{} {ordering}








About {theme} theory

{ordering} is a {theme}. The most important single {theme} is {linkage}, < >, which, like other {themes}, plays a fundamental role in the mind's making sense of experience, as well as concepts not originating in experience. For more detailed information about the {themes} and my approach, a study of Introduction to {theme} theory would be very useful (I have to say, indispensable). From the introduction:  

'{theme} theory is completely general and philosophy is only one application-sphere. These illustrative examples are very diverse in subject matter and  in degree of abstraction: for example ethical argument, concrete problems in applied ethics, Nazi atrocities, Stalin, the death penalty, mathematical and philosophical relations, the completion of a  proof, scientific correlation.  There are also marked differences in tone: the tone appropriate to abstract and systematic subject matter but also forthright criticism, for example of Nietzsche, the juxtaposition sometimes of the abstract and  the impassioned.'

'{theme} theory is based upon the conscious, and justifiable, ignoring in many cases of sphere-boundaries, such as the boundaries separating the material sphere, the conceptual sphere, the spheres of the different senses. A mathematician may attack a problem in the mind just as a soldier may attack an all-too-concrete machine-gun post. A scientific model may be material, the model constructed from materials of different kinds, such as wood and plastic, or the model may be purely conceptual, without material expression. Scientific modelling is an activity which can be practised in material or conceptual ways. Linkages may be material, such as a connecting rod in a mechanical system linking mechanical components or non-material, such as the ties of shared history linking, in some cases, nations.'



List of {themes}:

{contrast} ( )
{distance} D
{linkage} < >
{restriction} ==
{separation} //
{substitution} S

In the list, the name of each {theme} is followed by the symbol for the {theme}. Clicking on the {theme} gives access to a page which gives instances of the {theme}. These instances show something of the range of {theme} theory, which addresses the most diverse areas of human experience and knowledge.




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Ethical decisions
Digital technology and stupidity
Military medicine: triage
Priorities in politics
Philosophical dependence, and {ordering}

{ordering} and application-sphere
{ordering} and {grouping}


Misplaced emphasis, treating the primary as the secondary and the secondary as the primary, grotesque rankings, attempting to quantify the unquantifiable...errors concerning digital media, disability, political correctness. Legitimate ordering - priorities in politics, military medicine, and other spheres.

Instances of mistaken {ordering} are pervasive in contemporary life - as they always have been: later, I turn to sainthood as an example of faulty {ordering}. The theme {ordering} includes straightforward examples which are non-evaluative and the evaluative examples which are my main concern here. It could be said that these are complex, contentious, controversial. Instead, I claim that they are nearly as straightforward as the non-evaluative examples of ordering, such as the natural numbers, (usually identified with the positive integers 1, 2, 3, 4...) or other mathematical examples, such as an ordered set or an order interval. The distinction between independent and dependent variables is an instance of ordering, I claim. The value of the dependent variable is determined by the value of the independent variable, which is prior. Priority, lower or higher, is a characteristic of ordered items. All the errors of evaluative ordering are to do with faulty weighting, or with an inability to recognize the importance of weighting.

Ethical decisions

Ethical decisions and the cost of a product.  I  very often use the non-systematic term weighting for certain instances of {ordering}.  To give greater weighting to X than to Y is to practise an {ordering} in which X is prior to Y. Weighting may be a conscious declaration of the relative importance of contrasting elements or it may be inferred  from a person's words or actions. The weighting of a conscious declaration may be at odds with the weighting inferred from  actions. Weighting can be applied to issues and to values: issue-weighting and value-weighting. Values influence the weighting of issues. 

Many issues in practical ethics can be clarified by using the concept of weighting. Someone may in effect use a ((survey)) of the factors important in buying a product which includes these ((survey-terms)): ((cost of the product, quality of the product, convenience when buying the product)). There are important factors which could and should be included in a ((survey)) for some products, such as ((environmental cost, the human cost to the workers producing the product, the cruelty-cost to animals in the case of food items.)) Some people will give no weighting at all to these other ((survey-factors)), giving most weighting to the money cost of the product. Although different individuals may agree that a ((survey)) of the purposes of punishment should include ((deterrence, reformation, retribution)) there may be profound disagreements about the {ordering} of the ((survey-terms)): which terms are to be given greater weighting.  

 There may be a claim to strict ordering, for example the claim,  which would be very widely accepted, far more so than any alternative, that in judging the claim upon our ethical commitment, in such a matter as saving life, we owe a greater commitment to a human person than to an ape and a greater commitment to an ape than to a mouse: I do not, of course, accept that 'wide acceptance' is a sufficient criterion of validity or that it removes the need for further discussion: 

[wide acceptance] > < [validity]. 

Digital technology and stupidity

A computer expert (not any expert, but one of a common, limited kind) assesses two Web sites. The first, the expert decides, is all wrong. The images haven't been provided with 'alt text' and haven't been optimized, to give the fastest download time. The images were obviously taken with a digital camera which was under-specified (insufficient megapixels, for one thing.) The lines of text are too long, making reading more difficult. There aren't enough internal links. Cascading style sheets sheets haven't been used at any point. The expert takes a look at the HTML code used, and finds a great deal to criticize (The program Dreamweaver, used to create the Web site) produces quite good code, but it needs further work.) The second site, on the other hand, does everything right: it's more or less flawless.

The trouble is, the written style of this second site is cliched, abysmal, and the content too is cliched, abysmal, cloned: nothing but trivia about 'celebrities.' Or else the content is not just negligible or harmful but harmful to an extreme degree: a holocaust-denial site. The first site addresses each of the claims of holocaust-deniers and gives the overwhelming evidence which falsifies them, in a way which is beyond praise. Its prose style is very, very accomplished. If you point this out to this particular computer expert, he has a glazed look. He doesn't know what you are talking about. This is stupidity, but worse than stupidity: a crushing moral failure.

The primary worth of a Web site can't possibly coincide with the primary concerns of the computer expert, whose concerns are subsidiary. Treating the means as primary and the end as secondary is a disastrous reversal of ordering.

It would be all the better if the first Web site conformed with the practice of good site design, but failure to observe them isn't a primary flaw.

Computer technology and the Web are surely amongst the greatest of all human achievements, but they are often used for ends which are harmful or negligible. Digital methods are the most technologically advanced methods which are available. If they are used modestly, as means to an end, who could complain? But they are often assumed to give some of their prestige to the work.

School students and others often use a program such as Sibelius to compose music. What these programs can do is wonderful, but the artistic value of the results aren't at all comparable - not necessarily so, but so far.The results have so far been on a vastly lower artistic level than what Mozart achieved at the same age by simply using manuscript paper.

Someone who points a digital camera (with the maximum power and features) at family and friends and posts the result on the internet is doing something which is usually completely unimportant, except to the photographer, and family and friends. Obviously, if we treat the significance of the image as primary and the methods used as secondary, which is the true weighting, if we are concerned with value and not with ease of transmission or publication, then photographers who used pre-digital methods are vastly more important than the ones who use digital methods. In the future, there may be photographers who produce images surpassing the images of the pre-digital age, but not so far. There are no photographers using digital cameras who are better photographers than such pre-digital photographers as Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, or, to name a lesser-known photographer, Karel Plicka, who photographed the gothic and baroque buildings of Prague.

Of course, the digital media make possible effects which it's impossible to achieve with non-digital media. In terms of artistic success, none of them are fit to be compared with what Rembrandt or Vermeer or van Gogh achieved. There's generally a grotesque disproportion between the sophistication of the technology and the artistically barren results achieved - if that's the word - by using the technology.

Although word-processing programs allow changes to be made with such ease - if need be, all occurrences of a word can be replaced with a few key-strokes - it's more common for writers now to produce grotesquely bad prose, with free use of the familiar 'great,' 'fantastic,' 'brilliant' than to produce prose that's fit to be compared with the prose of George Orwell, who could only use the limited technology of the typewriter and printing, Shakespeare, who could only use the limited technology of traditional printing, or Homer, who didn't have the use of the typewriter or printing.

Digital technology has just about nothing to do with good cooking. Anyone who wants to bake bread should buy, if they don't own already, one of the important books, such as Elizabeth David's 'English Bread and Yeast Cookery,' Andrew Whitley's 'Bread matters,' Linda Collister's 'Country Bread,' or Simone Beck and Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II.' And then to submit to the exacting discipline of using the simple ingredients of flour, water, yeast (or sourdough) and salt to create bread. Anyone who instinctively turns to the internet first, in the hope of finding gold amongst the dross, deserves pity or sympathy. Of course, OFSTED (secondary school) inspectors generally demand that pupils should make 'greater use of ICT,' in this case, that pupils should expose computers to flour and water before trying to bake their bread, if, that is, pupils are ever baking bread at all, rather than learning about 'food technology.'

First of all, it's necessary to bring together, so as to explore the linkages and contrasts, technical sophistication on the one hand and value (the artistic value of an image or a piece of music or a piece of writing, or the moral value) on the other. It should be obvious that there's no linkage between them. Using my notation, which allows comparisons to be made clearly:

[technological sophistication] >< [value]

There's no linkage (><) between technological sophistication and value. There's separation (//) between the two, and the separation may be very marked, grotesque:

[technological sophistication] // [value]

Military medicine: triage

Triage is the stark use of priorities, used in military medicine and in other circumstances. When casualties came to be treated, they were put into one of three groups: (1) the very badly injured, who were certain to die or whose injuries it would be very difficult to treat. (2) those with very minor injuries (3) those with more severe but readily treated injuries. Attention was focussed on the third group. They were first in the {ordering}

Priorities in politics

These are complicated again and again by politicians' need to address two very different sets of priorities: the most urgent needs of the state and the need to gain re-election and to maintain support for the party. The environmental crisis demands urgent measures to curb unnecessary car use and unnecessary flights, which would be politically unpopular, or disastrous. The orderings, the weightings of politicians, can easily be explained.

Philosophical dependence, and {ordering} applied to philosophy

From the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy: "in philosophy, a relation of one of three main types: epistemic dependence, or dependence in the order of knowing: conceptual dependence, or dependence in the order of understanding; and ontological dependence, or dependence in the order of being. When a relation of dependence runs in one direction only, we have a relation of priority."

'Foundationalism' claims epistemic dependence: the dependence of some facts on basic or foundational facts. The foundational facts are alleged to be self-evident or evident in the senses or, in modern terms (as used by Plantinga) 'incorrigible.' Coherentists deny priority in this way. For them, in effect, facts are unordered rather than ordered.

From the very impressive 'A Dictionary of Philosophy' (Preface to the first edition) by A R Lacey: "In the book as a whole, epistemology and logic occupy far more space than, say, ethics, politics or aesthetics. This is because the former subjects are the central ones. Terms and concepts from them are constantly used in discussing the latter subjects, while the opposite process occurs rarely, of [sic: instead of 'if'] at all." But in the application of linkage theory, epistemology, logic, ethics, politics and aesthetics are para-studies. None of them are meta-studies. All of these fields are unordered for the application of Linkage Theory. The sphere of application of Linkage Theory (see the entry below for this particular term) makes no distinctions of {ordering}.


Nietzsche, perhaps more than any other thinker, uses 'argument by intimidation:' expressing his views with such assurance, confidence, dogmatism that he defies you to argue against him. Yet time and again, you find that these views are doubtful, nonsensical, rubbish. From 'Twilight of the Idols,' Section 37: 'Ages are to be assessed according to their positive forces - and by this assessment the age of the Renaissance, so prodigal and so fateful, appears as the last great age, and we, we moderns with our anxious care for ourselves and love of our neighbour, with our virtues of work, of unpretentiousness, of air play, of scientificality - acquisitive, economical, machine-minded - appear as a weak age.' In this country, the Victorian age gives overwhelming evidence of strength, completely admirable strength, strength almost indistinguishable from callousness, a concern for this world, not the world of piety (despite the more insipid art of the age) of the kind that Nietzsche would have been expected to admire, an age of achievement based on massive will, overwhelming single-mindedness. Nietzsche's criticism of his age amounts to a travesty, with, as contrary evidence, the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, all the other giants of the Industrial Revolution.

Nietzsche's works give an inexhaustible supply of instances of false and debatable {ordering}.

{ordering} and application-sphere

{ordering}, like other themes, has spheres of application. For example, {ordering} is within the sphere of application of {modification}, that is, {modification} can be applied to {ordering}. {modification} has {/reversal} and orderings may be reversible or non-reversible. {modification} too may be reversible or non-reversible. The position of time-points along a time-continuum is, so far as we know, irreversible, for example.

Spheres of application include not only themes. The sphere of application of {ordering} includes, as claimed examples, schools (league tables), universities (ranking), countries (general desirability as a place to live). So, '1st, 2nd, 3rd...' has spheres of application which are evaluated as well as non-evaluated. Very often, these claimed orderings are stupid, based on faulty weightings: as, generally, in the examples above.


In the terminology I use, 'derivation' is a sub-theme of {ordering}: {/derivation} The sub-theme has {//a priori derivation} and {//a posteriori derivation}. {//a priori derivation} has as instances derivation in mathematics and derivation in logic. {//a posteriori derivation} has as a claimed, very important instance, reduction as part of the project reductionism. Reductionist claims include the logical positivist claim that theoretical terms can be reduced to observational terms, and that the laws of thermodynamics are deducible from - can be reduced to - the laws of statistical mechanics. It's also claimed that the science of Biology can be reduced to Physics, and that mental properties can be reduced to properties of living matter - I oppose these particular claims.

Derivability has to be distinguished from 'presupposing' or 'presupposed by.' {/presupposing} has {ordering.}

A new instance of derivability: so far as I know, it has never been argued that a question presupposes the imperative. I would claim: "Every question is an order: answer."

{ordering} and {grouping}

An employer has drawn up a shortlist of 5 candidates (the 'shortlist set,}to be interviewed from a total of 100 applicants, the 'application set.' The application set has been subjected to {separation} so that there are now the two partitions. {grouping} has:- the application set and {grouping}has:- the shortlist set. The employer may or may not have subjected the shortlist set to {ordering}. He or she may already have a clear idea of the abilities of these candidates and can rank them from 1 to 5 - or perhaps has, as yet, no clear ideas about {ordering}. {ordering} has {/complete ordering} and {/partial ordering}. Since the number is so large, only {/partial ordering} is possible in the case of the non-shortlisted candidates. Similar arguments are applicable in the case of an editor who has space for 5 poems in a literary magazine and is choosing from 1000 submissions. The editor may be able to apply {ordering} to the five successful poems but it would obviously be impossible to apply {complete ordering} to the other 995.

School league tables do apply {complete ordering} to a vast number of schools, ranking them from first to last. Rankings of universities apply {complete ordering} to universities. This can only be done by applying clear-cut criteria which are generally ridiculous and irrational and in any case based on certain weightings. Different weightings would give very different results for the {ordering}. This is not to say that schools and universities are completely unordered. It would be far better, though, to use {grouping} and to then use {ordering} on the groups, making clear the difficulties of drawing firm dividing lines, the weightings on which the exercise is based, the provisional nature of the results, and so on.


{ordering} of modal operators, along a gradient of stronger claim to weaker claim:

P > P > P

'It's necessary that P' (true in all possible worlds) is a stronger claim than 'It's true that P' (true in the actual world), which in turn is a stronger claim than 'It's necessary that P' (true in every possible world).


{ordering} of concentration:

'But we, while we are intent upon one object,
already feel the pull of another.' (Rilke).

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Boox X, Chapter 5: 'For lovers of flutes, for instance, cannot pay attention to a conversation if they catch the sound of someone playing the flute, because they enjoy flute playing more than their present activity: and so the pleasure of flute playing destroys the activity of conversation.'