Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic
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.
I. Accident: the fallacy of applying a general rule to a
particular case whose special circumstances render the rule inapplicable.
- The fallacy of accident results from using a statement which has a
qualified meaning as if it had no qualification whatsoever.
- E.g., "Thou shalt not kill; therefore, you
should not try to control termites in your home or fight for your
- 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
Even though people are supposedly created equal politically, it
does not follow that they are created equal in academic
- The fallacy of accident arises from believing the general premiss
which has a qualified meaning applies in all circumstances without
- "The U.S. is a true democracy; therefore, children and
criminals should be allowed to vote."
- "People are defined as rational animals. Therefore,
you should spend more time reasoning and thinking rather than
enjoying yourself with what you do."
- Recognition of this fallacy sometimes leads to the statement,
"It is the exception that proves the rule."
- The generalization used in the premiss is sometimes termed "a
II. The informal structure of accident is as follows.
|Rule or general statement p is true in
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.
- 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."
- Cliché: a trite or overworked expression. E.g., "No pain, no gain," or "Go for it!"
- Moral principles, empirical generalizations, and presuppositions are
also generalizations often used as premisses in the fallacy of