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Reification

(also known as: abstraction, concretism, fallacy of misplaced concreteness, hypostatisation)

Description: When an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event or physical entity -- when an idea is treated as if had a real existence.

Example #1:

It's time to grab my future by the balls.

Explanation: The future is an abstraction. It does not have testicles. If it did, you probably wouldn't want to grab them because your future might sue you for sexual misconduct.

Example #2:

If you are open to it, love will find you.

Explanation:  Love is an abstraction, not a little fat flying baby with a bow and arrow that searches for victims.  Cute sayings such as this one can serve as bad advice for people who would otherwise make an effort to find a romantic partner, but choose not to, believing that this "love entity" is busy searching for his or her ideal mate.

Exception: In most cases, even in the above examples, these are used as rhetorical devices. When the reification is deliberate and harmless, and not used as evidence to support a claim or conclusion, then it is not fallacious.

Mother Nature can be disturbingly unkind.

Variation: The pathetic fallacy is the treatment of inanimate objects as if they had human feelings, thought, or sensations.  Think of cursing at your computer when it does not give you the results you expect.

References:

reification | literature | Britannica.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/reification



Registered User Comments

Jacob
Monday, February 26, 2018 - 08:24:04 AM
Is it reification if I say...

Big Pharma wants to keep you sick.
Uncle Sam wants you to join the military.
The government wants to take your guns.

Big Pharma and the government are not abstract terms like love, but maybe it is still reification. The government is made of thousands of dispirite people and departments. It can’t want to take your guns in the same way that an individual person can. The whole government is reified into one thing so it is easier to vilify.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, March 11, 2018 - 07:19:38 AM
For our purposes, abstraction is defined as "something that exists only as an idea." Your examples might be debatable if they are ideas or just names for groups of things that actually exists (companies, people, etc.).

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Jacob
Friday, March 09, 2018 - 01:35:55 PM
Reification seems nearly the same as Anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism is "Non-human thing is described with human characteristics."

Reification is "When an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event or physical entity -- when an idea is treated as if had a real existence."

The "If you are open to it, love will find you" example makes sense as an example of reification. Love is an abstraction, but a stomach is a "non human thing treated with human characteristics". The reification example of the street calling your name also seems more like a "non human thing treated with human characteristics."

Wouldn't the "My stomach is telling me it is time to eat" and "the street calling your name" example be more an example of anthropomorphism.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, March 11, 2018 - 07:15:18 AM
I agree that the examples (besides the love one) are the not the best. I will revise those to make sure the idea is more abstract.

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