ONT Re: Hypostatic And Prescisive Abstraction
HAPA. Note 3
| Look through the modern logical treatises, and you will find that they
| almost all fall into one or other of two errors, as I hold them to be;
| that of setting aside the doctrine of abstraction (in the sense in
| which an abstract noun marks an abstraction) as a grammatical topic
| with which the logician need not particularly concern himself; and
| that of confounding abstraction, in this sense, with that operation
| of the mind by which we pay attention to one feature of a percept to
| the disregard of others. The two things are entirely disconnected.
| The most ordinary fact of perception, such as "it is light", involves
| 'precisive' abstraction, or 'prescission'. But 'hypostatic' abstraction,
| the abstraction which transforms "it is light" into "there is light here",
| which is the sense which I shall commonly attach to the word abstraction
| (since 'prescission' will do for precisive abstraction) is a very special
| mode of thought. It consists in taking a feature of a percept or percepts
| (after it has already been prescinded from the other elements of the percept),
| so as to take propositional form in a judgment (indeed, it may operate upon
| any judgment whatsoever), and in conceiving this fact to consist in the
| relation between the subject of that judgment and another subject, which
| has a mode of being that merely consists in the truth of propositions of
| which the corresponding concrete term is the predicate.
| Thus, we transform the proposition, "honey is sweet",
| into "honey possesses sweetness". "Sweetness" might be
| called a fictitious thing, in one sense. But since the
| mode of being attributed to it 'consists' in no more than
| the fact that some things are sweet, and it is not pretended,
| or imagined, that it has any other mode of being, there is,
| after all, no fiction. The only profession made is that we
| consider the fact of honey being sweet under the form of a
| relation; and so we really can. I have selected sweetness
| as an instance of one of the least useful of abstractions.
| Yet even this is convenient. It facilitates such thoughts
| as that the sweetness of honey is particularly cloying;
| that the sweetness of honey is something like the
| sweetness of a honeymoon; etc.
| C.S. Peirce, CP 4.235, "The Simplest Mathematics",
| Chapter 3 of the "Minute Logic", Jan-Feb 1902.