Fallacies of Accident

Argumentation 26 (2):267-289 (2012)
Abstract
In this paper I will attempt a unified analysis of the various examples of the fallacy of accident given by Aristotle in the Sophistical Refutations. In many cases the examples underdetermine the fallacy and it is not trivial to identify the fallacy committed. To make this identification we have to find some error common to all the examples and to show that this error would still be committed even if those other fallacies that the examples exemplify were not. Aristotle says that there is only one solution “against the argument” as opposed to “against the man”, and it is this solution the paper attempts to find. It is a characteristic mark of my analysis that some arguments that we might normally be inclined to say are fallacious turn out to be valid and that some arguments that we would normally be inclined to say are valid turn out to be fallacious. This is (in part) because what we call validity in modern logic is not the same as the apodicticity that Aristotelian syllogisms require in order to be used in science. The fallacies of accident, uniquely among the fallacies, are failures of apodicticity rather than failures of, in particular, semantic entailment. This makes sense in a tensed and token-based logic such as Aristotle’s. I conclude that the closest analogue to the fallacy of accident that we can point to is a fallacy in modal logic, viz., the fallacy of necessity
Keywords Fallacy of accident  Fallacy of consequent  Fallacy of equivocation  Aristotle  Modal fallacies
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