Abstract / Concrete


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Short                          -                       Long
Concrete                    -                      Abstract
Pragmatic                   -                      Ideal
Narrow                       -                      Wide
Small                          -                      Large
Separate                      -                      Unified
Many                           -                      One
Close                           -                      Distant
Specific                       -                      General
Part                              -                      Whole
Individual                    -                     Collective
Analogue                   -                       Digital
Deduction                    -                     Induction
Chaos                           -                     Order
Low                              -                     High
Hot                               -                     Cold
Body                             -                     Mind


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At the top of the pyramid things appear to be still, an illusion. At the bottom we can see that they are moving, changing.

Top: no change
Bottom: all change

Thus, we find god at both extremes: a god above, and a god below.


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[...] the mind of limited capacity can survey the few and simple relations that lie within the range of its narrow sphere of action, and can handle the levers of these with much greater ease than the eminent mind could. Such a mind takes in an incomparably greater and richer sphere and works with long levers.

Thus the insect sees everything on its little stem and leaf with the most minute accuracy and better than we can; but it is not aware of a man who stands three yards from it.

On this rests the slyness of the dull and stupid, and this paradox: "There is a mystery in the minds of those who have none."

For practical life genius is about as useful as an astronomer's telescope is in a theatre.

[...] For the intellect is a differentiating, and consequently separating, principle. Its different gradations, much more even than those of mere culture, give everyone different concepts, in consequence of which everyone lives to a certain extent in a different world, in which he meets directly only his equals in rank, but can attempt to call to the rest and make himself intelligible to them only from a distance.

Great differences in the degree, and thus the development, of the understanding open a wide gulf between one man and another, which can be crossed only by kindness of heart. This, on the other hand, is the unifying principle that identifies everyone else with one's own self.

The connexion, however, remains a moral one; it cannot become intellectual.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.145-6


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Mice live all their lives next to the ground, building their nests and gathering their food among the roots of the tall grass and bushes of the prairie. Because of this, Mice never see things at a distance.

Everything they can see is right in front of them, where they can sniff at it with their noses and Touch it with their whiskers.  Their lives are spent in Touching things in this way, and in gathering seeds and berries to eat.

A Mouse Person would be one who saw everything close up, and whose vision would be limited to the immediate world around him.  

He would be a gatherer of things.  He might gather facts, information, material objects, or even ideas.  But because he could not see far enough to connect to his world with that of the great prairie of the world around him, he would never be able to use or understand all that he saw or gathered.

[Hyemeyohsts Storm]
Seven Arrows, p. 7-8


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It is difficult for an adversary to see further than the dichotomy between winning and losing in the adversarial combat. Like a chess player, he is always tempted to make a tricky move, to get a quick victory.

The discipline, always to look for the best move on the board, is hard to attain and hard to maintain.

The player must have his eye always on a longer view, a larger gestalt.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 239

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Whether something is monolithic, binary, dialectical, or meaninglessly plural is a function of your distance from it.

When you're very close to something, all you can see is oneness, pure dominance by the thing of all others. For a baby, Mother's breast is the entire universe. For a fundamentalist, it's God.

When you're a bit further away, a tidy binary replaces oneness. There are men and there are women. There's East and there's West. This is the distance journalists live at. The world of journalism is always seeing small fluctuations in the relative positions of big, established binaries like these.

[Momus]
'Binary hopping' 


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[...] it is clear what is the function to which Schiller attributes the highest value, divinity: it is the constancy of the idea of the ego.

The ego that abstracts itself from affectivity is for him the most important thing, consequently this is the idea he has differentiated most, as is the case with every introvert. His god, his highest value, is the abstraction and conservation of the ego.

For the extravert, on the contrary,  the god is the experience of the object, complete immersion in reality; hence a god who became man is more sympathetic to him than an eternal, immutable lawgiver.

From the abstracting attitude of consciousness, which in pursuit of its ideal makes an experience of every occurrence and from the sum of experience a law, a certain limitation and impoverishment result which are characteristic of the introvert.

[...] For the more the relation to the object is restricted by abstraction (because too many "experiences" and "laws" are made), the more insistently does a craving for the object develop in the unconscious, and this finally expresses itself in consciousness as a compulsive sensuous tie to the object.

[C. J. Jung]
Psychological Types, p. 91-3


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[...] it should not be forgotten that, in the same measure as the conscious attitude may pride itself on a certain godlikeness by reason of its lofty and absolute standpoint, an unconscious attitude develops with a godlikeness oriented downwards to an archaic god whose nature is sensual and brutal.

[C. J. Jung]
Psychological Types, p.96


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Human beings are capable of meta-abstraction: there’s the phenomena in and of itself - that complicated and multi-layered thing; and then there’s your representation of it - which is what you perceive, [and] is already abstracted, and limited, to a tremendous degree; and then there’s abstractions of that.

It seems to me that language is a thumbnail of images, that are a thumbnail of the reality of things. So if I say ‘cat’ to you, what the word does is produce the image of a generic cat - which is already a kind of abstraction - and then that’s attached to your understanding, so that you can generate the understanding that would go along, at least in part, with perceiving or interacting with a real cat.

So in some sense what I’m doing is compressing the information down to a tremendously low-resolution thumbnail, and then throwing that at you, and you decompress it into a low-resolution image, and then you decompress that into something that’s roughly equivalent to reality. That’s what you’re doing when you’re reading a book, for example. When you read the book you can conjure up images of the places that the author is talking about, and […] of the characters.

Intelligence in general seems to be whatever underlies the ability to generate those low-resolution representations, and to utilise them - to manipulate them in your mind [and] communicate them to others.

Your ability to abstract, and then your ability to manipulate those abstractions, seems to be at the core of whatever ‘intelligence’ is, and that’s what IQ purports to measure.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2015 Personality Lecture 18: Openness - Creativity & Intelligence'


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Temple Grandin’s claim was that she cannot see ‘house,’ she can only see a house. So if you say to her something like ‘house’ then what comes to mind is a particular house that she’s actually experienced - she can’t take the next level of abstraction past that. [It] seems to be something like a deficit in generating a hieroglyphic image.

[Children] draw people with sticks and circles, [and it’s] unbelievably sophisticated - because those aren’t pictures, they’re hieroglyphics. The child automatically produces them, and that’s a proto-linguistic development. Some autistic kids can draw like Leonardo DaVinci, with no training whatsoever, and that’s partly because they don’t use hieroglyphics - they don’t really conceptualise the thing they’re looking at as an abstraction. They see nothing but detail.

If you’re training yourself to be a visual artist, you have to stop looking at the abstraction, and start looking at the thing. That’s very unsettling.

If you take your hand, for example, and you look at it, and you snap it out of ‘hand’ representation, it all of a sudden looks like some kind of octopus claw. And as soon as you see it that way, you can draw it. But as long as you’re seeing it like a ‘hand,’ you’re going to put a balloon, with four balloons on it, and that’s going to be the ‘hand.’

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2015 Personality Lecture 18: Openness - Creativity & Intelligence'


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In Barthes [...] criticism became what it has only rarely been, subjective and epicurean. Barthes wanted, especially in his last books, a sensuous relation to phenomena rather than an ethical discrimination of their qualities or consequences.

We can interpret pleasure as a more-or-less continuous satisfaction or, as in Barthes's writing, a momentary bliss: in his case it depends upon a savour, a glance, a phrase. In such epicurean forms it goes with the cult of the fragment, not the large-scale work but the sentence. Style appears as a flicker of eloquence; it accompanies the refusal to be great.

Judgement and discrimination are disavowed because they imply an aspiration to completeness which is distasteful to patricians. In judgement and discrimination the detail is chosen only for its representative force and never for the extractable pleasure it provides.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 125


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People can identify a given action in many ways. Of particular interest is that act identifications vary in level of abstraction.

High-level identifications are abstract (e.g. becoming more cultured), lower-level identifications become more and more concrete (e.g. attending a ballet; listening to sounds and watching people move around while you sit quiet and still). Low-level identifications tend to convey a sense of "how" an activity is done; high-level ones tend to convey a sense of "why."

Although people drift upward and downward as circumstances change, there's also evidence that people differ in the levels they tend to maintain as they think about what they're doing. Some people report typically thinking of their actions in low-level terms; others typically think of their actions in high-level terms.

These differences are reflected in a variety of ways. For example, compared with high-level identifiers, low-level identifiers tend to be more impulsive and less planful or stable in their behaviour, consistent with the idea that they're especially vulnerable to cues implying different identifications.

[...] Emmons (1992) found evidence that people differ in levels of abstraction they characteristically use when reporting their personal strivings. Some people report strivings that are broad, abstract, and expansive. Others report strivings that are narrower, more concrete, and even superficial.

These tendencies are also reflected in moment-to-moment contruals of behaviours they're engaged in. When randomly paged and asked to report what they were doing, high-level strivers reported they were engaged in relatively high-level activities; low-level strivers reported they were engaged in relatively concrete actions.

[C.S. Carver & M.F. Scheier]
On the Self-Regulation of Behavior, p. 74-5, 79




A high-level identifier is akin to a frame, or a grand-narrative.

In the absence of high-level story, behaviour becomes more diverse. The story imposes sense on those things nested within it; it orders them, providing direction, or 'rules'; it erects boundaries and classes certain things as off-limits.

In its absence, anything goes.

God is the ultimate high-level identifier. For believers, everything takes place under the omniscient eye of a higher-power: no action goes unseen.


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Another similarity between the Miller et al. (1960) statement and the Powers (1973a) model concerns the distinction between digital and analog processes and the idea that the two can work in concert within a system.

The Powers model is mostly analog in nature (i.e. both feedback and discrepancies are represented continuously and quantitatively). It deviates from that quality only at the program level, where behaviour is a digital process (i.e. a linear string of decisions).

In the same way, Miller et al. argued that "planning at the higher levels [equivalent to Powers's programs] looks like the sort of information-processing we see in digital computers, whereas the execution of the Plan at the lowest levels looks like the sort of process we see in analogue computers."

They went on to suggest that development of a skill is comparable to providing a digital-to-analog converter for the output of a digital machine. Thus, Miller et al. saw the two kinds of systems as compatible.

[C.S. Carver & M.F. Scheier]
On the Self-Regulation of Behavior, p. 76-7


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Beggars and Choosers
The Principle of Polarity
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All is Change
Living Things and Dead Things 
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Separation
Connection
Making Connections
Life and Death (and everything in-between) 
Playing with the Pieces

 

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