[OPE-L] abstraction and surprise

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Mon Nov 21 2005 - 01:37:05 EST

Hi Jerry,

Yes, your point about surprise and levels of abstraction is interesting.  By appealing to the assumptions we make at a level of abstraction, e.g.by assuming a variable constant, and then moving to a more concrete level, have you strayed onto the "sequence of models" territory critiqued by Chris in his Chapter 2?   And I take his point in appealing to a logic of exposition is exactly to show that if we keep stumbling over surprises, as VFT finds in Capital, ch. 1, then we have a problem.   Or is that just with a logic that is linear?  That is, supposing a presentation that was dialectical, could we find the insufficiency of each stage to comprehend its presuppositions a kind of surprise that drove forward the immanent logic of the argument so that it constituted a move from surprise to surprise, dialectically sublated, so to speak?  Maybe I'm wrong but I don't get the impression Hegel was the kind of guy constantly going, "Wow!".  (I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong!!)

This also seems not the point you were trying to get at, but the sequence of models problem does seem presented if we make assumptions to deal with layers.

In solidarity,


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jerry Levy 
  Sent: Sunday, November 20, 2005 11:51 PM
  Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Anita's Chocolate Cake

  Hi Howard,

  I guess I must have misunderstood a number of points of your
  posts.  I apologize.


  JERRY:  That is, there
  is a different role for chance and surprise depending on the level
  of abstraction of the analysis, i.e. as we proceed to reconstruct a
  subject matter in thought the role of chance which is often assumed
  not to exist except as potential at a more abstract level of
  abstraction,  must be considered when we analyze a phenomena
  in its most concrete, specific form. END QUOTE.
  If it's legitimate for me to substitute "surprise" for "chance" in your second 
  use of the word "chance", I'm interested in what it means for surprise (or 
  chance) to exist only "as potential at a more abstract level of abstraction."  
  This is interesting.


  Thanks for the question.

  What I meant by that is that when assumptions are made at one
  level of abstraction which treat variables as if they were constant
  then one has created the potential for "surprise" at a more concrete
  level of abstraction.  In assuming a variable to be constant, within the
  context of a layered presentation of a subject matter, one has already
  created a condition where there is a potential for surprise.  Now, I
  suppose you could ask whether the 'surprise' in the presentation is
  a 'real surprise'  for the author or just a surprise for the 'reader'. I
  think it _should be_ the case that if one has already thought out the
  whole of the subject matter before writing, then the only surprises
  should be for readers.  But,  this is not always the case with authors.  
  I doubt that it was the case totally with Marx's political economy.
  Even when one thinks one knows what one wants to say and how it
  all fits together before putting pen to paper,  there are often some
  surprises that occur for authors in the writing process.  Maybe there
  are many of you that have had such 'surprises'.  If so, I'd love to 
  hear about them.

  In solidarity, Jerry

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