THE DEFINITION OF ABSTRACTION
An abstraction is a state of mind
which reveals orders of distinction
that constitute the whole or part
of the structures and substructures
of the universe.
Any language or information-based system
which uses images, words, or symbols
to represent other states, systems, or events
is an abstraction.
For example, mathematics and art
are abstract systems. The languages, methods and tools
associated with these media were created and evolved
as a means of representing, simulating, and modeling
a variety of complex relationships and events
occurring within and around the human sphere
of activity and observation.
The human senses, including the primary senses
of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell
are finely tuned to detect a variety
of physical events in the surrounding media,
including light, sound, and temperature.
These physical events
are expressed in informational units or ‘quanta’
such as frequency, amplitude, and velocity.
The primary sensory detectors,
as well as other ‘senses’,
receive the information and transmit it to the brain,
where it is represented, abstractly,
in a variety of forms.
As the information is collected by the senses
it is modified and reshaped,
both by the sensory input device,
such as the eye, ear, or skin,
and by various functions of the brain.
Together, the sense organs and the brain
limit, select, and abstract sensory information,
which ultimately forms the basis of perception.
It is not the sense organs, or the functions
of the brain which are abstract,
It is the data itself, the information patterns
which represent the light, sound, and temperature,
that is abstract.
An abstraction is anything conceptual.
Concepts, thoughts, and ideas are abstractions.
Concepts are the result of high-level functions of the brain
such as categorization, representation, transference,
and modeling of various information states or systems.
Thoughts are patterns of information
which are consciously processed in the brain
as images, words, or symbols.
Ideas are thoughts
which are associated with a specific course of action
or with solving a particular problem.
Concepts, thoughts, and ideas
are derived from external information
that is filtered through the senses, and from
genetic information which has been transmitted
from one generation to the next.
The significant influence
of sensory and genetic information operating within the brain
is consciously and unconsciously demonstrated
through normal patterns of human behavior.
Conversely, the impact of concepts, thoughts, and ideas
on the external world of physical events
is observed through the consequent changes
which are imposed on the surrounding environment.
The brain is a product of the physical environment
in which it has evolved. And the environment,
perhaps to a lesser extent, is influenced
by collective human behavior.
Although abstractions are the result
of physical processes which occur within the brain,
physical events in general, and the perception of these events,
function independently of one another.
Physical events continue to persist
irrespective of any observation or perception of them.
The act of storing and processing
information in the brain
is a complex process which,
by means of feedback and reflection,
describes the behavior of both itself
and the universe of which it is a part.
(title image: John Cage, Water media and smoke on rag paper)