness, lack of productivity and lack of achievement are bad. Accomplishment is good. Failure to accomplish something is bad. The Conscientious type believes "that we are all masters of our own fate, that with hard work and determination anything can be achieved" (Seddon, 2005, pg. 83).

    But work is not in our power. It is not good. Idleness is not bad.

    Achievement is not in our power. An achievement is a successful outcome brought about by effort. But the outcomes of our actions are not in our power; only the intention to act, and to act with virtue, is in our power (Seddon, pg. 222). Achievement is not good.

    Accomplishment is not in our power. It is not good. Failure to accomplish something is not bad.

    As far as our happiness is concerned, accomplishment and achievement do not matter. What matters is:

    • the intention to act with virtue (pg. 222)
    • "the intention to do virtuously what is appropriate" (pg. 43)
    • the manner of execution (pg. 68)
    • "the attitudes, outlooks, and intentions that find their expression in our actions" (pg. 50)
    • "trying as befits us" (pg. 169)
    • "developing the right sort of disposition of character" (pg. 84)

    Here are things from which the Conscientious type expects to benefit through hard work and achievement.

  2. Having a strong conscience, strong moral principles and values, and firm opinions and beliefs are good. Lack of concern for the badness of certain externals is bad. High moral standards are good. Being beyond reproach (Mallinger, pp. 21-25) is good. Respect (Horney, pg. 196; Oldham, pg. 83) and approval (Oldham, pg. 83) from others and a just reward for rectitude (Paris, pg. 208) are good. Control of one's own destiny (Horney, pg. 197; Salzman; Mallinger, pg. 28) is good.

    But respect from others and the rewards of things external to our moral character are not in our power. They are not good. Virtue is its own reward. Having the right disposition of character and acting virtuously are good, not having high moral standards. High moral standards are not good. Criticism, disapproval, and reproach of us by others is not in our power. They are not bad. Social approval and acceptance are not in our power. They are not good. Control of one's own destiny is not in our power. It is not good. What happens to us is not in our power. It is indifferent as to good and bad. (See Seddon, 2005, pp. 83-84; pp. 165-71; pp. 225-26; Stoics on fate and determinism)

    As a result of his need to control his own destiny, the Conscientious type develops—variously stated:
    • "a legalistic conception of the world order" (Paris, pg. 198)
    • a "conviction of an infallible justice operating in life" (Horney, pg. 197)
    • "an inflated expectation for complete justice" (Cooper)
    • a belief "that terrible things will not happen to them simply because life is fair" (Mallinger, pg. 28).

    The conscientious type has, as it were, secretly made a 'deal' with life (Horney, pg. 197), a "bargain with fate" (Paris, pg. 190): "Because he is fair, just, dutiful, he is entitled to fair treatment by others and by life in general" (Horney, pg. 197). "His own [moral] perfection, therefore is not only a means to superiority, but also one to control life" (ibid). He believes that he can control his destiny by being good or bad (Mallinger, pg. 28).

    "The idea of undeserved fortune, whether good or bad, is alien" (Horney, pg. 197) to the Conscientious type:
    • "His own success, prosperity, or good health is therefore less something to be enjoyed than a proof of his virtue."
    • "Any misfortune befalling him—such as a loss of a child, an accident, the infidelity of his wife, the loss of a job—may bring this seemingly well-balanced person to the verge of collapse."
    • "He not only resents ill fortune as unfair, but, over and beyond this, is shaken by it to the foundations of his psychic existence. It invalidates his whole accounting system and conjures up the ghastly prospect of helplessness."
    • "Ill fortune could mean that the [Conscientious type] was not really virtuous or that the world was unjust" (Paris, pg. 198).

  3. Having others submit exactly to one's way of doing things is good. Having everything done correctly (Oldham, pg. 63) is good. Having things done incorrectly is bad. Doing things the right way is good. Doing things the wrong way is bad. If things aren't done in the right way, a catastrophe might happen, and that would be bad.

    But others are not in our power. What they do is not in our power. Having them do things in the way we want them done is not good. To place one's hopes for peace of mind and serenity on the behaviour of someone else is folly (Seddon, 2005, pg. 69). Getting things done the right way is not in our power. It is not good. Catastrophe, and anything that happens, is not in our power. Having a catastrophe happen is not bad. Things done in the right way are not good. Other people, and the way they do things, are not in our power. They are not bad.

  4. Having all tasks and projects complete to the final detail, without even minor flaws (Oldham, pg. 63), is good. Any performance that doesn't meet these standards is bad — perfectionism. Mistakes and errors are bad. Performing well is good. Failure is bad. Strict standards of performance (American Psychiatric Association, pg. 729) are good. Perfect outcomes and results are good. Superiority and control of life (Horney, pg. 197) are good. Security with others (Mallinger, pg. 38) is good.

    But the outcomes or results of our actions, perfect or otherwise, are not in our power. Perfect outcomes are not good. For Stoics, an action " completed or made perfect by the agent acting for the right reasons in the fulfilling of what virtue requires..." (Seddon, 2005, pg. 118).

  5. Sticking to convictions and opinions (Oldham, pg. 63) is good. Compromise is bad. Being right is good. Being wrong is bad. Mental neatness (Mallinger, pg. 150) is good. Ambiguity is bad. Change is bad. Chance, uncertainty, and impermanence are bad.

    But the attempts of others to influence or control us are not in our power. They are not evil. Being right is not in our power. It is not good. Being wrong is not in our power. It is not bad. Change is not in our power (Heraclitus, Marcus Aurelius). It is not bad. Chance, uncertainty, and impermanence are not in our power (Seddon, 2007, pp. 104-21). They are not bad. Attachment, or emotional commitment, to particular false opinions in an attempt to maintain a sense of control and security in the face of changing circumstances is bad.

  6. Focus on details is good. Order and organization are good. Having lists, schedules, and rules is good. Disorder and disorganization are bad. Being effective is good. Having a sense of control (over externals) is good.

    But disorder and disorganization are not in our power. They are not evil. Being effective is not in our power. It is not good. Having a sense of control over externals is not in our power, because externals are not in our power. It is not good.

  7. Spending money only for necessities is good. Spending money for things other than necessities is bad. Being prepared for the future is good.

    But events which might happen in the future are not in our power. Avoiding things happening in the future is not in our power. Money saved for that purpose is not good. Having money is not good. Being prepared for the future is not in our power. It is not good.

  8. Saving and collecting things is good. Discarding things is bad. Being prepared for the future is good.

    But material things and circumstances are not in our power. Having things is not good. Being prepared for the future is not in our power. It is not good.

What we judge to be good, we desire; and what we judge to be bad we fear, or desire to avoid. What we desire, we pursue; and what we fear, we try to avoid. The repeated pursuit of objects of desire and avoidance of objects of fear form vices of character, or dispositions to make particular false value-judgments. The habitual false value-judgments listed above constitute the vices that I believe lie at the core of Obsessive-Compulsive personality, or character, disorder.

Making proper use of impressions, which is the core of what could be called Epictetus' self-therapy, consists of detecting our false value-judgments/passions and immediately correcting them. This requires an awareness of what is in our power and what is not in our power (Seddon, 2007, pg. 190).

Needs of the Conscientious Type

American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed., text revision. Washington: Author.

Terry D. Cooper (2003). Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Karen Horney (1950). Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Towards Self-Realization. New York: W. W. Norton.

Allan Mallinger and Jeannette Dewyze (1993). Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control . New York: Ballantine.

John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris (1995). The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam.

Bernard J. Paris (1994). Karen Horney : A Psychoanalyst`s Search for Self-Understanding . New Haven, CT: Yale UP.

Leon Salzman (1968). The Obsessive Personality: Origins, Dynamics, and Therapy. New York: Science House.

Keith Seddon (2005). Epictetus' Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes: Guides to Stoic Living. New York: Routledge.

_________ (2007).Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace. United Kingdom:

_________ (2009). Socrates on Virtue and its Sufficiency for Happiness. International Stoic Forum.

Grant Sterling (2005). "Core Stoicism." International Stoic Forum.

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Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus