After discussing Abraham Maslow and his “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid, I figure the time was right to introduce my own pyramid(s), the Hierarchy of Life:

It is often said that Self-Preservation is the strongest instinct in nature.   I don’t agree.   Self-preservation is one of the strongest instincts, but it can be (and regularly is) overruled by the preservation of life other than the Self.

It is actually more of a square, created by two triangles, but “pyramid” sounds cooler and it has precedent, so I’ll use that word, too.   🙂

|\                   |
| \ Life             |
|  \                 |
|   \ Ecosystem      |
|    \               |
|     \ Species      |
|      \             |
|       \ Social     |
|        \ Group     |
|         \          |
|          \ Family  |
|           \        |
|            \ Other |
|             \      |
|              \     |
|               \    |
|     SELF       \   |
|                 \  |
|                  \ |

This chart shows the situations in which an individual will sacrifice itself in lieu of allowing that which it is protecting to be killed or lost.   The two sides triangles show the probability at a given level (compared to the loss of the protected thing) that the individual will preserve itself.   For example, at the bottom, it is most likely that the individual will save itself.   At the highest level, it is least likely that the individual will save itself.   Alternately stated, at the top level, it is most likely that the individual is willing to sacrifice itself to protect the other.


SELF: The subject of the discussion.   Could be me, could be you, could be anyone.   But a particular person.

Other: A random person unknown to the subject.   Defense or protection of a stranger, ie: helping someone being mugged.

Family: The biological social group the subject associates with.

Social Group: The group of individuals or organizations that the subject identifies with.   Could be a religous group, a neighborhood, or a country.

Species:   The genetic type of life that the subject is a member of

Ecosystem:   The environment, including other forms of life of various species, that the subject identifies with.

Life: All life in total.

Alternate Graph

I don’t feel like tweaking the ascii art now, but you can also display this by taking the right triangle, putting “Self” at the bottom.   Then flip it over and use it as the other half of the chart to show how the different “levels” of life will interact to protect each other:   (Self vs Life on top, Life vs Self on bottom).