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 is ignored. It is one of the thirteen fallacies originally identified by Aristotle in Sophistical Refutations. The fallacy occurs when one attempts to apply a general rule to an irrelevant situation.
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.
- "The Fallacy of Accident". The Fallacy Files.
- S. Morris Engel (1999). With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies. Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 0312157584. Retrieved 2013-02-17.