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The Levels of Concrete vs Abstract definitions

November 16, 2013

“Concrete” and “abstract” are very ambiguous terms that have multiple “levels” of meaning in this context.

“Concrete” means “all grown together”. “Abstract” means separating out something or “abolishing distinctions” among things in order to focus on what they share in common, which can then be treated as an idea.
So you have a bunch of stuff together, and you separate out of it. The original body is “concrete”, and the processed product is “abstract”.

Concrete initially means any function not differentiated, or very loosely, what we would call “undeveloped”. It remains mixed in with the limbic system and is felt emotionally and imaginally or otherwise tied up with sensations. This is not the distinct S “function” at this point, but it is all mixed together.
When the function differentiates, it begins separating out the data it specializes in, whether tangible or conceptual [I use these instead of concrete/abstract for S/N], or technical or humane [“impersonal” for T is good, but “personal” is also too ambiguous to use for F]. So then, we say the function is “abstract”. It’s abstracting out the data what objects share in common: whether tangible, conceptual, technical or humane, and making “ideas” out of them.

People and inanimate objects alike are physical things. So “physical” is an idea of “tangibility” shared in common.
People will fall into various roles in the civilizations they make up. Each role is an idea of a “concept” people share in common.
People and inanimate objects alike have chemical properties. The chemical makeup is an idea of technicality shared in common.
People and inanimate objects all can have an affect on human well being. These affects are ideas of human value shared in common.

Next, a function can turn outward to reference or even merge with the subject, or it can turn inward to an internal blueprint with which to “separate out” of the object that which is not relevant to the internal model.
So now, we’ve further abstracted from the data. The opposite of this in Jung’s definitions, is not “concrete”, but rather “empathetic”, which is where the subject turns outward to add itself to the object, as he put it.

Finally, among the information gathering functions, we can focus on tangible things, which are “at hand” (even if now taken into the “internal storehouse”), or look for larger meanings (concepts) not at hand, but only inferred (whether from the internal storehouse, or directly from the external object itself).
Hence, the familiar definitions of concrete/abstract as the S/N functions.This is pretty much how I was using the terms in the last topic: (That article wasn’t about S vs N, because I wasn’t discussing the functions, by which we abstract out that data, focusing more on one or the other; but simply the realms the functions focus on, which we all are immersed in regardless of which one we are more inclined toward).

So it’s not that one of these definitions is wrong (as people in discussions often argue, favoring one definition or the other and not being aware that they all fit); they just have to be kept clarified as to which “level” it’s referring to.

See also:

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