A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Determining and “Nothing”

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on March 27, 2006

In a previous post I described an issue which appears when talking about determining and given. (if you have stumbled into this post, please instead of reading it directly, read the posts as recomended here)

In my thinking the given can meet abstraction only on one place – nothing. Ok, it suddenly might sound unnecessarily metaphysical, and vague, but let me explain how it falls within the whole explanation of the semantics of abstraction, attention and determining as explained.

We said that abstraction as act, is abstracting from some things and its result is something given. But, it is possible to abstract from everything, and in that case there is nothing left, the result is only impossibility to attend to anything (else), impossibility for further determining. And here we have that place where the result is abstract, we have given which is nothing but this impossibility.
Now, let’s say that we have some given (as result of previous abstraction), and that:

  1. We can do certain abstraction (let’s call it A1) on it
  2. By abstracting-from (whatever is given by) that abstraction (A1) we are given nothing

Here we have case where we can say that the given is determined as that certain abstraction.
This might be not clear, so here are some concrete examples:

Let’s see how this would function in case of quale being determined as red.
As result of focus, we are given a quale. If we can determine this quale as red (e.g. if we can focus on its redness), and if by abstracting from it being red, we get nothing (else), we end up abstractly with “red”. So, we say that quale is determined as red.

The opposite example would be quale, where we can determine it as blue(e.g. we can focus on its blueness), but where after abstracting from that blue, there is still something left. By trying to focus on the that which is left, we might determine it as green for example. But the moment our focus goes from blue to green, we are aware that we have not determined it (as by abstracting from it being green, we are not left with nothing). I hope that in talking about this, I suceeded to remind you about your first encounters with what we call cyan, and your fight to determine the quale.

I will try to show in next posts how the account of determining as explored here, has nice explanatory power. Stay tuned.

Note 1: I guess it is this significance of the undeterminable being (which is given) and its equality to nothing (as abstraction from everything), that is the reason Hegel takes those two concepts as a starting point of his Science of Logic. Seems to me that this is only point where given can meet the abstract.

Note 2:The notion of abstract impossibility goes nicely with those parts of the explanation of meaning of determine (from the dictionaries) which mention “to ascertain definately”, or “to determine with certainty”.

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2 Responses to “Determining and “Nothing””

  1. i do not agree with the interpretations of ‘abstaction’ as derived from the various dictionaries. conceptually you cannot ‘take away’ to arrive as something more only at something less.this is becaUSE a concept is already a composite of a number of things/ideas etc. thus to take away from it only leads to primary aspects (or constituent elements) of the concept. An abstraction must inevitably lead to a new concept. A quale such as RED (used in your example)cannot be reduced conceptually without leaving it without any constituent elements and thus reducing the quale to no thing.
    Colour is conceptually constructed as sensory concretes – they cannot be defined except by restating them; thus axiomatic in nature. they also cannot be known except by means of comparison with other colours. Thus one cannot teach a blind person what red looks like visually.
    lastly: the concept of nothing is a derivative… it means the absence of existents. NOthing is not available to the senses and thus cannot be conceptually arrived at from any form or sensation or perception because any sensation or perception would be something not nothing.

  2. Brood^ said

    Johann, thanks for your comments on my posts.
    Let me try to address your points:

    1.As for the meaning of abstraction, I pointed in the first post that it is the way of how I use the word. And I gave the quotes from dictionaries to point that it is not unusual usage of the word, and that the dictionaries even point to such usage. Of course other people might use it in different ways, but I must ask readers to take it in the explained (intended) meaning.

    2.I still haven’t posted on concepts. The relation of abstraction and perception is just an preparing of the ground, so I can go to the problematics of concepts later. Concepts, are, as you note more complex. The abstraction, attention and determining are things which I think play very important role in the problematic of concepts.

    3.An abstraction as used is removing, and I must say for clearing up, for now abstraction (as an act of abstracting here), is connected just to the case of (direct) perception. For sure memory, imagination, etc… have very important roles in the cognition, but up until now, the abstraction, attention and determining should be taken just as they “work” in the direct perception of the things.

    4.You are making me realize that by using words, that necessarily the question of the threatment of concepts appears, and so it is understandable that some kind of reflextions from your side on the concepts like “nothing” etc. are necessary. But, as I said, I will hopefully come to the issue of concepts, words, etc. afterwards, and I hope then my earlier posts and usage of some of words (as nothing) will also make more sense.

    5.As for the issue of colors, as noted in this post, I will prepare new post where I will try to show to some issues, and how my approach makes sense of those issues.

    Again, thanks for the comment. :)

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