of a concept or idea not associated with any specific instance
or more rarely:
describing someone as distracted -- thinking about something outside of the immediate conversation or circumstances
The mere concord of octaves was a delight to Maggie, and she would often take up a book of studies rather than any melody, that she might taste more keenly by abstraction the more primitive sensation of intervals.
The ladies of St. Ogg’s were not beguiled by any wide speculative conceptions; but they had their favorite abstraction, called Society, which served to make their consciences perfectly easy in doing what satisfied their own egoism,—thinking and speaking the worst of Maggie Tulliver, and turning their backs upon her.
This incident had the effect of drawing Philip’s attention with freshened solicitude toward Stephen and Maggie; but when they re-entered the house, music was proposed, and Mrs. Tulliver and Mr. Deane being occupied with cribbage, Maggie sat apart near the table where the books and work were placed, doing nothing, however, but listening abstractedly to the music.
There are no more uses of "abstract" identified with this meaning, but check unspecified meaning below.
Show samples from other sources
We all agree that we want what’s "best for the country", but that is an abstract concept and we cannot agree on which specific laws should be passed.
It was not Tom’s practice to "tell," but here justice clearly demanded that Maggie should be visited with the utmost punishment; not that Tom had learned to put his views in that abstract form; he never mentioned "justice," and had no idea that his desire to punish might be called by that fine name.
Nevertheless, there was a visible improvement in Tom under this training; perhaps because he was not a boy in the abstract, existing solely to illustrate the evils of a mistaken education, but a boy made of flesh and blood, with dispositions not entirely at the mercy of circumstances.
Tom was weary and abstracted in the short intervals when he was at home, and her father was bitterly preoccupied with the thought that the girl was growing up, was shooting up into a woman; and how was she to do well in life?
He very soon set down poor Tom as a thoroughly stupid lad; for though by hard labor he could get particular declensions into his brain, anything so abstract as the relation between cases and terminations could by no means get such a lodgment there as to enable him to recognize a chance genitive or dative.
If any one strongly impressed with the power of the human mind to triumph over circumstances will contend that the parishioners of Basset might nevertheless have been a very superior class of people, I have nothing to urge against that abstract proposition; I only know that, in point of fact, the Basset mind was in strict keeping with its circumstances.
"That settles the question in the abstract," said Stephen, "but not from a parliamentary point of view.