Straw Man

Description:

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

Example #1

Prof. Jones: “The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000.”

Prof. Smith: “What are we going to do?”

Prof. Brown: “I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it.”

Prof. Jones: “We could reduce our scheduled raises instead.”

Prof. Brown:” I can’t understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones.”

Example #2

“Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can’t understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that.”

Example #3

Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:

Jill: “We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy.”

Bill: “Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out every day?”

Jill: I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous.”

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Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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