No true Scotsman fallacy

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:"No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!"
 
:"No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!"
 
 
:"But what about Angus McMutton?  He puts sugar on HIS porridge."
 
:"But what about Angus McMutton?  He puts sugar on HIS porridge."
 
 
:"Och!  I meant no TRUE Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge."
 
:"Och!  I meant no TRUE Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge."
  

Revision as of 08:56, 20 June 2006

The story goes something like this:

"No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!"
"But what about Angus McMutton? He puts sugar on HIS porridge."
"Och! I meant no TRUE Scotsman would ever put sugar on 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".

In a similar fashion, many apologists try to prove that all Christians 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."

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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