Exempla docent. How to Make Sense of Aristotle’s Examples of the Fallacy of Accident (Doxography Matters)

Leone Gazziero


Summary: 1. Prolegomena: the consensus of the perplexed. 2. Aristotle’s definition of the fallacy of accident. 3. Aristotle’s standard examples of the fallacy of accident. 4. Aristotle’s star examples of the fallacy of accident. 5. Epilegomena:  beware of those who mock the overcultivated straw in the eye of their neighbour and are content with the illiterate beam in their own.

Abstract:    Scholarly dissatisfaction with Aristotle’s fallacy of accident has traditionally focused on his examples, whose compatibility with the fallacy’s definition has been doubted time and again. Besides a unified account of the fallacy of accident itself, the paper provides a formalized analysis of its several examples in Aristotle’s Sophistici elenchi. The most problematic instances are dealt with by means of an internal reconstruction of their features as conveyed by Aristotle’s text and an extensive survey of their interpretation in the Byzantine and Latin exegetical tradition. Carefully handled a doxographical approach, as opposed to rapid results oriented practices, proves to be most effective in that it supplies both useful albeit ordinarily overlooked insights and a comprehensive framework of reference for further investigations.

Keywords:  Aristotle, Sophistici elenchi, fallacy of accident, fallacy of consequent, Byzantine and Latin doxography.