Abstract Thinking, Text Summarization, and Common Sense

Kirill Novik
2 min readApr 30, 2023

Link to the app: https://kino6052.github.io/onion/

In the article about blind men and an elephant, I wrote that the breadth of knowledge is more important than depth, and abstract thinking is necessary to build this type of knowledge.

However, how to test the ability to think in abstractions effectively?

I believe that text summarization is one such way, as it’s one of the essential exercises for building abstract thinking because abstract thinking is an ability to reduce the level of details and keep only the essentials for a given context.

I will try to illustrate with a project I built for the purpose of text summarization.

Text Summarization App

Let’s take the first paragraph of Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. This work is notorious for being very difficult to understand. This could be due to a lack of examples and the technical language used. However, my intention is to show that it can be greatly simplified by breaking it into parts and summarizing it.

Original paragraph
Summarized paragraph

The summarized paragraph contains collapsible UI elements that can be expanded or collapsed.

Note, that it is now much easier to browse through such text and open sections to see more details.

Common Sense

Now, one way to exercise getting on the same page as a group with the use of this tool is to allow each participant to summarize text as they see fit. After everybody is finished, the person hosting the exercise could look at the results and then do the summary by himself in front of them while asking why they thought this summary captures the meaning of the section and so on.

A follow-up exercise, for which there is no support in the app yet, is to go in the opposite way and desummarize given a summarized text that hasn’t been folded yet.

Conclusion

I tried to demonstrate that this relatively simple practice might be able to help with developing abstract thinking and common sense. I am personally excited to try using it at work and with friends. I will also be using it to assist me with studying philosophy and just keeping notes while reading books.

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Kirill Novik

Whether I shall turn out to be a hero of this book these pages must show