The history of four kinds of temperament

There are numerous personality tests to define your temperament and we all know that psychologists single out four basic types of it. Astonishingly enough, but these four types were first described by Hippocrates as early as the 4th century B.C.


For over two thousand years the prevailing medical view was that soundness of mind and body depended on the proper mixture of four liquids or humors, as they were called, for the original meaning of humor is "liquid".

These four "humors" were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. A person's temperament (Latin, temperare, "to mix in due proportion") was the special combination of these fluids which resulted in his/her own individual personality.

So the different types of temperament were designated by the name of the particular humor which predominated. An excess of blood (sanguine - "blood") made a person sanguine, and thus of a cheerful, hopeful disposition, which is the current meaning of a word. A predominance of phlegm made one unemotional and calm, and so the term phlegmatic came to have this meaning. The Greek term for "bile" is chole; since this humor was thought to bring about an angry nature, a quick-tempered person is now sometimes termed choleric. The cause of melancholy (Greek, melas, "black", and chole "bile"), as people thought, was the presence of too much black bile, so this state implies sadness, gloom, and depression.

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13 Comments
danny powell
I learned something new today!
0
Sep 4, 2015 10:23PM
Sandi Tiffin
Sandi Tiffin
When I was introduced to the True Colors system of categorizing people as to the way they function, which has a direct correlation to systems like Myers Briggs, I realized the four colors in the system directly corresponded to the metaphysical understanding of the four elements - earth people are grounded, like structure, checking off lists, get stuff done; water people go with the flow, are good with emotions and people, air people are good with thinking about things and solving problems, and fire people are good with ideas, multitasking, quickly changing direction, and having passion for what they do is very important to them. We all use all of these modes of operation at different times; the True Colors system looks at which elements you are strongest and most comfortable in, and how that can be used when structuring teams. Of course the concept 'element' never comes into it but the correlations are obvious to anyone who has studied metaphysics.
8
Sep 4, 2015 11:03PM
Shirley Morrison
Shirley Morrison
Really interesting.
0
Sep 4, 2015 11:31PM
Perry Hartline
Perry Hartline
Ya, me too. For a change. Sandi Tiffin's write-up is a bonus, no?
1
Sep 5, 2015 12:18AM
Kathleen Peterson
Kathleen Peterson
Excellent description.
2
Sep 5, 2015 5:27AM
Tony Allen
Tony Allen
Very good
0
Sep 5, 2015 1:10PM
Edna Sherer
Edna Sherer
Love this.
0
Sep 5, 2015 6:21PM
Ian MacBrown
Text book definition.
0
Sep 8, 2015 10:25AM
Kendra Eichholz
Yes it was!
0
Sep 20, 2015 11:55PM
MaryRose Agopian Nguyen
But how do you determine which color applies to you?
0
Aug 15, 2016 10:07PM
Norberto Briggiler
The actual history was a ... little more complex.
0
Sep 23, 2017 12:03AM
Dee East
Interesting
0
Oct 3, 2017 3:16PM
Chubb Michaud
I learned something. Love word derivatives
0
Nov 9, 2017 3:58PM

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