Move up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction

#strategy2 mentions

Since we want to Move up and down in the system hierarchy, a useful Strategy is to build epistemic connections between very abstract and very concrete Models, that is an easy-to-climb ladder of abstraction.

At the ends of this ladder, we do different things:Manual DeLanda’s reconceptualisation and use of Deleuze’s ontology (DeLanda 2002) is an example for such a strategy: an abstraction of the general ideas behind the most advanced scientific thinking that informs very concrete, materialist analyses and explanations.

The construction of the ladder has to be done carefully:

it’s really easy to do sloppy work when you jump recklessly from small scale textual analysis to high level societal claims, and … the moments of your argument when you make such a jump are moments when you slow down and work carefully.Sandifer (2021)

Scale-free Abstractions help us on all steps of the ladder and reduce the cognitive cost of switching between them.

In addition to levels of description, there is a more fundamental difference between certain steps on the ladder: There are models of varying scope and generality on the different object-levels – and then there is the meta-level of theoretical reflection, on which, e.g., this note or Conceptual Engineering are operating. This reflection informs and critiques the work on the lower levels and should act as a constant check on it.