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    Thread: No True Scotsman

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      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      No True Scotsman

      I've seen "No True Scotsman" listed as a logical fallacy.

      I'm having a hard time seeing it. It can certainly be an annoying debating tactic but I don't see that one can infer incorrect conclusions from it.

      If I say "No Scotsman drinks scotch", you exhibit a Scotsman that drinks scotch, and I claim "No true Scotsman drinks Scotch" then I've not arrived at an incorrect conclusion, I've simply implicitly redefined "Scotsman" to be the intersection of people that come from Scotland and people that don't drink scotch.

      Granted, it would be better to explicitly redefine it and my new definition makes my statement tautological and confusing but it does not make it incorrect.

      So why is it considered a fallacy?
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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      I think you have a point. It isn't an error in reasoning, so maybe it shouldn't technically be considered a fallacy, but it happens commonly enough that it should be added to a list of some sort, of things to be aware of while arguing.

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      Terminally Out of Phase Descensus's Avatar
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      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
      I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves. - Christopher Hitchens
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      DuB
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      An argument doesn't have to arrive at an incorrect conclusion to be fallacious. A fallacious argument is often defined as one which can have all true premises and yet a false conclusion. But consider the case of circular argument. If a circular argument has all true premises, then by definition it always has a true conclusion. This doesn't make it any less fallacious.

      "No True Scotsman" is a fallacy because it amounts to stating a truism in basically the same way that a circular argument amounts to stating a truism. When you claim that "no true scotsman drinks scotch," where "true scotsman = scotsman who doesn't drink scotch," we can see by substituting in the definition that all you're saying is "no scotsman who doesn't drink scotch drinks scotch" -- which is a truism. It's just as trivial as assuming A in a premise and then arriving at A in the conclusion.
      Last edited by DuB; 04-07-2011 at 01:44 AM.
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      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      An argument doesn't have to arrive at an incorrect conclusion to be fallacious. A fallacious argument is often defined as one which can have all true premises and yet a false conclusion. But consider the case of circular argument. If a circular argument has all true premises, then by definition it always has a true conclusion. This doesn't make it any less fallacious.
      In the case of a circular argument, it's only a fallacy if I claim to be discovering something new. Circular reasoning can be great for understanding how things are put together. A better comparison would be with circular definitions. There seems to be relationship between circular definitions and no true scotsman in that I can transform one into the other. Consider inerial reference frames. We can say that inertial reference frames are the frames in which newtons laws hold and that newtons laws are the laws that hold in inertial reference frames which is circular. Or we can approach it the way most physics books do which is more in line with "no true scotsman". When a physicist says "pick a reference frame", they don't mean any reference frame, they mean any real reference frame, i.e. an inertial one. This makes sense because many statements that we want to make aren't valid in non-inertial systems.

      "No True Scotsman" is a fallacy because it amounts to stating a truism in basically the same way that a circular argument amounts to stating a truism. When you claim that "no true scotsman drinks scotch," where "true scotsman = scotsman who doesn't drink scotch," we can see by substituting in the definition that all you're saying is "no scotsman who doesn't drink scotch drinks scotch" -- which is a truism. It's just as trivial as assuming A in a premise and then arriving at A in the conclusion.

      I don't see how a truism is a fallacy: It has to be true. It's in no way assuming A in a premise and then arriving at A in the conclusion. It's just incorporating A in the premise as a necessarilly true statement.

      It seems lthat the general use for both circular definitions and no true scotsman is that of discovering organizing principles.
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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