Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking

By Stephen Jay Kline | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
Fallacies of Projection

Illustrations

Throughout this work, we have seen a number of difficulties in the powerful intellectual system we have developed in the past few centuries. Can we classify these difficulties and thus come to see their sources more clearly?

Most of these difficulties can be seen as what I will call "fallacies of projection." As the name suggests, fallacies of this type are projections of "ideas" that are appropriate in one domain onto another domain in which the same "ideas" are less appropriate or even totally erroneous. The word "ideas" in scare quotes is used in this chapter to imply any combination of principles, facts, methods, schemata, assumptions paradigms, and so forth -- that is, any or all aspects of sysreps.

We will classify fallacies of projection into two subtypes, "projective errors" and "difficulties of incompleteness."

A projective error occurs when a single "idea" -- for example, a principle -- is carried over from its original domain to a domain in which it is not appropriate. Fallacies of incompleteness arise either from a sysrep that is a cut through a hyperspace of larger dimensionality, or from assuming a domain for a given body of knowledge which is larger than is appropriate -- overclaims. In either case, the results obtained are usually not entirely wrong, but usually are seriously incomplete.

In order to examine these types of fallacies, we next compile a list of each subtype. The list includes examples we have already seen and others, so we can inspect the nature of the difficulties over a range of examples. None of the examples of fallacies of projection listed below are made up. Each of them has appeared in writing or in serious presentations by mature scholars. I will not always use the exact words of authors or speakers, but I have tried to be faithful to the meaning of the published or stated ideas while expressing the concepts clearly and concisely.

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