Accident (fallacy)

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The informal fallacy of accident (also called destroying the exception or a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid) is a deductively valid but unsound argument occurring in statistical syllogisms (an argument based on a generalization) when an exception to a rule of thumb[1] is ignored. It is one of the thirteen fallacies originally identified by Aristotle. The fallacy occurs when one attempts to apply a general rule to an irrelevant situation.

For example:

  • Cutting people with knives is a crime. →
Surgeons cut people with knives. →
Surgeons are criminals.

It is easy to construct fallacious arguments by applying general statements to specific incidents that are obviously exceptions.

Generalizations that are weak generally have more exceptions (the number of exceptions to the generalization need not be a minority of cases) and vice versa.

This fallacy may occur when we confuse particulars ("some") for categorical statements ("always and everywhere"). It may be encouraged when no qualifying words like "some", "many", "rarely" etc. are used to mark the generalization.

Related inductive fallacies include: overwhelming exception, hasty generalization. See faulty generalization.

The opposing kind of dicto simpliciter fallacy is the converse accident.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Fallacy of Accident". The Fallacy Files. 

Reference list[edit]