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Norman Douglas on Reification

February 15, 2017

“Now, leisure should be spelt with a capital ‘L’, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming materialized, like many similar things which have ceased to be abstractions. This is what they call ‘treating a concept as if it were an entity.’ The Unknown, for instance. I have passed that stage: the Hibbert Journal stage. We create a word for our convenience and forthwith, unless we are on the look out, there comes over it a horrid change. The word was made man. It puts on flesh and blood and begins to give itself airs. Soon enough, it stares us in the face, as though we were total strangers. ‘Know you?’ it jeers. ‘Know you for a fool!’ Many respectable men have been eaten alive by the words of their own creation, for their appetite exceeds that of Frankenstein’s healthful monster, and I have reasons for suspecting that, like the ferocious Scythians of old, they only drink milk.”

Siren Land – A celebration of life in southern Italy (J. M. Dent, 1911), p. 157.

Wikipedia: The Hibbert Journal was a large, quarterly magazine in softback book format, issued since 1902 by the Hibbert Trust, best described by its subtitle: “A Quarterly Review of Religion, Theology and Philosophy”


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