Conceptual Abstraction

Shared Concept Image

I tend to go on about weasel words and the insufficiency of language, but I tend to get a lot of resistance by people who insist the chasm isn’t as expansive as I make it out to be. This makes me wonder how one might create a test to determine how much is similar and how much doesn’t.

To summarise my position, abstract concepts of this type are specious archetypes that cannot exist in the real world: truth, justice, freedom, fairness, and so on. The common thread here is almost always that they exist in the realm of morality, another false concept.

It seems to me that one could construct a sort of word cloud intersecting with a Venn diagramme. I’d assume that more articulate people would have more descriptors, thereby creating landscape with more details and nuance for any given concept.

Additionally, I could see a third dimension which would capture diametric meanings. There is also the issue of diverse contexts, e.g. in the case of justice, we have distributive, retributive, restorative, and procedural flavours, so one would need to be taken into account.

In everyday existence, I notice that these terms are good enough and have enough substance to trick people into believing not only that it’s real but that the are operating with a shared concept. My point is that it’s more apples and oranges. We could employ dimensions that make these appear to be similar.

  • Approximate spheroids
  • Fruits
  • Contain fruits
  • Have skin

Additional scrutiny would illustrate the differences.

  • Colour
  • Taste
  • Consistency

This difference between this concrete case is that we can observe the objects to compare and contrast, but with abstractions, we have a sort of survivorship bias in play. We remember what we agree on and forget or diminish the parts we don’t agree on. And we don’t necessarily even know the complete inventory of descriptors of our counterparts.

The image at the top of the page is not to scale. I don’t know what the percent breakdowns are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a situation where there were 10 possible descriptors, that only 4 would be commonly shared—so 40 per cent—, leaving 6 not in common—60 per cent.

In any case, I wonder if anyone has attempted this sort of inventory comparison. I haven’t even looked, do there could be tome upon tome published, but I don’t suppose so.

2 thoughts on “Conceptual Abstraction

  1. I just avoid the details and goto the heart: I would not even be able to comprehend your post, and neither would you have written it, if indeed there was not a common meaning between us. So I say there is absolutely. Yet, if we were to center in, maybe first in phrases, then words, we would find eventually that I am not really understanding anything of what you said (in the end), and or. You are not successfully communicating to me what you mean. In order for anything at all to take place, though, even miscommunication no communication. There first is a faith that is informing just what communication and meaning itself is. So I say that there are Two Routes. One which implicitly sees the faith required as non-existent, that is, as a common field where negotiations take place. That field is real. Then there is the situation which is able to notice the first situation and communicate is truly. That is true. There is no manner of reducing one to the other without implementing a contradiction silently upheld in the first condition.


    1. I don’t disagree, but I think that’s where the miss happens. In my example, we focus on the 3 common items and assume we share meaning—and we do—but it obscures the unshared meaning that unless that particular concept comes up, we assume that we’re marching to the same tune.

      One could argue that in some cases, we can institutionalise the 3 common concepts, but then we are move from common to factions.

      In the end, it is more complex and nuanced than this might lead one to believe. My takeaway is that if you only share one-third in common, both parties will be in for a rude awakening. I also recognise that the weight and importance of the uncommon factors might be trivial, but that’s just more nuance to consider.


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