Concrete Abstract Statements

ISSN 2567-6458, 19.August 2022 – 19 August 2022
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch


This text is part of the subject COMMON SCIENCE as Sustainable Applied Empirical Theory, besides ENGINEERING, in a SOCIETY. It is a preliminary version, which is intended to become part of a book.

Concrete – Abstract Statements

From the everyday language we know that we can talk ‘about the world’, and even more, we can even ‘act’ with the language. [11] – [13] Saying “Give me the butter, please”, in that case a ‘normal’ [*2] speaker would ‘hear’ the ‘sound of the statement’, he can ‘translate the sound’ into some internal meaning constructs related to the sounds of the language, which in turn will — usually — be ‘matched against’ meaning constructs ‘actually provided’ by the ‘perception’. If there happens to be a ‘sufficiently well match’ then the hearer can identify ‘something concrete’ located on the table which he can associate with the ‘activated language related meaning’ and he then ‘knows’, that this concrete something on the table seems to be an ‘instance’ of those things which are called ‘butter’. But there can exist many different ‘concrete things’ which we agree to accept as ‘instances’ of the meaning construct ‘butter’. Thus, already in very usual everyday situations we encounter the fact, that our perceptions can create signals from ‘something concrete in our perceptions’ and our ‘language-mediated understanding’ can create ‘meaning structures’ which can ‘match’ nearly uncountable different concrete things. [*3] Those meaning constructs — activated by the language, but different from the language — which can match more than one concrete perception, will here be called ‘abstract meaning’ or ‘abstract concept’. And ‘words’ (= expressions) of a language which can activate such abstract meanings are understood as ‘abstract words’, ‘general words’, ‘category words’ or the like. [*4]

Knowing this you will probably detect, that nearly all words of a language are ‘abstract words’ activating ‘abstract meanings’. This is in one sense ‘wonderful’, because the real empirical world consists of uncountable many concrete perceivable properties and to relate every concrete property with an individually matching word would turn the project of language into an infeasible task. Thus with only a few abstract words language users can talk about ‘nearly everything’. This makes language communication possible. The ‘dark side’ of this wonderful ability is the necessity to provide real situations, if you want to demonstrate which of all these concrete properties of a real situation you want to be understood as ‘related’ to the one used word (= language expression) with an abstract meaning. If you cannot provide such ‘concrete situations’ the intended meaning of your abstract words will stay ‘unclear’: they can mean ‘nothing or all’, depending from the decoding of the hearer.

— draft version —