Friday, April 16, 2010

Levels of Abstraction

L. Lumberjacks and Logjams. By Rose Marie Condon.

¨To clarify the notion of different levels of abstraction, look at the object that contains the page you are presently reading (…….)You can call it a book, which is a little more general than textbook, for the word book includes those things that you enjoy reading. Or you can call it printed matter, a classification that also includes newspapers, catalogues, advertising, and postage stamps. Or you can include it among the items classified by a word like Americana, so that this book attains a status equal to hot dogs, frisbees (….). More abstract still are words like cultural artifact, object or thing.
Any thing can be symbolized and regarded at several different levels of abstraction. Here is an illustration by the poet e.e. cummings:
Here is a thing.
To one somebody, this ¨thing¨ is a totally flourishing universal joyous particular happening deep amazing miraculous indivisible being.
To another somebody, this ¨same thing¨ means something which, if sawed in two at the base, will tell you how old it is.
To somebody else, this ¨selfsame¨ thing doesn´t exist because there isn´t a thunderstorm; but if there were a thunderstorm, this ¨selfsame thing¨ would merely exist as something to be specially avoided.
For a fourth somebody, this ¨very selfsame¨ thing, properly maltreated, represents something called ¨lumber;¨ which, improperly maltreated, represents something else called ¨money;¨ which represents something else called (more likely than not) ¨dear.¨


John C. Condon Jr. Semantics and Communication. USA, 1985 

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