When the 'No True Scotsman' fallacy is called in error, its...?

OK, the No True Scotsman fallacy is fairly well-known - in short, it’s when ad-hoc exclusions are made in order to avoid addressing a refutation.

But what about when the No True Scotsman fallacy is called in error? Consider:

Person A: Name some famous Scotsmen.
Person B: Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Burns, Billy Connolly, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.
A: Dude! - Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is from Fiji - True Scotsmen come from Scotland
B: Hah! Logical Fallacy! You lose!

Obviously that’s a stupid example, but perhaps it illustrates what I’m grasping for - when the No True Scotsman fallacy is called in error, is that a logical fallacy in and of itself? - something like Denial of Definition?

I don’t understand, and your example just confuses me even more. In the example the word “true” is superfluous. Scotsmen come from Scotland, and that is all that is required to exclude Bainimarama. There is no True Scotman here because the definition of Scotdman being used is perfectly standard and universally accepted. The person claiming a logical fallacy hasn’t in fact noted any logical fallacy. Bainimarama isn’t scottish, there is no fallacy in pointing this out.

The True Scotsman isn’t an error, it’s a fallacy. Like any other fallacy and can produce an error and so any conclusion based on it is unreliable, but it isn’t an error in itsown right.

If someone wishes to claim that True Scotsman is being utilised it is up to them to demonstrate that this is the case. They need to provide a standard definition of “Scotsman” and show that it doesn’t require the criteria being applied to it.

If someone claims a True Scotsman when in fact none is in use then that is indeed an error, but the only name for it is a factual error. As a matter of provable fact Scotsmen do come form Scotland. To claim otherise is a factual error and one that is very easily proved.

Does that answer the question?

argumentum ad logicam or fallacy fallacy


No, an argumentum ad logicam is where it is assumed that the conlcusion of an argument containing a fallacy must be untrue. It relies entirely on the fallacy being correcly assigned and can have nothing whatsoever to do with incorrectly assigning a fallacy.

I think that’s what he’s asking. Maybe I misunderstood.

This particular example is rather trivial, since “person from Scotland” is a pretty nearly universal definition of “Scotsman”. But supposing that someone did claim that this was an example of the No True Scotsman fallacy, that someone would then be making a mistake. The OP is asking if this mistake has a name.

Of course, one could also construct less trivial examples, where the proper definition of a word is somewhat in dispute. One might, for instance, define a true scientist to be one who is open to the possibility of conflicting evidence. If a fellow who goes to work wearing a white lab coat then demonstrates himself to not be open to conflicting evidence, I might then claim that by virtue of that, he’s not a true scientist. Am I commiting the No True Scotsman fallacy? And if not, what fallacy is commited by the person who claims that I am?

I hereby applaud this paragraph. Very nice example IMO.


No, because you are utilising a standard definition of scientist. Scientists have to indulge the scientific method, the scientific method dicates being open to conflicting eveidence. Ergo no True Scotsmen in stating this as fact.

Granted someone who has “Scientist” in their job title, (eg Christian Scientist) is also a scientist by some definitions but that isn’t the standard defintion by any strecth. Once again, it’s not a true Scotsman if the misunderstanding is the result of simply using divergent defintions. A True Scotsman has to be couched in such a way that it can exclude any excpetions in an ad hoc manner.

It’s not a fallacy, it’s simply a factual error. They have claimed something that is provably not ture. That’s not a fallacy, just as claiming that dogs have eight legs is not a fallacy.

Understood, but my example was a rather facile and obvious one. What I’m talking about is the hypothetical case where someone accuses their opponent of committing the No True Scotsmen fallacy, but is effectively denying their opponent of any reasonable terms of definition.

I propose we call it the Fallacy Resemblance Fallacy (Or Straw Fallacy Fallacy) - when an argument that superficially resembles a well-established fallacy is declared to contain that fallacy based on non-established, contradictory, disjointed or entirely unrelated similarities.
Example #1:

A: After Hitler chose to invade Poland in 1939, several of Poland’s allies declared war on…
B: GODWIN! Thread over!

Example #2:

A: Fall of Rome was not a sudden occurrence but rather a gradual decay of a society over the span of several generations. First, …
B: That’s just a slippery slope! You can use that argument to prove anything!

Example #3:

A: My position, as it stands, is that monkeys should be mandated by law to wear pants. The lewd and inappropriate monkey nudity our children are exposed to every day must be stopped. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. fought to protect our future generations from racism, I fight to protect them from indecency!
B: Need some more straw for your straw-man?


Thanks, groman - I’m not sure we’ll prevail in calling it Fallacy Resemblance Fallacy (although I like that), but you have understood what I’m trying to get at.

Why should there be a standard name of this sort of thing? (It’s not as though mere labeling confers improved understanding or anything). What’s so great about assigning names to errors in argument? Particularly when you’re already acknowledging the way that simply calling out these names can be made to unfortunately substitute for useful debate.

If you see someone calling out “That’s a No True Scotsman fallacy” in error, the best thing to do is explain clearly what they’ve done in error, rather than start up an echo chamber of “Nuh-uh! You’re committing the Fallacy Resemblance Fallacy” “No, that accusation on your part is an instance of the Straw Fallacy Fallacy” “No way, you’ve fallen into the trap of Phallusy Resemblance Fallacy”.

I understand the appeal of a shorthand for this sort of thing, but, in practice, having long lists of particular names for niche errors of every sort, it seems more bizarre than useful. It doesn’t seem to play any role in clearing up understanding of logic.

Understood, it’s just that the notion of not permitting someone to appropriately define the domain they’re talking about seemed such a distinct type of error that I wondered if there was already a name for it, or if it was otherwise already recognised.

How about we call it the “Spent too long in Great Debates” Fallacy? :wink:

The whole issue of “No true Scotsman” can be avoided by calling the fallacy the name I learned for it: “Victory by Definition.”

Well, there are only two situations in which a “No True Scotsman” argument needs to be refuted.

  1. When it’s totally irrelevant to the subject being discussed.

  2. When the subject being discussed has real, hard-and-fast definitions, so that it’s right and just to state categorically that No Scotsman could possibly do something and still be classified as a Scotsman.

To give an example of the latter case… suppose that Professor Bright is a self-proclaimed atheist, but has written articles in which he indicates that angels exist.

Now, suppose Richard Dawkins said, “We atheists are one in our determination to wipe out superstition, and we won’t rest until belief in the supernatural has been eliminated.” Someone might say, “What about Professor Bright? He’s an atheist and he believes in angels!”

At that point, Dawkins could RIGHTLY say, “Professor Bright is not a true atheist.” As I see it “atheist” has a specific definition, and I’d say a man who believes in angels doesn’t fit that definition. And a person who invoked the “No True Scotsman” fallacy would be wrong.

Sure, except that those hard-and-fast definitions aren’t always that hard, or fast - which is why sometimes someone might say something is a No True Scotsmen fallacy, when in fact they just happen to disagree with the other person on a point of definition, or worse, don’t want to let the other person clearly define their domain, because it would tip the argument in their favour.

That sounds like Spanish for something dirty, and I don’t know why.

:confused: And atheist does not believe there is a God. You can believe in angles without believing there is a God. Hence an atheist can believe there are angels.

You pulled a No True Scotsman!


Yeah, I’d say that a belief in “angels” does not neccessarily require a belief in “god”, for certain definitions of “angel” and “god”. Likewise, one can believe in life after death, reincarnation, ghosts, leprechauns, psychic powers, unicorns, and suchlike and still be an atheist. Just a dumb atheist.