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No True Scotsman is an intentional Logical Fallacy which involves the act of setting up standards for a particular scenario, then redefining those same standards in order to exclude a particular outcome.

The Trope Namer and prime example of this sort of behavior is a hypothetical scenario (first told by British philosopher Antony Flew in his 1975 book Thinking About Thinking) in which a Scotsman reads about a horrible crime in the newspaper that takes place in the English town of Brighton and smugly thinks to himself, "No Scotsman would ever do such a thing." Something much worse happens in nearby Aberdeen and is reported on the next day. Rather than admit that he's wrong, he instead thinks, "No true Scotsman would ever do such a thing." In this case, he is going from "someone who lives in Scotland" to "someone that meets my standard of Scottish behavior."

A similar way of illustrating the point:

 Angus: No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge!

Bonnie: But my uncle Scotty MacScotscot does just that!

Angus: Weel, then he's no' a true Scotsman.

This is very common within subcultures. Works or creators are discredited as not part of the genre due to not living up to arbitrary standards. Often this is followed by examples of what are considered real examples of the genre (see also Pretender Diss). By extension, you aren't considered a real fan of the genre if you don't know of these works. Sometimes, when dealing with a Dead Horse Genre or another sufficiently ghettoized field, the fallacy is used to try and distance a well-liked entry from it.

In real life, it's most commonly found in arguments about politics, race, nationality, or religion, usually when it comes to perceived stereotypes that only something negative "can only be done" in a specific region or group of people (especially The Rival) and "not" the accuser's own group; with of course ignoring the fact that it can.


Essentially a form of Begging the Question, in that, to accept the argument that No True Scotsman would do X, one must accept that the definition of "True Scotsman" includes "would not do X."

Tropes which rely on, or include this fallacy:

Looks like this fallacy but is not:

  • If the group being referred to has clearly-defined or generally-accepted membership standards that exclude the (alleged) counter-example. For instance if a statement is made about "Eagle Scouts", and a rebuttal is offered concerning "Boy Scouts", pointing out that "Not all Boy Scouts are Eagle Scouts" is not No True Scotsman.
  • If the group being referred to has specific, objective guidelines of how they should act as a member of said group. This is a moral judgment, not a logical argument. "No true cop would take a bribe from Shady Mc Stealinton!"
  • 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.
  • Any group with tighter standards of membership than "claim to be part of it" or "follow a few loose rules." For instance, if a Religion has as two of its main precepts, "Do not drink alcohol on Friday" and "Believe that specific Book Y is absolutely true," then someone who drinks on Fridays and denies Book Y isn't really part of it.
  • If the term is redefined because it is susceptible to multiple interpretations, and there was legitimate confusion about which was being used. This would be sloppy, but not necessarily fallacious.

Related to Moving the Goalposts, where the definition isn't changed, but the standards for accepting a counter-argument are made increasingly more rigorous.

A form of Selective Obliviousness. Straw Affiliation is a related form of this. Stop Being Stereotypical and Not So Different are often invoked when these situations occur.

Note: What may be considered as "a true/not a true {whatever}" in Real Life often relies on personal interpretation which can result in heated arguments. As such, No Real Life Examples, Please


Fictional Examples

  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Sansa maintains her belief in a fairytale world of Knights in Shining Armor, despite repeatedly confronting evidence that a knight is really just a thug with a sword, by declaring that any knight who doesn't live up to her expectations is obviously "no true knight." She seems to be sticking to this even after aquiring Jade-Colored Glasses by recognizing that true knights, if they exist at all, are very rare.
    • In her defense, Westerosi knightly vows do include protection of the weak and innocent (a category which frequently includes Sansa), so one could make a case that a thug with a sword isn't a true knight because they have failed to uphold a key clause in their vow.
  • Excessive use of this in the 2008 US Presidential campaign led to The Daily Show producing a handy test: 'Are You A Real American?'
  • The game Metal Wolf Chaos features propaganda news reports that define a true American as "anyone who supports the idea of having the families and friends of terrorist sympathisers murdered in the streets" rather than "anyone who is a citizen or long-standing resident of America".
  • Cyrano De Bergerac: In Act IV Scene III, this fallacy is played perfectly straight In-Universe. All the Gascon cadets are sick to death of De Guiche because he is The Dandy wearing an ermine cape, plotting with his uncle Cardinal Richelieu. When captain Carbon tries to defend him, one cadet says that De Guiche is "No True Gascon":

 Carbon: For all that--a Gascon.

The First Cadet: Ay, false Gascon!... trust him not...

Gascons should ever be crack-brained...

Naught more dangerous than a rational Gascon.

  • In Team Fortress 2, if an Engineer Dominates another Engineer, one possible response is "A real Texan would've dodged that".
  • Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran: The samurai in the 11th episode; the only 'true' samurai in their opinion are samurai that think like them. They talk about honor in one scene, for instance, they refuse to sneak attack and decide on a time and place of neutral favor. Then they attack him three to one, even when he reveals himself to be unarmed. Everyone who doesn't act like this is a 'coward' or a 'maggot'.
  • Rozalin from Disgaea 2 loves her father, Overlord Zenon. Until she actually meets him in person, and discovers he's actually kind of a jerk who seems to care for her only as a decorative object to be 'kept safe' in a castle isolated from the outside world. She immediately deduces that he can't be the real Overlord Zenon and is only a fake. She's actually right, but her reasoning that no true Overlord Zenon is a petty jerk had nothing to do with it -- the real Overlord Zenon is much worse.
  • In My Immortal, Ebony and friends are obsessed with which characters are "real goffs" and which are just "tryin 2 be goffik". Hagrid, or rather "Hargrid", is reclassified repeatedly, always for nonsensical, arbitrary reasons.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, an eyewitness claims he saw the defendants escape while he was making breakfast. On the stand, he said that he made grits for breakfast. When Vinny asked if these were regular grits or instant grits, the witness seems to take offense, saying, "No self-respecting Southerner would use instant grits. I take pride in my grits." Having learned earlier how long it takes to properly cook grits, Vinny then uses that information to punch holes in the witness' testimony.
  • 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.
  • Played, strangely, for warm fuzzyness in Gunnerkrigg Court, by Jack hinting to Annie she overdid the "high standards for herself" part a little bit and needs to relax.

Notes

  1. Using the above example, in this scenario, the Scotsman would proclaim "No true Englishman would ever do such a thing." instead.
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