Chinese Philosophy

Cycles and Positions

In this post on Cycles, I explained how different parts of systems feed each other. In our 47 Key Principles, the Principles of Completementary Opposites explore the same idea and references how the physical reality and the subjective opinion of a position create each other. This concept is clearly demonstrated by what is happening to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

In a Cycle, Nothing Comes First

Sun Tzu taught that all systems exist as cycles powered by opposing but complementary forces. When you are stopped by what you see as a "what comes first?" problem, the answer is often than neither comes first, but that the elements can only be understood as a cycle. Neither the chicken or the egg comes first. They are both part of a cycle. Think about working cycles the same way you ride a bicycle. You press on one peddle then the other, depending on their position in the cycle. You cannot move forward if you press on only one pedal, no matter how hard you work.

Sun Tzu and Systems

The Art of War is a technical description about how competitive systems (literally bing-fa) work. For Sun Tzu, systems balance opposing forces to create a cycle. For example, our breathing system has two opposing set of muscles for inhaling and exhaling that create a cycle of incoming oxygen and out-going carbon dioxide. OUr circulatory system balances the pressure from the heart against the resistance of the capillaries to bring oxygen to the cells and remove waste products. Systems interact with other systems to create larger systems with more complex cycles.

Understanding the Power Curve

An important part of Sun Tzu's strategy is the amplifying effect of growing networks. I call this effect, the "power curve." For Sun Tzu, reputation, innovation, momentum, esprit d'corps, and many other elements of strategy depend on the power curve, which are generally misunderstood among a general population that prefers to think in staight lines.

One Reason Political Polling is Misinterpreted

Sun Tzu's strategy defines positions without absolute qualities and characteristics. All qualities and characteristics are relative, a balance between emptiness and fullness. For example, strategy analysis requires a objective view of two opposing forces: 1) the size and unity of your supporters and the 2) size and unity of your opponents.


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