Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday Tonic - No True Scotsman

Every time there is a shocking event involving people from a readily-identifiable ethnic, ideological or religious group, a predictable verbal ping pong match often ensues among bystanders. Someone will point out that the perpetrator of some terrible act "x" appears to be a member of some stereotyped group N. Others generalize that of course group N is responsible for so much "x" in the world. Still others - usually members of group N themselves - jump in to defend with one or both of these common assertions:

1.  "Not all of group N are like the perpetrator and group N is not responsible for most of the "x" in the world!" (these assertions are usually presented along with anecdotes showing perpetrators from other groups committing act "x")

2. "The perpetrator is not a true N; a true N would never do a thing like "x"!

The second apologetic is known as the "no True Scotsman" fallacy.

For your Tuesday Tonic this week, here is a nice clear explanation of what the "No True Scotsman" fallacy is, how it is deployed and why it fails. Thanks to TheraminTrees for another excellent video!


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