Paradox Lost: A Cross-Contextual Definition of Levels of Abstraction
Paradox Lost: A Cross-Contextual Definition of Levels of Abstraction
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  • In this work Linda Elson is guided by an interest in bringing clarity by way of a definition to a central theme of communication theory---levels of abstraction. She notes that a "levels-perspective" has been often employed in various fields of study but has not itself been a topic of investigation. By rectifying this problem, Elson hopes that there will be an appreciation of the explanatory scope of such a perspective. To this end, this work's concluding chapter surveys and offers crative applications and suggestive implications of a levels approach to a wide variety of fields.

    Elson's work is grounded in Alfred Korzybski's program of "consciousness of abstracting" as well as Gregory Bateson's appropriations of Bertrand Russell's theory of logical types. But she argues that Korzybski and Bateson, for all they have done in turning attention to processes of abstraction and levels of logical typing, have nevertheless failed to provide a coherent definition of levels phenomena.

    Her definition emerges as she explores levels phenomena that arise in logical paradoxes, considering in turn the liar's paradox, the prediction paradox, and the prisoner's dilemma. She then explores double binds that arise from paradoxical injunctions, and concludes her study with a delightful survey of jokes and a clever analysis of humor in light of the work of Henri Bergson.
  • Linda Elson was a friend, a colleague, and a brilliant scholar, and her untimely death was both a personal loss and a loss for the field of media ecology in its entirety. We are fortunate, however, that she left us with this study, which represents her life's work and, it should be readily apparent, a demonstration of the promise that was cut short by illness. But more importantly, this work also represents a valuable contribution to scholarship in general, especially in the field of communication and the study of symbols and logic, and to general semantics, general systems theory, relational communication, the study of humor and, of course, the field of media ecology. ---Lance Strate, Fordham University

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