And why do people accuse philosophy of being too abstract when they fail to understand it?
In philosophical terminology
is the thought process
are distanced from objects
. Abstraction uses a strategy
of simplification, wherein formerly concrete details are left ambiguous, vague, or undefined; thus effective communication
about things in the abstract requires an intuitive
or common experience between the communicator and the communication recipient. This is true for all verbal/abstract communication.
Abstraction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I think the answer to your second question is hidden above in the answer to your first. I suggest looking into linguistic philosophy. Here's a little scoop on that, also from Wiki:
Wittgenstein held that the meanings of words reside in their ordinary uses, and that is why philosophers trip over words taken in abstraction
. From England came the idea that philosophy has got into trouble by trying to understand words outside of the context of their use in ordinary language (cf. contextualism
For example: What is reality
? Philosophers have treated it as a noun denoting something that has certain properties. For thousands of years, they have debated those properties. Ordinary Language philosophy would instead look at how we use the word "reality". In some instances, people will say, "It seems to me that so-and-so; but in reality
, such-and-such is the case". But this expression isn't used to mean that there is some special dimension of being that such-and-such has that so-and-so doesn't have. What we really mean is, "So-and-so only sounded right, but was misleading in some way. Now I'm about to tell you the truth: such-and-such". That is, "in reality" is a bit like "however". And the phrase, "The reality of the matter is ..." serves a similar function - to set the listener's expectations. Further, when we talk about a "real gun", we aren't making a metaphysical statement about the nature of reality; we are merely opposing this gun to a toy gun, pretend gun, imaginary gun, etc.
The controversy really begins when ordinary language philosophers apply the same leveling tendency to questions such as What is Truth?
or What is Consciousness?
. Philosophers in this school would insist that we cannot assume that (for example) 'Truth' 'is' a 'thing' (in the same sense that tables and chairs are 'things'), which the word 'truth' represents. Instead, we must look at the differing ways in which the words 'truth' and 'conscious' actually function in ordinary language. We may well discover, after investigation, that there is no single entity to which the word 'truth' corresponds, something Wittgenstein attempts to get across via his concept of a 'family resemblance' (cf. Philosophical Investigations
). Therefore ordinary language philosophers tend to be anti-essentialist
. Of course, this was and is a very controversial viewpoint. Anti-essentialism and the linguistic philosophy associated with it are often important to contemporary accounts of feminism
, and other social philosophies that are critical of the injustice of the status quo
. The essentialist 'Truth' as 'thing' is argued to be closely related to projects of domination, where the denial of alternate truths is understood to be a denial of alternate forms of living. Similar arguments sometimes involve ordinary language philosophy with other anti-essentialist movements like post-structuralism