Logical Gal and the Fallacy of Division

22 Nov

XYZ is an efficient company, therefore, Joe Blow who works there must likewise be efficient.

Ah, but must he?  Maybe the organization is SO well run, that it can compensate for the drag that a poor-performing employee might add.  Welcome to Fallacy Friday and a trap we can fall into from time to time – the Fallacy of Division.

By definition, this error in thinking occurs when we identify the attributes of a larger whole and assign the same ones to its constituent parts.   It could be that a member of the whole shares the same qualities, but it’s faulty thinking to assume that is always the case.  Consider the color palate.  You might have a blob of black paint.  Is every drop of paint black?  My colleague, the art teacher, tells me that mixing bits of all the colors makes for a blackish brown yucky color.

Many other examples abound and are equally false.

So what’s the big deal, other than the possibility that the assumptions might not be true?

It’s the curse of expectations.  Suppose that  I’m familiar with Starbucks and their corporate culture  to train efficient AND personable baristas.  If I commit the Fallacy of Division, I can set myself up for disappointment. When I stop by one of the ubiquitous cafés and an employee is cold to me, then I’m likely to feel less satisfied. I’ve assumed that an intentional corporate value is held by each individual.  (unlike the expectation of some who travel to New York City or Paris and are braced to run into ‘rude’ people)

Another example we can look to is the pleasing musicality of an orchestra, or the satisfying visual treat of an Impressionist painting like this canvas by Georges Seurat.

The ensemble of paint dots or musical instruments working together produce a result that can’t be divided. That means isolating one violin playing its part might be boring.  Or 50 painted pointy strokes might not have any pattern.  But 20,000 points of color actually create a recognizable design.

I live in the greater Asheville area in Western North Carolina.  This artsy town is known for some questionable moral values and very liberal political views.  But we live here, too.  And we’re fairly conventional and Biblical in our assessment of right and wrong . We also  hold a mixture of politically conservative and libertarian views.

A quick passing judgment might look like this:

Asheville is a liberal, artistic,  fit, laid-back, ‘foody’, sexually-progressive town.

Logical Gal lives in Asheville

Therefore, Logical Gal must also be a liberal, artistic, fit, laid-back, sexually-progressive ‘foody’

Not so. SOME of those adjectives might apply.  But you would be incorrect to assume that every citizen of Asheville can be described in the same way as the town itself. (I’ll leave you to sort out a full description of Logical Gal)

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