It seems to be a universal characteristic of humans that we like to label each other, often in simplistic binary fashion. Friend or foe, left-wing or right-wing, smart or dumb, sane or psycho, we never seem to run out of pigeonholes into which we can stuff people like socks in a drawer.
Like socks in a drawer? What is the connection between socks in a drawer and pigeon-holes?
Let us imagine that we have two small drawers and three pairs of socks, of three kinds: plain,striped and spotted. We could put three socks in each drawer, but that would mean splitting up at least one pair of socks. Our tidy minds prefer an arrangement where the socks are kept together as pairs, with two pairs in one drawer and one pair in another. Suppose now we want to label the drawers as simply as possible, with a one-word label. Our tidy minds are likely to come up with the labels: 'plain' and 'patterned'.
How we squeeze humans into pigeonholes:
Dirichlet's Schubfachprinzip or Pigeonhole Principle applied to categories:
given any two natural numbers, n and m such that n > m,
if n items are sorted by class into m categories,
then at least one category must contain more than one class of item.
Noam Chomsky, on the properties of things:
... properties are free for the asking (we have as many of them as we have nonsynonymous descriptive expressions in our language, whatever this means exactly), ...John Locke, on our capacity to observe new combinations of ideas:
It is sufficient to my purpose to show, that all our simple ideas come to our minds only by sensation and reflection; and that when the mood has them, it can variously repeat and compound them, and so make new complex ideas.
Given the above observations, it follows:
For any collection of three or more things, we may assert that any one of the three things has more, or less, of some property or another, and so is in that way different from the other members of the set.
In a universe of infinite variety, there are many ways for each of us to view that universe. There are as many ways of viewing the universe as their are human inhabitants of our home planet. It is thus possible to devise infinitely many simplistic tests by application of which any selection of a sub-group of humans may be made on simplistic grounds, separating people into large sub-groups with a suitably designed filter.
Perhaps, by understanding the laws of nature which govern both ourselves and our universe, we can begin to resist the temptation to squeeze people into little boxes.
And the people in the housesLittle Boxes
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.