We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I have been neglecting my Fallacy portfolio here at Maggie's for quite a while. My bad.
Category Error is not a complex notion, but it was formulated in a somewhat complex way by the brilliant Gilbert Ryle in his classic work, The Concept of Mind (this via Wiki):
The term "category-mistake" was introduced by Gilbert Ryle in his book The Concept of Mind (1949) to remove what he argued to be a confusion over the nature of mind born from Cartesianmetaphysics. Ryle alleged that it was a mistake to treat the mind as an object made of an immaterial substance because predications of substance are not meaningful for a collection of dispositions and capacities.
Specifically, the phrase is introduced in chapter 1, section 2. The first example he gives is of a visitor to Oxford. The visitor, upon viewing the colleges and library, reportedly inquired “But where is the University?" The visitor's mistake is presuming that a University is part of the category "units of physical infrastructure" or some such thing, rather than the category "institutions", say, which are far more abstract and complex conglomerations of buildings, people, procedures, and so on.
Ryle's second example is of a child witnessing the march-past of a division. After having had battalions, batteries, squadrons, etc. pointed out, the child asks when is the division going to appear. 'The march-past was not a parade of battalions, batteries, squadrons and a division; it was a parade of the battalions, batteries and squadrons of a division.' (Ryle's italics)
His third example is of a foreigner being shown a cricket match. After being pointed out batsmen, bowlers and fielders, the foreigner asks: 'who is left to contribute the famous element of team-spirit?'
He goes on to argue that the Cartesian dualism of mind and body rests on a category-mistake.
Yes, I think it does. But... I think, therefore I post things at Maggie's Farm. From another site, here's a simple formulation of this common and basic fallacy:
These fallacies occur because the author mistakenly assumes that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. However, things joined together may have different properties as a whole than any of them do separately. The following fallacies are category errors:
Composition (Because the parts have a property, the whole is said to have that property)
Division (Because the whole has a property, the parts are said to have that property)
Give us some solid examples. I don't have time think up some good ones today. Duty before pleasure.
I was thinking of you just yesterday. I writing to ask that you repost some of your comments about debate/arguments--the traps, etc. If someone is going to be negotiating with a union, which book would you suggest as a basic primer in techniques and strategies?
The idea that the whole is just the sum of its parts is absurd.
Surely people are aware of Mecalfe's Law? That the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.
Anyone who works on the internet should be aware of it. What good are 2 phones? Not much at all. Unless it's the only 2 people on earth.
But if there are 1 billion people, then 2 phones is essentially worthless. 100 phones? Worth much more. 10,000 phones? MANY times more.
So you see, the sum of parts is just a simplistic way of adding up value. In fact, value is derived from the networking of the parts.
2 plots of land will get worn out over time as it is overworked. But over time, farmers learned 2 plots, split 3 ways, yielded far more produce as one section was allowed to rest and crop rotations took hold. That is a network effect.
A large corporation, with many divisions which do not communicate effectively, will fall apart. But it could be valued at a very large figure because people associate bigger with better. Sadly, we know now this simply isn't the case as so many large firms have failed miserably over the last 30 years.
No, to be successful, a large firm has to learn how to get its parts to work together. The current trend is toward the "MATRIXED" firm, which I think is a load of crap. In reality, it's just a well developed network that allows a traditional firm to improve communications between all its parts.
Still, large firms remain vulnerable to one thing: EGO. The idea that information is king leads many egocentric types to shut down communications with other divisions, allowing THEM to have more power. It's a bad idea and it always leads to enrichment of the one but failure of the whole.
What I think is a load of blarney is the whole "Six Sigma" thing! What is absolutely true is this: a healthy system is not a collection of healthy parts--a healthy system is determined by the "INTERACTION BETWEEN" the healthy parts. To think systemically is to look first at the interaction.
C.S. Lewis has what I believe is a good summation at the conclusion of one of the Narnia books--as you might expect, the one I can't put my hands on right now. When one character--Eustace, I think--states that a star is a ball of flaming gas, he is told that that is only what the star is made of, and not what it actually is.