A Few More Scotsmen

There’s a thing called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. It works like this: person A says “No Scotsmen eat porridge.” And then person B, who is a Scotsman, says, “I eat porridge, and I’m a Scotsman, so that disproves your statement.” And then person A replies: “Well, no true Scotsman eats porridge.”

Basically, the fallacy is when you define category X as not doing Y, so any examples of X doing Y automatically eliminate themselves as counter-examples, because by your definition they can’t be X if they’re doing Y. Therefore you can’t ever be proven wrong. Hence, the fallacy.

We need more of that!

Why do I say this? Well, this is actually going to be one of my extremely infrequent topical posts. Yesterday, a police officer was found guilty of murder for the death of a man he was in the process of arresting last year. I’m not going to take a stance on how you should feel about police in general. But I’ll say that there are definitely some people who hold the institution in high regard, and who (as a result of that stance, perhaps combined with several other political viewpoints) will defend virtually any actions of a police officer simply because they are one. I would prefer something else. I would prefer even the most ardent defenders of the police to behave thusly:

Person A: “No police officer murders people.”

Person B: “Well, a police officer was just found guilty of murder, so that disproves your statement.”

Person A: “Well, no true police officer murders people.”

In other words – if you hold a particular group in high regard, then you should not defend all members of that group no matter what. You should take members of that group that violate the principles that caused you to esteem the group to begin with, and you should expel them. Even if just from the category in your mind that carries respect.

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