Title

The Fallacy of Composition: Guiding Concepts, Historical Cases, and Research Problems

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-20-2015

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Logic

Volume

13

Issue

2

First page number:

24

Last page number:

43

Abstract

Although the fallacy of composition is little studied by theorists and trivially illustrated in textbooks, some view it as ubiquitous and highly significant. Furthermore, although definitions regard the concept as unproblematic, it contains three distinct elements that are often confused, and is often carelessly conflated with the fallacy of division. And although some apparently claim that fallacies are figments of a critic's imagination, they are really proposing to study fallacies in the context of meta-argumentation. Guided by these ideas, I find three important historical examples: Aristotle's geocentric argument from natural motion, as critiqued by Galileo; a step in the theological argument from design, as critiqued by Hume; and Michels's iron law of oligarchy, as critiqued by social scientists Dahl and Lipset. Finally, I formulate some problems for future research on compositional arguments: distinguishing incorrectness from fallaciousness; elaborating general principles of evaluation; clarifying the three distinct subtypes; shifting from the arbitrary pluralism of argument-identification to the normal meta-argumentation of argument-analysis; and further historical–empirical search for such fallacies in various controversies, over holism, over global warming, and over national debts.

Keywords

Argument of composition; Composition; Design argument; Fallacy of composition; Meta-argumentation; Oligarchy

Disciplines

Philosophy | Rhetoric and Composition

Language

English


Search your library

Share

COinS