The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

By Irving J. Lee | Go to book overview

Riefication1

JAMES W. WOODARD

Reification . . . means any unwarranted extension of reality in the thing perceived or conceived. The first syllable of the word (Latin res, thing) is the same root as the first syllable of the word "real"; and to re-ify is therefore to take as real something which is not real or to confer a greater reality upon something than that which it has. Thus reification means the taking as real that which is only apparently real; the taking as objectively real that which is only subjectively real; the taking as factual, concrete, or perceptual that which is only conceptual; the taking as absolute that which is only relative, etc.

It must be evident that a tendency toward reification is ever present in mental functioning. And much of what follows flows from the ubiquity of this tendency, even though in many particular instances the tendency does not carry on to what might more strictly be termed an actual case of reification. In a sense, all misconceptions, mistakes, misunderstandings, and errors are taking for real what is not real and so illustrate the ubiquity of the tendency. However, there is in the case of these, from experience, a certain tenuousness of belief, a certain implicit recognition that one may be mistaken. Even so, to apply the term indiscriminately to the whole gamut of error in human mental functioning would not be so much amiss, as, practically, to explain so much that it would explain nothing. While many of the illustrations which follow have been chosen from instances of as slight a degree of the working of the tendency as is contained in these concepts, this has been done to show the ubiquity of the tendency. The strict definition of the term, however, is best drawn at that point where something definite can be said as to the way in which the reality of the perceptual or conceptual object has been extended, and where there is a definite rigidifying of the erroneous perceptual pattern so that it resists correc-

____________________
1
From Intellectual Realism and Culture Change. Hanover, New Hampshire: The Sociological Press, 1935, pp. 8-13. Reprinted by permission of James W. Woodard.

-214-

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The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Recognition of Words as Such 1
  • Everything Has a Name 3
  • The Phenomenon of Language 6
  • Symbolic Pointing 7
  • The Mobile Word 15
  • Two Types of Names 19
  • Precision in Natural Language1 23
  • Part II - The Functions and Purposes Of Language in Use 29
  • The Three Forms of Discourse 31
  • The Condition of Clarity1 41
  • The Functions of Poetry 48
  • Behavior That Language Makes Possible 57
  • Talking About the Weather 59
  • Part III - Matters of Fact, Fiction and Opinion 63
  • Matters of Fact and Opinion - George Cornewall Lewis 65
  • The Semantic Conception of Truth - Alfred Tarski 67
  • Every Man His Own Historian 71
  • Literature as Revelation 78
  • Knowledge by Definition 82
  • On the Logic of Fiction 92
  • Fictions, Hypotheses and Dogmas 101
  • Part IV - Questions and Answers 109
  • The Nature of a Question 111
  • "Footless" Questions 121
  • The How and the Why of Things 129
  • Part V - The Ambiguous Word 135
  • On Definition 137
  • Nominal and Real Definitions 139
  • How is "Exactness" Possible? 141
  • Definitions and Reality 149
  • Interpretation 160
  • Ambiguity and Its Avoidance 164
  • Part VI - The Recognition of Differences 173
  • Of General Terms 175
  • Realists and Nominalists 178
  • On Knowing the Difference 180
  • The Passion for Parsimony 184
  • The Individuality of Things and The Generality of Language 188
  • Part VII - Verbal Fascination 205
  • The Attributive Attitude - Ellis Freeman 207
  • Riefication 214
  • The Context of Associations 224
  • Part VIII - The Structural Patterns and Implications Of a Language 245
  • Perception and Language 247
  • An Experimental Study of the Effect Of Language on the Reproduction Of Visually Perceived Form 251
  • Language and Thought 262
  • Languages and Logic 273
  • Part IX - Escape from Verbalism 287
  • Sensation and Cerebration 289
  • An Address on Words and Things 295
  • Experience with Languages 305
  • Two Kinds of Knowledge1 309
  • Preparation of the Child for Science 310
  • Significs 336
  • Index 359
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