"A theory aspires to some degree of generality and abstraction." The book where I found this sentence is a book in one of the disciplines of humanities. According to Merriam-Webster, "abstraction" means:

1a: the act or process of abstracting : the state of being abstracted
1b: an abstract idea or term
2: absence of mind or preoccupation
3: abstract quality or character
4a: an abstract composition or creation in art

I have absolutely no idea what to make of "abstraction" here. Please help me select the correct meaning from the above list so that I can correctly understand what the author is trying to say. Thank you in advance. :)

1 Answer 1


It means the process of abstracting

But you probably need now to look up to meaning abstract as a verb, which is related to the meaning as an adjective:

If a statement, argument, or discussion is abstract, it is general and not based on particular examples. (cambridge)

So a theory needs to some degree to be about general ideas, not only descriptive of particular examples.

  • Are you sure about that? Then, thank you. :)
    – adieng
    Oct 17, 2020 at 8:15
  • then why did the author use "generality" in the same sentence?
    – adieng
    Oct 17, 2020 at 8:16
  • It is arguably somewhat redundant, but some redundancy is normal and useful
    – James K
    Oct 17, 2020 at 8:18
  • Ok, thank you sir. :)
    – adieng
    Oct 17, 2020 at 8:20
  • @adieng Generality means widely applicable. Abstraction means explained in general terms.
    – StephenS
    Oct 17, 2020 at 13:52

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