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Concrete ideas are those which first enter the mind, and they are derived either from material objects, external actions, or the qualities belonging to them; that is, from such things as can be felt, actions seen, or qualities perceived by the senses. All words representing such ideas are termed “concrete.” The noun "man," the verb "strike," and the adjective " long," are commonly used in a concrete sense.
But the human mind has the power of taking away, or abstracting, any one quality from an object of sense, and considering it apart from all others which may belong to that object, or apart from the object itself. This faculty of the mind is called abstraction, and the ideas of the qualities thus drawn off (or abstracted) are called abstract. Thus, as above said, the word “
man is the general sign of a concrete idea; but if, in contemplating the object “man," we choose to consider his strength apart from all his other qualities ;-or his grace alone-or his height alone, exclusively of all other considerations, we then abstract, or draw away, these qualities from the “man.” The ideas of such qualities are called abstract ideas, and the words which represent them are called abstract.
Copy out the words marked in italics in the following sentences, putting all the concrete terms in one column, and all the abstract in another.
The horse is an animal of great strength—What is the value of that watch ? — The book was elegantly bound in blue cloth-Julius Cæsar was noted for his generosity - The little boy's lameness hindered his walking as fast as his companions — I had an opportunity of looking him steadily in the face-Industry and regularity are the surest means of wealth — The attitude of European affairs was then very threaten- . ing- Immense and furious was the crowd of pursuers
- The cardinal had attained to great eminence— He was an eloquent preacher, and his instructions were touching and impressive — He was, in every sense, the greatest sovereign of the age — This writer was the poet of the people - Virtue is its own reward.
Change the words in italics in the following sentences into their corresponding abstract nouns.
This difficult exercise puzzles me — Every one admired the learned man- - The severe weather has made us ill — The long journey fatigued me- I was enchanted with the beautiful scenery — They were much pleased with his lively conversation - Persons of good taste prefer simple nature to embellished art
- The whole party was saved by the brave soldiers -All are attracted by her modest deportment - The high tree was measured He is a very strong man
- These true words made a deep impression — They interrupted the merry party - It is necessary to be
temperate — Nothing can be done without persevering
- Not to know these things is shameful — The boy declared he was innocent — The proud man
humbled - This curious boy will be punished - To obey our superiors is commanded us— To be patient under misfortunes is extremely difficult - The barbarous tyrant was detested-All admired the sublime poet - The humane governor was praised - To say nothing is often commendable - The boy showed
. himself grateful — I quite approve of your being kind to your companions — The mother expressed herself anxious about her children's welfare.
There is another power of the mind connected with abstraction, which is yet to be distinguished from it; viz., generalisation. These two terms are often con. founded, and it is therefore of consequence that we should understand the difference between them. Generalisation depends upon abstraction ; for, without the latter the former could not be performed. For example, when in thinking on any one object, such as a tree, we consider it as regards its age alone, or its height, or form, or any other of its qualities, in each and all of these cases we perform abstraction.
But when any one, contemplating a number of individual objects, observes that they all possess certain qualities in common, and, in consequence of this observation, he gives them a name which applies equally to them all — this is to generalise.?
1 “Generalisation” is derived from the Latin generalis ; and this again from genus, a class. To generalise is to reduce particulars to their genera, or classes.
In abstraction, we contemplate but one quality of an object at a time, excluding for that time the consideration of all its other qualities. In generalising, we contemplate several objects together, and observing that they all agree in certain particulars, we make a class (or genus) of them, and call them all by the same name. It is then evident that we can abstract without generalising, but that we cannot generalise without abstracting.
It is upon this principle that are formed what are called common terms, or, in grammar, common nouns. In consequence of their agreeing in a certain number of particulars (or having certain qualities in common) a large class of objects received the same name. Thus, when we meet with a building constructed with walls, and having a roof to shelter its inmates from the inclemency of the weather, we call such a thing “a house," without attending to the almost infinite variety which is well known to exist among such objects. For though we all know that no two houses agree in every particular, as long as they are found to agree in a certain number of circumstances, they will all be called by the same general termhouse. Now, it is clear that this process of generalisation could not have been performed without the power of abstraction ; for it is in consequence of abstracting, in each case, the same qualities from these objects, that we find them to agree in possessing such qualities.
Proper names, on the other hand, are applied, not to a class or number of objects agreeing in certain particulars, but to single individuals. Whenever I meet with a large stream of water flowing into a sea or lake, I call such an object a “river,” because it agrees in these particulars with a large class of things. But if I wish to designate that individual river which flows by London, and falls into the German Ocean, I must apply the term Thames. The use of this, and of all other proper names, is to distinguish an individual object from all others of its class.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SENSES.
Most words may be used in two, and some in three senses; but in all cases there is a connection between the first or primary meaning, and the secondary signification. These senses
may be classed as primary (or concrete), and secondary (abstract, or metaphorical). Some English words, however, are not found in a secondary sense, and others have only an abstract signification, having lost their original concrete sense. Lastly, some words are used in two senses, both concrete. For example, the word "head," in the expression "my head aches," is used in its original concrete sense.
In the sentence, “ The boy is at the head of his class," it has a secondary, abstract meaning; whereas, in the line, “ The mountain lifts his head above the storm," it is applied in a metaphorical sense.