No true Scotsman fallacy

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m (edited the example to the original 1975 example, but kept the custom ''scotsman'' tags to keep clearity)
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:'''Scotsman A:''' "Aye... but no '''true''' Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."
 
:'''Scotsman A:''' "Aye... but no '''true''' Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."
  
The implication is that since Angus puts sugar on his porridge, Angus is not a true Scotsman by definition, even though he (presumably) comes from Scotland.  This is playing fast and loose with the definition of "Scotsman".
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The implication is that Angus is not a true Scotsman, despite the fact that he is from Scotland.  The fallacy lies in redefining the word "Scotsman" in order to exclude those who put sugar in his porridge.
  
In a similar fashion, many [[apologists]] try to prove that all [[Christian]]s are good people by categorically denying that anyone who does a bad thing is a "true Christian".  Unlike the word "Scotsman," there is no generally accepted definition of the word "Christian," so you can pretty much define it however you want.  A very inclusive definition might be "Anyone who claims to follow the religion of Christianity." A very exclusive definition might be "Only those people who precisely practice the sect of Christianity that I agree with."
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Similarly, [[apologists]] argue that [[Christian]]s are good people by categorically denying that anyone who does a bad deed is a "true Christian".  The lack of a generally accepted definition of "Christian" allows apologists to redefine the word to fit their argumentsFor this reason, many self-professed Christians who commit bad deeds are excluded from the group by apologists.
  
Obviously there is a lot of wiggle room between those two extremes.  Since the Scotsman fallacy relies on ambiguity in the definition of the word Christian, it is a form of [[equivocation]].
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Since the Scotsman fallacy relies on ambiguity in the definition of the word Christian, it is a form of [[equivocation]].
  
 
[[Category: Logical fallacies]]
 
[[Category: Logical fallacies]]

Revision as of 20:23, 28 November 2009

"No true Scotsman" is story used to illustrate a very common fallacious argument, often used by apologists to take advantage of the ambiguity of definitions of a certain key word (or words) in their argument.

The classic story goes something like this:

Scotsman A: "You know, laddie, no Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."
Scotsman B: "Is that so? I seem to recall my cousin Angus puts sugar in his porridge"
Scotsman A: "Aye... but no true Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."

The implication is that Angus is not a true Scotsman, despite the fact that he is from Scotland. The fallacy lies in redefining the word "Scotsman" in order to exclude those who put sugar in his porridge.

Similarly, apologists argue that Christians are good people by categorically denying that anyone who does a bad deed is a "true Christian". The lack of a generally accepted definition of "Christian" allows apologists to redefine the word to fit their arguments. For this reason, many self-professed Christians who commit bad deeds are excluded from the group by apologists.

Since the Scotsman fallacy relies on ambiguity in the definition of the word Christian, it is a form of equivocation.

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