Abstract

When Americans are morally divided, it is appropriate that our laws reflect that fact... Our popular institutions, the legislative and executive branches, were structured to provide safety to achieve compromise when we are divided, to slow change, to dilute absolutisms... They are designed, in short, to do the very things that abstract generalizations about moral principles and the just society tend to bring into contempt.

We may, if we like, by our reasonings unwind things to that black and jointless continuity of space and moving clouds of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply rejecting certain portion of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them.

To attack vices in the abstract, without touching persons, may be safe fighting indeed, but it is fighting with shadows.

But it is the knowledge of necessary and eternal truths that distinguishes us from the mere animals and gives us Reason and the sciences, raising us to the knowledge of ourselves and of God. And it is this in us that is called the rational soul or mind. It is also through the knowledge of necessary truths, and through their abstract expression, that we rise to acts of reflection, which make us think of what is called I, and observe that this or that is within us: and thus, thinking of ourselves, we think of being, of substance, of the simple and the compound, of the immaterial, and of God Himself, conceiving that what is limited in us is in Him without limits.

What is then liberty? To be born is at once to be born in the world and to the world. The world is already constituted, but never completely. Under the first rapport, we are solicited, under the second we are open to an infinity of possibilities. But this analysis is still abstract, because we exist under these two relations at once. There is therefore never determinism and never absolute choice; I am never a thing and never naked consciousness.

There are other similarities between poetry and children's speech. Poets tend to look for significant evocative detail --something straight out of life -- to carry their meaning, and to avoid the vaguely general or abstract terms. With young children it is not a matter of choice. Their ideas must take a concrete form of expression because they have not mastered the art of masking and handling (Sign-mind) abstraction. A five year old boy in an infants' class once said, "Oh, yes, I know Geography. Its polar bears at the top and penguins at the bottom."

Know what your sin is and confess it; but do not imagine that you have approved yourself a penitent by confessing sin in the abstract.

Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply ingrained attitudes of aversion and preference.

In abstract love of humanity one almost always loves oneself.

Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic.

It should be the work of a genuine and noble patriotism to raise the life of the nation to the level of its privileges; to harmonize its general practice with its abstract principles; to reduce to actual facts the ideals of its institutions; to elevate instruction into knowledge; to deepen knowledge into wisdom; to render knowledge and wisdom complete in righteousness; and to make the love of country perfect in the love of man.

Beauty too often sacrifices to fashion. The spirit of fashion is not the beautiful, but the willful; not the graceful, but the fantastic; not the superior in the abstract, but the superior in the worst of all concretes - the vulgar. The high point of taste and elegance is to be sought for, not in the most fashionable circles, but in the best-bred, and such as can dispense with the eternal necessity of never being twice the same.

There is plenty of courage among us for the abstract but not for the concrete.

Not only the individual experience slowly acquired, but the accumulated experience of the race, organized in language, condensed in instruments and axioms, and in what may be called the inherited intuitions - these form the multiple unity which is expressed in the abstract term “experience.”

This divination of the spiritual in the things of sense, and which expresses itself I the things of sense, is precisely what we call Poetry. Metaphysics too pursues a spiritual prey, but in a very different formal object. Whereas metaphysics stands in the line of knowledge and of the contemplation of truth, poetry stands in the line of making and of the delight procured by beauty. The difference is an all-important one, and one that it would be harmful to disregard. Metaphysics snatches at the spiritual in an idea, by the most abstract intellection; poetry reaches it in the flesh, by the very point of the sense sharpened through intelligence... Metaphysics gives chase to essences and definitions, poetry to any flash of existence glittering by the way, and any reflection of an invisible order. Metaphysics isolates mystery in order to know it; poetry, thanks to the balances it constructs, handles and utilizes mystery as an unknown force.

Every abstract thinker tears love and time asunder.

Abstract truth is the eye of reason.

Things are distinct not in their essence but in their appearance; in other words, in their relation to one to whom they appear. This is art, the truth of which is not in substance or logic, but in expression. Abstract truth may belong to science and metaphysics, but the world of reality belongs to art.

A "fraternity" is the antithesis of fraternity. The first... is predicated on the idea of exclusion; the second (that is, the abstract thing) is based on a feeling of total equality.

Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.