Secular theme: cognitive stages of development — concrete vs abstract

1. The religious idea I am talking about in chapter 3 is this: Concrete and abstract characterize human thinking in the different phases of its development. By the time we reach chapter 7, and start thinking in terms of ‘secularization’, I will be talking about secularizing religious themes with respect to the same.

2.  Neither the words ‘concrete’ or ‘abstract’, nor the concepts associated with them are `religious’. (In this sense, concepts are neither `religious’ nor `scientific’.) The same applies to the use of words ‘concrete thought’ and `abstract thought’ (or to their meaning). But what is religious is the above idea, which speaks of different stages of human cognitive growth in terms of `concrete’ and ‘abstract thought’.

3. What makes them religious is that they are a part of a network of theological thinking about human beings, and their thinking. The origin of religion (as modern day pseudo-scientific theories would have it) is traced to the `concrete’ thinking that the savages and the primitives employ contrasted to which stands the `abstract’ thinking about God that characterizes the Semitic religions (mostly Christianity). We will get acquainted with some of them in chapter 5.

4. Piaget, Vygotsky (his pupil Luria, more importantly), and many anthropologists borrow this idea about human thinking from theology, I claim. (Irrespective of whether they know this, or not.) Philosophically and logically speaking, every idea is just as `abstract’ as you want or as `concrete’ as you like. This distinction can be a relative distinction within a particular context, but it makes no sense to use this distinction as a distinctive trait of human thinking in either some form or at some stage.

5. Plato’s `forms’ has nothing `abstract’ about it, any more than an object has something `concrete’ about it. Is a `quark’ more concrete than an `atom’, which, in its turn, is supposed to be less `abstract’ than a table, which is supposed to be more concrete than the color ‘green’. There is a tradition in philosophy which uses `form’ and `object’ in terms of `abstract’ and `concrete’: the `concrete’, for instance, is supposed to be a determination of the abstract. But this language-use has nothing to do with what I am saying in chapter 3.

6. In other words, the words `concrete/abstract’ (or the meaning of these words) is not the religious idea I am referring to. I am referring to the idea that concrete/abstract are characteristics of human thought at a certain stages in its development. (Like infant/adult; female/male; primitive/modern; `superstitious’/scientific, etc.)

7. About cutting themes `loose’ from a theological framework. I suggest we wait for some time (at least till chapter 7) before we discuss this. Issues are not that simple