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Reification

 

Disciplines Argument > Fallacies > Reification

Description | Discussion | Example | See also

 

Description

The reification fallacy occurs where an abstract idea, concept or model is treated as if it were concrete and real.

Example

A computer is like a brain. It can make intuitive leaps as well.

The Boston Matrix tells us that our product range got a cash cow, two question marks and a dog. We hence should remove one question mark and the dog.

Alan is a god amongst men. He will know you better than you know yourself. He will be able to heal you with a single touch.

Discussion

One of the skills of the human species is the ability to think in abstract terms, juggling ideas that help us understand and work with the real world. This is in some ways essential as the world is too complex for us to understand in infinite detail.

We naturally build inner mental models as a way of coping with this outer complexity. We then view the world through the models, treating the model as if it is the world, not just a representation. In this sense, it could be said that everything is a reification. 

Where the reification fallacy occurs in an important sense is where the assumption of idea as reality is too far from a better truth. In business, for example, many models are used to understand and describe business situations. When the models are taken too literally, people can end up depending on them and making blind decisions rather than using the models to give one viewpoint that may be considered alongside other evidence.

Reification may be deliberately used in the use of metaphor and other figures of speech. It becomes a fallacy when we forget that the representation is just that: a representation, and not reality. Extended metaphors can easily fail in this way.

Classification

Ambiguity

Also known as

Hypostatisation, Concretism, or Misplaced Concreteness

See also

Metaphor, Figures of speech

 

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