User Tools

(Fallacies of) Abstraction

The use of terms and concepts at an unjustified level of abstraction.

For example:

Mother nature cares for her children.

There is of course nothing wrong with using an expressions such as “mother nature” in a purely metaphorical sense. It becomes fallacious only when the abstract nature of such a concept is ignored and it is treated as if it existed in reality, or at least on a different level of abstraction.

In this case, “nature” is an abstract concept that is used to describe a wide range of phenomena. It is not an anthropomorphic being which may have motherly feelings or a sense of duty to care for any creature or being.


  • Reification in this context refers to the tendency to see abstract concepts as concrete things.
  • Anthropomorphisation describes the error of ascribing human characteristics or attributes to plants, animals or even inanimate things (e.g. stones, water …).
  • The ontological fallacy is committed when one assumes that something exists because there is a name for it.
  • The semiotic fallacy consists in the confusion of a symbol with the symbolised object or concept.
  • The epistemic fallacy is practically the counterpart to the ontological one: here, existence is erroneously inferred from cognition.

This website uses cookies. By using the website, you agree with storing cookies on your computer. Also, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy. If you do not agree, please leave the website.

More information