When you are familiar with someone who has a disorder that makes it difficult for him to process abstract information, you begin to realize just how important abstract thinking is when it comes to functioning in day-to-day life.
An abstract is theoretical in nature. It has no form or substance. Examples of abstractions include such concepts as time, infinity, negative numbers, love, justice, intuition, common sense and axioms.
Among the most interesting abstractions are axioms, because even though we rely heavily on them, an axiom cannot be proven. That’s right – an axiom is an unprovable, though self-evident, truth.
Negative numbers are also fascinating. A negative number is nothing more than a theoretical supposition – a presumption that it exists, but not in concrete form. (How can you have minus six oranges?)
And, course, one of the most difficult abstract notions to grasp is life itself. This was driven home by the ancient Chinese philosopher Chuang-tzu when he described the following experience:
Once upon a time, I … dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly I awoke, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming that I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man.
What I’m driving at here is that we live in an abstract world, a world filled with abstract thought, existence and causality. A world where time, being and substance are not provable. Yet, through firsthand experience, we can be pretty certain that all of the above-mentioned phenomena exist.
In other words, there’s a lot more to reality than the material world we are able to see. Clearly, we ignore intangible realities at our peril. We cannot see gravity, but firsthand experience teaches us not to attempt to defy it.
Which brings me to language abstractions – phrases and statements that exist only as figments of one’s imagination, i.e., products of mental invention. These imaginary language products are the stock and trade of politicians.
As the presidential marathon heats up over the next 19 months, we will, as always, be saturated with these mental inventions. It’s a scary thought, but, the truth be known, virtually all presidential candidates today are to the left of FDR, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. All, save a handful of non-threatening independents, are members of one of the two factions (Republicans and Democrats) of the “Demopublican” Party.
And all of them – whether proclaiming to be conservative or liberal – never tire of babbling about such abstractions as “the good of society,” “social consciousness,” “fair pay,” “decent living,” “the poor,” … “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah …”
But what in the world do these things mean? They are, in fact, nothing more than self-righteous gobbledygook that can only be defined subjectively. Nevertheless, politicians and save-the-world crusaders talk about them as though they were absolutes.
Take, for example, “the good of society.” The word society refers to a group of individuals living within a certain geographical area. But the well?being and welfare of each individual in a society is different from that of his neighbor. What is good for one individual is not necessarily good for others. When politicians pass a law to help me fulfill my desires, that same law might very well be an impediment to your fulfilling your desires. Worse, it may impinge on your freedom.
The same logic applies to an abstract term such as “decent standard of living.” What in the world is a decent standard of living? Is everyone “entitled” to a home? If so, how expensive a home and in what neighborhood? Is everyone entitled to a car? What kind? A Chevy? A Ford? What about the individual who desires a Rolls Royce? Why should his desire be any less relevant than that of the person who is willing to settle for a compact car?
Clearly, the Founding Fathers did not consider the needs and desires of individuals to be any of the government’s business. The relevant question is not whether someone desires something or says he needs it. If human rights are to be respected, the relevant question is whether he has the ability to pay for it and/or the willingness to work for it. What every human being deserves is exactly what the highest bidder will pay him in a free market, without regard to his desires.
If an alien from another galaxy – say, a resident of Planet Logic – were to land on Planet Earth tomorrow and witness the presidential campaigns now under way, he surely would be scratching his head at the abstract nonsense being spewed out on a daily basis by nearly all of the candidates.
Woe be unto him who refuses to play the abstraction babble game – especially if he has the impudence to give liberty a higher priority than all other objectives. Such a creature is almost certain to remain unknown to the general public. (Examples: Rep. Ron Paul and the late Harry Browne.)
Perhaps voters should familiarize themselves with the words of 16th century political philosopher Etienne de la Boetie, who summed it up this way: “It is incredible how as soon as a people becomes subject, it promptly falls into such complete forgetfulness of its freedom that it can hardly be roused to the point of regaining it, obeying so easily and so willingly that one is led to say … that this people has not so much lost its liberty as won its enslavement.”
But, then, all Demopublicans would be voted out of office and would have to learn to create value for others to survive in the real world.
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