Seven Misconceptions About the Mereological Fallacy: A Compilation for the Perplexed

Erkenntnis 79 (5):1077-1097 (2014)
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Abstract

If someone commits the mereological fallacy, then he ascribes psychological predicates to parts of an animal that apply only to the (behaving) animal as a whole. This incoherence is not strictly speaking a fallacy, i.e. an invalid argument, since it is not an argument but an illicit predication. However, it leads to invalid inferences and arguments, and so can loosely be called a fallacy. However, discussions of this particular illicit predication, the mereological fallacy, show that it is often misunderstood. Many misunderstandings concern the use of this illicit predication in the course of discussions of understanding the mind/body problem. Our aim here is to provide an accessible overview through discussing common misconceptions of the fallacy. We also discuss how conceptual investigations of the relation between living organisms and their parts fit within the framework of modern evolutionary theory, i.e. inclusive fitness theory

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P. M. S. Hacker
Oxford University

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