John Locke's Essay on Human Understanding, book II, chapter XI, paragraph 9, as rendered by Jonathan Bennett at http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdfbits/lo21.pdfAbstraction. So words are used to stand as outward marks of our internal ideas, which are taken from particular things; but if every particular idea that we take in had its own special name, there would be no end to names. To prevent this, the mind makes particular ideas received from particular things become general; which it does by considering them as they are in the mind – mental appearance – separate from all other existences, and from the circumstances of real existence, such as time, place, and so on. This procedure is called abstraction. In it, an idea taken from a particular thing becomes a general representative of all of the same kind, and its name becomes a general name that is applicable to any existing thing that fits that abstract idea…Thus, you observe the
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