The Human Classification Fascination

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Why Classify?

Humans (Homo sapiens sapiens, in their own organic classification system) have a peculiar tendency to classify anything and everything they come upon. This phenomenon presents itself as ever more complex, the further one delves into thought on the matter. Why classify? From the evidence and a few considerations into what is on Earth termed "Darwinism", after the human scientist who first hypothesized the rather obvious principles of evolution by natural selection, it appears that classifying is the basis of human cognition and learning. Classifying things is a human's way of protecting himself from the unknown. This has its advantages and disadvantages: everything a human senses can be assimilated to a "concept" (to be discussed below), or a plurality of concepts; however, things that do not lend themselves easily to a fixed classification system tend to scare the human, and cause him to adhor many of the novel stimuli he is faced with. This behaviour is the basis, in the opinion of this humble Reporter, of the vast majority of suffering that occurs amongst the human population of Earth.


In order for a human to be able to communicate his thoughts properly, he requires what are called "concepts" -- we could get into complicated and entirely unwholesome theories that make concepts much less explicable, such as the effect of context upon the application of concepts, but instead we will suffice it to look at these things as "locks" (a primitive human measure of security, mostly from members of its own species -- another subject that we could digress upon for days, but will not), and certain stimuli, such as the words "cow dung", can serve as "keys" (the counterpart to locks) to the "concept locks". The classification system of humans consists of a vast and intertwined collection of concepts, each concept the offspring of other concepts, or, at its base, the "premise", which is something that is taken for granted, such as a "line". Consistent with our lock metaphor, each concept that preceeds another concept is a lock that must be opened (through previous experience) in order to reach the next lock. The product of such thinking, if we were to construct an actual building full of doors, is an immensely convoluted and seemingly impossible structure. In an attempt to form a better grasp upon the concept of concepts itself, this reporter has devised a mathematical model (it took the better half of ten days) by which to graphically illustrate the overall system of human classification. Unfortunately, the resulting tables are far too vast for this forum, and the graphic form spans five dimensions. We must make do with keys and locks.

Examples of Classifying Behaviour1

A new stimulus, such as the "mini-skirt", or "trance music", is introduced to a male human. He immediately assesses the potential immediate danger -- at first glance, the miniskirt appears harmless. He next makes a rapid and subconscious assessment of his emotional state in reponse to this strange sight. He feels a peculiar sexual attraction for the female which accompanies the skirt. It is a type of skirt, he realizes (concept 1), which is a type of clothing (concept 2), which is an invention (concept 3) of human intuition (concept 4). It is a rather short (concept 5) form of skirt, however. In fact, upon reflection, it is an alarmingly (concept 6) short form of skirt. The alarm, he may or may not realize, is derived from a subconcious gauging of his level of sexual response to the stimulus. Sexual response is a (largely) involuntary (concept 7) behaviour. Things that are involuntary, thinks the human, are unpleasant (concept 8 -- one of the big ones, incidentally). Things that are unpleasant should be avoided (concept 9). The human, inadvertantly, has placed the mini-skirt, and, by association, the female, into a category (or concept) labeled "things to avoid", and thus avoids both.

Particularity of Classification Behaviour

The reponse of the human in the above example is by no means a universal one. It is one most likely to occur in a human who places a higher "value" upon "self-control" than "gratuitous pleasure" (all important concepts). A value might well be thought of as a preference for opening the locks (concepts) of certain doors, as one prefers to unlock the door to his own house rather than that of the local penitentiary. The idea here is that the human considers some concepts to be more conducive to ultimate "happiness" (or the ideal mix of pleasure and pain, an entirely appalling and bewildering topic of discussion in its own right) than others. The organization of value systems is by no means fixed, however, and in fact is subject to constant change, as new concepts appear and old ones become more appealing. The above human might well have thought it more prudent to succumb to sexual desire, and place the mini-skirt in a category such as "things that are, without doubt, good". Thus, two entirely opposite classifications can easily be made by separate individuals for the same stimulus.

Ramifications of Human Classification

Classification is essential to proper human functioning, and in fact the social systems that have evolved within this species could not exist in its absence. It is ironic, then, that much of the "strife", or an ongoing prevalence of displeasurable things in one's life, can be directly attributed to this phenomenon. Rejection by one's peers, which appears to be one of the worst experiences, strangely enough, that a human can face, is commonplace due to a conflict of values and the resistance to change caused by those with relatively static classification systems. The wearer of the mini-skirt, from the above example, for instance, is avoided as a potential hazard by our first individual (and potential mate). In similar ways, people whose ideas or methods of self-disposal were not of the sort to be easily assimilated into popular classification systems have suffered for it in one way or another throughout the history of the species. It is widely hoped for, and the introduction of such new local technologies as satellite communications devices, world-wide interface networking, and "techno" music provide some basis for hope, that humans will someday learn to classify in a much more dynamic fashion, as befits a race of Middle to Higher Intelligence, in which categories humans are often classified.

1As discussed in much greater length and more technical (tedious) jargon in various scientific publications by this Reporter

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