Thoughts and Reflections version 2 of the GNU General Public License the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License

A friend and I discussed the following example of the fallacy of accident (from Wikipedia):

  1. Cutting people with a knife is a crime.

  2. Surgeons cut people with knives.

  3. Surgeons are criminals.

This statement is valid, but obviously, there are cases in which cutting people with a knife is not a crime, surgeons being an example of that case. However, defining exactly in which cases cutting people with knives is legal is not easy.

I therefore proposed the ideas that it is a crime to cut non-consenting people with a knife and it is a crime to cut another person with a knife with the intent to harm that person. However, it was pointed out to me that some people might not interpret to kill as part of to harm, specifically in the case of assisted suicide.

In such a case, there is consent, so that portion of the argument is not relevant. One could also argue that to assist another’s suicide is actually a help, not harm. However, the law does not consider what is right, only what is legal. Therefore, we can safely eliminate this case because the law unequivocally condemns killing another outside of its legal structure, and assisted suicide by knife is not approved of in our current legal structure.

I will concede that intent is relevant in matters of homicide, but this only matters as to degree. Regardless of the degree, killing another by knife is a crime.

Thus, we can rephrase the first premise as Cutting people with a knife is a crime, if and only if the person does not consent or the act is done with intent to harm another. We could rephrase the second premise as Surgeons cut consenting people with knives in an effort to help them. Thus, the assertion that surgeons are criminals is no longer valid.