Logic 101: The "No True Scotsman" Ploy

Richard Goode's picture
Submitted by Richard Goode on Sat, 2012-02-11 04:13

Example 1

Suppose I assert that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. You counter this by pointing out that your friend Angus likes sugar with his porridge. I then say "Ah, yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

Example 2 (A good example, although now outdated.)

Hank: "All communist governments are aligned with the Soviet Union in foreign policy."
Alice: "What about Yugoslavia, or China?"
Hank: "But they are not genuinely communist countries."
Alice: "Why not?"
Hank: "Because they aren't aligned with the Soviet Union.",

Example 3

As a determinist, I believe that none of our actions results from free choice, and that all of them are determined by the strongest motive acting upon us. To be sure, it sometimes does seem that we choose to act on the weaker of two motives. But if we do that, it only shows that the motive which seemed weaker was really the stronger of the two, since it determined our action.

Example 4

Atheists are not communists. In fact communists are not athiests communists have simply replaced god as thier higher power and purpose with the "state" as being thier higher power. True atheists such as many objectivists hold no such illusions ...

The "No True Scotsman" Ploy

The "No True Scotsman" Ploy is named after the first of the examples of the fallacy given above. It is a special case of Begging the Question.

In the first example, the conclusion is that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. The trick is to re-define the term 'Scotsman' in a way that makes it true that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. In effect, the term 'Scotsman' has been re-defined to mean 'a man from Scotland who doesn't put sugar on his porridge'.

Because the "No True Scotsman" Ploy depends on re-definition of a key term in an argument, it may also be regarded as a special case of Equivocation.


( categories: )

Oh!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Dizzy me. Must pay attention. Smiling It sounds like the sort of argument Baade *would* normally use. Eye

Linz

Callum McPetrie's picture

"Nonetheless, in the interests of being helpful to humanity at large, I point out that the above contains a classic example of smuggling one's premises into one's conclusions, as a substitute for syllogistic proof."

That was exactly Richard's point - the paragraph is an example of the fallacy.

Baadeness me!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As a determinist, I believe that none of our actions results from free choice, and that all of them are determined by the strongest motive acting upon us. To be sure, it sometimes does seem that we choose to act on the weaker of two motives. But if we do that, it only shows that the motive which seemed weaker was really the stronger of the two, since it determined our action.

Since the determinist Baade says he can't help what he says, we don't have to take any of it seriously (thank Gobby). Nonetheless, in the interests of being helpful to humanity at large, I point out that the above contains a classic example of smuggling one's premises into one's conclusions, as a substitute for syllogistic proof. I leave it to others to amuse and instruct themselves identifying how.

Nice analogy.

Damien Grant's picture

According to Richard Islam is evil. If a Muslim is not evil he is not a true Muslim.

He needs to read Taleb and stop reading the Koran.

The "No True Muslim" Ploy

Richard Goode's picture

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.