Topic: abstraction by name

topics > Group: philosophy

natural language

discrete vs. continuous
mathematics as a formal system
number as a named set of numbers
symbolic representation
words in natural languages


Names can be treated as an abstraction for the thing named. Name instantly abstracts away all details, leaving only a discrete concept. This is necessary to thought.

Identifying names with universals, as is done in nominalism, leaves important questions unanswered. One can no longer describe membership, or explain the regularities of the world. Perhaps this is better called representing an abstraction by name, i.e., the abstraction or concept already exists and a name is the reference.

In some areas though, people can agree on a name and thus identify the name with the abstraction. For example 'sin', 'cosine', '2' have universal meanings. This is the approach taken by Thesa in that its database is the agreement about what names are. That these names also tie into concepts that already exist is a happy coincidence.

We still have to be careful of leaving our use of language out of our abstractions. If we do, we lose the very meaning that we are trying to capture. But maybe our abstractions gain meaning through use in language, just like a highway designation. (cbb 4/94)

Subtopic: naming is abstraction up

Quote: there is nothing universal but names; the things named are not themselves universal [»hobbT_1650, OK]
Quote: abstraction means having complex entities as units represented by their names
Quote: the central idea of Thesa is abstraction, i.e., the ability to refer to anything by name [»cbb_1973, OK]
Quote: consider this sequence: Godfather, Paris Theater, Paris at 58th and 5th, turn left... [»martJ_1975, OK]
Quote: component reuse is most successful in application domains with "one-word" abstractions such as sine and matrix multiply; universally understood [»krueCW6_1992]
Quote: development of math notation: variable names, functions, symbol lists, numeric rep, vectors/etc. as entities, quantity vs. representation [»falkAD8_1978, OK]
Quote: abstraction and user-definable concepts require the ability to name objects, operations, and parameters
Quote: REST manipulates resources and concepts by transferring representations using a resource identifier and generic interface; allows independent authoring across multiple trust domains [»fielRT5_2002]

Subtopic: concept as a unit, for explanations up

Quote: biological concepts are simple but they include extreme complexity; otherwise no theory or no need for a theory [»thomR_1975]
Quote: a concept is a unit, i.e., it is discrete; e.g., easier to remember discrete relationships than continuous quantities [»sowaJF_1984]
Quote: if an event is to be explained, it must be viewed as nonunique, a member of a class [»pylyZW_1986]
Quote: we can form no idea of our distance from the sun; yet we don't doubt the calculation nor avoid using it for further inferences [»fregG_1884]
Quote: physical terms derive their utility from our compelling need for simple and striking statements of the laws of the sensible world [»pylyZW_1986]
Quote: initially a highway is fictitious, just signs and a map; with time, becomes a conceptual entity [»nelsTH_1974]
Quote: things are one when they are of the same kind or genus, despite differentiae; e.g., animals [»aris_322a]

Subtopic: naming through use, language is private up

Quote: words are tools to convey meanings in order to achieve objectives
Quote: we tend to think about meaning abstractly, in isolation from its uses, but meaning depends on context and use; causes skepticism [»pitkHF_1972]
Quote: Locke holds that necessarily every language is private; meaning is an idea in the mind of the speaker (who knows nothing of other minds) [»martAP_1990]

Subtopic: symbols of thought up

Quote: abstraction is a visible reference to something in the mind; a node in an information web [»cbb_1973, OK]
Quote: thoughts without symbols fly away in the wind [»sowaJF_1984]
Quote: for young children, a word is a whole sentence [»vyotLS_1962]
QuoteRef: vyotLS_1962 ;;153 "A word is microcosm of human consciousness
QuoteRef: cbb_1973 ;;2/5/78 abstraction is a channel of communication between minds without reference to other beings.
QuoteRef: cbb_1973 ;;12/12/76 self referencing requires abstraction

Subtopic: naming not the same as concept up

Quote: in conceptual modeling, an object is not the same as a unique name; allows missing proper names, modified names, and multiple names [»borgA1_1985]
Quote: are all classes of the same size, the same 'number'? if so, when do names refer to the same thing (e.g., overlapping shadows) [»wittL_1939]

Subtopic: symbol vs. a mark, mathematics up

Quote: in ontological symbolism, a symbol refers to an independent object or thing; with operative symbolism (Leibniz), the meaning of symbols is irrelevant to their manipulation [»kramS2_1996]
Quote: APPL = [opr: EXP, opnd: EXP] defines a set APPL, selectors opr and opnd, classifier appl?, and constructor mk-appl
Quote: use abstract syntax expressions to define, construct, analyze, and classify sets of abstract expressions; e.g., APPL = [opr: EXP, opnd: EXP] defines a set APPL, selectors opr and opnd, classifier appl?, and constructor mk-appl

Related Topics up

Group: formalism   (9 topics, 478 quotes)
Group: naming   (32 topics, 789 quotes)
Group: natural language   (16 topics, 539 quotes)
Group: parameters   (10 topics, 145 quotes)

Topic: abstraction (62 items)
Topic: discrete vs. continuous (47 items)
Topic: existence (29 items)
Topic: mathematics as a formal system (30 items)
Topic: number as a named set of numbers (15 items)
Topic: symbolic representation (26 items)
Topic: words in natural languages
(40 items)

Updated barberCB 3/04
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Thesa is a trademark of C. Bradford Barber.