Ideas of Jonathan Barnes, by Theme

[British, b.1942, At Balliol College, Oxford, for many years.]

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18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 8. Abstractionism Critique
Abstraction from an ambiguous concept like 'mole' will define them as the same
     Full Idea: The procedure of abstraction will not allow us to distinguish the ambiguity between 'mole' as an animal and as an artefact. The stages of abstraction will only end up with 'physical object', and this will then count as the definition.
     From: Jonathan Barnes (Commentary on 'Posterior Analytics [1993], n to 97b7)
     A reaction: This is a problem if you adhere to a rather precise account of the steps of abstraction, with every stage explicit (and probably expressed in terms of sets), but I suspect that the real tangle of semi-conscious abstraction avoids this problem.
Abstraction cannot produce the concept of a 'game', as there is no one common feature
     Full Idea: Abstractions cannot account for those general terms whose instances do not have any set of features in common. The word 'game' is not ambiguous, but not all games have one thing in common; they are united by looser 'family resemblance'.
     From: Jonathan Barnes (Commentary on 'Posterior Analytics [1993], n to 97b7)
     A reaction: (This point comes from Wittgenstein, Idea 4141) English-speakers can't agree on borderline cases (avoiding cracks in pavements). Life is just a game. The objection would be refuted by discussion of higher-level abstractions to make connections.
Defining concepts by abstractions will collect together far too many attributes from entities
     Full Idea: If we create abstractions by collection of attributes common to groups of entities, we will collect far too many attributes, and wrongly put them into the definition (such as 'having hairless palms' when identifying 'men').
     From: Jonathan Barnes (Commentary on 'Posterior Analytics [1993], n to 97b7)
     A reaction: [compressed] Defining 'man' is a hugely complex business (see Idea 1763!), unlike defining 'hair' or 'red'. Some attributes will strike perceivers immediately, but absence of an attribute is not actually 'perceived' at all.