Abstract

Seek not proud wealth; but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contently, yet have not any abstract or friarly contempt of it.

Life as a sum of ends has a right against abstract right. If for example it is only by stealing bread that the wolf can be kept from the door, the action is of course an encroachment on someone’s property, but it would be wrong to treat this action as an ordinary theft. To refuse to allow a man in jeopardy of his life to take such steps for self-preservation would be to stigmatize him as without rights, and since he would be deprived of his life, his freedom would be annulled altogether. Many diverse details have a bearing on the preservation of life, and when we have our eyes on the future we have to engage ourselves in these details. But the only thing that is necessary is to live now, the future is not absolute but ever exposed to accident. Hence it is only the necessity of the immediate present which can justify a wrong action, because not to do the action would in turn be to cause not to do the action would in turn be to commit an offense, indeed the most wrong of all offenses, namely the complete destruction of the embodiment of freedom.

When we speak of conscience, it may easily be thought that in virtue of its form, which is abstract inwardness, conscience is at this point without more ado true conscience. But true conscience determines itself to will what is absolutely good and obligatory and is this self-determination.

Time therefore being nothing, abstracted from the succession of ideas in our minds, it follows that the duration of any finite spirit must be estimated by the number of ideas or actions succeeding each other in that same spirit or mind. Hence, it is a plain consequence that the soul always thinks; and in truth whoever shall go about to divide his thoughts, or abstract the existence of a spirit from its cogitation, will, I believe, find it no easy task.

Man has no permanent and unchangeable I. Every thought, every mood, every desire, every sensation says ‘I’. And in each case it seems to be taken for granted that this I belongs to the Whole, to the whole man, and that a thought, a desire, or an aversion is expressed by this Whole. In actual fact, there is no foundation whatever for this assumption. Man’s every thought and desire appears and lives quite separately and independently of the Whole. And the Whole never expresses itself, for the simple reason that it exists, as such, only physically as a thing, and in the abstract as a concept.

[Education of the individual shall] progress from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the abstract, from the empirical to the rational… shall be as much as possible a process of self-evolution, and… shall be pleasurable.

A man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory [Allegory: a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another, a symbolic narrative].

How many people become abstract as a way of appearing profound!

How ignorant are those who see, without question, the abstract existence of some of their senses, but insist upon doubting until that existence reveals itself to all their senses. Is not faith the sense of the heart as truly as sight is the sense of the eye?... How strange is the one who dreams in truth of a beautiful reality, and then, when he endeavours to fashion it into form but cannot succeed, doubts the dream and blasphemes the reality and distrusts the beauty!

Don’t talk to me of goodness, of abstract justice, of natural law. Necessity is the highest law.

Love is a very complex emotion, requiring a richness of personality and a great variety of talents.. It develops also into the abstract feeling for things or ideas, for beauty and learning, and, finally, into a feeling for the Supreme Being.

Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future.

Our minds are so constructed that we can keep the attention fixed on a particular object until we have, as it were, looked all around it; and the mind that possesses this faculty in the highest degree of perfection will take cognizance of relations of which another mind has no perception. It is this, much more than any difference in the abstract power of reasoning, which constitutes the vast difference between the minds of different individuals. This is the history alike of the poetic genius and of the genius of discovery in science. “I keep the subject,” said Sir Isaac Newton, “constantly before me, and wait until the dawnings open by little and little into a full light.” It was thus that after long meditation he was led to the invention of fluxions, and to the anticipation of the modern discovery of the combustibility of the diamond. It was thus that Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, and that those views were suggested by Davy which laid the foundation of that grand series of experimental researches which terminated in the decomposition of the earths and alkalies.

He who talks much about virtue in the abstract, begins to be suspected; it is shrewdly guessed that where there is great preaching there will be little almsgiving.

The word “liberty,” “free-will,” is therefore an abstract word, a general word, like beauty, goodness, justice. These terms do not state that all men are always beautiful, good and just; similarly, they are not always free.

Love is never abstract. It does not adhere to the universe of the planet or the nation or the institution or the profession, but to the singular sparrows of the street, the lilies of the field, “the least of these my brethren.” Love is not, but its own desire, heroic. It is heroic only when compelled to be. It exists by its willingness to be anonymous, humble and unrewarded.

It is only those who never think at all, or else who have accustomed themselves to brood invariably on abstract ideas, that ever feel ennui.

The application of psychoanalysis to sociology must definitely guard against the mistake of wanting to give psychoanalytic answers where economic, technical, or political facts provide the real and sufficient explanation of sociological questions. On the other hand, the psychoanalyst must emphasize that the subject of sociology, society, in reality consists of individuals, and that it is these human beings, rather than abstract society as such, whose actions, thoughts, and feelings are the object of sociological research.

In spite of the universalistic spirit of the monotheistic Western religions and of the progressive political concepts that are expressed in the idea "that all men are created equal," love for mankind has not become a common experience. Love for mankind is looked upon as an achievement which, at best, follows love for an individual or as an abstract concept to be realized only in the future. But love for man cannot be separated from love for one individual. To love one person productively means to be related to his human core, to him as representing mankind. Love for one individual, in so far as it is divorced from love for man, can refer only to the superficial and to the accidental; of necessity it remains shallow.

The witness is frequent and insistent that God is inherently relational and personal. So God cannot be either received or understood apart from our being personal and realtional as well. That most emphatically excludes the detached intellect as a way of knowing God. It excludes programmatic work as a way of knowing God. It excludes cultivation of the ecstatic and visionary as a way of knowing God. God is not an abstract idea that can be mastered, not an impersonal force that can be used, not a private experience that can be indulged.