1. Home
  2. »
  3. Creativity
  4. »
  5. Abstraction
  6. »
  7. Abstraction



Abstraction in icts hand sense is a conceptual process Where general rules and concepts are derived from the use and classification of specific examples, literal ( “real” or ” concrete “) signifiers, first principles , or other methods.

“An abstraction” is the outcome of this process-a concept that acts as a super-categorical noun for all subordinate concepts, and connects any related concepts as a group , field , or category . [1]

Conceptual abstractions May be FORMED by filtering the information glad of a concept or an observable phenomenon , only Selecting the qui aspects are covered for a Particular purpose subjectively valued. For example, abstracting a leather soccer ball to the more general idea of a ball selects only the information is general ball attributes and behavior, excluding, but not Eliminating, the other phenomenal and cognitive characteristics of That Particular ball. [1] In a type-token distinction , a type (eg, a ‘ball’) is more abstract than its tokens (eg, ‘that leather soccer ball’).

Abstraction in its secondary use is a material process , [2] discussed in the themes below .


Thinking in abstractions is considered by anthropologists , archaeologists , and sociologists to be of the key features in modern human behavior , which is believed to have developed between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. Its development is likely to be closely intertwined with the development of human language , which is considered to be involved and facilitates abstract thinking.


Abstraction involves the induction of ideas or the synthesis of particular facts into a general theory about something. It is the opposite of specification , which is the analysis or breaking-down of a general idea or abstraction into concrete facts. Abstraction can be illustrated with Francis Bacon ‘s Novum Organum (1620), a book of modern scientific philosophy written in the late Elizabethan era [3] of England to encourage modern thinkers to collect specific facts before making Any Generalizations.

Bacon used and promoted induction as an abstraction tool, and it countered the ancient deductive -thinking approach that had dominated the intellectual world of the Greek philosophers like Thales , Anaximander , and Aristotle . Thales (v. 624-546 BCE) believed that everything in the universe comes from one hand substance, water. He deduced or specified from a general idea, “everything is water”, to the specific forms of water, snow, fog, and rivers.

Modern scientists can also use the opposite approach to abstraction, or going from one particular idea to another, such as the motion of the planets ( Newton (1642-1727)). When determining the size of the solar system ( Copernicus (1473-1543)), scientists had to use measurements of an elliptical orbit about the sun ( Kepler (1571-1630)), or to assemble multiple specific facts into the law of falling bodies ( Galileo (1564-1642)).



An abstraction can be seen as a compression process, [4] multiple mapping different pieces of data constituting data to a single piece of abstract data; [5] based on similarities in the data, for example, many different physical maps to the abstraction “CAT”. This conceptual scheme emphasizes the inherent equality of both constituents and abstract data, thus avoiding problems arising from the distinction between “abstract” and ” concrete “. In this sense the process of abstraction entails the identification of similarities between objects, and the process of associating these objects with an abstraction (which is itself an object ).

For example, picture 1 below shows the concrete relationship “Cat sits on Mat”.

Chains of abstractions can be construed , [6] moving from neural impulses arising from sensory perception to basic abstractions such as color or shape , to experiential abstractions such as to specific cat, to semantic abstractions such as the “idea” of a CAT, to classes of objects such as “mammals” and even categories such as ” object ” as opposed to “action”.

For example, graph 1 below expresses the abstraction “agent sits on location”. This conceptual scheme has no specific hierarchical taxonomy (such as the one referred to involving cats and mammals), only a progressive exclusion of detail .


Non-existent things in any particular place and time are often seen as abstract. By contrast, instances, or members, of such an abstract thing might exist in many different places and times.

Those abstract things are then said to be multiply instantiated , in the sense of picture 1 , picture 2 , etc., shown below . It is not sufficient, however, to define abstract ideas as those that can be instantiated and to define abstraction as the movement in the opposite direction to instantiation. Doing so would make the concepts “cat” and “telephone”, abstracted from their concept of “cat” or the concept “telephone”. Although the concepts “cat” and “telephone” are abstractions ,graph 1 below . We might look at other graphs, in a progression from cat to mammal to animal , and see that animal is more abstract than mammal ; goal on the other hand mammal is a harder idea to express, Certainly in relation to marsupial or monotreme .

Perhaps confusingly, some philosophies refer to the tropes (instances of properties) as abstract particulars , the particular redness of a particular apple is an abstract particular . This is similar to qualia and sumbebekos .

Material process

Still retaining the primary meaning of ‘abstrere’ or ‘to draw away from’, the abstraction of money, for example, works by drawing away from the particular value of things being completely incommensurate objects to be compared (see the section on ‘Physicality’ below). Karl Marx writing on the commodity abstraction a parallel process.

The state (polity) both concept and practice practice exemplifies the two sides of this process of abstraction. Conceptually, ‘the current concept of the state is an abstraction from the much more concrete early-modern use of the status or status of the prince, his visible estates’. At the same time, materially, the ‘practice of statehood is now more and more important than the time when princes ruled out the embodiment of extended power’. [7]

Further information: Power projection and Display behavior

Ontological status

The Way That physical objects, like rocks and trees,-have being white differs from the way That properties of abstract concepts or relationships-have being white, for example the way the concrete , Particular , Individuals pictured in picture 1 exist differs from the way the concepts illustrated in graph 1 exist. That difference accounts for the ontological usefulness of the word “abstract”. If they exist, they may not exist in space or time, but they may exist, potentially in many different places and times.


Further information: History of accounting § Ancient history

A physical object (a possible subject) is considered concrete (not abstract) if it is a particular individual that occupies a particular place and time. However, in the secondary sense of the term ‘abstraction’, this physical object can carry materially abstracting processes. For example, record-keeping aids throughout the Fertile Crescent included calculi (clay spheres, cones, etc.). According to Schmandt-Besserat & (1981) , these clay containers contained tokens, the total of which were the count of objects being transferred. The containers thus served as something of a bill of ladingor an accounts book. In order to avoid breaking the container for the count, marks have been placed on the outside of the containers. These physical marks, in other words, as abstract abstractions (numbers). [8] [9]

These are the things that are not really in existence or exist only as sensory experiences, like the color red . That definition, however, suffers from the difficulty of deciding which things are real (ie which things exist in reality). For example, it is difficult to accept concepts of God , the number three , and goodness are real, abstract, or both.

An approach to resolving such difficulty is to use predicates as a general term for variously real, abstract, concrete, or of a particular property (eg, good ). Questions about the Properties of Things Are Then propositions about predicates, qui REMAIN proposals to be Evaluated by the investigator. In the graph 1 below , the graphical relationships like the arrows joining boxes and ellipses might denote predicates.

Referencing and referring

Abstractions sometimes have ambiguous referents ; for example, ” happiness ” (when used as an abstraction) can Refer to’ve Many Things as there are people and events or states of being white qui make ’em happy. Likewise, ” architecture ” Refers not only to the design of safe, functional buildings, drank aussi to Elements of creation and innovation qui aim at elegant solutions to building problems, to the use of space, and to the attempt to evoke an emotional response in the builders, owners, viewers and users of the building.

Simplification and ordering

Abstractions uses a strategy of simplification, which are left ambiguous, vague, or undefined; effective communication about things in the abstract requires an intuitive or common experience between the communicator and the communication recipient. This is true for all verbal / abstract communication.

Conceptual graph for Cat sitting on the Mat (graph 1)
Cat on Mat (picture 1)

For example, many different things can be red . Likewise, many things sit on surfaces (as in picture 1 , to the right). The property of redness and the relation sitting-on are therefore abstractions of those objects. Specifically, the conceptual diagram graph 1 identifies only three boxes, two ellipses, and four arrows (and their five labels), whereas the picture shows a greater number of pictorial details, with the scores of implied relationships being implied in the picture rather than with the nine explicit details in the graph.

Graph 1 details some explicit relationships between the objects of the diagram. For example, the arrow between the agent and CAT: Elsie depicts an example of an is-a- relationship, as does the arrow between the rental and the MAT . The arrows entre les gerund / present participle SITTING and the nouns agent and rental express the diagram ‘s basic relationship; “agent is SITTING on location” ; Elsie is an instance of CAT . [10]

Although the description sitting-on (graph 1) is more than a graphic image of a cat sitting on a mat (picture 1), the delineation of abstract things is somewhat ambiguous; this ambiguity or vagueness is characteristic of abstraction. Thus, it is possible for six levels, as in Douglas Hofstadter’s illustration of that ambiguity, with a progression from abstract to concrete in Gödel, Escher, Bach (1979): [11]

(1) a publication

(2) a newspaper

(3) The San Francisco Chronicle

(4) the May 18 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle

(5) my copy of the May 18 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle

(6) my copy of the May 18 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle (English version)

An abstraction can thus encapsulate each of these levels of detail with no loss of generality . But perhaps a detective or philosopher / scientist / engineer might seek to learn something, to progressively deeper levels of detail, to solve a crime or a puzzle.

Thought processes

In philosophical terminology , abstraction is the thought process où ideas [12] are distanced from objects .

As used in different disciplines

In art

Main article: Abstraction (art)

Typically, abstraction is used in the arts as a synonym for abstract art in general. Strictly speaking, it refers to art unconcerned with the literal depiction of things from the visible world-it can, however, refer to an object or image which has been distilled from the real world, or indeed, another work of art. [13] Artwork that reshapes the natural world for expressive purposes is called abstract; that which derives from, but does not include a recognizable subject is called nonobjective abstraction. In the 20th century, the trend toward abstraction coincides with advances in science, technology, and changes in urban life, and eventually reflects an interest in psychoanalytic theory. [14]Later still, abstraction was manifest in more purely formal terms, such as color, freedom from objective, and a reduction of form to basic geometric designs. [15]

In computer science

Main article: Abstraction (software engineering)

Computer scientists use abstraction to make models that can be used and re-used by all types of computer software. They communicate Their solutions with the computer by writing source code In Some Particular computer language qui peut être translated into machine code for different kinds of computers to execute. Abstraction allows program designers to separate categories and concepts related to computing problems from specific instances of implementation. This means that the program can be written in the following ways: software or hardware, but on an abstract concept of the solution to the problem that can be integrated with the system with minimal additional work.

In linguistics

Main article: Abstraction (linguistics)

Abstraction is a highly applied method of linguistics . A Commonly regarded abstraction is the phoneme , qui abstracts speech sounds in Such a way as to neglect Details That can not serve to Differentiate meaning. Other analogous kinds of abstractions (sometimes called ” emic units “) considered by linguistics include morphemes , graphemes , and lexemes . Abstraction also in the relation between syntax , semantics , and pragmatics. Pragmatics involves considerations that make reference to the user of the language; semantics considers expressions and what they denote (the designata ) abstracted from the language user; and syntax considers only the expressions themselves, abstracted from the designata.

In mathematics

Main article: Abstraction (mathematics)

Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept, which is related to the subject .

The advantages of abstraction in mathematics are:

  • It reveals deep connections between different areas of mathematics
  • Known results in one area can suggest conjectures in a related area
  • Techniques and methods from one area can be applied to a related area

The main disadvantage of abstraction is that they are more difficult to learn, and require a degree of mathematical maturity and experience before they can be assimilated.

In music

In music, the term abstraction can be used to describe improvisatory approaches to interpretation, and may sometimes indicate abandonment of tone . Atonal music has no key signature, and is characterized by the exploration of internal numeric relationships. [16]

In neurology

Further information: Intelligence , Mental Rotation , and Mental Operations

A recent meta-analysis suggests that the verbal system has greater commitment to abstract concepts when the perceptual system is more involved in the processing of concrete concepts. This article is not available in English, but it has not been translated into English. [17] Other research into the human brain suggests that the left and right hemispheres differ in their handling of abstraction. For example, one meta-analysis reviewing human brain lesions has shown a left hemisphere bias during tool use. [18]

In philosophy

Abstraction in philosophy is the process (or, to some, the alleged process) in concept formation of recognizing some set of common features in individuals . The notion of abstraction is important to understanding some philosophical controversies surrounding empiricism and the problem of universals . It has recently become popular in formal logic under predicate abstraction . Another philosophical tool for discussion of abstraction is thought space .

In psychology

Carl Jung ‘s definition of abstraction broadened its scope beyond the thought process to include exactly four mutually exclusive, different emotional and psychological functions: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking. Together they form a structural totality of the differentiating abstraction process. Abstraction operates in one of these functions when it excludes the simultaneous influence of the other functions and other irrelevancies, such as emotion. Abstraction requires the use of this structural split of abilities in the psyche. The opposite of abstraction is concretism . Abstracts is one of Jung’s 57 definitions in Chapter XI of Psychological Types .

There is an abstract thinking , just as there is an abstract feeling , sensation and intuition . Abstract thinking about the rational, logical qualities … … I can not read abstract thoughts on the same level. … Abstract sensation would be aesthetic as opposed to sensuous sensation and abstract intuition would be symbolic as opposed to fantastic intuition . (Jung, 1921 (1971): 678).

In social theory

In social theory, abstraction is used as an ideational and material process. Alfred Sohn-Rethel , asked “Can there be abstraction other than by thought?” [2] He used the example of commodity abstraction to show that it does not matter what the reality is, and how it works. This work was extended through the ‘Constitutive Abstraction’ approach of writers associated with the Journal Arena . Two books that have taken this theme of the abstraction of social relations as an organizing process in human history. Nation Formation: Towards the Theory of Abstract Community .(1996) and the second volume of Towards the Theory of Abstract Community, published in 2006: Globalism, Nationalism, and Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In – Volume 2 of Towards the Theory of Abstract Community . These books argue that the nation is an abstract community bringing together strangers who will never meet as such; thus constituting materially real and substantial, but abstracted and mediated relations. The books suggest that contemporary processes of globalization and mediatization have contributed to materially abstracting relations between people, with major consequences for how we live.

It can be easily argued that it is an elementary methodological tool in several disciplines of social science. These disciplines are more specific and more specific in nature than those of the human being. For example, homo sociologicus is the man as sociology abstracts and idealizes it, depicting man as a social being. Moreover, we could talk about homo cyber sapiens [19] , or homo creativus [20] (who is simply creative).

Abstraction (combined with Weberian idealization ) plays a crucial role in economics . This is a phenomenon that has been characterized by a common trend in the 19th century (especially physics ), and this has been one of the most important aspects of social life. Newton’s physics and the neoclassical theory, since the goal was to grasp the unchangeable and timeless essence of phenomena. For example, NewtonThe concept of the concept of the material and the concept of the subject, the concept of the object and the structure of the object. Material point is the ultimate and common feature of all bodies. Neoclassical economists created the indefinitely abstract notion of homo economicus by following the same procedure. Economists abstract from all individual and personal qualities in order to get a better understanding of the essence of economic activity. Eventually, it is the substance of the economy that they try to grasp. Any characteristic beyond it only disturbs the functioning of this essential core. [21]

See also

  • Book: Abstraction
  • Thinking portal
  • Abstract and concrete
  • Abstract interpretation
  • Abstract labor and concrete labor
  • Abstract structure
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Conceptual model
  • Emergence
  • Engaged theory
  • Gottlob Frege
  • Hypostatic abstraction
  • Leaky abstraction
  • Lyrical abstraction
  • Nucleophilic abstraction
  • Object of the mind
  • Platonic realism
  • Reification (knowledge representation)
  • symbol
  • Inventor’s paradox


  1. ^ Jump up to:b Suzanne K. Langer (1953), Feeling and Form: a theory of art developed from Philosophy in a New Key p. 90: ” Sculptural form is a powerful abstraction from actual objects and the three-dimensional space which we construe … through touch and sight .”
  2. ^ Jump up to:b Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and manual labor: A critique of epistemology , Humanities Press, 1977
  3. Jump up^ Hesse, MB (1964), “Francis Bacon’s Philosophy of Science”, in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, ed. DJ O’Connor, New York, pp. 141-52.
  4. Jump up^ Chaitin, Gregory (2006), The Limits Of Reason (PDF) , archived fromthe original (PDF) on 2015-05-09
  5. Jump up^ Murray Gell-Mann(1995) “What is complexity? Remarks on simplicity and complexity by the Nobel Prize-winning author of the Quark and the Jaguar”Complexitystates the algorithmic information complexity (AIC) of some string of bits is the shortest length computer program which can print out that string of bits.
  6. Jump up^ Ross, L. (1987). The Problem of Construal in Social Inference and Social Psychology. In N. Grunberg, RE Nisbett, J. Singer (eds),A Distinctive Approach to psychological research: The influence of Stanley Schacter. Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum.
  7. Jump up^ James, Paul (2006). Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In – Volume 2 of Towards the Theory of Abstract Community . London: Sage Publications. , pp. 318-19.
  8. Jump up^ Eventually (Schmandt-Besserat estimates it took 4000 yearsArchivedJanuary 30, 2012, at theWayback Machine.) The marks on the outside of the containers were all that was needed to convey the count, and the clay containers evolved into clay tablets with marks for the count.
  9. Jump up^ Robson, Eleanor (2008). Mathematics in Ancient Iraq . ISBN  978-0-691-09182-2 . . p. 5: These calculations were used by the ECB, with commodity-specific counting representation systems. Balanced accounting was in use by 3000-2350 BCE, and asexagesimal number systemwas in use 2350-2000 BCE.
  10. Jump up^ Sowa, John F.(1984). Conceptual Structures: Information Processing in Mind and Machine. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-14472-7.
  11. Jump up^ Douglas Hofstadter(1979) Gödel, Escher, Bach
  12. Jump up^ But an idea can besymbolized. “A symbol is any device we are enabled to make an abstraction.” – p.xi and chapter 20 ofSuzanne K. Langer(1953),Feeling and Form: a theory of art developed fromPhilosophy in New Key : New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 431 pages, index.
  13. Jump up^ “abstract art” . Encyclopædia Britannica .
  14. Jump up^ Catherine de Zegher and Hendel Teicher (eds.),3 X Abstraction. NY / New Haven: The Drawing Center / Yale University Press. 2005.ISBN 0-300-10826-5
  15. Jump up^ National Gallery of Art: Abstraction. ArchivedJune 8, 2011, at theWayback Machine.
  16. Jump up^ Washington State University: Glossary of Abstraction.ArchivedSeptember 11, 2007, at theWayback Machine.
  17. Jump up^ Wang, Jing; Conder, Julie A .; Blitzer, David N .; Shinkareva, Svetlana V. (2010). “Neural Representation of Abstract and Concrete Concepts: A Meta-Analysis of Neuroimaging Studies”. Human Brain Mapping . 31 : 1459-1468. doi : 10.1002 / hbm.20950 .
  18. Jump up^ James W. Lewis “Cortical Networks Related to Human Use of Tools”12(3): 211-231The Neuroscientist(June 1, 2006).
  19. Jump up^ Steels, Luc (1995). The Homo Cyber ​​Sapiens, the Homonidus Intelligens Robot, and the Artificial Life Approach to Artificial Intelligence . Brussel: Vrije Universiteit, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
  20. Jump up^ Inkinen, Sam (2009). Homo Creativus – Creativity and Serendipity Management in Third Generation Science and Technology Parks. Science and Public Policy . 36 (7): 537-548.
  21. Jump up^ Galbács, Peter (2015). “Methodological Principles and an Epistemological Introduction”. The Theory of New Classical Macroeconomics. A Positive Criticism . Heidelberg / New York / Dordrecht / London: Springer. pp. 1-52. ISBN  978-3-319-17578-2 .