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categories, analogy and reification:


a briefing document

New translation, the Magna Carta

categories, analogy and reification discusses thinking clearly - avoiding confusions stemming from mental tricks and habits pervasive in human society.
. categories, analogy and reification denialism herds and the individual - sociology, the ephemeral nature of groups
. ends and means the nature of cult recruitment - jihadi bombers    
psycho-babble drugs    

the rules are changing all the time – abelard

This document contains a simple directory to other logical ideas accessible at abelard.org.


Is empiricism the same as pragmatism?

End notes
site map


  1. Defining any ‘part’ of the real world as ‘an object’ is to mentally separate [1] that part of reality from the rest of the interconnected and interacting reality. The mental act does not, in fact, separate the ‘object’ in the real world; it only treats that part of reality separately for convenience.

  2. Consider the category, class or set of ‘trees’. It is a matter of decision whether this or that object is ‘really’ a tree or a bush, or even perhaps a baby tree. In order to place an ‘object’ in a class, it is necessary to have a pattern or template in mind to compare with each ‘object’ that may be selected for decision.
    For more technical discussion see decision processes – metalogic B.

  3. Another word for this process is analogy.[2] All reasoning by analogy is weak, for no ‘two’ parts of reality are in fact ‘the same’.

  4. To assign objects to classes takes acts of judgment.

  5. Some words with very similar meanings:


    For more technical discussion see Gödel’s confusions: Metalogic A

  6. It is common for people to imagine that words have stable or even static meanings; they do not. Each time a word is used it is different; that ‘it is in the dictionary’ is far from enough. You may have some notion of what you mean, the dictionary does not, the dictionary has never heard of you. Dictionaries have approximate meanings abstracted from common usage.[4]return to the index


  1. You cannot read minds. You never know what another person is thinking, at best you can only guess. It is dodgy enough when people say, “Jo Sixpak thinks that…”, or even, “Jo Sixpak feels that…”. It is legitimate to recount that the president said this or that, assuming he did.

  2. Even stranger are statements like, “history teaches…”, “the government has learnt how….”, “Britain has declared war”. Neither ‘history’ nor ‘Britain’ nor ‘the government’ are people! As such, they do not think, feel, act or do anything; these processes are essentially the domain of sentients, not of disembodied abstracts. It is individual humans that ‘teach’, or ‘learn’, or even ‘declare war’.

  3. This behaviour is known as reifying, the personalising of abstracts; when you encounter this sort of behaviour you would be wise to become very suspicious and cautious. The user is usually trying to slip something past you or, likely, to attempt selling you the Brooklyn Bridge. The speaker is attempting to be taken as speaking for others, whereas no person can reliably speak for any but themselves.return to the index


  1. When a person sets up a category, it is not some detached or value-free action. The category is set up in a context, in accord with the speaker’s objectives or convenience.

  2. I have recently put up a definition of the religion of socialism on my site: socialist religions. Naturally, this has gone down none to well with the adherents of that well-known cult, I am sorry to say. (Well, I’m not really. My whole purpose is to concentrate minds on the dogmatic nature of the cult). The cult members would rather I treated their religion as just another ordinary political party or movement, instead of a church or religion. Wait until I get to the market fundamentalists! I have already laid some groundwork in corporate corruption, politics and the law. Another person may prefer to write a piece on the political nature of a church. I have a modest example here! – Ecumenical Councils and the rise and fall of the Church of Rome.

  3. When one sets up a category there can be no good expectation of the word meaning the same to others as it means to you. Further the meaning may well change over the course of conversations, as intentions are refined. This occurs in a process of feedback.

  4. The level of stability will tend to be relative to the subject in hand. A discussion about tables is less likely to become complex and require careful descriptions than will a discussion about politics.

  5. What is a socialist? There are two fundamental approaches: either the person says ‘I am a socialist’, or they may have a series of expressed beliefs and behaviours such as those suggested in my description of ‘the socialist religion’. Others may want yet different definitions of any word.

  6. Thus, the same person I call a socialist may not so regard themselves, or a person who claims to be [5] a socialist may not fit my category.return to the index


  1. The clinging to one definition of a category, or another definition, is often referred to as ‘dogma[6]. Words do not have meanings; instead, reality is that people express meanings. Remembering that you cannot read the mind of another, be cautious not to become attached to one meaning or another within your own head, instead attempt to understand the messages that others are attempting to communicate.

  2. Many people not understanding flexible use of language will insist that their own preferred definitions are the ‘real’ meanings of words. Or maybe they will look up a dictionary with still more words and insist that the words in the dictionary are the ‘real’ meaning. A ‘dog’ does not stop barking because you call it a ‘yak’. The DOG out there in the real world is the relevant ‘object’, not the words (objects) chosen to point at it.

  3. A ‘political party’ is a series of human objects who band together for mutual advantages, it is nothing else in the real world. It matters not what each one of those people ‘believe’. You have no clear access to ‘their’ beliefs. You can only know what they say to you, or observe the manner in which they act [7]. A political party is not something vague on a skyhook called a ‘philosophy’.

The notion of ‘a philosophy’ is essentially illusoryreturn to the index


  1. It is often frightening for people to relinquish their closely held belief/s. Often their whole lives and being have been built around certain beliefs and a circle of other people who express similar words, or practice similar rituals.

  2. People who have popular but foolish beliefs, e.g. the expressed beliefs of ‘socialism’ that have led to tens of millions of deaths are regarded as fairly socially acceptable to most people. Similarly for other mass ‘religions’. Such people can usually maintain themselves and even work in quite skilled ‘jobs’. Yet should they believe ‘equally’ outlandish things about little green men they may find a considerable lack of company and even problems in society, getting employment or functioning well. Thus much of what distinguishes what is often called (labelled) ‘madness’ is the current popularity and acceptability of a belief set. Even belief in astrology columns or alien abduction can be sufficiently socially accepted to stop the social isolation. Beliefs only tend to become called ‘madness’ or ‘hallucination’ when the beliefs are even less common, such as believing that televisions are spying on you or talking to you.

  3. Thus the transition from a belief system, with its social support structures, can be seen as liable to detach one from ‘reality’; that is as threatening to your sanity. I have provided the document, laying the foundations for sound education, to help guide people through such a process, by practicing becoming anchored in the reality outside the head as a means of getting free of dubious belief systems.

  4. Defining an object as a member of a class, such as a political party, is to make an analogy between the behaviour of that person and the definition of the other objects in the class. However, each object defined as ‘separate’ remains separate until a new decision is made!
    To further understand the nature of a class or a ‘universal’, start here.

  5. It is often possible to regard a definition as a class.return to the index

Is empiricism the ‘same’ as pragmatism?

  1. Analogy is sometimes pragmatic communication but it requires a relaxation of rigour; for, in the real world, there is no genuine separation, nor are any two notionally separated ‘objects’ ever ‘the same’.

  2. Thus we have a situation where what is pragmatic is empirically unsound.[2] Argument by analogy is not sound, merely useful if applied judiciously.

  3. This may be considered a difficult separation by some; for pragmatic is empiric, in the sense that ‘it works’ for us to a relative degree in the real world, but it remains that the real world is not factually ‘like that’.

    For further reading: denialism
    ends and means the nature of cult recruitment - jihadi bombers
    psycho-babble drugs
    return to the index

End notes

  1. Reality section in Aristotle's logic - Why Aristotelian logic does not work

  2. Analogy: attempting to make patterns between ‘two’ separated real objects or ‘situations’.
    Situations are also objects, happenings in the real world.
    Happenings are moving ‘or’ interacting objects.

    All reasoning using analogy, while often useful (pragmatic), is essentially sloppy – that is, empirically unsound and should, therefore, always be used with caution and close, conscious attention.

    To suggest anything can be empirically sound runs into problems, including the error called ‘complete’. To suggest that a ‘theory’ (description) is ‘empirically sound’is unacceptable. What can be said is that the description has, thus far, been sufficiently useful for human communication and purposes.

    Empiric refers to the real world. A description of the real world (in words) remains a description. The world is what it is, it is not the description.
    A description, however, is of itself ‘part’ of the real world.

  3. As with all words in this section, a meme is a small programme running in your head. For more discussion, start here.

    These programmes are not static. As with a computer programme, they can be modified with experience. It is the real world impingeing on the senses which, sensibly, drives modofications in the memes. Unfortunately, society is still at a primitive state where ‘it’ attempts to force predigested memes into the heads of the young in the form of ‘dogmas’.

    Only by allowing reality to drive the refinement of the memes can one approach sanity.

    Always remain aware that the memes are mere approximations to reality, not substitutes for reality.

    For more on memes, visit section on memes in useful links

  4. In mathematics you will see comments like “let x ‘equal’ ” . This means you can put any ‘thing’ at all into this category (set). You will see from Gödel’s confusions: Metalogic A, in much detail, that this is no safe or innocent practice.

    Many call mathematics ‘abstract’ for reasons apparently similar to this.

  5. See also the error of to be.

    Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) 1832–98
    English writer and logician

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
    Through the Looking-Glass (1872), chapter 6.

  6. Other strongly held ‘beliefs’ are also often mis-referred to as ‘dogma’, even though those beliefs may better accord with reality but not with the beliefs of another.

  7. “Trust actions not words”— Niccolò Machiavelli, 1469 – 1527.
    a more exact quote would be desirable.

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