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Fallacy of Division

An informal fallacy of emergence, in which properties of the parts are inadmissibly inferred to from the whole.

The flowers on this meadow are multicoloured.
This flower grows on the aforementioned meadow.
Consequently, this flower is also multicolored.

Obviously, the property that we could call “multicoloredness” is here something that only emerges because many (differently colored) flowers occur together in one place. Transfering this property from the whole (the meadow) to the part (the flower) would require additional information about the flower that is not given here.

Other names

Description

The fallacy of division is counterpart to the fallacy of composition. They both share the aspect that the phenomenon of emergence is ignored. It refers to a situation in which properties of the whole are transferred to its parts, without checking or validating that they are not in fact emergent or at least have changed through emergent aspects.

In other words, properties that emerge only because the individual parts of the whole interact with each other, cannot necessarily be found in the constituent parts as well.

Examples

Consciousness

Consciousness is a complex philo­soph­ical (and neuro­logical) pheno­menon that raised numer­ous quest­ions that have not yet been con­clus­ively re­solved. Most import­antly, it is not clear how the ex­peri­ence of conscious­ness arises and which other life forms ex­peri­ence it in a similar way.

A suggestion that can be heard from time to time to cir­cum­vent these prob­lems can be for­mu­lated as follows:

“What if conscious­ness is not located in the ner­vous system,
but instead is a pro­perty of atoms and mole­cules?”

In other words, the proposal is to view con­scious­ness not as an emer­gent feat­ure of a com­plex ner­vous sys­tem, but as a re­sul­tant pro­perty that is al­ready in­herent at the mole­cular or atomic (and some­times even sub-atomic) level.

Of course, this does no­thing to solve the problem of con­scious­ness, but rather shifts it from one level to another, as this only raises a new ques­tion, namely how con­scious­ness can be present on the level of atoms or mole­cules – not to mention how this is a better ex­pla­na­tion than con­sider­ing it an emer­gent prop­erty of a complex nervous system.

Zenon’s Arrow Paradox

The Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea is best known today for the para­doxes he de­scribed. One of his best-known, the so-called “arrow para­dox” can be for­mu­lated as follows:

An arrow is at a certain place at any point of time during its flight.
During each point in time (which has a length of 0) there is no move­ment.
But what is true for each point during a time span must also be true for the time span as a whole.
Therefore, the arrow cannot move..

What Zenon ignores (or what he rather ele­gantly dis­tracts from) is that motion only occurs over a period of time, that is, only when multiple consecutive points of time come together. It is not in­herent in the points them­selves.

Strictly speaking, motion is also not a true emergent property, since it can also be in­ferred from know­ledge of all the phy­si­cal prop­er­ties of the ob­ject (in par­ti­cu­lar, from know­ledge of the energy of motion). In any case, how­ever, motion can not be under­stood by look­ing only at a single point in time, only by ob­serving at an object over a period.

See also

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