Secundum quid (also called secundum quid et simpliciter, meaning "[what is true] in a certain respect and [what is true] absolutely") is a type of informal fallacy that occurs when the arguer fails to recognize the difference between rules of thumb (soft generalizations, heuristics that hold true as a general rule but leave room for exceptions) and categorical propositions, rules that hold true universally.
Since it ignores the limits, or qualifications, of rules of thumb, this fallacy is also named ignoring qualifications. The expression misuse of a principle can be used as well.
Water boils at a temperature of 212° Fahrenheit; therefore boiling water will be hot enough to cook an egg hard in five minutes: but if we argue thus at an altitude of 5,000 feet, we shall be disappointed; for the height, through the difference in the pressure of the air, qualifies the truth of our general principle.— H. W. B. Joseph
All persons are mortal.
Socrates is a person.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
In popular culture
The following quatrain can be attributed to C. H. Talbot:
I talked in terms whose sense was hid,
Dividendo, componendo et secundum quid;
Now secundum quid is a wise remark
And it earned my reputation as a learned clerk.
Instances of secundum quid are of two kinds:
- Accident — a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid (Where an acceptable exception is ignored.) [from general to qualified]
- Converse accident — a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter (Where an acceptable exception is eliminated or simplified.) [from qualified to general]
- Walton, Douglas (1990), "Ignoring Qualifications (Secundum Quid) as a Subfallacy of Hasty Generalization" (PDF), Logique et Analyse, 33 (129-130): 113–154, ISSN 2295-5836
- Parry, William T.; Hacker, Edward A. (1991), "A brief history of the fallacies of accident and secundum quid", Aristotelian Logic, SUNY Press, p. 438, ISBN 978-0-7914-0690-8
- Bunnin, Nicholas; Yu, Jiyuan (2008), "Fallacy of secundum quid", The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy, John Wiley & Sons, p. 250, ISBN 978-0-470-99721-5
- Joseph, H. W. B. (1916), "The fallacy of Secundum Quid", An Introduction to Logic (2nd ed.), Clarendon Press, p. 589, OCLC 373124
- Coffey, Peter (1912), The Science of Logic, Longmans, Green, and Company, p. 309, OL 7104938M