Dicto Simpliciter (Logical Fallacy)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

dicto simpliciter
A dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid ("from the statement unqualified to the statement qualified") is the fallacy of arguing from a general to a particular case without recognizing qualifying factors: "If some snakes are harmless, then some snakes in this bag are harmless" (The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2016). (mstay/Getty Images)

Dicto Simpliciter is a fallacy in which a general rule or observation is treated as universally true regardless of the circumstances or the individuals concerned. Also known as the fallacy of sweeping generalizationunqualified generalization, a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid, and fallacy of the accident (fallacia accidentis).

See Examples and Observations below. Also, see:

Etymology

From the Latin, "from a saying without qualification"

Examples and Observations

  • "I know nothing about Jay-Z because (sweeping generalization alert!) hip-hop stopped being interesting in about 1991; I've never knowingly listened to a Neil Young record all the way through because they all sound like someone strangling a cat (don't they?)."
    (Tony Naylor, "In Music, Ignorance Can Be Bliss." The Guardian, Jan. 1, 2008
  • "In discussing people of whom we have little knowledge, we often use dicto simpliciter in the attempt to fix them the attributes of the groups they belong to. . . .

    "Dicto simpliciter arises whenever individuals are made to conform to group patterns. If they are treated in tight classes as 'teenagers,' 'Frenchmen,' or 'traveling salesmen,' and are assumed to bear the characteristics of those classes, no opportunity is permitted for their individual qualities to emerge. There are political ideologies which attempt to treat people in precisely this way, treating them only as members of sub-groups in society and allowing them only representation through a group whose values they may not, in fact, share."
    (Madsen Pirie, How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic, 2nd ed. Bloomsbury, 2015)
  • New York Values
    "At the Republican presidential debate on Thursday, Senator Cruz attacked Donald Trump, one of his rivals for the party’s nomination, by saying darkly that he represented 'New York values.'

    "Asked to define the term, Senator Cruz offered a sweeping generalization for 8.5 million city dwellers.

    "'Everybody understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal and pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage,' he said. 'And focus on money and the media.'"
    (Mark Santora, "New Yorkers Quickly Unite Against Cruz After 'New York Values' Comment." The New York Times, January 15, 2016)
  • Everybody Should Exercise
    "'Dicto Simpliciter means an argument based on an unqualified generalization. For example: 'Exercise is good. Therefore everybody should exercise.'

    "'I agree,' said Polly earnestly. 'I mean exercise is wonderful. I mean it builds the body and everything.'

    "'Polly,' I said gently. 'The argument is a fallacy. Exercise is good is an unqualified generalization. For instance, if you have heart disease, exercise is bad, not good. Many people are ordered by their doctors not to exercise. You must qualify the generalization. You must say exercise is usually good, or exercise is good for most people. Otherwise, you have committed a Dicto Simpliciter. Do you see?'

    "'No,' she confessed. 'But this is marvy. Do more! Do more!'"
    (Max Shulman, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, 1951
  • The Stork With One Leg
    "An amusing example of arguing a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid is contained in the following story told by Boccaccio in the Decameron: A servant who was roasting a stork for his master was prevailed upon by his sweetheart to cut off a leg for her to eat. When the bird came upon the table, the master desired to know what had become of the other leg. The man answered that storks never had more than one leg. The master, very angry, but determined to strike his servant dumb before he punished him, took him next day into the fields where they saw some storks, standing each on one leg, as storks do. The servant turned triumphantly to his master; on which the latter shouted, and the birds put down their other legs and flew away. 'Ah, sir,' said the servant, 'you did not shout to the stork at dinner yesterday: if you had done so, he would have shown his other leg too.'"
    (J. Welton, A Manual of Logic. Clive, 1905)