December 9, 2021

The Order of Orders.

In the previous post, I wrote: "[Chronological order is] the most obvious order, used by lovers of order all over the world and through the grand course of time. There are other orders — alphabetical order, order of importance...."

This made me want to put order... in order. I don't really want to do something I know I can't do. It's more that I want to do a top 10 list, with 10 types of order, ranked so as to amuse me and amuse or provoke you. 

I'm not going to fool around with alternative meanings of the word "order," so no need to steel yourself against jokes like "ham sandwich." I'm talking about orders like chronological order and alphabetical order. I like order, so I want order in talking about order. 

Also, I'm not talking about the order that exists in nature that benefits us and would be horrible to live without. I'm talking about the way human beings put things in order so we can understand them or find them later or enjoy the appearance of orderliness and so forth. 

Some strong contenders for #1: Linnaean taxonomy and the Dewey Decimal System.

But maybe chronological order is destined to win. Wikipedia redirects "Chronological order" to a page with a simpler title "Chronology," which reminds me that there's an order of size — or order of complexity — that causes us to prefer "Chronology" to "Chronological order." 

How much can you say about chronology?
Chronology is the science of locating historical events in time. It relies upon chronometry, which is also known as timekeeping, and historiography, which examines the writing of history and the use of historical methods....

You can't put things in chronological order until you have a concept of time and you keep track of it.

While of critical importance to the historian, methods of determining chronology are used in most disciplines of science, especially astronomy, geology, paleontology and archaeology....

But once you have a system of expressing time and you can figure out more or less when things happened, chronology is nothing more than numerical order. The ordering itself is easy and uncontroversial, because numbers — the kind of numbers used in expressing dates — are inherently ordered. That's why numerical order seems to rank higher than alphabetical order. 

But I'm going to give alphabetical order credit for doing so much with so little. It's random, but agreed on, and insanely useful.

Alphabetical order was first used in the 1st millennium BCE by Northwest Semitic scribes using the abjad system. However, a range of other methods of classifying and ordering material, including geographical, chronological, hierarchical and by category, were preferred over alphabetical order for centuries.

If I was going to make a Disney movie out of characters representing the different forms of order, I'd make alphabetical order the hero.


eddiejetson said...

Not in order of best order, but a handy way to remember the 5 best ways to order is the acronym: LATCH

Location: as in a map or atlas
Alphabetical: as in a dictionary
Time: as in a recipe
Category: as in a department store
Hierarchy: as in "best of" list

SteveWe said...

There is sequence and there is order. Chronological order is a sequence. The Dewey Decimal system is an order.

exhelodrvr1 said...

I vote for vaccination order. Those with the most shots get to be at the front of the line. If there is a tie, then go to flu shots, then to pneumonia vaccine, etc.

Nancy said...

The Passover Seder(= "order").

David Begley said...

A classic Althouse post.

Nancy said...

Size order, used to list verses in the Koran.

Bill Harshaw said...

I'd suggest "handedness" is more basic to the species, actually to nature. It determines left from right, top from bottom. Read the book "Right Hand, Left Hand"

Nancy said...

Aufbau order of filling electron subshells. That gives us all of chemistry.

tim maguire said...

Chronological order is usually the most pleasing approach because it feeds into our concern with cause and effect. But my favorite (though least useful) taxonomy comes from Amy Sedaris, who organizes her books by spine color.

Mike Sylwester said...

My mom was a high-school librarian. Her fantasy was to arrange all her library's books in order of the color of their covers.

MadTownGuy said...

"But once you have a system of expressing time and you can figure out more or less when things happened, chronology is nothing more than numerical order. "

I think it's more than that. It's also a logical order (the '-logy' part) - i.e, first X, then Y happened, or while A, B was happening. I used chronological order timelines when evaluating insurance claims, and still use it in genealogical research. When combined with spatial relationships between events, it helps me to make more sense of what was going on.

Kylos said...

There’s also the little known ordering imposed by a topological sort. One way to think of it is that it sorts by generation such that members that appear in multiple generations (as is the case of the descendants of an aunt marrying anephew, for example) are ordered according to their earliest generation.

rehajm said...

I'd like a look at a random list of nominess for the top ten list of orders. Who's in, who's out? ...are we just talking about orders of things, or do systems of human interaction make the list? Robert's Rules? Quaker Meeting?

What about the sub categories? Chronology, yes, but what about subs like Reverse Order of Appearance? (Is it orderly to classify that as a sub category?)

...and what's the criteria to rank the list? The most orderly? There's value in the least orderly order systems, too. Things On Top of Other Things is a popular minimal system of order. Where do those kinds of orders rank?

Scott Patton said...

The Dewey Decimal System has been a pet peeve since early grade school. The nun that taught library class thought it was the greatest thing ever. For some reason, the resentment of having to put effort into something that some guy just made up was overwhelming, especially so while forcibly imprisoned in that thing they called school.
Science and math, I could understand. Making a big deal of where and how books were stored in a library and being forced to pretend to care about it seemed like some kind of punishment. It was fantastic to find out many years later that others shared the sentiment.

Jim said...

I like almost everything posted here. But this is one of the very frequent posts that I LOVED reading.

tim in vermont said...

All taxonomy is political. So such decisions will always depend on what benefits the powerful in any given case.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Alphabetical order wreaks havoc on numerical order and chronological order, rendering a list from 1 to 12 as:


and sorting dates by month rather than year:


To take advantage of the superiority of alphabetical order, I use YYYYMMDD format, so that the last list becomes:


Daniel12 said...


I would put many things over alphabetical. It's more of an easy way of finding things than any sort of conceptual or logical order (unlike Dewey, I love Dewey). For instance in order by color (visible light wavelength).

That said -- I had a fascinating (to me) discussion with someone about her partner's book collection. It was absolutely superbly, perfectly organized chronologically (history texts chronologically, with each shelf pertaining to a defined era, and many books with titles that were simply a particular year, interspersed throughout, so the sorting system was both visible through seeing titles but also through a quick scan.

But it made her crazy. She thought it looked incredibly messy and wanted to order it by color!!!

mezzrow said...

Today's emergence of blockchain as a force of its own bears this out. What is it but a verifiable chronology that uses an algorithm to transcend and amplify the way that humans record and retrieve what is real at specific points of time. An order that transcends trust - but only if you can trust the algorithm to defy manipulation.

We've only just begun to probe into the implications.

cf said...

I think it is observed somewhere in the I Ching that "the first Law is the calendar" and I find that its own meditation on nature and mankind. In that sense, Chronological order is a most useful and revealing list.

However, if you are trying to find the king of Sumeria somewhere in there, an alphabetical index is absolutely the only way to go.

Jeff Gee said...

I have always admired John Cusack re-assembling his record collection in "High Fidelity" not chronologically or alphabetically but 'autobiographically.(

Bob Boyd said...

I have a pretty high tolerance for disorder. Sometimes I put things in piles. In the fullness of time, I put the piles into a pile and take it to the dump. Then I start again, patiently cultivating my clutter crop. Clutter grows organically and tries to take over like weeds. It has a haunting beauty all its own. I have an almost completely undeveloped theory that clutter is a highly evolved life form.
Anyway, as long as I don't get my horse de-wormer mixed up with my horse tranquilizer, all is well and all will be well in the clutter garden.

I probably wouldn't make a good librarian, but I can live with that.

Robert Marshall said...

Alphabetical order is "insanely useful" not because the order itself means anything, but only because it enables us to find the information we're looking for out of a huge pile of information we're not otherwise then interested in. Like a phone book, or a dictionary. It is a way to store a piece of information that allows you to get back to it without much bother, as long as you understand the system being used.

Numerical (including chronological) order is significant in itself. It matters that a city has a higher crime rate than somewhere else, or that dinosaurs came before mammals in the evolution of life. The order is itself a piece of information that is significant, whereas with alphabetical order, the order is only useful to the process of finding the information.

One of the great advances that computers have enabled is the simultaneous sorting of huge piles of information, by a variety of ordering schemes, all of which can be operative at the same time. Unlike a chronological physical document file, which requires you to know about when a document was created in order to find it, the computer allows you to search also by names (of persons involved), full-text snippets, etc.

Mr. Forward said...

Line up alphabetically by height.

gilbar said...

First Things First

Humperdink said...

In gym class it was usually alphabetical by height.

gspencer said...

Do standing orders count?

They're used in lots of settings. Military, hospitals, the courts, computer programming, building trades, more.

Wasn't there some famous judge who routinely yelled "Order in the court" because he couldn't maintain order?,600_.jpg

Conrad said...

I'd be interested in determining the longest list of things that are only COINCIDENTALLY in alphabetical order. For example, there have been several stretches in U.S. history where the last names of four consecutive presidents were in alphabetical order, but never five or more. You can try this with a lot of things, such as looking at a list of states arranged in the order they entered the union and seeing how many end up in alphabetical order. (Still only four by my count). What's the longest such list of ANYTHING?

mccullough said...

Batting order should be number 1.

If a hitter bats out of order, he is out.

Howard said...

Order is what the serpent offered and Eve partook. The symbolism of the genesis myth links the fall of man from pure hunter gatherer creatures to adopting the prideful tools of reason and order to create civilization thereby destroying the garden. Words, numbers accounts are the mark of the beast brought by woman to the innocent man. That's no surprise since busy work of keeping everything in order is considered within the domain of woman.

Man represents the ambassador to the chaos of the world. Babies immediately recognize this in their father.

Peterson uses the ying yang symbol to represent how order and chaos is at the root of the human condition with the hero's journey a wild adventure into chaos to bring light into darkness.

Don Draper gets it:

You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one.

farmgirl said...

Oh my. This is an amazing post that makes me feel like I’m shopping in the soup aisle and the labels are all changed around!!

I’m not ordered- it might have to do w/being left- handed or 3rd-born or- God only knows. I get lost/side-tracked on any given search. I make many discoveries this way, but I’m not the most efficient. Maybe that’s why I work physically rather than mentally. My mind has freedom to scatter about as I go through my practiced routine.

Jordan Peterson talks much on order- his book is Order & Chaos- and the my theme is hierarchy.
Would dominate be any kind of order- and that’s why society is so angry- the wannabes are a-rockin’ the boat?

Satan lives in Chaos.

A Catholic Mass has order. And Catholic religious have orders:0)

farmgirl said...

Oh, and we keep track of our cow families alphabetically lol
Just had a lovely little heifer born this morning and her Mom’s name is Lauren…

Gerda Sprinchorn said...

At first glance, we tend to think of ordering things in a single list and the ordering is determined by a single number we assign to each item. Once you assign each item a unique number, you get a nice convenient, linear list. Chronology assigns a number to each item using the date. Alphabetical ordering can also be seen as a numerical ordering because it assigns a unique number to an item using base 26 and putting decimal in front. (Numerically, the word "no" is .1415 because "n" is the 14th letter and "o" is the 15th letter.) Size, height, weight, etc. are also orderings that that assign a single number to each item and then use numerical order.

But, there are very useful orderings that are not reducible to a single list. For instance, a tree structure continually branches out. A computer's file structure is usually a tree.

There is also a graph structure, which can have no ordering at all, just relationships between nodes. The internet is a graph structure. Subway systems are graphs.

Computer people spend a lot of effort understanding these non-linear structures.

khematite said...

"Machete order," which purports to be the optimally correct order in which to view the Star Wars movies.

Lucien said...

Alphabetical order depends on the alphabet one uses, and I'm not even sure in makes sense in an ideographically language, or a pictographically one. Then there is spelling: where does the late former dictator of Libya fit in alphabetical order?

A relational database may introduce a different kind of multidimensional order.

The periodic table of elements is interesting, too.

gilbar said...

Robert Marshall said...
Alphabetical order is "insanely useful" not because the order itself means anything, but only because it enables us to find the information we're looking for out of a huge pile of information we're not otherwise then interested in. Like a phone book, or a dictionary.

i'm not dissing SORTED LISTS... But it's the TABS that really speed things up
Who wants to do binary searches all the way through, when you can just TAB right to the C's?
[this message was brought to you, by the b+ trees RULE society*]

b+ trees RULE society* here, we call them VSAM.... You KNOW Why

DLNE said...

The great podcast 99 Percent Invisible did an episode on just this last week

"So when it came to sorting and organizing actual information, for thousands of years, people used almost any other method. They organized things by size, by geography, by chronology, just not alphabetically. .... But these early ordering methods also reflected the way people thought about the world. And one important way that they thought about it was hierarchically.... In the middle ages, for example, William the Conqueror’s “Doomsday Book,” which was a survey of all his subject’s property assets, was divided into sections that started with the nobles and then with the peasants."

Roger Sweeny said...

Chronological order is sometimes about cause but sometimes not. One of the great pitfalls of intellectual history is saying something like, "Henry published his book in 1610, which influenced Joe's book in 1620"--even though Joe may never have seen or heard of Henry's book. This is even more of a problem when things aren't published but are transmitted in letters and conversations, perhaps at second or third hand. Historians will probably never know how Newton and Leibnitz influenced each in developing calculus.

rehajm said...

I’m reading Hannah Fry’s Guide to Everything (abridged) where they speak of that Library of Babel project. You can look up where in the library is the book with the page with only your name on it.

Try it- that’s an order…

charis said...

When he walked in the door, Mr Rogers hung up his jacket in the closet and pulled out his sweater to put on. That repeated image taught children to have a place to put things and to put them away when you’re done. We who struggle with clutter in our homes never mastered this basic principle of order.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

The elites are furiously trying to reorder every facet of American society by skin color, a perversion of the use of the visible light spectrum to order colors, but are selling it as a reverse-ordering of privilege. So we might need a follow up post on systems that appear to be ranked by one type of order but are actually decided by factors other than that. Like “wealth” and “income” being used interchangeably in a list when they are radically different concepts.

Caroline said...

There is order in creation, cf the book of Genesis. Order speaks of coherence, harmony, stability, perduring reality. We see it in the seasons, night into day, patterns of migration, the nature of things. Male and female He made them, in His image. Imago Dei. We alone think, reason, paint, sing. This order in nature that is evident to all peoples throughout all time suggests purpose, direction, and proper ends. It tends toward new life. Complementarity, not equality, is the universal governing principle. What brings new life is Male and female, Justice and Mercy, Truth and Charity. The universe is hierarchy.

gilbar said...

what about most obvious order? You know, things that HAD TO HAPPEN?

Schools Confront a Wave of Student Misbehavior, Driven by Months of Remote Learning

obviously, That would go first on the obvious list

traditionalguy said...

In the beginning the Alpha and the Omega says He created it all for His own good pleasure. Orderliness is next to Godliness.

rhhardin said...

Alphabetic ordering of roman numbers is also numerical until 9.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

But seriously as in all big concepts I turn to Genesis (or the Torah) to see how Our Creator approached the issue. “In the beginning” God’s works are described chronologically, and He divides night from day, which we would later use as a handy unit of measure for time. And very shortly His narrative becomes numerically ordinal: “On the second day God…”

Based on this and this alone I would rank the top two as chronological and numerical in that order.

Lurker21 said...

OK Foucault, whatever ...

Gabriel said...

I used to know Dewey Decimal system pretty well, but the university I attended used the Library of Congress system and so I gradually forgot.

who-knew said...

So here's the perfect place to recommend the book "A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order" by Judith Flanders. Actually not aa curious and interesting as I hoped, but I still enjoyed the book and learned some things.

Duke Dan said...

Mohs hardness scale

Duke Dan said...

Out of order doesn’t work.

Duke Dan said...

Top item

Order in the court (banging gavel noises)

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

By the way, this high concept of ordering is better than the terms Left and Right or Liberal and conservative, because are two parties tend toward the two poles of Order vs Disorder.
(see how I reversed their order at the last mention?)

Lem the misspeller said...

I have an extensive digital music collection which for years now I’ve been adding categories like language, race, gender, genre and sub-genre, original release date, correct chronological number on the original released recording. (Some songs are only released as singles, those are easy) I’ve also included where the song may have placed in the billboard top 100 yearly chart. It’s amazing how many great songs don’t make the top 100 list, and how many… garbage songs do. Talk about conspiratorial manipulation. The point of the magnificent exercise will be to be able to create interesting playlist at the drop of a few digital clicks. I’ve already created some Spanish playlist that (to me) play a lot better than the kind of mysterious order I was used to when making a tape all those years ago. A while back it occurred to me I probably should go back and include songs that are from bands. So I can ponder are the songs from bands better than the songs produced/sang by a single artist? For example do I like band Sting or single artist Sting better?

This little project has been made possible by the iTunes library format. Thank God for Steve Jobs.

Ann Althouse said...

"There is sequence and there is order. Chronological order is a sequence. The Dewey Decimal system is an order."

Are you saying chronological order is not an order — making the term itself a misnomer — or are you saying that sequences are orders but not all orders are sequences?

The category I'm trying to talk about necessarily contains chronological order (and alphabetical order). If you're saying the Dewey Decimal System shouldn't be included in the category I set up — I defined! — then make a specific argument.

Put these million books in order, the king says to the ancient librarian. The librarian could line them up in alphabetical order, put them in the order of publication, or invent something like the Dewey Decimal System.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'd like a look at a random list of nominess for the top ten list of orders. Who's in, who's out? ...are we just talking about orders of things, or do systems of human interaction make the list? Robert's Rules? Quaker Meeting?"

After I wrote this post, I went out for my sunrise run. I opened my thoughts to possibility and the one form of order that occurred to me was Robert's Rules of Order.

Eleanor said...

I think there are two basic types of people. Those people who organize their sock drawer and those who just open the drawer and toss their socks in. The first group spend their time sorting the socks before they put them away and the other looking for two socks that match when they want to wear them. One requires setting aside a single block of time initially, and the other snippets of time along the way. As more of our lives are digitized, people who feel the need to sort things have less and less to sort, and that can be frustrating for them. People who are not into sorting just continue life as usual with finding things easier.

If you are a "sorter" by nature, then it should be apparent that one method of sorting is not the best method for sorting all things. Just as one size does not fit all. Everything has its own best method, and there is no hierarchy of sorting methods that would fit all. One could best figure out which method to use to sort what thing by designing a dichotomous key. The key could start with the question, "Are you obsessive-compulsive about order or can you handle some chaos in your life?"

mikee said...

I'm going to require an orderly here to keep track of things and stuff.

1. an attendant in a hospital responsible for the nonmedical care of patients and the maintenance of order and cleanliness.
2. a soldier who carries out orders or performs minor tasks for an officer.

Joe Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Narr said...

I like alforgettable order.

I was a librarian. Dewey is a crock. Library of Congress scheme much better. In both cases, the goal of shelving like near like is dependent on the knowledge and skill of the cataloger-classifier. (Library of Congress Subject Headings are an intellectual wonder.)

At our public library Dewey is used. If I go there in search of books about military intelligence, I will find monographs on that topic for sure--interspersed on the same shelf with books about, for instance, reconnaissance aircraft. Not really helpful, and leaving aside the atrocious number strings--less likely to happen in LC, with its clearer scheme.

You'ld be surprised (or maybe not) at how easy it is to forget that the sequencing after the decimal point is, well, decimal--

[ ]
etc which leads to a lot of misshelving.

LC does the same thing but the alphanumeric mix is easier to comprehend IMO.

Dewey made beaucoup bucks developing a whole line of library furniture--chairs, tables, card-catalog cabinets, etc.--his was more than strictly an intellectual enterprise.

Fred Drinkwater said...

But Duke Dan,
What's the proper order among, e.g., Mohs, Brinell, Rockwell, and Durometer?
Not so simple now, is it?

Fred Drinkwater said...

According to Dawkins, an older gent member of an ancient academic club insisted that libraries had an obvious natural order.
Bigger books on the left, smaller on the right.

Dave said...

Joe Smith said...

'Alphabetical order wreaks havoc on numerical order and chronological order, rendering a list from 1 to 12 as:


Now do it with Roman numerals : )

Duty of Inquiry said...


I am neither. I buy a couple dozen of the same kind of sock, I throw out the old socks and dump the new ones in my sock drawer.
When a sock becomes damaged or unsightly I throw it out. They all look the same so what difference does it make? After two or three years I repeat the process.


Blair said...

Order is such a white supremacist concept. You should try to be less white.

Duty of Inquiry said...


Can you point me to some detail on how you get that information into iTunes?
iTunes is the bane of my existance.


gilbar said...

when i was a young nerd; i LIVED at our township library
Except when i was at school, then i'd live in its library

When i got older i came to iowa state (in 1980) and was AWED by its HUGE glorious library
Until i found out, that NOTHING was where it was supposed to be.
Library of Congress sorting might be good... But it made NO SENSE

Limited blogger said...

Order goes against the 2nd law of thermodynamics

Entropy is natural

Tom Grey said...

I like alpha, and didn't like that month names weren't that way so I invented new month names:
Anjuary, Bevuary, Charm, Dapril, Emay, Fune, Guly, Hugust, Iptember, Jocktober, Kovember, Lecember. Then in only 5 chars I could include a full date, like 84G04, so as to make chron = alpha for 8 char file names. Fast finding files in the 80s DOS, but lost to Win 95.

What are the 3 biggest countries?
A: Russia, Canada, USA.
B: China, India, USA.
The order depends on what you're ordering on, and the use. Cities are most often ordered by population size. I'd guess none reading know the US city with the largest area.*

For the military, chain of command let's you know your direct line to the US President, tho many, probably most, don't know all the generals in between.

Ordering a library by spine color seems like a good idea. Did you know many Euro books have the spine title the other way, so they're a bit easier to read from left side of the book shelf as "top", down towards the right/ bottom. But if such books are on their side with front side up, their spine title is upside down - so often they're on their side front down. We have both English (spine top to bottom title) and Slovak (spine bot to top title).

One computer program I've long be waiting for is a good verbal based data entry system where I could read the title of my books, or CDs (& hundred of old cassettes), and have a DDG look up the info and create my own library database. Then I could order it in various ways. It's too much work, for me, to put the data in by hand.

Tom Grey said...

*The largest city in the United States by area is Sitka, Alaska. Sitka spans over 2,870.3 mi2 (7,434.04 km2) but has a population of about only 10,000 people.

This ordering, and wanting order in the ordering, is possibly the main secret for the dominance of European thinkers, and how they came to dominate the world. See the Sailor review of Alfred Crosby's The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250–1600,

"Crosby argues, around 1250 at the peak of the Middle Ages, when the West had finally achieved an impressive level of civilization after its long Dark Ages, instead of subsiding into self-satisfied stagnation as most civilizations would, Europeans kicked off a new revolution in habits of thought.

For example, around this era, people began reading silently to themselves. The first library rules stating that patrons must be quiet date from the 1400s. Before then, almost everybody read out loud all the time. One famous exception to this rule in late antiquity was the theologian St. Ambrose, who, as St. Augustine marveled, read without speaking."

I have never read nor heard of this, before - tho it's obvious that kids start by reading out loud.

Is is possible to think in a better way than Aristotle, because of ordering and categorizing?

"For example, Aristotle had his students carry out the modern-sounding political science research project of collecting the constitutions of 158 city-states, which he made use of in arriving at his famous qualitative taxonomy of types of government, good and bad: monarchy vs. tyranny, aristocracy vs. oligarchy, and polity vs. democracy.

But one thing Aristotle didn’t do in his Politics was what every contemporary social scientist would automatically do today with 158 data points: tabulate how many fall into each of his categories."

This is best reason I've yet seen of why Europeans, not Chinese nor Indians, created the Industrial Revolution and dominated the world. I've wanted to note this since August (and have long wanted to note my old Anj-Lec alt-month name scheme).

Roger Sweeny said...

I think there are two basic types of people. Those people who organize their sock drawer and those who just open the drawer and toss their socks in.

And then there are those of us who have one all-purpose sock endlessly repeated.

(Well, actually two kinds, but so different they needn't be sorted.)

Yancey Ward said...

This was a big list of orders the size of a small list.

Dave Begley said...

Ann's tags give order to the Althouse blog.

ColoComment said...

who-knew said...
So here's the perfect place to recommend the book "A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order" by Judith Flanders. Actually not aa curious and interesting as I hoped, but I still enjoyed the book and learned some things.
12/9/21, 9:29 AM

I read that book sometime in the last year & found it fascinating to learn how slowly, how incrementally, people saw a need and a solution to "order" information. And how frequently they found the perceived current solution inadequate to expanding needs.
I think of that every time I re-order my computer files & documents*, create sub-folders, and such.
* I save no paper. I scan & save everything (with multiple backup locations.)

wildswan said...

Dante - who I'm reading in Baylor's 100 Days of Dante seminar - ordered human actions. Sin is in 9 circles of Hell - pagans in the Elysian fields at the top, quite a few Popes in the City of Dis - heresy ward, tourists like Ulysses way down compulsively describing the trip, traitors frozen in ice at the bottom. Then, struggles to change behavior which has been recognized by the person as unwanted depicted on seven ledges going up the side of a mountain called Purgatory - which I'm not very far up but I see that Dante thought pride is the hardest to change based on his ordering. Then, rewards and glory and song in Paradise - we are not there yet.

Tina Trent said...

Agree with Narr, though I had a childhood fondness for Dewey. Organizing likes with likes using an intentional progression is very difficult to invent and to keep current.

I made the horrible mistake of doing pure chronology (with obvious exceptions: lit.crit, historical dictionaries, medical history) with my bookshelves. There were several revelations about when books had been written, especially science fiction and Ann Rand. And combining British and European and American literature was faacinating. As was seeing the long careers of some and the times they spanned. But it's back to Library of Congress for me. I undertand there are computer devices that will do it for you. Robert's Rules of Order is as essential to human organizational interaction as LoC is to books.

Bruce Hayden said...

We have a lot of books here. My sci-fi/fantasy collection takes up one wall of the garage. Since that is considered outdoors, I can organize as desired, and that means: author’s last name, first name, then within an author - series first, selected randomly, within a series by number (which usually means chronologically, except in weird ones like Dune, where date published was used, instead of series date), followed by individual titles alphabetically. But in the bookcases around the house, she wants to sort by height and width, while I insist on sorting by topic.

I should have known she was trouble when we first dated. She had candy trays displayed around her living room, filled with Tootsie Roll Pops. I ate one, of course. It’s candy, right? That’s what candy ids for, right? Nope. She walked in the room, and knew immediately what I had taken. Her designs were highly symmetrical, and she had a photographic memory. After that, I would just switch pairs, when she wasn’t looking, and see how long it took her to figure it out.

We had a discussion awhile back (some here may remember it) about pantries. Her son discovered early that his mother had the cans in her pantry sorted by type and subtype, and stacked two high, with the labels all lined up. He had great fun s witching a couple cans around, rotating them, or turning them upside down. I picked that up, and plague her with it to this day. It didn’t matter for awhile, when her vision was fairly week, but she got it back with cataract surgery, and the game is back on.

Anyone else notice that kitchen organization appears to be genetic, descending on the X chromosome? Actually,I think that what happens is that daughters grow up in their mother’s kitchens, and learn where everything is. Then, they tend to duplicate that order with their own kitchens. Since the kitchen is mostly considered her space, a husband just has to relearn, with each wife, where things are located in the kitchen. My partner and her daughter are equally at home in each other’s kitchen. Or used to be. I swear, with this latest house, that we moved into two years ago, she has switched to organizing by size and color, instead of by function, which she used to to - except for the pantry, which is sorted as it always is. Drives me crazy.

SteveWe said...

"There is sequence and there is order. Chronological order is a sequence. The Dewey Decimal system is an order."

Perhaps this reply will help. I'm a software engineer and deal with databases. It's often required to present data to the user in an orderly manner, of which there are many.
For example, one such order is chronological by date and time. If the date itself is properly ordered, yyyymmdd, it can be sequenced by its character representation. If the date has been stored or represented by a numerical value that increases by one unit for every day since an arbitrary base date, it can be sequenced by its numerical value. (Note that the character representation is dependent on the numerical value assigned to each character, i.e., "1" has an ASCII value of 49, and "2" has a value of 50. The value of the character "A" is 65, and "a" is 97; "B" is 66, "b" is 98.) So, there is an "order" underlying the "sequence" and the sequence is the ordinal value of numbers and the letters of the alphabet (which itself, is arbitrary, i.e. Roman and Greek).

Consider the common deck of playing cards. The four suits of 10 spots and 3 crowns have an ordered rank value with the exceptional Ace, being only 1 spot, outranking the King. Other cultures and other card games have their playing card decks and rules that differ.

"Are you saying chronological order is not an order — making the term itself a misnomer — or are you saying that sequences are orders but not all orders are sequences?"

Yes, I think I am saying that not all orders are sequences and that sequences are implicitly natural. For example, parents of children have their first born, second, and so on, if so blessed. That's a sequence. Chemical elements are sequenced by their numeric weights (and then ordered in our perodic table of elements).

The Linnaean Classification System is a pure order that was devised by humans to bring order to chaos. Ditto the legal system with its sections and paragraphs in the U.S. Constitution and statute law.

This is fun topic.

R C Belaire said...

Alphabetical order dovetails nicely in English -- most obviously because we have an alphabet at our disposal. The Chinese for one don't have such an alphabet so ordering items/events there is approached differently.

I'm Not Sure said...

"I think there are two basic types of people. Those people who organize their sock drawer and those who just open the drawer and toss their socks in."

And then, there are the people who buy only one type/color of socks. No need to sort, ever.

Metamorf said...

"In Beijing, the countries marched in order of the brushstroke method, which coincidently, placed the Chinese athletes near the front."

robother said...

Little Ann Althouse assigned front row desk every year in grade school, grows up to absolutely adore alphabetical order.

Speaking as an oppressed "M" (even the odd teacher using reverse alphabet order did nothing to relieve our suffering), we need a Critical Order Theory, and to start a conversation about KLMNOP reparations.

Earnest Prole said...

The chapters of the Quran are not arranged in chronological order, but in order of decreasing size.

n.n said...

Chaos is order, albeit indiscernible from human perception outside of a limited frame of reference.

Joe Smith said...

'Dewey made beaucoup bucks developing a whole line of library furniture--chairs, tables, card-catalog cabinets, etc.--his was more than strictly an intellectual enterprise.'

So give away the razor and charge for the blades?

StephenFearby said...

This reminds me of John Bercow (former controversial Speaker of the House of Commons) bellowing "odd-DEURRRR, odd-DEURRRRR!") to quell unruly arguments.

Boris correctly refused Bercow (original family name Berkowitz) a life peerage when he retired because of his swelled head.

Wondered if he was distantly related to serial killer David Berkowitz, AKA Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer. Nope. This Berkowitz was adopted.

Valentine Smith said...

I've never done lists always done memory. No more. Now I'm rather lost. Old dog new tricks. Forget it not me.

Richard Dolan said...

Order being essential to life, it's sad that it's doomed to dissolve into chaos. Second law/entropy and all that. So enjoy it while it lasts.

Scot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ernest said...

I have a library of about 2000 books, mostly nonfiction. I created my own classification system instead of using either Dewey or Library of Congress. My system fits my interests.

Narr said...

My own library is only a few hundred books, maybe 1000. I worked at a million-volume (eventually) library and the MPL is probably bigger, and they remain just a short drive away.

Point being, I have my reference shelf but everything else is more-or-less chrono. (Fiction any old way, clustered by author.) I have numerous piles of books also, sorted with the lowest on the bottom.

In some European libraries the books are shelved by acquisition order only, which is to completely deprecate the research value of browsing around near the book you came for.

wildswan said...

As an oppressed O, I agree with Robother's point. I had blanked out the trauma for years till without any trigger warnings it was recalled. After I got out of the fetal position and stopped crying, I wondered: should I be glad I have another group sorrow to virtue signal about or sad I have another group sorrow to sorrow about? I expect they'll call on A. Althouse first for the answer and I can continue to read under cover of the desk. I liked history books best for their pictures - interesting but not so absorbing you lost track just in case Mittel Alphabet, Mittel Classroom was on the radar.

Narr said...

I used to get asked to organize, or recommend someone to organize, some church's library or archive.

Paul Mac said...

Not mentioned here yet, order of magnitude.

Scale & changes in it being something that humans struggle with, we aren't wired well for it.