Talk:Fallacy of composition

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July 2005[edit]

I enjoyed the example of saving = good for individual, saving for everyone = bad for the whole. This seems to be a prisoner's dilemma if someone wants to perhaps add it in (although it only works for examples where there is choice among people, it doesn't work for the machine breaking example). --ShaunMacPherson 19:21, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

I think this principle is incorrectly stated, because in some (many) cases properties of component parts are retained by the whole. For example, metal melts, therefore if a machine is constructed of metal parts the machine will also melt. It depends on the specific properties and how the parts are combined; in fact there is no general method for determining whether the fallacy applies or not, you need to understand the details of the case in question. Bobcousins 23:51, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Bobcousins, the fallacy is correctly explained in the article. Your example shows only that some inferences from the properties of parts to the properties of wholes happen to issue in true conclusions. But so, for example, do many hasty generalisations issue in true conclusions. The point in the case of fallacy of composition is that more evidence is required than simply the evidence that the parts have certain properties. Try this argument, in which premise C provides such extra evidence:
A. Ice must always melt above 0ºC.
B. This statue is made only of ice.
C. Melting is a property that transfers from parts to wholes.
Therefore D. This statue must melt above 0ºC.
This argument is valid. But the argument A, B, therefore D is not strictly valid, even though the conclusion D is plainly true. This reduced argument is an example of the fallacy of composition. Noetica 00:26, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
And perhaps another way to put it is that the Fallacy of Composition is indeed a "fallacy" because although the conclusion may sometimes be true, it is not necessarily true in every case. 12:36, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
Ok, I appreciate your response. But I still disagree it is correctly explained. The conditional "when" is attached to "inference from part to a whole", but that is not where the fallacy arises. Without further qualification, this implies that all such inferences are fallacious, but this is not correct. It's a first step, but the fallacy arises "when that property is not transferable". The principle of transferability is a fundamental condition, therefore the definition should read: "A fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some (or even every) part of the whole AND that property is not transferable". Otherwise the definition amounts to "a fallacy arising by assuming something is true when it is false" which is correct, but not explanatory, and leaving the reader to deduce the principle of transferability from the example.
For a better text see, which includes the essential point about characteristics
Bobcousins 11:57, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
I assume you mean the "when" in this clear introductory statement, Bob, since it is the only occurrence of that word in the article: A fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some (or even every) part of the whole. You say Without further qualification, this implies that all such inferences are fallacious, but this is not correct. On the contrary, though: it is correct! If my support for my conclusion that object O has property P is just that some (or all) parts of O have P, I have fallen victim to the fallacy of composition. It doesn't matter if O does have P; it doesn't even matter if O has P in virtue of its parts having P: the fallacy is still operating. If, on the other hand, my evidence is that the parts of O have P and that P is transferable from parts to wholes, that's a different story. It is not the story given in our first, definitional, sentence: ...from the fact that it is true of some (or even every) part... . Contrary to what you say above, the fallacy does not arise just "when that property is not transferable": it arises when such transferability is not among the evidence presented in the premises of our argument.
The source you cite says something similar to this, in fact, right up front: ...when, in fact, no justification [is] provided for the inference. That's right: the justification (concerning transferability) may be potentially available, but if it is not there in the evidence presented in the premises, you get the fallacy of composition. Further on, your source says: In some cases, sufficient justification can be provided to warrant the conclusion. I think your source is careless or frankly mistaken in failing to clarify that the sufficient justification must in fact be provided, if the fallacy is to be avoided. It is not enough that it can be provided, in some imagined alternative way in which the argument might have been fashioned.
Specifically, I dispute this example (along with much else, not relevant to the present discussion): [I]t is true that an individual rich person has more wealth than an individual poor person. In some nations (such as the US) it is true that the class of wealthy people has more wealth as a whole than does the class of poor people. In this case, the evidence used would warrant the inference and the fallacy of composition would not be committed. Not so. The conclusion is only warranted when you explicitly add the demographic and statistical evidence referred to. Truth of the conclusion, along with partial support from the premises, does not confer validity; nor does it confer freedom from fallacy.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 13:49, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
(Nu?) In fairness though, Bob, I have taken one side in a rather complex debate. The view of the highly respected logician and Irving Copi is like mine, but others support something like your view. This article (along with its sibling, Fallacy of division) is important enough to expand so that it reflects the range of opinions. The whole matter of classifying fallacies – and articulating precisely how they operate, and how they are to be distinguished from other fallacies – is mired in difficulties. When I have the energy and time I may do some systematic work on the articles myself. Not yet, though!
– Noetica♬♩Talk 08:43, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

I don't like the economic example. There are many economists who do dispute this Keynesian's idea. Actually what you see is that if one person saves, he decides not to consume. His decision somehow translates to the economy in the sense that some businessman doesn't sell. If many people save, many people cease to consume, the decision of many people affects the economy and many businessmen fail to sell. I believe this is Keyneses fallacy of treating small effect as a non-existent effect. Second, from the economic point of view, if the businessmen did expect that the consumers would want to save, they would have altered their investment decisions and they wouldn't have produced the goods they can't sell and there would have been no recession. What acutally creates the recession is that the producers didn't expect such behaviour. The whole idea that if many people save that it is bad for economy is in itself an economic fallacy, I believe Henry Hazlitt did some work to expose these Keynesian fallacies. (talk) 23:16, 16 February 2008 (UTC) Ondrej Palkovsky

12-4-2010: from Ravenspeake: I think the economic analogy is false and inserted here for political reasons- who submitted it? Also, it analogy is BACKWARDs- so whoever inserted the example is using the inverse of the fallacy to try to create an exampel OF the fallacy

To find out who inserted the material, you can click on "View History" and conduct a search. This is commonly called "wikiblame". Please sign your posts using four tildes. 7&6=thirteen (talk) 20:06, 4 December 2010 (UTC) Stan


I am not familiar with the "paradox of thrift". But as described, it sounds to me like this is an exmple of prisoner's dilema. What is the relationship between falacy of composition and the prisoner's dilema?

All of the Austrian stuff is redundant, and a distraction from the topic. It's already well-qualified by qualifying the economics as being 'Keynesian'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:52, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

The entire paradox of thrift example should be removed because it is contentious. Keynesian economists assert that it is a true statement because they hold that the economy is entirely driven by spending. Austrian economists contend that capital accumulation from savings drives the economy and that society's savings vs spending preference is reflected in the interest rate. In rhetorical terms, the Keynesians assert that the "Paradox of Thrift" is a Fallacy of Composition and the Austrians label it a Straw Man argument. (talk) 23:54, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

The theory known as "the paradox of thrift" is surely describing a fallacy of composition, but is not itself a fallacy of composition. The theory could be paraphrased as "the statement that "thrift is good" is a fallacy of composition". On the grounds that thrift, while good for the thrifty individual, reduces aggregate demand and thus damages the economy as a whole. In arguing that the "paradox of thrift" is not itself a fallacy of composition I make no claim as to its truth or otherwise. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:05, 13 July 2017 (UTC)


There needs to be a section discussing when it is acceptable to ascribe to the whole a feature shared by all constituent parts. It is acceptable to conclude that a chair is green if all constituent parts of the chair are green. Philosopher Nelson Goodman called such features "expansive" features. Philosopher Frans van Eemeren argues that these features are limited only to features that are absolute and structure-independent. I'd like to put this section in. Jordan 21:53, 22 July 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jordanotto (talkcontribs)

I find this section unclear and problematic in terms of logic. The whole point of a fallacy is not that statements that appear to rely upon the fallacy are always wrong, but that the underlying logic is not correct, i.e., that the syllogism does not hold.
Thus the cases given are not 'exceptions' to the fallacy, but require some other premiss or argument to make them logically sound (as well as true).
In other words, the fallacy has not been revoked or exceptions granted, there are other reasons the statements are true (along the lines of what van Eemeren wrote).--Gregalton (talk) 01:19, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

"Tragedy of the Commons" example[edit]

The following paragraph presents then (for cogent reasons) rejects an example. I removed it. (talk) 18:31, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

Another example proposed from economics is the Tragedy of the Commons, when it is described as being where an individual would benefit from his unlimited access to a finite resource but the collective unrestricted demand from the whole group would eventually doom the resource through over-exploitation. However, this is not an accurate description of the Tragedy of the Commons: that can occur not only when the resource is destroyed (e.g., fisheries) but even when it is merely temporarily made sub-optimal (e.g., over-grazing common land); and, the Tragedy of the Commons itself does not result from anyone making the mistake of the Fallacy of Composition but rather from each person rationally acting according to genuinely counter-productive incentives. The Fallacy of Composition only occurs in relation to the Tragedy of the Commons when someone wrongly supposes that, because everyone is acting rationally to optimise his or her own gains, then the situation as a whole is being managed optimally.

Relative properties can be expansive[edit]

The article contains a statement that is easily proven wrong. It says: "Relative properties are never expansive. E.g., it does not follow that if all parts of a chair are cheap, then the chair is cheap." An example that proves this wrong is "If all parts of a chair are cold to the touch, the chair is cold to the touch." Other examples are "soft", "fragile" and "poor quality". -- I'm not editing the article because the statement seems to be based on formal theory, so it should probably be adjusted to better reflect this theory, by someone who knows the theory. --Kafpauzo (talk) 08:59, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Why can't the article be less scientific and more in layman's terms what it means?[edit]

I know what 'Fallacy of Composition' means. It means that something that is true for an individual may not be necessarily be true for everybody as a whole. For example if I wrote a white X on my locker door, I have the advantage of quickly locating my locker in a large locker room, unless EVERYBODY wrote a white X on their locker. Or if I took a quite side road to bypass heavy rush-hour traffic; I would get to work sooner, unless EVERYBODY took that side road.

To me the article is much too scientific in explaining what Fallacy Of Composition means. For example, the part about 'humans are not visible to the naked eye' is highly unhelpful for someone who just wants an explanation on what it means. Any thought? Diamondblade2008 (talk) 22:13, 9 December 2010 (UTC)

Fallacy of Composition#Exceptions[edit]

Hey there 7&6=thirteen, it seems there's an issue that has arisen regarding the Exceptions section the to Fallacy of Composition article. I would like it to be resolved in the best way possible, so I've come here to discuss it with you :). First, I'll explain what I believe that the dispute is, and then I'll propose a solution. If you disagree with what I believe the issue is in the first place, or have an alternative outcome, or anything else, I'm all ears.

The dispute is whether or not the Fallacy of Composition article should have an Exceptions section. Now, it may be the case that the dispute is about going around willy-nilly and deleting sections without modifying them first, but this distinction is irrelevant in this particular instance with regards to my proposed solution and its reasons.

My solution is simple: the Exceptions section is deleted.

My reasons for this are as follows: There are no exceptions to a fallacy. Even if one can construct an argument whose premises are true, and whose conclusions are true, that does not mean that there is suddenly an "exception" to its reasoning being a fallacy.

Here is an example in the Exceptions section of an "exception" to the fallacy:

"Some properties are such that, if every part of a whole has the property, then the whole will, too. In such instances, the fallacy of composition does not apply. For example, if all parts of a chair are green, then it is usually acceptable to infer that the chair is green."

As you can see, this is irrelevant. Here is their argument recast:

"Some properties are such that, if every part of a whole has the property, then the whole will, too. In such instances, the fallacy of composition does not apply. For example, if all parts of a human (their cells) are invisible, then it is usually acceptable to infer that the human is invisible."

Obviously it is not the case that it is usually acceptable to infer that a human is invisible (unless he/she is behind a wall or too far away).

Second: No other fallacy page has a section for exceptions (and for good reason; there's no such thing). For consistency's sake it would make sense that this one doesn't either (or that they ALL do).

Third: There was already apprehension to the section being added in the first place, and good reasons for its not being added. You can see this in the article's talk page.

I await your response :) - Nicklink483 (talk) 18:14, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

It has been 4 days since I've received any response from you. I'm going to assume that the matter is resolved. - Nicklink483 (talk) 20:08, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

Been more or less out of touch the past few days. I think the article is better with point and counterpoint. Surely you have a point. But eliminating a viewpoint, even if it is wrong, is IMHO wrong. That being said, I have neither the energy nor the interest to right (or "write") every wrong edit in Wikipedia. 7&6=thirteen () 20:15, 3 September 2012 (UTC)
"Been more or less out of touch the past few days." That's objectively false. "But eliminating a viewpoint, even if it is wrong, is IMHO wrong." So would you want me to go through each Fallacy page and add an explanation on how fallacies can be purple (with references)? Would you be against someone else 'eliminating' that viewpoint? "I think the article is better with point and counterpoint." It's nice that you have an aesthetic preference to the structure of this article, but this isn't the sort of thing that's controversial. Certainly we wouldn't see a 'counterpoint' to a page all about 2 plus 2 equaling 4. Furthermore, even if your preference for a counterpoint were valid aesthetically, it's still the only Fallacy page with any such counterpoint, so other's aesthetic preferences for consistency weakens that point. - Nicklink483 (talk) 20:36, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

Paradox of Thrift Not an Example[edit]

Under "Examples", the article gave the following:

An important example from economics is the Paradox of thrift: if one household saves money, it can consume more in the future. Therefore if all households save money, they can all consume more in the future.

The Paradox of Thrift is not an example of a Fallacy of Composition but the answer to one. The fallacy lies in the syllogism given, but the syllogism isn't the Paradox of Thrift: it's what the Paradox of Thrift proves to be fallacious.

I have therefore rewritten that example as best I could. Somebody with a better understanding of either logic or economics may be able to improve on my effort.

Jdcrutch (talk) 20:01, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

Incoherent "modo hoc" example?[edit]

The illustration seems to be trying to conflate "describable form" with the more nebulous term "meaning", seemingly as nothing more then a booster for atheism and the selling point of the cited book. Further, it seems to be self-contradicting, as it implies that the proper statement would be that "matter, motion and meaning are all that comprise man" and that the original premise could indeed be inferred as false. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:18, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Comprise vs. Compose in the "modo hoc" section[edit]

Man comprises this and that is correct. Or this and that compose man. But not this and that comprise man. Accepted grammatical usage. Hermanoere (talk) 16:45, 29 January 2016 (UTC)