No true Scotsman fallacy

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The story goes something like this:
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'''"No true Scotsman"''' is story used to illustrate a very common [[Fallacy|fallacious]] argument, often used by [[Apologist|apologists]] to take advantage of the ambiguity of definitions of a certain key word (or words) in their argument.
  
:"No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!"
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The classic story goes something like this:
:"But what about Angus McMutton?  He puts sugar on HIS porridge."
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:"Och!  I meant no TRUE Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge."
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:'''Scotsman A:''' "No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!"
 +
:'''Scotsman B:''' "But what about Angus McMutton?  He puts sugar on ''his'' porridge."
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:'''Scotsman A:''' "Och!  What I meant was 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".
 
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".

Revision as of 12:27, 26 November 2007

"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: "No Scotsman would ever put sugar on his porridge!"
Scotsman B: "But what about Angus McMutton? He puts sugar on his porridge."
Scotsman A: "Och! What I meant was 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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