Main No True Scotsman Discussion

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11:02:40 AM Dec 11th 2014
I have a possible example which would make this trope Older Than Feudalism.

In the Bible, John 19:12 has the Jewish leaders shouting to Pontius Pilate "If you release this man (Jesus), you are no Friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar." Being governor of Judea, Pilate held the title of Friend of Caesar (a status above ordinary subjects), and the Jewish leaders are implying that if Pilate releases Jesus, he's no "true" Friend of Caesar.
04:37:45 PM Nov 14th 2013
Is there a name for the technique of using No True Scotsman as a Strawman attack?

"All Christians hate (group the speaker identifies with)." "I'm Christian, and I don't hate (group)." "Either you're lying, or you aren't a REAL Christian."
05:22:14 PM Feb 2nd 2014
edited by
I don't think there's a specific name for that, but it would fall under character assassination. Islamic culture has takfir, the accusation of being an infidel, which this would fall into if used within Islam. I'm not aware of any exact equivalent in Christianity, except during the old days accusing someone of heresy.
05:17:02 AM Mar 7th 2014
Doesn't fit, because in the cases I experience, the "character assassination" is being directed against the whole group by outsiders.
11:43:07 AM May 5th 2014
It also looks like we need one for using "No True Scotsman" as a rebuttal when it doesn't apply. "Obama is a Communist." "You can't say that. Communists belong to one of the actual Communist Parties, and adhere to X, Y, and Z." "No True Scotsman! Nyaah!"

02:47:22 PM Sep 1st 2013
edited by
"The Halkans in the Star Trek Novel Verse are total pacifists, who insist that there is no violence of any kind in their hearts. As a result of this, anyone capable of violence cannot be truly Halkan, and will be regarded as a non-person." I can't find the original contributor of this comment in the editing history, but it doesn't seem to fit this trope. If the Halkans define themselves by a culture of nonviolence, then it is not an example of No True Scotsman for them to say a violent person is not a Halkan. If members of their race are capable of comprehending or contemplating violence, then it would be fallacious of them to state that those CAPABLE of violence could not truly be Halkan, but stating that enacting violence makes you, by definition, not part of their society is not fallacious.
01:07:12 PM Jun 26th 2013
edited by
We may have to rework the "Playing With" page; it seems that the definition there is a bit off.

EDIT: I have rewritten the basic trope definition and the "Played Straight" example to fit the definition.
07:47:58 AM May 23rd 2013
What about when it is inherent to the definition? It is true that no true scotsman is utterly bereft of connections with a kingdom between Hadrian's wall and the Northern Coast of Britain.
04:31:33 AM May 24th 2013
See the "looks like this fallacy but isn't" section.

  • If the action axiomatically disqualifies one from inclusion in the group. For example, "No right-handed person predominantly uses their left hand" is not fallacious because right-handed people are defined as those who predominantly use their right hand. Someone who is calling themselves "right-handed" but predominantly uses their left hand either isn't telling the truth or doesn't understand the distinction between "right-handed" and "left-handed" people.
01:13:09 AM Apr 28th 2011
...Why on earth is this listed as YMMV?
03:35:36 AM Feb 3rd 2013
Because it's subjective in real world application. There is no math to support what a true definition of one demographic or nationality or religion or political stance actually is, so defining them is so often represented by data that fluctuates all the time. It's a shifting consensus of opinion trends. So, when someone makes a blanket statement about a group, and one of those people acts outside the statement, it's arguable as to whether that person was identified with the group because they actually belonged or if they were there by accident, or miscounted. Sometimes the subsequent rationalization is justified, sometimes it isn't. Some people think true believers in a religion are allowed or even expected to kill the non-believers, others think that believers should let others live their lives, or at most try to make them into believers. The possible variations on what actually qualifies as existing under the blanket of this trope are too hard to define. In a way, the trope is Shaped Like Itself, kind of like Murphy's Law not actually being Murphy's Law, which is an example of the law people think of as Murphy's Law exerting influence over itself (seriously, though, look that up).
10:20:58 PM Aug 29th 2010
There are situations which are of this form, but which are nevertheless valid. For example, "No true climate scientist would confuse weather prediction with climate prediction," or "no true climate scientist would confuse local change in the temperature on the matter of hours, with the change overall temperature, averaged around the world and over all cyclic variations." Or more generally, "No true expert in the field would be so incompetent."

How do we distinguish these true cases from the fallacy?

11:29:37 AM Aug 30th 2010
edited by Madrugada
There's a difference I think you are missing. Your examples are more "No reputable scientist". If the statement is that he isn't really a scientist ("No true climate scientist would make this mistake" implies that he is not a climate scientist at all, not simply that he's an incompetent one — you are denying his membership in a class that has established standards: if I have a degree in climatology, I am a climatologist. I may not be a good one, but I am one.) it's No True Scotsman. If it's simply that he isn't a good representative of the group, it's not.

No True Scotsman is the denial of membership in a group. It's not a value judgment on the quality of representation of that group.
11:03:00 AM Sep 17th 2010
"A climate scientist would not make such an elementary mistake," is a true assertion — at least to extremely high probability. If I see a climate scientist suggesting that it's reasonable to think of an overall average global temperature increase of half a degree as equivalent to the change while waiting for a street-light to change, the scientist is lying — or at least pulling something over on us.

I don't want to have to worry about the precise wording of my argument to avoid the "No True Scotsman fallacy". "A climate scientist would not make such an elementary mistake" is a statement of fact that might be discussed. It must not be automatically dismissed because of the "No True Scotsman fallacy".

06:51:34 PM Sep 17th 2010
But No True Scotsman is very much about the wording. It's unilaterally denying membership in a class. Very often, by simply changing the wording to specify a narrower class, the fallacy can be avoided. In the case of a climate scientist making that kind of elementary mistake, changing the assertion to "No competent climate scientist would make that mistake" removes the fallacy.

"It must not be automatically dismissed because of the "No True Scotsman fallacy". "

Here you're talking about the Fallacy Fallacy: Just because someone used a fallacy in constructing their argument doesn't mean that their conclusion is false, any more than the fact that their argument is logically sound means their conclusion is true.
03:23:37 PM Oct 26th 2011
I think I'm in a good position to reply to this topic, since I live in Edinburgh (the capital city of Scotland), and I was born in Dundee (also in Scotland - even more so than Edinburgh in terms of being further North). Almost NO Scotsmen behave like True Scotsmen do in the tropes, apart from drinking rather a lot - I'll give you that one. And we do eat the most extraordinary things - deep-fried Mars Bar, anyone? (Google it - this abomination really does exist!)

However, actual Scotsmen don't give a fig about any of that nonsense, and reserve the kilt for special occasions, such as Burns Night, an excuse for a very small proportion of the population to get extremely drunk every January 25th - the downside is that you have to eat haggis on purpose while somebody plays bagpipes in a confined space. I don't see it ever catching on worldwide. Other than that, we use a very formal version of the trope True Scotsman look as an alternative to the tuxedo. Bagpipes are used similarly, for formal occasions, often military in nature, for funerals, or for the tourists. If you walk through the middle of Edinburgh, you will be lucky to see anybody at all who looks like a True Scotsman, apart from one or two guys playing bagpipes for the tourists.

Seriously, I live about 3 miles from the village of Roslin, of Rosslyn Chapel fame. When Dan Brown's protagonists in a certain inexplicably mega-successful book (I haven't seen the film) arrive there, the first person they meet is automatically a red-haired kilt-wearing fellow called Hamish because hey, it's Scotland! Er, no. And anyway, if he's the current incarnation of Jesus, he's Jewish, so he's not a True Scotsman at all - he just looks like one because after you've been here a while it seeps out of the soil and crawls up your legs in the night.

For the record, in 5 years, excluding men in extremely formal Highland dress on their way to funerals or Masonic events. I have seen exactly ONE person casually walking down this road in True Scotsman garb which he wears every day. And he's a professional eccentric who wanders around strumming a ukulele for no apparent reason.

In Real Life, the True Scotsman of the trope is somebody you'll only encounter in remote regions, and I'm afraid he's pretty much equivalent to a cross between an American "redneck" and those terrifying inbred Deliverance people. And even then, they don't normally wear kilts unless they're very old. (Actually, a Scottish remake of Deliverance would work pretty well, apart from the disruption to other films showing simultaneously in multiplexes - and possible structural damage - caused by the "dueling bagpipes" scene). Never mind - how about The Hills Have Eyes yet again? We've got a lot of hills in Scotland...

Incidentally, there is no female equivalent of the True Scotsman, because when the incredibly manly men are already wearing skirts, what can the girls do except perhaps crawl behind them on leashes?
03:49:36 PM Oct 27th 2011
^ Uhm.

No True Scotsman is not a trope about scottish stereotypes. It's not even about Scotland at all! It's a trope about a particular logical fallacy where the arguer asserts that someone/something is not a "true _____" by arbitrarily redefining "true _____" to specifically exclude them.

Relevant reading:
10:13:25 PM May 25th 2012
@Fantomas: As another Scotsman Born in Dundee (Which is even more so in Scotland than Edinburgh in terms of being further north), I'd just like to congratulate you on making an arse of yourself XD
04:58:40 PM Aug 9th 2010
I question the "old" example. That's a case of different viewpoints or viewpoint changing over time and with experience, not arbitrarily changing the definition. I'd like to hear a defense if anyone has one to offer. Other wise, I'll cut it.
05:03:51 PM Aug 9th 2010
I'm not sure that any of these examples are valid. The "Yankee" one is similar to the "old" one and the others are more "I don't like anyone who isn't exactly like me".
05:44:54 PM Aug 9th 2010
edited by Madrugada
That's what I thought. I'm going to yank them as bad examples.

Stuck here, in case anyone wants to argue for their restoration.

  • "Old": Ask a 4 - year old how old you have to be to be considered "old" and they might answer "25". Ask a 25 - year old, and they might tell you 50 or 65. Ask a 50 - year old, and they might say 70 or 80.
    • So, what response do you get if you ask a 70- or 80-year-old?
      • Dead.
  • "Yankee", as explained by E. B. White:
    To foreigners, a Yankee is an American. To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner. To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner. To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander. To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter. And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.
    • Today, Vermont residents would probably be more likely to think that a "Yankee" is a baseball player.
      • And the first American you asked would probably say "northeast" right from the start. No one lumps Montana with New Hampshire. The first real American anyway.
  • This Wondermark strip is relevant.
  • "Anyone who drives slower than you is an idiot, and anyone who drives faster than you is a MANIAC!" - George Carlin
    • Along the same lines, "Any culture less civilised than your own are barbarians. Any culture more civilised is decadent."
02:02:26 PM Apr 4th 2013
I think a lot of these are more Personal Dictionary than anything.
02:28:35 AM May 2nd 2010
Huh, I thought this page had an example list. I just ran across one I was going to add. Should I put this on You Fail Logic Forever instead, or...?

Anyway, the example is this:

One blog claims that No True Atheist has ever converted to Christianity... and that anyone who had claimed that they had been an atheist but had later converted to Christianity was never a "real" atheist to begin with. Hoo boy.
05:38:44 AM Jul 11th 2010
edited by ChadM
That's an example, unlike literally any item on the current example list.
04:56:44 PM Aug 9th 2010
Go ahead and add it, but name and link to the blog, please, in the (probably futile) attempt to stave off a Natter War. Ideally, the examples should be the fallacy used in fiction, not just Real Life.
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