- "No wonder this circuit failed - it says 'made in Japan'!"
- "What are you talking about, Doc? All the best stuff comes from Japan."
- -- Back to the Future, part III
One of the FallaciousArgument
s, wherein it is asserted that the merit of something can be determined by a superficial attribute or property of that thing. (The name of this fallacy comes from the line oft-uttered by Stuart Mackenzie, a character on SaturdayNightLive?
who is a Scottish uber-ex-patriot. The character is played by Canadian comedian/actor Mike Myers, and later reprised in Myers' film So I Married an Axe-Murderer
. The film mainly concerns Stuart's son Charlie, also played by Myers, who marries a woman whose previous husbands all met a rather grisly end. Naturally, she's the prime suspect. End of digression into irreverent sketch-comedy.)
That this is a fallacy hardly needs justifying. There are many GoodThing
s in the world which are not of Scottish origin - a truism which can be refactored for almost any superficial property that you can imagine. When applied to a nation, the absurdity of this fallacy is self-evident. When applied elsewhere, however, arguments of this nature do start to sound more reasonable - though still fallacious. Examples include "if it's not from IBM, it can't be any good" and the like. Similarly, the opposite is fallacious as well: "If it is from CA, it must be crap".
One way to counter the argument is to point out that is good which is not Scottish. Pointing out something which is both Scottish and crap doesn't work, since the statement does not assert that everything Scottish is non-crap.
Actually, the statement does assert that everything non-crap is Scottish, so finding things that are both Scottish and crap does work unless there is some good reason why you are missing the non-crap Scottish things.
Yes, but it does not assert that Scottish things are not crap. Compare with "If the street isn't wet, it isn't raining"
. This can be disproven if it is
raining, but the street still isn't wet. On the other hand, if the street is
wet, it doesn't mean that it's raining - someone may have spilled some water. See LogicalImplication
That's correct but misses the point, which is that "the statement does not assert that everything Scottish is non-crap" does not justify the (false) conclusion "Pointing out something which is both Scottish and crap doesn't work". In your example, suppose you make observations at random and take note each time you encounter water on the ground. If the water always turns out not to be rainwater, you haven't disproved "if the street isn't wet, it isn't raining", but you have certainly found evidence to counter it unless there is some good reason why you were never making your observations during or shortly after rainfall.
A counter to the counter: Aye, but it's got a Scottish soul.
See also SturgeonsLaw