Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Dictionary of philosophy and psychology including many of the principal conceptions of ethics, logics, aesthetics ... and giving a terminology in English, French, German and Italian, vol. 1 [a-laws]
Baldwin, James Mark
the Race, chap, xi, with quotation from Rojce, 
330. See Bibliog. C, 2, a, and systematic 
works on psychology. (g.f.s.) 
Abstraction [Lat. ab tradiere, to draw]: 
Ger. Abstraktion - Fr. abstraction ; Ital. as- 
trazione. Concentration of attention on those 
parts or characters of an object which are 
treated as relevant to the special interest 
of the moment, and its consequent with¬ 
drawal from those which are irrelevant. 
Sometimes those characters which are speci¬ 
ally attended to are said to be abstracted, viz. 
separated from the whole to which they belong. 
But so far as this language is accurate at all 
it applies to all selective interests. It is essen¬ 
tial to abstraction to be prepared to recognize 
and disregard the irrelevant, and Avhat is recog¬ 
nized as irrelevant is ipso facto abstracted 
The interest on which abstraction depends 
must be of a certain kind. Something being 
initially presented as part of a given context, 
abstraction occurs only when the interest of 
thought lies in following out its relations, 
not within, but outside this context. To this 
end its relations within the given context 
must be as far as jDOssible ignored; and when 
they obtrude themselves, they must be recog¬ 
nized as irrelevant, and for that reason dis¬ 
regarded. Such a process may demand more 
or less strenuous effort or ‘ resistant concen¬ 
tration ’ (Sully). A child may attend pre¬ 
dominantly to the ‘ lustre of sunlit water ’ 
simply because it is the most impres¬ 
sive item within the context of its sense 
experience at the moment. In this case 
there is no process of abstraction. But 
abstraction is present in a well-marked form 
when a psychologist attends to the lustre of 
the water, because he is interested in analys¬ 
ing the perception of lustre in general, what¬ 
ever may be the particular circumstances of 
its occurrence. 
Abstraction is to be distinguished from 
analysis. The governing interest in analysis 
lies in discerning partial constituents within 
a given complex. The governing interest in 
abstraction lies in relating the partial con¬ 
stituents of a complex to partial constituents 
of other complexes. (g.f.s., j.m.b.) 
Genetically, abstraction seems to be an 
adaptive function. The vague ‘ general ’ with 
Avhich the child may be thought to start out 
in his treatment of an object is found to lead 
him into difficulties—notably in cases in 
which he adopts a word from his social fel¬ 
lows and applies it too widely, by the broad 
inclusion of similars. He is forced to adapt 
himself to differences, and this is genetically, 
no doubt, the beginning of abstraction. So in 
the case given above, when the child finds that 
the lustre of the water disappears so soon as 
he changes his position, the process of abstract¬ 
ing lustre has begun. He does not intention¬ 
ally seek for a given quality in similar objects ; 
that would require the abstract idea before¬ 
hand ready-made. On the contrary, he acts 
upon his concrete perception or image, 
and finds differences compelling him to drop 
out inconsistent details, which then become in 
so far irrelevant to his future use of the idea. 
This growth in intention at the expense of 
extension gradually results in the relative 
isolation of this or that mark or quality, 
according to the exigencies of this or that 
interest from moment to moment. It has 
been called a sort of ‘ erosion ' or wearing 
down. "When the mental habit of compari¬ 
son and logical analysis has been acquired, 
this process is less important, giving way 
to deliberate exclusion and inclusion of 
marks. (j.m.b., g.f.s.) 
Literature : A. Meinong, Vtljsch. f. wiss. 
Philos. (1888), 329 ff. ; general Avorks on 
psychology. (g.f.s.—j.m.b.) 
Absurd (in logic): Ger. sinnlos; Fr. 
absurde ; Ital. assurdo. See Fallacy, and 
Reductio ad absukdum. 
Academy and NeAv Academy [Gr. A 


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