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9 Examples of Reification

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Reification is a fallacy that results from treating an abstraction as a concrete thing. This is associated with taking ideas too far until they become rigid and oppressive. A concrete thing is undeniable and measurable, treating your abstract thoughts in the same way is technically illogical.

Personification

Treating an abstraction as a person such as “nature is kind.”

Objectification

Abstractions as objects such as “he lost his mind.”

Substantialization

Assigning physical properties to abstractions such as “freedom is hard.”

Metonymic Reification

Substituting an abstraction for something that is real. For example, referring to a government as “the people.”

Anthropomorphic Reification

Assigning human characteristics to non-human things. For example, “the thunder is angry.”

Agency Reification

Treating abstractions as if they have agency such as motivation. For example, “the market wants to go down.”

Temporal Reification

Treating time as a normal physical thing such as “give me my time back.”

Causal Reification

Pretending that abstractions caused something that they could not have caused. For example, “art drove him mad.”

Measurement Reification

Pretending that abstractions such as happiness or intelligence can be measured with accuracy.
A commonly cited example of reification is the treatment of intelligence testing scores as if they were the concrete and universal definition of intelligence. Intelligence is an abstraction that is difficult to define and measure.

Language

A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
Reification is a cornerstone of language as most words are abstract concepts and it is common to assign human-like characteristics to these concepts. Where this is understood as an analogy, play on words or creative license, it is not a fallacy. However, it can be difficult to separate these things and reification can be used in deceptive ways.
Overview: Reification
Type
Definition
Treating an abstraction as a concrete thing.
Related Concepts
Next: Abstraction
More about abstraction:
Abstract Concept
Abstract Ideas
Abstract Nouns
Abstract Things
Abstract Thinking
Abstraction
Analogy
Art
Concept
Concrete Things
Emotions
First Principle
Generalization
Human Experience
Intangible
Key Concepts
Labeling
Language
Meaning
Thinking
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