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No True Scotsman

September 24th, 2009

Taxonomy – Where am I?

No True Scotsman

classification : informal – fallacies of ambiguity

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.

Foundations

The term was coined by Antony Flew, who gave an example of a Scotsman who sees a newspaper article about a series of sex crimes taking place in Brighton, and responds that no Scotsman 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. However, this is a fallacy as there is nothing in the definition of “Scotsman” which makes such acts impossible.

Categories: Logic
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