#9 Circles of Control

Circles of Hierocles shared from https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/hierocles-a-conservative-stoic/

The diagram above is an example of a control technique called Classification.  It also signals that it is part of a control system, because there is Repetition (see post #2).

We humans love to organize people, places, things, and ideas in order to better understand and control each other and our environment.  The division of things into smaller groups according to shared qualities or characteristics is a very powerful organizational tool. However, it is important to remember that classification systems are human constructs, and that their purpose is to control.  They are very useful, and I am not sure we could survive without them.  They only become pernicious when we forget that they are human constructs and not universal truths.  Humans create them, and therefore, humans can change them.

Diagrams are very useful because they can give an instantaneous image of a system that would need a very long, wordy explanation (1 picture=1000 words).  Compare the diagram above to its original expression by the Greek stoic philosopher, Hierocles.  

“For, in short, each of us is, as it were, circumscribed by many circles; some of which are less, but others larger, and some comprehend, but others are comprehended, according to the different and unequal habitudes with respect to each other. For the first, indeed, and most proximate circle is that which every one describes about his own mind as a centre, in which circle the body, and whatever is assumed for the sake of the body, are comprehended. For this is nearly the smallest circle, and almost touches the centre itself. The second from this, and which is at a greater distance from the centre, but comprehends the first circle, is that in which parents, brothers, wife, and children are arranged. The third circle from the centre is that which contains uncles and aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers, and the children of brothers and sisters. After this is the circle which comprehends the remaining relatives. Next to this is that which contains the common people, then that which comprehends those of the same tribe, afterwards that which contains the citizens; and then two other circles follow, one being the circle of those that dwell in the vicinity of the city, and the other, of those of the same province. But the outermost and greatest circle, and which comprehends all the other circles, is that of the whole human race.”  Hierocles, 2nd Century AD

Notice the importance of labels in every classification system.  There must be a label for the whole system, and one for every category.  Also, the purpose of the organization should be apparent. In the case of Hierocles, the purpose is to describe the ethical or virtuous relationship of the individual to the rest of humanity.  

I am going to borrow Hierocles’ circles for my own purposes.  All the circles will fall under “Human Information Systems”.  I want to examine how we as individuals exchange information among ourselves.  Ethics, virtue, good and evil will depend on how much harm can arise when the flow of information is compromised.

The next post will be about how the systems within our own bodies interact with each other and with the outside world.

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