Consider the electromagnetic spectrum or that portion of it that is visible to our eyes. These are continuums.
Let us explore the concept of continuum as a conceptual tool.
Take any two concepts that you wish to examine.
Conjure up or take a piece of paper. Place one of the concepts on the ‘right’ side of the paper in relation to your perspective of that paper. Place the other concept on the ‘left’ side of the paper in relation to your perspective. Now, draw a line to connect those two points.
I contend that those conceptual endpoints might be imaginary abstract descriptions of that concept, which might never be found in the world of experience at 100% of that descriptive definition.
What you have drawn is a continuum where the two abstract points are now in a contextual relationship.
Since we can only think of one contextual relationship at a time, to consider multiple contextual relationships concerning those two concepts, you need to create a parallel continuum and label that new continuum with the context you wish to consider as their interrelationship.
The use of multiple and parallel continuums increases your ability to recognize nuances concerning the concepts that you wish to consider.
Hypothetically, you can imagine those continuums not as parallel lines but as intersecting lines, those illustrating ‘dimensions’ of intersecting attributes/contexts.
I contend that you can take this plane geometric mapping process and utilize it for any two concepts you wish to consider. Just remember that you are choosing to place each of the abstract terms you wish to consider at either end of that line. You choose which is placed at the rightmost end and which is at the leftmost end. Think about why you made those choices – they say something about your personal and/or cultural preferences.
For example, take the concept of ‘black’ and ‘white’.
Put black at the left endpoint and white at the right endpoint, with a connecting line in between those two endpoints.
Label this the continuum of the amount of illumination that you experience at any one moment in time.
Now, in the actual world of experience, do you ever experience 100% blackness- the complete absence of light? Or have you ever experienced 100% whiteness- the complete presence of light? That continuum illustrates the gradation of light that may be experienced at any one time, going from very dark to very bright with shades of ‘grayness’ in between.
Or if you consider the continuum as the amount of pigment that you are mixing, then you have only black pigment at one end and only white pigment at the other end, with shades of gray laid out along the continuum.
Another example. Take the concept of maleness and femaleness.
Put femaleness at the left endpoint and maleness at the right endpoint and draw a line between them.
Label this continuum of biological physiology.
Draw another continuum and label this one sexual preference.
What this gives you is a representation of the concept that you can be biologically male and have a sexual preference towards a male as one possibility of that sexual preference, or if you select what you call the middle of that line as the point that designates Bi-Sexual preference. We have now diagrammed it.
You can now add a third parallel continuum and label it ‘self-definition of your gender’.
Now consider one end of the continuum as having the attribute of activity and the other as having the attribute of inactiveness.
Now consider one end of the continuum as having the attribute of hiding your emotions and the other end as displaying your emotions.
Now consider one end of the continuum as thinking concretely and the other end as thinking abstractly.
Now you have the ability to diagrammed out the possibility of being physically female on the one continuum, having a sexual preference of being Bisexual with a greater tendency toward the female preference since you placed yourself not exactly in the middle but somewhere beyond the midpoint and near one of the endpoints; on the other continuum, you could define your gender as masculine; on the other continuum as being someone who easily and often displays their emotions visibly; and lastly as being someone who thinks in very concrete terms. You have illustrated and designated yourself in multiple ways according to multiple possible cultural ways that the concepts of ‘male’ and ‘female’ have been described within that given culture.
That is the potential utility of using continuums.
Important caveat: you can list any number of conceptual pairs and place them in parallel lines. However, it may or may not be accurate to make the assumption that all the concepts on the same end of the continuum are actually in a significant and meaningful relationship.
This means that you can make a continuum with the concept of Good and Evil and then go on to make another continuum of light skin tone and dark skin tone. You have now made those two continuums parallel to each other. However, just because you can do this doesn’t mean that there is a relationship between skin tone and Good and Evil values, as it is actually manifested in the world beyond your mental constructs. You must remember that you or your culture is making that assumption and imposing that assumption on those concepts.
In general, associating value judgments and value continuums with some other conceptual paired continuum creates an assumption that is being imposed on those concepts by you or your culture. It may describe accurately how you and that culture feel about those concepts, but it does not make it a universal assumption or a valid and meaningful assumption.