Simple Abstraction

When we abstract something, we single out an individual element from a collection of elements and separate it as a mental construct. This usually involves finding some kind of pattern of similarity, but it also involves discriminating between similarities and noticing differences.

Because a truly motionless object is rare in the extreme, most of what we observe are events. We abstract (separate and extract) some of the characteristics of each event and assign them labels. We observe a table, which has internal motion at an atomic level, but we see no motion and we decide that one characteristic is “motionless object”. We single out four supporting structures and a flat plane-like top and decide to give that combination of abstracted characteristics the label of “table”.

We may further observe that the “table” seems to be made of wood and that it reflects mostly variations of light color that we have previously labeled as “brown”. This event, or object in motion, has now been mentally categorized as a “motionless brown wood table”. Note that the tag, “table” describes the event/object and the other tags further characterize the first tag. We are now dealing with layers of abstraction where one abstraction references another. It is possible to further define the abstract construct by adding “dining” or “kitchen” or “work” to describe what kind of function is normally associated with the table. We are then dealing with an abstract construct that relates two events to each other; the table which is an event in motion and the use normally linked to the event of the table.

Most of our communication in all forms is based upon semantic tags, or words, that are either abstractions of events or abstractions of abstractions of events.