abstract from it

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Senior Member

In the words of geneticist David Suzuki, our sense of separation from nature enables us to “act on it, abstract from it, use it, take it apart; we can wreck it, because it is another, it is alien.”

--- How do you understand "abstract from it" in this context? Maybe "feel separated from it" or something similar?
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    Senior Member
    American English
    Two definitions from Webster's New World College Dictionary would seem to fit nicely:

    • to take away; remove
    • to take dishonestly; steal


    Senior Member
    To me it means to deal with it in the abstract, seeing it in generalized concepts rather than in its concrete reality. A river is not an organic part of our environment; we abstract it and place it in the category of resource which allows us to see it as something to manipulate and control. It can be dammed, diverted, displaced or put to work.

    I think Merriam-Webster's second definition under the verb "abstract" applies here:

    2 : to consider apart from application to or association with a particular instance
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    American English
    I chose the definitions of abstract that I did because I saw "abstract from it" being one of five things in a row that we do to nature -- before we come to the conclusion that we do these things "because it is another, it is alien.” We may consider it alien because we abstract it, but I think the "abstract from it" is one of the literal, detrimental things we do in that series.

    As always, personal opinion. :)
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