Whitehead famously picked out the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness, also called the Fallacy of Reification, of Hypostatization, or of Concretism. It is committed “when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete real event or physical entity.” Popular discourse is rife with such fallacies: as, e.g., treating terrorism, racism, hate, anthropogenic global warming, patriarchy, and so forth as if they were concrete reals.
I’ve always cordially disliked those terms for the phenomenon. I like better the Fallacy of Inapt Concretion. That’s just me. But this is my essay, so I’m going to use it hereinafter.
In general, we may understand the Fallacy of Inapt Concretion as treating an idea as if it were actual in its own right; i.e., as if the idea all by itself could *do* things, the way that agents can do. Ideas can of course inform concrete actualities, and so doing influence their acts. But when this happens, it is not the idea itself that is acting, or that therefore is concrete, but rather the actuality that is informed by that idea.
To get sufficiently clear on this concept, we must distinguish between an idea and its concrete instantiations; between as it were the genotype and the phenotype of memes.
As to the former, the genotype of a meme is its formal specification, whereas the phenotype of a meme is its actual implementation by an actual entity. Memes are actual at all then only as aspects of the intellects in which they have been instantiated, and so have operated and interacted with other similarly instantiated memes, and then expressed in action.
The formal specification of a meme is of course also itself a meme.
I’m getting down into the weeds a bit here to begin with, only so that what I am about to say is – I hope – more clear. And that is this:
The reciprocal of the Fallacy of Inapt Concretion is the Fallacy of Inapt Abstraction.
This fallacy is committed when a concrete real is treated as if it were nothing but an abstract concept. It is found in the phenomenon of scapegoating, wherein a concrete person or thing is destroyed in an attempt to destroy an abstract evil that characterizes and so plagues the whole community. The move is obviously foolish; the only way to destroy the evil of the community is for each member thereof to abstain from it, and this just never happens, because very few actually want to stop doing evil.
Perhaps the greatest example of the Fallacy of Inapt Abstraction is to be seen in the murder by Communist regimes of millions upon millions of concrete individual persons, because they were thought to be salients of ideas that were politically incorrect. The same sort of thing goes on in the West today, albeit far less violently.
Signaling virtue without going to the trouble of actually being virtuous is another manifestation of the Fallacy. E.g., announcing on Facebook that you are against hate, and then doing nothing about actual acts of hatred in your own vicinity – especially such acts as tend to occur within your own cranium.
The Fallacy is epitomized also in the wry autodeprecation that “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.”