Today I learned that this rhetorical trick already has a name: The Reification Fallacy. The Reification Fallacy goes by several other names:
- Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness (Whitehead)
- Concretizing the Abstract
- Hypostatisation: [Gk. hypostatos: substantially existing] attributing real identity to (a concept). See Hypostasis in theology (wiki)
- Ontological Fallacy
Reification Fallacy is the error of treating as a concrete thing something which is not concrete, but merely an idea. It For example: if the phrase “fighting for justice” is taken literally, justice would be reified. The trouble comes when we start to think of abstractions as if they were concrete realities themselves — thereby “reifying” them.
The Reification Fallacy is a type of Ambiguity Fallacy (see: Fallacy Files) and I have illustrated its place on the Fallacy Taxonomy above. Interestingly, I can’t find the “Reification Fallacy” discussed in the “Fallacy Files”. But here are some sources that do discuss it:
- Reification Fallacy (wiki)
- Less Wrong: Smart Non-reductionists by Kaj Sotala
- Concretizing the Abstract: by Edward Feser
- Even Answers in Genesis discusses it: as in “fooling Mother Nature” or “Wisdom”
- Ayn Rand (The Feast of Unreason) discusses the Reification of Zero.