Now, I thought I had responded to Barker's claim in the debate quite appropriately. I actually didn't spend much time rebutting it because it is actually a very ignorant charge to level at me. I simply pointed out that to simply say "logic exists" is not to commit the fallacy of reification. Indeed, the fallacy applies in my situation only if a sort of nominalism is adhered to. But one can't just *assume* nominalism and then, without benefit of argument, accuse another of reifying certain entities. Furthermore, no examples, either by Barker or by the amateur internet atheologians, are forthcoming in showing how, exactly, I committed this fallacy. Since so many atheists thought that I committed this fallacy I thought I'd write a post dealing specifically on the fallacy of reification. Furthermore, I will show by quoting from either respected atheists or respected philosophy and logic texts, that I committed no such fallacy.
Now then, what is the fallacy of reification? Morris Engel in his respected book With Good Reason defines this fallacy (aka, the fallacy of hypostatization) as treating "abstract terms as if they were concrete ones. Frequently we ascribe human properties to them" (124). Interestingly, a frequent example (e.g., Engel's text) of this fallacy is when evolutionists tell us that "nature selects" certain traits. The "Skeptic Files also agrees with the above when it defines this fallacy:
Description: To reify something is to convert an abstract concept into a concrete thing. Reification is a Fallacy of Ambiguity. Reification is also sometimes known as a fallacy of "hypostatization".
Now, no evidence is put forth showing how I did the above. Why is it claimed, then, that I commit this particular fallacy. Well, it's simply because I say that "logic exists." Now, if one's ontology commits him to the view that the only entities which exist are concrete particulars, then when they hear me saying "logic exists" they hear me saying "logic is a concrete particular." Or, if one's ontology holds that only entities like rocks, trees, atoms, and neurons exist, then when one hears me say that logic exists then they hear me saying that logic is like a rock, or something. Therefore we can see that this fallacy is partly determined by one's ontological commitments. Thus when one hears me say that logic is an entity, it is assumed, because one holds to a materialist ontology, that I'm reifying logic, since only things like cake, cars, and cheetahs, are 'entities.'
We are told that we cannot call logic an entity. But this simply begs the question against the realist. We are told that logic "is not a thing" (to quote Barker). But all of the above trades on what ontological scheme one holds to. Given my particular view of ontology it is perfectly alright for me to refer to logic as an entity, and not commit the fallacy of reification. This is because I do not hold that to exist, or to be an entity, or to be a thing, is to be something like a small, hard, impenetrable marble. Am I within my rights to do so? Well, the Oxford Companion To Philosophy sides with me on this issue when it tells us that,
"'Thing,' in its most general sense, is interchangeable with 'entity,' or 'being' and is applicable to any item whose existence is acknowledge by a system of ontology, whether that item be particular, universal, abstract, or concrete. In this sense not only material bodies but also properties, relations, events, numbers, sets and propositions are - if they are acknowledge as existing - to be accounted 'things'" (p. 871).
Likewise, The Cambridge Companion To Philosophy (CCP) rightly notes that, "an object lacking spatio-temporal properties, but supposed to have being, to exist" is referred to as an "abstract entity" (p.3). Therefore we see that the fallacy of reification "turns largely on criteria of ontological commitment" (CCP, 409). Therefore, upon analysis, the reason this charge has been leveled at me is because the one who levels it holds to a certain ontological commitment which disallows anything that is not, say, marble-like, to be said to exist. But, given my ontological commitment, I've committed no such crime against logic. Therefore, without the ontological debate proceeding this charge, then all this charge amounts to is a question begging argument against the realist. Only if my ontology is disproved could someone say that I've reified said entity.
Now, I'm a theist, and so that automatically gets me labeled as someone who is deficient in his reasoning abilities. And so when I call logic an entity that is just more evidence that theists are stupid, because an entity is something like a rock, and so I'm saying that logic is something one could stub his toe on. But what happens when we put forth a couple atheists who maintain the same position on this view as I? Let me put forth two such paradigms of enlightenment: Michael Martin and Bertrand Russell.
Michael Martin, in his paper "Does Logic Presuppose God", tells us that,
"Second, although some atheists have been materialists there is no reason why they must be and, indeed, many philosophical trained atheists are not. Many modern atheists assume a pluralistic ontology in which material entities comprise only one kind of entity in their ontology. Bertrand Russell, for example, was an atheist but believed in abstract mathematical entities."
And in his reply to Michael Butler Michael Martin tells us,
"Does Butler add anything to Frame's position? Yes, he does. He attacks TANG by wrongly assuming that I am committed to materialism. Maintaining that materialism cannot give an account of logic, he says that I as an atheist cannot. But although all materialists are atheists, not all atheists are materialists. Indeed, many atheists have a pluralist ontology. For example, some atheists believe that neither mental events nor numbers can be reduced to material entities. I am not a materialist. I do not know whether mental events are reducible to brain states--the question is still open for me--and I certainly do not think that the principles of logic are so reducible."
Now would the neophytes on the Infidel Guy forums tell Michael Martin and Bertrand Russell that they are committing the fallacy of reification? Would Dan Barker tell Michael Martin and Bertrand Russell that "they are silly" for saying "logic (or numbers) is an entity" because "logic (or numbers) are not things, there's no capital L (or N) floating around out there." Are we to assume that these atheists think the famed Michael Martin thinks that logic is some physical "thing" which "floats around" in the sky? If so, I ask them to rightly call them on the carpet for their "stupidity." If not, then on what basis do they level this charge at me? Indeed, even the famed "Secular Web" applies this fallacy in the exact opposite direction than the atheists who have complained about my logical sins. We read,
Reification / Hypostatization
Reification occurs when an abstract concept is treated as a concrete thing.
"I noticed you described him as 'evil'. Where does this 'evil' exist within the brain? You can't show it to me, so I claim it doesn't exist, and no man is 'evil'."
Here we see that the Secular Web treats evil as an existent thing. The fallacy is committed by the likes of our sophomoric atheist friends who say that since evil isn't some rock-like entity, then it can't exist!
In conclusion we note that the atheist objector is actually naïve about his subject matter. He uncritically assumes an ontological position, does not argue for that position, and then assumes, without benefit of argument, that his position is true; thus allowing him to charge me with this logical crime. We further note that it is entirely appropriate to speak of logic as an object, thing, or entity given our ontological commitment. We have further seen that their childhood heroes, Michael Martin and Bertrand Russell, speak the same way I do yet the mocking is strangely silent when it comes to them. If I'm a "dumb idiot" then so are they (on this issue). Michael Martin can be reached by phone and I suggest that they call him up and tell him how dumb he is. Lastly, we should note, that given their ontological schema they are consistent in saying that I have reified these items. But, let's note that they need to be consistent and deny the existence of: logic, numbers, proposition, sets, etc. If they do not deny the existence of these entities then they are part of their ontology and, as we have read, a member of one's ontology is properly called an object, thing, or entity. Therefore to mock me they must become anti-realist with respects to the above. Suffice it to say, that's a big pill to swallow but since it's not the purpose of this post to argue for a realist take on the above I'll leave it at that.