The fallacy of composition is not a fallacy

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Parent debateThis argument is used in the debate Does God exist?.
Keywords: Cosmological argument, First cause, God, Causality, Universe, Sophism[ edit ].



“This argument actually consists in accusing the metaphysician of committing a "fallacy of composition", i.e. the error of reasoning that consists in attributing to the whole a property that belongs only to the elements, as when we say: "Each grain of sand is light, yet the pile of sand is light, therefore the pile of sand is light." Some say that we commit the same fallacy with causality by saying: "Each phenomenon has a cause, yet the universe is made up of the totality of phenomena, therefore the universe has a cause" [...] But we have not committed this error. At no point do we deduce that "because the elements of the universe have a cause", the universe must have one; we are simply asking whether the universe has a cause. Moreover, those who accuse metaphysicians of compositional sophistry are themselves making a mistake in their reasoning: for they seem to consider that it is always illegitimate to attribute a property of the elements to the Whole. But this is not the case. There are properties that disappear when aggregated, and others that add up without disappearing. For example, it's not a material error to say: "All the grains of sand are yellow, but the pile of sand consists solely of grains of sand, so the pile of sand is yellow."”

Frédéric Guillaud, God exists, p.39-40, Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 2013.



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