Fallacy of Composition
A person commits fallacy of composition when they draw a conclusion regarding a whole on the basis of the features of parts or constituents of the whole while the fact is that there is no justification given for this inference. In simple terms, fallacy of composition occurs when a person concludes that something or idea is true for the whole while it is true just for some part or parts of the whole.
There are two types of fallacy of composition but a single name is used in reference to both of them due to their high level of similarity. One type of the fallacy of composition is committed when an individual reasons on the basis of the characteristics of the individual members of the group or class to make a conclusion about the characteristics of the whole group or class when taken in entirety.
This can be summarized formally as follows:
- Characteristics A, B, C and D are present in individual G things
- Therefore, characteristics A, B, C and D are present in the whole group or class of G things.
This is a fallacious line of reasoning because the fact that some individuals possess certain characteristics should not be taken as a guarantee that the entire class or group possesses the same characteristics.
However, it is crucial to note that when an inference is drawn regarding the characteristics of a group or class on the basis of the characteristics possessed by individual members it does not have to be fallacious all the time. Sufficient justification may be provided in some instances to warrant this conclusion.
For instance, it is not fallacious to say that a rich person individually is wealthier than a poor person. The wealthy people’s group or class in the U.S is wealthier than the poor people’s group or class. In such a case, inference would be warranted by the provided evidence and therefore it would eliminate the fallacy of composition if provided.
A person commits the second category of fallacy of composition by concluding that what happens to be true for some parts of the whole must also be true for the whole yet there is no adequate justification for this claim. This line of reasoning can be presented formally as follows:
- Characteristics A, B, and C are present in some parts of the entire/whole F.
- Therefore, characteristics A, B and C must be present in the whole/entire F.
This is a fallacious reasoning since by some parts of the complex whole having certain characteristics does not mean that the entire whole has those characteristics. This fallacy of composition is committed mostly in math. Both 1 and 3 are odd numbers. 3 and 1 are part of or form 4. Therefore, 4 is an odd number.
Nevertheless, reasoning on the basis of the characteristics of some parts of the whole is not always a fallacious. Some justifications can be provided to warrant the inference which might eliminate fallacy of composition.
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