OP: View are mental constructions as they break down under scrutiny at a lower level of abstraction.
Conceptual objects have constituent parts. These constituent parts have other parts. At the lowest level is what is known as the ultimate reality which has the basic building blocks. This needs to be realised through meditation.
OP: Since an average person cannot discern the realities at lower levels of abstraction they develop confidence in these views.
A normal person does not see through to the ultimate nature, hence mistake this as either permanent, pleasant, self or beautiful. These perversions at multiple stages which are mear recognition or memory (saññā,vipallāsa), thinking (citta,vipallāsa) or deep ingrained view reinforced through continuous thinking on the experience (ditthi,vipallāsa).
Take a person for example. If you look only at body parts as:
head hairs (Pali: kesā), body hairs (lomā), nails (nakhā), teeth (dantā), skin (taco),
flesh (maṃsaṃ), tendons (nahāru), bones (aṭṭhi), bone marrow (aṭṭhimiñjaṃ), kidneys (vakkaṃ),
heart (hadayaṃ), liver (yakanaṃ), pleura (kilomakaṃ), spleen (pihakaṃ), lungs (papphāsaṃ),
large intestines (antaṃ), small intestines (antaguṇaṃ), undigested food (udariyaṃ), feces (karīsaṃ),
bile (pittaṃ), phlegm (semhaṃ), pus (pubbo), blood (lohitaṃ), sweat (sedo), fat (medo),
tears (assu), skin-oil (vasā), saliva (kheḷo), mucus (siṅghānikā), fluid in the joints (lasikā), urine (muttaṃ).
You will not develop the notion of a person if you look at only the parts or imagine a pile of body parts.
When you are at a saloon and see hair on the floor you think of it as hair. You will not thin of the hair on the floor as me, Jhon, etc. There there is no perception of a person by looking merely at hair. Only when all parts are together there is a notion of a person. If you take hair and dive this further then the notion of hair is lost. Then it will be different chemical complexes. If you go further and break down to the lowest level you will be left wilt subatomic particles which is Buddhism is called Kalapa. When you think of the person you might think beautiful, but if you think of the parts the notion of beauty is lost. If you see a beauty queen or supermodel after a horrific accident in the morgue the notion of beauty is not there anymore.
If you take any object like a car, table, clock, etc. the notion of the concept (car, table, clock) and recognition is there as long as it is a whole. When you look at parts (tyre, planks, cogs) then the original notion and recognition are lost. Generally one perceives a car as and solid permanent object. Laps of time or and accident will prove otherwise.
Now let's take the notion of my car. You meet with and accident and the car is all in parts. Holding onto the notion of the car when could break would bring you sorrow when it does break. If you see that this is compounded as subjected to break and become obsolete then the sorrow is less.
Each physical items one perceives (tree, house, son, garden, etc.) are compounded hence the sum of parts and the notion of an object arises when it is whole and not by the individual constituents. Anything can easily fall apart to the constituents.
Any conceptual item is subjected to the following preventions:
- what is impermanent is taken to be permanent;
- what is painful is taken to be pleasurable;
- what is not self is taken to be a (or the) self; and
- what is impure is taken to be pure.
OP: the fact we recognize them imply they have some reality and existence?
They are made of Rūpa. In conventional terms, we have to recognise them as such, but in reality, they are made of smaller constituents, which have certain properties.
The undue expectation from something compounded than their basic elements (Mahābhūta) will result in pain. If we think of a tree, our notion is that it is solid, lasting unchanging impression. This will be painful when the tree collapses on your house.
OP: Wouldn't most people usually live in such levels, and fail to reach higher levels of abstraction?
At the lowest level of abstraction would be real objects (Paramattha Dhammas) corresponding to citta (a moment of consciousness or a moment of experience), cetasika (mental factors accompanying consciousness), rupa (material phenomena) and nibbana (the unconditioned reality). Anything compounded or constructed from by the mind will pannatti which is not real. Following are some constructed items:
- Santhana pannatti are concepts of form, like land, mountains, etc.
- Samuha pannatti are collective concepts, corresponding to a collection or group of things, like chariot, table.
- Disa pannatti refer to concepts of locality.
- Kala pannatti refer to concepts of time.
- Akasa pannatti refer to space, like caves, wells.
- Nimitta pannatti refer to conceptualized images, visualized images.
To function in society one needs this conceptual or conventional sense of objects and truths. E.g. You can say pass me the Jam than saying to pass me the subatomic particles. You can say I am taking a bus than say a mass of subatomic particles in motion with another mass of subatomic particles. You can say it is raining than liquified subatomic particles in motion through a gas medium. Even in Buddhism the Vinaya and Sutta Pitaka are in conventional terms. Only in the Abhidhamma one has absolute terms. But when using conventions one should see them unperverted, i.e.:
- Impermanent as impermanent
- Painful as painful
- Not-self as not-self
- Impure [unattractive or repulsive] as impure
But when one is looking through the lens of meditation one should penetrate the conventional sense and see their constituent nature and the true characteristics of conditionally arisen, impermanent, painful, not-self and decaying (not-beautiful), which is the ultimate truth.
Another example on higher-level abstractions (Chariot) breaking down at lower levels (Wheel, Axels, Reighs, Frame, Seat, Draught pole) if found example of the Chariot in the King Milinda's Questions:
But what is a chariot? Nagasena asked. Is it the wheels, or the axles, or the reigns, or the frame, or the seat, or the draught pole? Is it a combination of those elements? Or is it found outside those elements?
The King answered no to each question. Then there is no chariot! Nagasena said.
Now the King acknowledged the designation "chariot" depended on these constituent parts, but that "chariot" itself is a concept, or a mere name.
Just so, Nagasena said, "Nagasena" is a designation for something conceptual. It is a mere name. When the constituent parts are present we call it a chariot; When the Five Skandhas are present, we call it a being.
Another way to understand the chariot simile is to imagine the chariot being taken apart. At what point in the dis-assembly does the chariot cease to be a chariot? We can update the simile to make it an automobile. As we disassemble the car, at what point is it not a car? When we take off the wheels? When we remove the seats? When we pry off the cylinder head?
Any judgment we make is subjective. Perhaps you may argue that a pile of car parts is still a car, just not an assembled one. The point is, though, that "car" and "chariot" are concepts we project onto the constituent parts. But there is no "car" or "chariot" essence that somehow dwells within the parts.
O'Brien, Barbara. "King Milinda's Questions and the Chariot Simile." Learn Religions, Jun. 25, 2019, https://www.learnreligions.com/king-milindas-questions-450052.