Knowledge is a series of bindings. Each binding has two aspects, physical and mental. A sensation of a bird is a physical event but an incomplete picture that only gets only gets filled out by the mind. The perception of a bird starts from the physical sensation and then interpreted based on cognitive processes and memories. The spoken word is a physical sound about a perception or a memory of one. Written language can be seen by the eye but is an abstract reference to speech.
Each binding is a metaphor, with both literal and symbolic components. A metaphor uses a literal tangible thing in the world to symbolize an abstract intangible concept. The world is a stage. Most people can easily visualize a stage, a stand for actors performing a drama. Shakespeare used the metaphor of a stage to express Macbeth’s feelings about the insignificance of life.
There is a fifth and final binding, memory. Memory plays a role in each binding, e.g., the sensations to which we attend depend on priorities in memory. Memory can also be understood as a separate binding, transforming the experience of a thing in the world once again.
Cognitive psychologists observe how concreteness and abstraction feature in how the human brain stores memories. As an undergraduate student in the eighties, I studied the psychology of language. Allan Paivio was known for his dual coding theory, which proposed two different systems for processing visual and verbal information. Words associated with concrete imagery, e.g., dog, are encoded and accessible by both systems. Abstract words, e.g., justice, do not have concrete correlates, are only in the verbal system, and are slower to process. Dual coding explains a number of psychological phenomena in learning, problem solving and language.
The fifth binding is the association of concrete and abstract concepts in memory. We think better in concrete terms but there is resulting error. We know that the world is not literally a stage, yet we bind the two. We associate the use and meaning of the words, stage and world. This binding can limit our thinking. The world as a stage may be a sullen thought, but other metaphors, say, life is a highway, may be more cheerful.
20171016. Note. The difference between concrete and abstract is the difference between a diagram and a picture.