The fallacy of Division occurs whenever an argument attributes a quality belonging to a whole to one of its parts. If one were, for example, to start with the assumption that China has the largest military in the world based on total active duty personal, and infer from that that any given Chinese soldier must be tall, this would be n example of the fallacy of Division.
The converse of this fallacy is Composition.
Figurative speech sometimes parallels this fallacy insofar as people may refer to something or someone by referencing a part of that person or things (as in referring to a woman by calling her a ‘blonde; or describing the movements of an army in terms of ‘boots on the ground’). Likewise, people sometimes refer to a whole means of a name for one of its parts. (This occurs when citizens of the United States refer to their country as “America,” and of course we often say of people that they are ‘drinking’ when we actually mean to say that they are consuming an alcoholic beverage.) These metanymic references may be distinguished from fallacies such as composition and division in at least two ways.
- Figurative speech need not entail a literal confusion of the qualities in question whereas the fallacies in question do.
- Both fallacies take the form of an inference from a premise to a conclusion. In the case of division, the premise will be claim (stated or implied) about the qualities of a whole and the conclusion will literally attribute that quality to the part on the basis of its applicability to the whole.