“Personality is an abstraction used to explain consistency and coherency in an individual’s pattern of affects, cognitions, desires and behaviors [ABCDs]” (Revelle, 2007, p. 37). But personality research currently provides more a taxonomy of patterns than theories of fundamental causes. Psychiatric disorders can be viewed as involving extremes of personality but are diagnosed via symptom patterns not biological causes. Such surface-level taxonomic description is necessary for science, but consistent predictive explanation requires causal theory. Personality constructs, and especially their clinical extremes, should predict variation in ABCD patterns, with parsimony requiring the lowest effective causal level of explanation. But, even biologically inspired personality theories currently use an intuitive language-based approach for scale development that lacks biological anchors. I argue that teleonomic “purpose” explains the organisation and outputs of conserved brain emotion systems, where high activation is adaptive in specific situations but is otherwise maladaptive. Simple modulators of whole-system sensitivity evolved because the requisite adaptive level can vary across people and time. Sensitivity to a modulator is an abstract predictive personality factor that operates at the neural level but provides a causal explanation of both coherence and occasional apparent incoherence in ABCD variation. Neuromodulators impact all levels of the “personality hierarchy” from metatraits to aspects: stability appears altered by serotonergic drugs, neuroticism by ketamine and trait anxiety by simple anxiolytic drugs. Here, the tools of psychiatry transfer to personality research and imply both interaction between levels and oblique factor mappings to ABCD. On this view, much psychopathology reflects extremes of neural-level personality factors, and we can view much pharmacotherapy as temporarily altering personality. So, particularly for personality factors linked to basic emotions and their disorders, I think we should start with evolutionary biology and look directly at conserved neural-level modulators for our explanatory personality constructs and only invoke higher order, emergent, explanations when neural-level explanation fails.