Accident fallacy is a logical fallacy, meaning a reasoning error that weakens the argument being made, in which a generalization is applied to a situation where, in reality, it doesn’t apply.
Although “rules of thumb” can be useful and help us think more efficiently, they typically shouldn’t be taken for unconditional, universal rules. As Robert Burton stated in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy:
“No rule is so general, which admits not some exception.”
Accident fallacy is a type of informal fallacy, and it is also known as the “fallacy of the general rule” and “sweeping generalization”.
What Is the Accident Fallacy?
✍️ Accident fallacy occurs when someone applies a general rule to a case in which the rule is inapplicable.
It may be committed due to carelessness or because one has the assumption that generalizations will apply to all similar situations, even though there are clear exceptions.
👂 An example of this would be:
Human beings have the ability to hear sounds. Therefore, all people are cabable of hearing sounds.
Such a claim is fallacious because the general rule doesn’t apply here; the speaker ignores the fact that there are people who have hearing disabilities.
This fallacy is one of the thirteen original logical fallacies identified by Aristotle in his work On Sophistical Refutations.
- “Taking a life is a crime and morally wrong; therefore, termite control is a crime and morally wrong.”
- “No one should ever go to war. After all, everyone knows that one should not kill another person.”
- “Birds can fly; therefore, emus must be able to fly too.”
- “Nuts are proven to have a variety of great health benefits to people. Thus, it must be right to say that everyone should be eating them.”