No true Scotsman

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No true Scotsman is an intentional logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it.[citation needed] The truth or falsehood of the new claim does not follow from the presence or absence of this fallacy.

The term was advanced by philosopher Antony Flew in his 1975 book Thinking About Thinking: Do I sincerely want to be right?.[1]

A simpler rendition would be:

When the statement "all A are B" is qualified like this to exclude those A which are not B, this is a form of begging the question; the conclusion is assumed by the definition of "true A".

An example of a political application of the fallacy would be in asserting that "no democracy starts a war", then distinguishing between mature or "true" democracies, which never start wars, and "emerging democracies", which may start them.[2]

See also

References

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