Historical fallacy

The Historical fallacy, also called the psychological fallacy, is a logical fallacy originally described by philosopher John Dewey in 1896. The historical fallacy occurs when "a set of considerations which hold good only because a completed process is read into the content of the process which conditions this completed result." ["The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology", John Dewey, 1896] More simply stated, one commits the historical fallacy when he reads into a process that which comes about only as a result of that process.


A person coming across a loaf of bread without knowing the process by which bread is made, might begin to try to understand how to make bread by analyzing only its ingredients. Finding that bread contains a large amount of air, one might conclude that air is an ingredient used in making bread. However, a baker does not add air into bread. Rather yeast creates a chemical process that causes the bread to rise with air. The fallacy is in not recognizing that air is a result of the process of making bread and not part of the process that makes it. Completed results supervene upon processes that are not necessarily reducible to the parts of that process.


The historical fallacy has implication in analytic philosophy and metalogic. For instance many analytic philosophers apply logic to metaphysical questions without inquiring into the metaphysical processes underlying logic. Thus many process theorists might contend that much of analytic philosophy is undermined by the historical fallacy.

ee also

* Process theory


External links

* [http://spartan.ac.brocku.ca/~lward/Dewey/Dewey_1896.html The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology] (1896)

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