1. Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
2. Love is one kind of abstraction. And then there are those nights when I sleep alone, when I curl into a pillow that isn’t you, when I hear the tiptoe sounds that aren’t yours. It’s not as if I can conjure you up completely. I must embrace the idea of you instead.
3. Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.
4. And in this passion for understanding her soul lay close to his; she had him all to herself. But he must be made abstract first.
5. People who are too fastidious towards the finite never reach actuality, but linger in abstraction, and their light dies away.
6. What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
7. It always seems as though the definition of love will remain debatable by an opinionated world.
8. The propensity to excessive simplification is indeed natural to the mind of man, since it is only by abstraction and generalisation, which necessarily imply the neglect of a multitude of particulars, that he can stretch his puny faculties so as to embrace a minute portion of the illimitable vastness of the universe. But if the propensity is natural and even inevitable, it is nevertheless fraught with peril, since it is apt to narrow and falsify our conception of any subject under investigation. To correct it partially – for to correct it wholly would require an infinite intelligence – we must endeavour to broaden our views by taking account of a wide range of facts and possibilities; and when we have done so to the utmost of our power, we must still remember that from the very nature of things our ideas fall immeasurably short of the reality.
9. You can define a net two ways, depending on your point of view. Normally you would say it is a meshed instrument designed to catch fish. But you could, with no great injury to logic, reverse the image and define the net as a jocular lexicographer once did: he called it a collection of holes tied together with string.
10. This idea that there is generality in the specific is of far-reaching importance.
11. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.
12. It is an excellent habit to look at things as so many symbols.
13. All religions are good ‘in principle’ – but unfortunately this abstract Good has only rarely prevented their practitioners from behaving like bastards.
14. Abstraction can provide stumbling blocks for people of strange intelligence.
15. Our intelligence cannot wall itself up alive, like a pupa in a chrysalis. It must at any cost keep on speaking terms with the universe that engendered it.
16. I was reminded of a painter friend who had started her career by depicting scenes from life, mainly deserted rooms, abandoned houses and discarded photographs of women. Gradually, her work became more abstract, and in her last exhibition, her paintings were splashes of rebellious color, like the two in my living room, dark patches with little droplets of blue. I asked about her progress from modern realism to abstraction. Reality has become so intolerable, she said, so bleak, that all I can paint now are the colors of my dreams.
17. Remember that every science is based upon an abstraction. An abstraction is taking a point of view or looking at things under a certain aspect or from a particular angle. All sciences are differentiated by their abstraction.
18. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract.
19. On almost every front, we have begun a turning away from a felt relationship with the natural world. The blinding of the stars is only one aspect of this retreat from the real. In so many ways, there has been a prising away of life from place, an abstraction of experience into different kinds of touchlessness. We experience, as no historical period has before, disembodiment and dematerialisation. The almost infinite connectivity of the technological world, for all the benefits that it has brought, has exacted a toll in the coin of contact. We have in many ways forgotten what the world feels like. And so new maladies of the soul have emerged, unhappinesses which are complicated products of the distance we have set between ourselves and the world.
20. And the words people said were just shadows of real things. But some things were too big to be really trapped in words, and even the words were too powerful to be completely tamed by writing.
21. A desire to believe (despite all evidence to the contrary) that words are at bottom the names of things is what makes the translator’s mission seem so impossible.
22. The idea of nothing is itself nothing: the ultimate abstraction.
23. Abstract Art is considered as one of the pious forms in expressing one-self without any detailed illustration of reality. It uses a perceptible language such as shapes, color, line, form and gestural marks to create a beauty which may persist with a degree of freedom from visual references in the world.
24. I would put myself in the attitude to look in the eye an abstract truth, and I cannot. I blench and withdraw on this side and on that. I seem to know what he meant who said, No man can see God face to face and live.
25. I have to assume that the images and information filtered through my consciousness are intrinsically relevant to these purposes that simultaneously compel and distort me. Everything exacerbates what it exasperates in an organic repetitive cycle.
26. Know thyself art Love itself. I repeat; Know thyself art Love itself and that anything else is an abstraction at best and suffering at worst.
27. You, my dear Rodion Romanovich (excuse an old man), are still a young man, in your first youth, so to speak, and therefore you esteem the human intellect above all things, like all young people. Abstract reasoning and the play of wit tempt you astray.
28. In his recent critique of fashionable ecological philosophies, Andreas Malm pointedly remarks: ‘When Latour writes that, in a warming world, ‘humans are no longer submitted to the diktats of objective nature, since what comes to them is also an intensively subjective form of action,’ he gets it all wrong: there is nothing intensively subjective but a lot of objectivity in ice melting. Or, as one placard at a demonstration held by scientists at the American Geophysical Union in December 2016: ‘Ice has no agenda – it just melts.”
The reverse claim is that human interventions have only had such a menacing and even fatal consequences for our living conditions within the Earth system because human agency has not yet sufficiently freed itself from its dependence on natural history. This seems to be the conviction behind the ‘Ecomodernist Manifesto,’ for instance, which claims that ‘knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, even great, Anthropocene,’ and that a good Anthropocene ‘demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.’
In this confrontation, an age-old dualism has assumed a new guise: the attempt to establish a complicity with the forces of destiny – if necessary at the price of surrendering human subjectivity or perhaps involving other forms of self-sacrifice – is juxtaposed with the attempt to achieve human autonomy by subordinating the planet under the superior power of human ingenuity. These two positions, a modernist stance and a position critical of it, are usually considered to represent mutually exclusive alternatives. Actually, however, the two positions have more in common than first meets the eye.
At the beginning of chapter 3, I referred to Greek philosophers who suggested that the best way to protect oneself against the vicissitudes of fate was to learn how to submit oneself to it willingly, sacrificing one’s drives and ambitions while expecting, at the same time, that this complicity with destiny would empower one to master worldly challenges. What unites the seemingly opposite positions, more generally speaking, is a shared move away from engagement with the concrete and individual human agency (i.e., with empirical human subjects and with the unequal power distribution in human societies) toward some powerful form of abstraction, be it ‘to distribute agency’ or to use the ‘growing social, economic, and technological powers’ of humanity for a better Anthropocene. I suggest that we take a more systemic look at the role of humanity in the Earth system, taking into account both its material interventions and the knowledge that enabled them.
29. Abstraction is the cost of generalization.
30. I imagined a labyrinth of labyrinths, a maze of mazes, a twisting, turning, ever-widening labyrinth that contained both past and future and somehow implied the stars. Absorbed in those illusory imaginings, I forgot that I was a pursued man; I felt myself, for an indefinite while, the abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day did their work in me; so did the gently downward road, which forestalled all possibility of weariness. The evening was near, yet infinite.
31. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.
32. All suffer and none should have to. But why not? If suffering makes life seem more real or more abstract, both circumstances are infinitely more bearable than the disturbing reality of mundane work-to-live-then-die-bored life.
33. I wish to approach truth as closely as is possible, and therefore I abstract everything until I arrive at the fundamental quality of objects.
34. Their view; it is cosmic. Not of a man here, a child there, but an abstraction: race, land. Volk. Land. Blut. Ehre. Not of honorable men but of Ehre itself, honor; the abstract is real, the actual is invisible to them. Die Güte, but not good men, this good man. It is their sense of space and time. They see through the here, the now, into the vast black deep beyond, the unchanging. And that is fatal to life. Because eventually there will be no life; there was once only the dust particles in space, the hot hydrogen gases, nothing more, and it will come again. This is an interval, ein Augenblick. The cosmic process is hurrying on, crushing life back into the granite and methane; the wheel turns for all life. It is all temporary. And they—these madmen—respond to the granite, the dust, the longing of the inanimate; they want to aid Natur.
35. Forgotten Stars. Time in the Flame.
Missing Shard. The Only Rain.
Door of the Memory. Waves in the Silk.
Silent Birch. Thoughts of Lunatics.
Secret of the Flowers. Soaring of the Souls.
Heart in the Night. And a Kiss Unfolds.
Forgotten Voyager. Voyage in the Words.
Nothing of the World. Someone of the Hemisphere.
Trembling Stones. Sucking Tears.
The Next Gift. The World in the Kisses.
Missing Angels. The Woman of the Girl.
Guardian of the Rings. Thorn in the Pearl.
Whispering Sword. Touching exclaim.
Soul in the Truth. Heat in the Flame.
Thy name, my name, Thy name!
Came. Became. To Remain.
36. The world is too much for us. Rationality as we have come to know it works by ignoring most of experience: laws are arrived at by selective abstraction.
37. Today we demand justice for the oppressed. We no longer accept atrocities as the inescapable fate of the defenceless. We desire and expect a better future. But when confronted with the enormity of injustice and what it demands of us, we retreat into the familiar ritual of intellectualization and moral posturing, recycling lofty liberal ideals from a safe distance. We avoid the intimate knowledge of suffering without which we will never understand the imperative of human rights.
38. Form itself, even if completely abstract … has its own inner sound.
39. Some people are more interested in making good on a promise—rather than in doing what they promised.
40. We shall understand the mode of purification by confession, and that of contemplation by analysis, advancing by analysis to the first notion, beginning with the properties underlying it; abstracting from the body its physical properties, taking away the dimension of depth, then that of breadth, and then that of length. For the point which remains is a unit, so to speak, having position; from which if we abstract position, there is the conception of unity
41. You see, the notion of “sin” is for me an abstraction. There’s no such thing as “sin”. There’s only such a thing as “tactlessness”.
42. You have to be taught to recognize and care about differences, you have to be instructed who you really are; you have to learn how generations of dead people and their incomprehensible accomplishments made you the way you are; you have to define your loyalty to an abstraction-based herd that transcends your individuality.
43. People’s goodness or badness exists within not them but our minds.
44. The symbol is not a mere formality; it is the very essence of algebra. Without the symbol the object is a human perception and reflects all the phases under which the human senses grasp it; replaced by a symbol the object becomes a complete abstraction, a mere operand subject to certain indicated operations.
45. Both [social science & science fiction] attempt to understand empirical facts and lived experience as something that is shaped by abstract – and not directly perceptible – structural forces.
46. [I]t is important to underscore Kant’s basic point that the finitude of the human condition implies a life-long need for concrete moral examples and personal exemplars. With his second argument in defence of examples, we are no longer talking about a strategy of moral education that is to be applied only to children and that can be dispensed with once they reach adulthood. Adult human beings do have stronger powers of reflection and abstraction than do children. But even adults remain saddled with ‘a discursive image-dependent understanding’, and thus they will always need examples in order to make the law visible to themselves.
47. Abstraction is the sickness of language.
48. The paradox of illuminating complexity is that it is inherently difficult to do so without erasing all of the nuance.
49. Many were incarcerated with the aberrant prosaic possibilities of ataraxia. Only the mentally sensitive few were cognizant of the nuisance to serenity and an actuality that lacked a balance betwixt havoc and sangfroid. The intellectual capabilities of the excellent idiosyncratic talents of a man with an agog outlook for de minimis fringe entities had left the portal ajar for the enlightened few, to get a glimpse of the obsecure reality that most had decided to claim socratic ignorance to evade inquiries.
50. Both the destruction and the preservation of capitalism are meaningless slogans, but these slogans are supported by real organizations. Corresponding to each empty abstraction there is an actual human group, and any abstraction of which this is not true remains harmless.
51. Sabism is deabstraction, metacolorism, thematism, exotic, convalescent substrate, soft act, collectivism, pluralization, sensationalism, pluralart, thematic colourism, reabstraction.
52. Similarities are read into nature by our nervous system, and so are structurally less fundamental than differences. Less fundamental, but no less important, as life and ‘intelligence’ would be totally impossible without abstracting. It becomes clear that the problem which has so excited the s.r. of the people of the United States of America and added so much to the merriment of mankind, ‘Is the evolution a ”fact” or a ”theory”?, is simply silly. Father and son are never identical – that surely is a structural ‘fact’ – so there is no need to worry about still higher abstractions, like ‘man’ and ‘monkey’. That the fanatical and ignorant attack on the theory of evolution should have occured may be pathetic, but need concern us little, as such ignorant attacks are always liable to occur. But that biologists should offer ‘defences’ based on the confusions of orders of abstractiobs, and that ‘philosophers’ should have failed to see the simple dependence is rather sad. The problems of ‘evolution’ are verbal and have nothing to do with life as such, which is made up all through of different individuals, ‘similarity’ being structurally a manufactured article, produced by the nervous system of the observer.
53. Lyotard suggests that while discourse operates as a system of representation which defines meanings according to their relation to other concepts in that system, figure is the realm of the singular, of that which refuses to, or simply cannot, be captured and systematized by the concept.
54. Challenge quandary thinking, either/or thinking come by moving from the abstract to the concrete. What can we do with the choice actually in front of us?
55. Kiedyś odcinek, teraz płaszczyzna, czas więc na przestrzeń. Kulturę podałem tutaj przykładowo. Ale właśnie kulturze dobrze by zrobiło, gdyby myślano o niej w kategoriach przestrzennych. Chyba że przestanie być dla urzędników abstrakcją. Ale w to jakoś trudno mi uwierzyć.
56. Knowledge of anything but concrete things stems from an illusion.
57. Once we name something, you said, we can never see it the same way again. All that is unnameable falls away, gets lost, is murdered. You called this the cookie-cutter function of our minds. You said that you knew this not from shunning language but from immersion in it, on the screen, in conversation, onstage, on the page.
58. Everything at some point has been declared the root of all evil.
59. The canvas is the door to another dimension. The paintbrush is the key.
60. Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things.