Philosophy 203: Scientific Reasoning
Abstract: Converse Accident or hasty generalization is the fallacy of drawing a
general conclusion based on one or several atypical instances.
I. Converse Accident: (hasty generalization) the fallacy
of considering certain exceptional cases and generalizing to a rule that
fits them alone. Note that the fallacy of converse accident is the
opposite of accident.
- Thus, a general statement is made on the basis of insufficient
evidence or on the basis of only a few examples.
- E.g., "Wow! Did you see that teenager run that
red light? Teenage drivers are really pathetic."
- E.g., The following argument is raised to oppose the view
that boys have greater inherent mathematical ability. "When I
was four, my father taught me the beauty of numbers, and I have
excelled in mathematics ever since. My conclusion? The
males who grew up with a high aptitude for math are not spending
enough time with their daughters." Nancy Whelan Reese,
"Letters," Time, (Vol. 117, No. 1), 6.
- The generalization is sometimes made on the basis of carelessly
- E.g., "I interviewed ten people on Main Street in
Greenwood on Friday night, and they all stated they would rather
be there than watching TV. I conclude that the folks in
Greenwood don't like to watch TV on Friday night."
- E.g., "As I drove to school this morning, not one
car which was turning had its turn signal on. Thus, I
conclude that drivers in South Carolina are not trained to drive
- E.g., "The induction problem forever haunts
us. How many instances of a class must be observed before
one can be really sure? Having experience two uncoordinated
woman-drivers, am I justified in making a generalization about
woman-drivers? (For too many man, a sampling of two seems to
justify such a generalization. Women, of course, never make
this sort of error.)" James L. Christian, Philosophy (HBJ
II. The informal structure of accident is as follows.
|Statement p is true in
Statement p is true in more general circumstances y
or is always true.
III. As a quick check of your understanding of the fallacies of
accident and converse accident, evaluate the following passages.
- "Former Brooklyn Dodger Joe Black, speaking in Clinton, helped
put the drug situation in professional athletics in better
perspective. The former pitcher, a black man, said he has no
sympathy for the argument that pressures of the professional athlete's
lifestyle can lead to drug abuse. 'There are no pressures in
professional sports that make you use drugs or booze. Jackie
Robinson didn't use drugs. Willie Mays didn't use drugs. I didn't
use drugs. That's a cop out,' Black said." Index
All persons admitted to Lander University must abide by its
policies; Therefore you must abide by the parking rules."
The USDA policies for farmers are worthless. Why I know a guy
who collects thousands of dollars for not planting wheat and spends
his spare time at the race track.