This paper develops a novel theory of abstraction—what we call collective abstraction. The theory solves a notorious problem for noneliminative structuralism. The noneliminative structuralist holds that in addition to various isomorphic systems there is a pure structure that can be abstracted from each of these systems; but existing accounts of abstraction fail for nonrigid systems like the complex numbers. The problem with the existing accounts is that they attempt to define a unique abstraction operation. The theory of collective abstraction instead simultaneously defines a collection of distinct abstraction operations, each of which maps a system to its corresponding pure structure. The theory is precisely formulated in an essentialist language. This allows us to throw new light on the question to what extent structuralists are committed to symmetric dependence. Finally, we apply the theory of collective abstraction to solve a problem about converse relations.
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Research Article| October 01 2022
Jon Erling Litland
The Philosophical Review (2022) 131 (4): 453–497.
Jon Erling Litland; Collective Abstraction. The Philosophical Review 1 October 2022; 131 (4): 453–497. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-10136830
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