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Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic 
Accident

Abstract: The fallacy of Accident is based upon the limited applicability of a "glittering generality"--from a generalization as a premiss, an atypical particular conclusion is claimed to follow. 

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I.  Accident: the fallacy of applying a general rule to a particular case whose special circumstances render the rule inapplicable.

  1. The fallacy of accident results from using a statement which has a qualified meaning as if it had no qualification whatsoever.


    1. E.g., "Thou shalt not kill;  therefore, you should not try to control termites in your home or fight for your country."


    2. E.g., "All persons are created equal, so since you made a C in this class, you haven't been working as hard as you should."
      Even though people are supposedly created equal politically, it does not follow that they are created equal in academic pursuits."

  2. The fallacy of accident arises from believing the general premiss which has a qualified meaning applies in all circumstances without restriction.

    1. "The U.S. is a true democracy; therefore, children and criminals should be allowed to vote."


    2. "People are defined as rational animals.  Therefore, you should spend more time reasoning and thinking rather than enjoying yourself with what you do."


  3. Recognition of this fallacy sometimes leads to the statement, "It is the exception that proves the rule."


  4. The generalization used in the premiss is sometimes termed "a glittering generality."

II. The informal structure of accident is as follows.


Rule or general statement p is true in circumstances x.
Rule or general statement is true in circumstances y.

III.  The rule or general statement in the fallacy of accident can be of several different kinds.

  1. Aphorism: a concise statement of a truth, a maxim, or an adage. E.g., "Honesty is the best policy," or "A new broom sweeps clean."

  2. Clich: a trite or overworked expression. E.g., "No pain, no gain," or "Go for it!"

  3. Moral principles, empirical generalizations, and presuppositions are also generalizations often used as premisses in the fallacy of accident.

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