We now come to the decisive step of mathematical abstraction: we forget about what the symbols stand for. … [The mathematician] need not be idle; there are many operations which he may carry out with these symbols, without ever having to look at the things they stand for.
Hermann Weyl The Mathematical Way of Thinking

[1] The ability to directly manipulate functions provides an analogous increase in the expressive power of a programming language. For example, in section 1.3.1 we introduced the sum function, which takes a function term as an argument and computes the sum of the values of term over some specified interval. In order to define sum, it is crucial that we be able to speak of a function such as term as an entity in its own right, without regard for how term might be expressed with more primitive operations. Indeed, if we did not have the notion of a function, it is doubtful that we would ever even think of the possibility of defining an operation such as sum. Moreover, insofar as performing the summation is concerned, the details of how term may be constructed from more primitive operations are irrelevant.
2 Building Abstractions with Data