Saturday, June 01, 2013

Abstraction

Probably no intellectual tool is more powerful than that of abstraction - the ability to see analogies and the development of general rules that apply to diverse and apparently different situations. Our most powerful tool for abstraction is language - itself a peculiarly potent abstraction from reality, creating a deep analogy between sound patterns and the events and objects of the world.
Language, though, is itself kind of an analogy with some mostly pre-existing representations of the world that exist in our minds. This strongly implies that humans didn't invent abstraction or analogy. The most fundamental abstraction we know of seems to be the genetic code. Patterns of nucleotides in DNA are translated through a vast and complicated apparatus into proteins and all the mechanisms that support life.