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Reification is to take an abstract concept or idea to be a tangible entity. The word is derived from the Latin res (a thing) and facere (to make), literally translated as "thing-making."

Reification is often used when an abstract concept is intended metaphorically. Reification of a concept is not fallacious in this sense, unless the metaphor is taken literally to support an argument.

Reification Fallacy

In informal logic, a reification fallacy occurs when one of the arguments in a syllogism reifies a concept, and the conclusion refers to the reified concept. This is a special case of equivocation, because a word is being interpreted in a different way from what it actually means.

For example:

  1. Justice is blind
  2. Judges represent justice
  3. Therefore, judges should be blind

In this case, blindness is attributed to justice metaphorically, intended to mean that justice should be administered objectively. But instead, this argument relies on justice being reified - that is, it is taken literally to support the conclusion that judges should lack eyesight.

This is a common fallacy among deists/theists when they affirm things like:

  1. Life is a gift
  2. A gift is something that has to be given by someone
  3. Therefore, someone must have given us life

The statement that "life is a gift", though itself arguable, is intended metaphorically to mean that life should be treated as special, and cherished. But this argument reifies life, as if it were literally a gift. It has been attributed the properties of a physical gift, which can be given from one person to another.

Note that the reverse argument is also possible. One who has endured a challenging life might argue that if there were a God, life is a gift from Him, and thus as a gift his life should have been better. Ergo, there must be no God. This argument also involves the reification of life.

Pathetic Fallacy

This is a specific type of reification where an abstract idea is reified by anthropomorphizing it, and then a conclusion is drawn based on its new human properties.

For example:

  1. We are mistreating Nature
  2. There has been an increased number of natural disasters in the past years
  3. Conclusion: Nature is retaliating for our mistreatment

The conclusion that nature is taking revenge for our mistreatment automatically gives the abstract concept of nature characteristics exclusive to humans (wanting to take revenge).

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