Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No True Torah Giant Would Say That

I was recently talking to someone who told me that he was shocked by what he saw in writing in the name of a Torah giant, which he later verified in person. He considered this to be heresy [totally unrelated to Torah and science], and I asked him whether this was not proof that it is not heresy. His response was that this proved that the Torah scholar was not as great as people claim.

This is, I believe, a commission of the "No True Scotsman" logical fallacy. Wikipedia defines it as such (link):

No true Scotsman is a term coined by Antony Flew in his 1975 book Thinking About Thinking. It refers to an argument which takes this form:
Argument: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Reply: "But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge."
Rebuttal: "Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
This form of argument is a fallacy if the predicate ("putting sugar on porridge") is not actually contradictory for the accepted definition of the subject ("Scotsman"), or if the definition of the subject is silently adjusted after the fact to make the rebuttal work.
The definition of a Torah giant is not someone who agrees with you or your teachers. I would posit that it is someone who is greatly accomplished in Torah learning and continues in the path of his mentors. There is, of course, much more that could be said in regard to defining this amorphous term. However, redefining the term after finding a Torah giant who disagrees with you is a logical fallacy, perhaps committed too often.

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