The All True Scotsman Fallacy

As my readers know, one of my personal bêtes noires is the complete ignorance of most of the people who charge others with committing a material fallacy of the fact that a material fallacy is, in fact, a material fallacy, rather than a formal fallacy.  If a material fallacy were a fallacy by virtue of its form alone, it wouldn’t be a material fallacy, but a formal one.

What I call the All True Scotsman fallacy occurs when someone mistakenly attempts to use the No True Scotsman fallacy, a material fallacy, as a formal fallacy.  The All True Scotsman fallacy looks like this:

  1. Any statement of the form “X is not a true Y” is a No True Scotsman fallacy.
  2. Therefore, all Xs are true Ys, always and necessarily, for any values of X and Y.

More concretely, this takes the form of saying that since any denial that anyone ever is a true Scotsman is a “No True Scotsman” fallacy, it follows that everyone always is necessarily a Scotsman, no matter what. There are literally no circumstances under which any person could fail to be a Scotsman.

It is logically impossible for anyone not to be a Scotsman.


2 comments on “The All True Scotsman Fallacy

  1. robalspaugh says:

    To which the kids these days say, “Yeah, so what? Maybe that’s true.”

    Teaching is hard some days.


  2. Dean Esmay says:

    The All True Scotsman fallacy is what they use whenever they want to blame Christianity for ANYTHING, whether it’s lunatic fringe theology or Christian going nuts and doing awful things–we ALL get collective ownershp, we can’t even say “that’s not a real Christian.” (NB: Yes, Christians CAN declare actions ideas and people not-Christian, sorry Atheists but we can!)


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