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Encyclopedia > No true Scotsman

No true Scotsman, or the self-sealing fallacy, is a fallacy of equivocation and question begging. Its name was coined by philosopher Antony Flew in his 1975 book Thinking About Thinking – or do I sincerely want to be right?.[1] The fallacy of equivocation is committed when someone uses the same word in different meanings in an argument, implying that the word means the same each time round. ... There are two current usages to the phrase Begging the question. Recently, in popular usage, it is often used as a synonym for raising the question. However the original meaning, still recommended by most prescriptive writers on Standard English usage, is quite different: it describes a type of logical fallacy... Professor Antony Garrard Newton Flew (born February 11, 1923) is a British philosopher. ... Year 1975 (MCMLXXV) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Contents

Fallacy

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again." Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing." The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing." Scotsman may mean: a man from Scotland, in common parlance (Scotswoman is the equivalent for a woman) The largest bronze statue of a Scotsman is located in Clinton, South Carolina at Presbyterian College, home of the Bluehose. ... Charles Mackintoshs Glasgow Herald building, now The Lighthouse The Herald is a national broadsheet newspaper published Monday to Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland, with an audited circulation of 71,000, making it the best-selling national Scottish broadsheet newspaper. ... For other places with the same name, see Brighton (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Aberdeen (disambiguation). ...

Antony FlewThinking about Thinking, 1975

Flew's original example may be softened into the following [1]: Professor Antony Garrard Newton Flew (born February 11, 1923) is a British philosopher. ...

Argument: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Reply: "But my uncle Angus, who is a Scotsman, likes sugar with his porridge."
Rebuttal: "Aye, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."

In putting forward the above rebuttal one would be employing an ad hoc shift in argument. The proposer initially treats the definition of "Scotsman" (i.e, a man from Scotland) as fixed, and says that there exists no predicated case that fall inside. When one such case is found, the proposer shifts to treat the case as fixed, and rather treats the boundary as debatable. The proposer could therefore be seen prejudicially not to desire an exact agreement on either the scope of the definition or the position of the case, but solely to keep the definition and case separate. One reason to do this would be to avoid giving the positive connotations of the definition ("Scotsman") to the negative case ("sex offender") or vica versa. Ad hoc is a Latin phrase which means for this [purpose]. It generally signifies a solution that has been tailored to a specific purpose, such as a tailor-made suit, a handcrafted network protocol, and specific-purpose equation and things like that. ...


Formally the argument is an informal fallacy if the predicate ("puts sugar on porridge") is not contradictory to the previously accepted definition of the subject ("Scotsman"), or if the definition of the subject is silently adjusted after the fact to make the rebuttal work.[2] In Philosophical logic, an informal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is false due to the falsity of one or more of its premises. ...


As another example, a layman may be debating the merits of different video camcorders. He might assert that: "Any video engineer will tell you that the Matsushiba KYX300 format is vastly superior to the Magnasonic VBX2000." If someone points out, many engineers are on record as saying that the VBX2000 is actually the superior system, the original speaker may modify his premise to state: "Any video engineer who knows what they are talking about."


This is really another form of begging the question. His assertion is essentially self-nullifying, in that, not being an engineer, he is hardly in any position to judge the credentials of people who are. In logic, begging the question describes a type of logical fallacy, petitio principii, in which the conclusion of an argument is implicitly or explicitly assumed in one of the premises. ...


This is connected to the widespread attempt in debate to assert that positive terms (good, decent) imply, naturally or by definition, the characteristics argued for (opposition to capital punishment, pornography, smoking in public), rather than actually making an argument why they are connected.


"No decent Scotsman" can be considered the moral (practical) equivalent of the theoretical "No true Scotsman". For example, it may be asserted that "No decent person[3] would support hanging", "watch pornography", or "smoke in public". This is an abbreviated form of the fallacy: compare "he may take salt in his porridge, but no true Scotsman would" and "(some people may support smoking in public), but no decent person would." Often the speaker seems unaware that he is, in fact, coercively (re)defining the meaning of the phrase "decent person" to gain tactical advantage in the argument. The use of this technique shifts the debate away from the merits of hanging, pornography, or smoking (or whatever controversial subject that may be at issue) by attempting to establish, without basis in logic, that anyone disagreeing with the speaker is, in fact, "indecent".[4]


The word "real" may be substituted for "true" and still commit the same fallacy in different plumes. For example, when General George Patton said, "All real Americans love the sting of battle" to his soldiers, he was implying that they were un-American if they shrank from combat. General George Smith Patton Jr. ... Un-American is a pejorative term used in the United States. ...


Why people fall into the fallacy

The truth of a proposition depends on its adequacy to its object ("Is the drawing a true likeness of Antony Flew?"). The truth of an object depends on its adequacy to its concept ("Is the figure drawn on the paper a true triangle?"). Problems arise when the definition of the concept has no generally accepted form, for example when it is vague or contested[5]. This article is about the word proposition as it is used in logic, philosophy, and linguistics. ... For other uses, see Concept (disambiguation). ... Ambiguity is one way in which the meanings of words and phrases can be unclear, but there is another way, which is different from ambiguity: vagueness. ... In a paper delivered to the Aristotelian Society on 12 March 1956,[1] Walter Bryce Gallie (1912-1998) introduced the term essentially contested concept to facilitate an understanding of the different applications or interpretations of the sorts of abstract, qualitative, and evaluative notions[2] -- such as art and social justice...


"A true Scotsman" (a concept) is not on the same level as "a true triangle" (a concept) never mind "the true Antony Flew" (a concrete existing object). The formal similarity, "true X", and the corresponding feeling that the concepts should be on the same level, in some sense must be on the same level (even perhaps all exist as objects), motivates the fallacy. It is a short step from that feeling to treating one's own definition, however arbitrary, of a "true Scotsman" (who else's?) as having the same objectivity as that of a geometrical figure or an existing individual, and then attempting to make the world agree.[6]


Errors in usage

In situations where the subject's status is previously determined by specific behaviors, the fallacy does not apply. For example, it is perfectly justified to say, "No true vegetarian eats meat," because not eating meat is what defines a person as a vegetarian. Similarly, claiming that "no true democracy has coercion in the voting process" is not a fallacy because a lack of coercion is a necessary component of democracy.


See also

Equivocation, also known as amphibology, is classified as both a formal and informal fallacy. ... A euphemism is the substitution of an agreeable or less offensive expression in place of one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the listener;[1] or in the case of doublespeak, to make it less troublesome for the speaker. ... Loaded words are words or phrases which have strong emotional overtones or connotations and which evoke strongly positive (or negative) reactions far beyond the specific meaning of the word which is listed in the dictionary. ... A persuasive definition is a type of definition in which a term is defined in such a way as to be an argument for a particular position (as opposed to a lexical definition, which aims to be neutral to all usages), and is deceptive in that it has the surface... A power word (or power phrase) is a word (or a phrase) that is used to make ones statement stronger. ... Ten Thousand Miles From Tip to Tip, an 1898 political cartoon depicting the extension of the United States dominion Jingoism is chauvinistic patriotism, usually associated with a War Hawk political stance. ... Reification (also known as hypostatization or concretism) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it represented a concrete, real event or physical entity. ...

External links

  • WWW source of the quote at the top of the page.

References

  1. ^ Flew, Antony (1975), written at London, Thinking About Thinking – or do I sincerely want to be right?, Collins Fontana
  2. ^ Hope, Anthony (2004), written at Oxford, Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press
  3. ^ Free Speech in America « The Apostate
  4. ^ Spector, Jessica (2006), Prostitution and Pornography: Philosophical Debate About the Sex Industry, Stanford University Press
  5. ^ The No True Scotsman Fallacy Fallacy Fallacy
  6. ^ Stove, David (1991), The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies, Wiley
In Philosophical logic, an informal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is false due to the falsity of one or more of its premises. ... In logic, begging the question describes a type of logical fallacy, petitio principii, in which the conclusion of an argument is implicitly or explicitly assumed in one of the premises. ... A fallacy of distribution is a logical fallacy occurring when an argument assumes there is no difference between a term in the distributive (referring to every member of a class) and collective (referring to the class itself as a whole) sense. ... A fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part). ... A fallacy of division occurs when someone reasons logically that something that is true of a thing must also be true of its constituents. ... The gamblers fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy, is an informal fallacy. ... The inverse gamblers fallacy is a tempting mistake in judgments of probability, comparable to the gamblers fallacy whence its name derives. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Ignoratio elenchi (also known as irrelevant conclusion or irrelevant thesis) is the formal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but which proves or supports a different proposition than the one it is purporting to prove or support. ... Special pleading is a form of spurious argumentation where a position in a dispute introduces favorable details or excludes unfavorable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves. ... In logic, correlative-based fallacies, also known as fallacies of distraction, are logical fallacies based on correlative conjunctions. ... The form of the fallacy of false dichotomy as an argument map with the conclusion at the top of the tree. ... The perfect solution fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when an argument assumes that a perfect solution exists and/or that a solution should be rejected because some part of the problem would still exist after it was implemented. ... The logical fallacy of denying the correlative is the opposite of the false dilemma, where an attempt is made at introducing alternatives where there are none. ... The logical fallacy of suppressed correlative is a type of argument which tries to redefine a correlative (two mutually exclusive options) so that one alternative encompasses the other, i. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... The logical fallacy of accident, also called destroying the exception or a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid, is a deductive fallacy occurring in statistical syllogisms (an argument based on a generalization) when an exception to the generalization is ignored. ... The logical fallacy of converse accident (also called reverse accident, destroying the exception or a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter) is a deductive fallacy that can occur in a statistical syllogism when an exception to a generalization is wrongly called for. ... A faulty generalization, also known as an inductive fallacy, is any of several errors of inductive inference: Hasty generalization is the fallacy of examining just one or very few examples or studying a single case, and generalizing that to be representative of the whole class of objects or phenomena. ... A biased sample is one that is falsely taken to be typical of a population from which it is drawn. ... The conjunction fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than general ones. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Hasty generalization, is a logical fallacy of faulty generalization by reaching an inductive generalization based on insufficient evidence. ... The logical fallacy of misleading vividness involves describing some occurrence in vivid detail, even if it is an exceptional occurrence, to convince someone that it is a problem. ... Ambiguity is one way in which the meanings of words and phrases can be unclear, but there is another way, which is different from ambiguity: vagueness. ... Look up ambiguity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Continuum fallacy, also called fallacy of the beard is a logical fallacy which abuses the paradox of the heap. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... In debate or rhetoric, the slippery slope is an argument for the likelihood of one event or trend given another. ... Equivocation, also known as amphibology, is classified as both a formal and informal fallacy. ... The fallacy of a false attribution occurs when an advocate appeals to an irrelevant, unqualified, unidentified, biased or fabricated source in support of an argument. ... It has been suggested that Contextomy be merged into this article or section. ... Lokis Wager is a form of logical fallacy. ... Reification (also known as hypostatization or concretism) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it represented a concrete, real event or physical entity. ... Fallacies of questionable cause, also known as causal fallacies, non causa pro causa (non-cause for cause in Latin) or false cause, are informal fallacies where a cause is incorrectly identified. ... Circular cause and consequence is a logical fallacy where the consequence of the phenomenon is claimed to be its root cause. ... Correlation does not imply causation is a phrase used in the sciences and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not imply there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. ... For the episode of the television program The West Wing, see Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (The West Wing). ... The regression (or regressive) fallacy is a logical fallacy. ... The fallacy of the single cause, also known as joint effect or causal oversimplification, is a logical fallacy of causation that occurs when it is assumed that there is one, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient... The Texas sharpshooter fallacy is a logical fallacy where a cluster of statistically non-significant data is taken from its context, and therefore thought to have a common cause. ... Wrong direction is a logical fallacy of causation where cause and effect are reversed. ...

  Results from FactBites:
 
"No True Scotsman" (381 words)
This ploy is sometimes known as the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.
Since this rationalization is completely subjective, it renders the definition of a "true" Christian virtually meaningless.
A "true" Christian is based on personal preference and nothing more.
No True Scotsman - RationalWiki (399 words)
'No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy by which an individual attempts to avoid being associated with an unpleasant act by asserting that no true member of the group they belong to would do such a thing.
When later confronted with evidence of another Scotsman doing even worse acts, his response is that no true Scotsman would do such a thing, thus disavowing membership in the group "Scotsman" to the criminal on the basis that the commission of the crime is evidence for not being a Scotsman.
An example of this would be the case of someone claiming that Hitler was not a true Christian may not necessarily be guilty of this fallacy, given that there actually is a definition of what a true Christian is, and Hitler may fall outside that definition.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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