General And Particular

Every philosophical school should have a theory about the relationship between the general and the particular, and use this theory as a tool to clarify the structures that define reality. The scientific disciplines that come closest to giving this theory actual and practical shape are what we call taxonomies. Thus there is biological taxonomy, namespaces, knowledge organization systems and ontologies, among many others.

There are some important points to consider in elaborating a general theory about the relationship between the general and the particular (which can be shortened to the acronym RGP):

1. Each generalized entity can be broken down into its particular components. The "breaking down" could be done in various ways.

(Take note, though, that while a particular component might physically belong to a generalized entity in many instances, it could also stand alone conceptually, and also physically in other instances. A cooking area, for example, can easily be conceived as not a part of a residential house but as the core of a temporary camp on the trail, or of a restaurant, and so on.)

2. As is obvious from the details of Point 1, breaking up a general entity into its particular components can be a layered or nested process. This is most clearly exhibited in biological taxonomies. Hierarchical taxonomies are built up using genus-differentia criteria. (For a detailed discussion of the genus-differentia method, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genus%E2%80%93differentia_definition.

3. As is also obvious from the details of Point 1, breaking up a general entity into its particular components can be multi-dimensional, with each dimension based on an attribute that is deemed important in defining the general entity, instead of just being more easily measurable (although easy measurement could serve as a first approximation of what could later turn up to be an aspect of an important but not readily measurable attribute).

4. One interesting nexus between the general and the particular is the "microcosm concept", in which the general is found in the particular, i.e., in each element of the macrocosm can be found its attributes, but in microcosmic or kernel form.

5. One other intriguing aspect of the RGP concept is that of structure and scale. The general, seen at progressively close-up views, gradually resolves to its particular elements.

Author: JunVerzola

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