Reification Definition

News magazines… political advertisements…. bombastic web pages… shock jocks. It seems we are bombarded with a lot rhetoric these .  Rhetoric can be coercive.    To help sort facts from rhetoric its important to understand what refification is. Reificating is treating  concepts, hypothetical constructs and postulates as if they real, concrete or even organic, when writing, speaking, broadcasting or communicating.

Reification  is the act treating  an idea as if it were real.

* I prefer  to use  the word “reificating”  since it is a description of an action – and different from “reification” (the act of reificating) in noun form, is a concept or construct… so goes the nature of the English natures use of nouns. I think its appropriate to point out in here.
Some Examples of Reification:

“Evolution chooses the strong to survive.”
“Good and Evil forces control the fate of man.”
“Information wants to be free.”
“The Free market will correct its self.”

  • Evolution is a concept, it cannot choose.
  • “Good’, “Evil” are descriptions, they have no concrete actions.
  • Information and the free Market are constructs they neither want, cognate or act.

These statements may be poetic ,symbolic, or personifying to illustrate a subject matter or point — but they are not factual in them selves.
The act of treating these ideas as if they were people or beings is  reification.  Being able to spot it can help clarify the massive information from disinformation that we receive these days.  When every particular thread of information we receive  already comes colored by subjective bias  of the source’s own world-view (or weltanschauung – I’ll post on this definition in the future),   its important to have  as many clarification tools as we can. Understanding our  reificating  will help us clarify information and decide what is  meaningful and how meaningful.

Reification and Closure….Perceptual Study.

In gestalt psychology, a branch of study based upon human perception, refication or “closure” is the act of experiencing more spatial information in that presented.
Although  the two definitions   of refication given  are separate,   I see a connection in   how a person  mistakes ideas as real  by  experiencing more information than he concretely or empirically has about an idea.  Do you see a triangle in the image below?

reification triangle image

There is no triangle in the image above, but one will perceive a three sided polygon – filling in the missing sides.  Upon  quick glance: the idea  a triangle in the image is made erroneously real – an “optical illusion” until further inspection.

Conclusion  and  not jumping to conclusions:

In the Modern era, in the West, many people believe: “God is talking to me“. In the United States educated people debate if  “Corporations  are people“.
Some would say that these nouns  difficult to show empirically. The first statement may refer to  belief system and the latter organizations that act as a single entity. Although  I think it is important  clarify both statements, but debunking these ideas is not the intention here.

In fact, I would say that deconstructing any of the rhetorical statements (example “information wants to be free“) is not about annihilating them. Rhetoric and poetry are important.   Its that  in  interpreting language with the awareness of   reificating,  one will be better suited to  decide what is meaningful information and what is discord and distraction. Understanding reification is practical.