The Pluralist 9 (2):1-28 (2014)

Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz
Reification is to abstraction as disease is to health. Whereas abstraction is singling out, symbolizing, and systematizing, reification is neglecting abstractive context, especially functional, historical, and analytical-level context. William James and John Dewey provide similar and nuanced arguments regarding the perils and promises of abstraction. They share an abstraction-reification account. The stages of abstraction and the concepts of “vicious abstractionism,” “/the/ psychologist’s fallacy,” and “the philosophic fallacy” in the works of these pragmatists are here analyzed in detail. For instance, in 1896 Dewey exposes various fallacies associated with reifying dualistic reflex arc theory. The conclusion prescribes treatments (pluralism and assumption archaeology) for de-reifying ill models (i.e., universalized, narrowed, and ontologized models) in contemporary scientific fields such as cognitive science and biology.
Keywords Pragmatism  John Dewey  William James  Abstraction  Reification  Models  Explanation  Evolution  History of Philosophy
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DOI 10.5406/pluralist.9.2.0001
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References found in this work BETA

Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal.John Dewey - 1893 - Philosophical Review 2 (6):652-664.
James, Dewey, and the Reflex Arc.D. C. Phillips - 1971 - Journal of the History of Ideas 32 (4):555.

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The Genotype/Phenotype Distinction.Richard Lewontin - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Holistic Idealization: An Artifactual Standpoint.Tarja Knuuttila & Natalia Carrillo - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 91:49-59.

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