The Method of Levels of Abstraction

Minds and Machines, September 2008, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 303–329

40 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2018

See all articles by Luciano Floridi

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: September 20, 2008

Abstract

The use of “levels of abstraction” in philosophical analysis (levelism) has recently come under attack. In this paper, I argue that a refined version of epistemological levelism should be retained as a fundamental method, called the method of levels of abstraction. After a brief introduction, in section “Some Definitions and Preliminary Examples” the nature and applicability of the epistemological method of levels of abstraction is clarified. In section “A Classic Application of the Method of Abstraction”, the philosophical fruitfulness of the new method is shown by using Kant’s classic discussion of the “antinomies of pure reason” as an example. In section “The Philosophy of the Method of Abstraction”, the method is further specified and supported by distinguishing it from three other forms of “levelism”: (i) levels of organisation; (ii) levels of explanation and (iii) conceptual schemes. In that context, the problems of relativism and antirealism are also briefly addressed. The conclusion discusses some of the work that lies ahead, two potential limitations of the method and some results that have already been obtained by applying the method to some long-standing philosophical problems.

Keywords: Abstraction, Level of Abstraction, Gradient of Abstraction, Levelism, Observable, Stance

Suggested Citation

Floridi, Luciano, The Method of Levels of Abstraction (September 20, 2008). Minds and Machines, September 2008, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 303–329. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3182086 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3182086

Luciano Floridi (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
44
Abstract Views
220
PlumX Metrics