Fallacy: Moving the Goalposts, or No True Scotsman

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Moving the goalposts is a rather straight forward fallacy to understand. Imagine yourself on an endless field with two literal goalposts that are constantly being moved.

At the beginning, someone tells you that you have been successful when you run between the goal posts. So, you start running. Then, as you’re approaching the goal, someone lifts up the posts and moves them further away… then further… and further…

You’ll never be successful, ever, because they are manipulating the criteria so that you’ll appear unsuccessful.

This is moving the goalposts.


Example of Moving the Goalposts

Nathan and Steven are both up for a promotion. Steven happens to be the boss’s nephew. The boss says that he will decide who gets the promotion fairly based on who can paint the most accurate cityscape (because let’s say in this example that painting cityscapes is super critical).

After Nathan and Steven both create their cityscapes, the boss says that while Nathan’s was more accurate, he’s giving Steve the promotion because Steve painted two of them instead of one.

Premise 1: The promotion should go to whoever paints the most accurate cityscape.
Premise 2: Steven painted two cityscapes instead of one.
Conclusion: The promotion should go to Steven.

Invalid argument.

Even if all (both) premises were true, it would still not make the conclusion true.

Image source.

Author: A. Primate

Mammal. Organizes itself into complex social hierarchies. Very particular about objects - even those that can't be eaten or used for shelter. Seemingly aware of itself as separate from the environment.

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