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Straw man

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   Type of informal fallacy
   This article is about the logical fallacy. For other uses, see Straw
   man (disambiguation).
   "Man of straw" redirects here. For the novel by Heinrich Mann, see Der

   U.S. President William McKinley has shot a cannon (labeled McKinley's
   Letter) that has involved a "straw man" and its constructors (Carl
   Schurz, Oswald Garrison Villard, Richard Olney) in a great explosion.
   Caption: "SMASHED!", Harper's Weekly, 22 September 1900

   A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument and
   an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument,
   whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted,
   but instead replaced with a false one.^[1] A common form of setting up
   such a straw man is by use of the notorious formula "so what you're
   saying is ..... ?", converting the argument to be challenged into an
   obviously absurd distortion. One who engages in this fallacy is said to
   be "attacking a straw man".

   The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having
   completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition through the
   covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., "stand up
   a straw man") and the subsequent refutation of that false argument
   ("knock down a straw man") instead of the opponent's
   proposition.^[2]^[3] Straw man arguments have been used throughout
   history in polemical debate, particularly regarding highly charged
   emotional subjects.^[citation needed]

   Straw man tactics in the United Kingdom may also be known as an Aunt
   Sally, after a pub game of the same name, where patrons throw sticks or
   battens at a post to knock off a skittle balanced on top.^[4]^[5]
   [ ]


     * 1 History
     * 2 Structure
     * 3 Examples
     * 4 Contemporary work
     * 5 Steelmanning
     * 6 See also
     * 7 References
     * 8 External links


   Perhaps the earliest known use of the phrase was by Martin Luther in
   his book On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), where he is
   responding to arguments of the Roman Catholic Church and clergy
   attempting to delegitimize his criticisms, specifically on the correct
   way to serve the Eucharist. The church claimed Martin Luther is arguing
   against serving the Eucharist according to one type of serving
   practice; Martin Luther states he never asserted that in his criticisms
   towards them and in fact they themselves are making this argument.
   Their persistence in making this false argument causes him to coin the
   phrase in this statement: "they assert the very things they assail, or
   they set up a man of straw whom they may attack."

   As a fallacy, the identification and name of straw man arguments are of
   relatively recent date, although Aristotle makes remarks that suggest a
   similar concern;^[6] Douglas N. Walton identified "the first inclusion
   of it we can find in a textbook as an informal fallacy" in Stuart
   Chase's Guides to Straight Thinking from 1956 (p. 40).^[6]^[7] By
   contrast, Hamblin's classic text Fallacies (1970) neither mentions it
   as a distinct type, nor even as a historical term.^[6]^[7]

   The term's origins are a matter of debate, though the usage of the term
   in rhetoric suggests a human figure made of straw that is easy to knock
   down or destroy--such as a military training dummy, scarecrow, or
   effigy.^[8] A common but false etymology is that it refers to men who
   stood outside courthouses with a straw in their shoe to signal their
   willingness to be a false witness.^[9] The Online Etymology Dictionary
   states that the term "man of straw" can be traced back to 1620 as "an
   easily refuted imaginary opponent in an argument."^[10]


   The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:
    1. Person 1 asserts proposition X.
    2. Person 2 argues against a superficially similar proposition Y,
       falsely, as if an argument against Y were an argument against X.

   This reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: it fails to address the
   proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position.

   For example:
     * Quoting an opponent's words out of context--i.e., choosing
       quotations that misrepresent the opponent's intentions (see fallacy
       of quoting out of context).^[3]
     * Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender,
       then denying that person's arguments--thus giving the appearance
       that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself)
       has been defeated.^[2]
     * Oversimplifying an opponent's argument, then attacking this
       oversimplified version.
     * Exaggerating (sometimes grossly) an opponent's argument, then
       attacking this exaggerated version.


   An everyday conversation:
     * Alice: Taking a shower is beneficial.
     * Bob: But hot water may damage your skin.

   Bob attacked the non-existing argument: Taking an extremely hot shower
   is beneficial. And because such an argument is obviously false, Alice
   might start believing that she is wrong because what Bob said was
   clearly true. But her real argument was not disproved, because she did
   not say anything about the temperature.
     * Alice: I didn't mean taking an extremely hot shower.

   Alice noticed the trick and defended herself.

   Straw man arguments often arise in public debates such as a
   (hypothetical) prohibition debate:
     * A: We should relax the laws on beer.
     * B: No, any society with unrestricted access to intoxicants loses
       its work ethic and goes only for immediate gratification.

   The original proposal was to relax laws on beer. Person B has
   misconstrued/misrepresented this proposal by responding to it as if it
   had been "unrestricted access to intoxicants". It is a logical fallacy
   because Person A never advocated allowing said unrestricted access to
   intoxicants (this is also a slippery slope argument).

   In a 1977 appeal of a U.S. bank robbery conviction, a prosecuting
   attorney said in his oral argument:^[11]

     I submit to you that if you can't take this evidence and find these
     defendants guilty on this evidence then we might as well open all
     the banks and say, "Come on and get the money, boys," because we'll
     never be able to convict them.

   This was a straw man designed to alarm the appellate judges; the chance
   that the precedent set by one case would literally make it impossible
   to convict any bank robbers is remote.

   An example often given of a straw man is US President Richard Nixon's
   1952 "Checkers speech".^[12]^[13] When campaigning for vice president
   in 1952, Nixon was accused of having illegally appropriated $18,000 in
   campaign funds for his personal use. In a televised response, based on
   an earlier Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fala speech, he spoke about another
   gift, a dog he had been given by a supporter:^[12]^[13]

     It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate he had sent all the
     way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl
     Tricia, six years old, named it Checkers. And, you know, the kids,
     like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this right now,
     that, regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.

   This was a straw man response; his critics had never criticized the dog
   as a gift or suggested he return it. This argument was successful at
   distracting many people from the funds and portraying his critics as
   nitpicking and heartless. Nixon received an outpouring of public
   support and remained on the ticket. He and Eisenhower were later

   Christopher Tindale presents, as an example, the following passage from
   a draft of a bill (HCR 74) considered by the Louisiana State
   Legislature in 2001:^[7]

     Whereas, the writings of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution,
     promoted the justification of racism, and his books On the Origin of
     Species and The Descent of Man postulate a hierarchy of superior and
     inferior races. . . .
     Therefore, be it resolved that the legislature of Louisiana does
     hereby deplore all instances and all ideologies of racism, does
     hereby reject the core concepts of Darwinist ideology that certain
     races and classes of humans are inherently superior to others, and
     does hereby condemn the extent to which these philosophies have been
     used to justify and approve racist practices.

   Tindale comments that "the portrait painted of Darwinian ideology is a
   caricature, one not borne out by any objective survey of the works
   cited." The fact that similar misrepresentations of Darwinian thinking
   have been used to justify and approve racist practices is beside the
   point: the position that the legislation is attacking and dismissing is
   a straw man. In subsequent debate, this error was recognized, and the
   eventual bill omitted all mention of Darwin and Darwinist ideology.^[7]
   Darwin passionately opposed slavery and worked to intellectually
   confront the notions of "scientific racism" that were used to justify

Contemporary work[edit]

   In 2006, Robert Talisse and Scott Aikin expanded the application and
   use of the straw man fallacy beyond that of previous rhetorical
   scholars, arguing that the straw man fallacy can take two forms: the
   original form that misrepresents the opponent's position, which they
   call the representative form; and a new form they call the selection

   The selection form focuses on a partial and weaker (and easier to
   refute) representation of the opponent's position. Then the easier
   refutation of this weaker position is claimed to refute the opponent's
   complete position. They point out the similarity of the selection form
   to the fallacy of hasty generalization, in which the refutation of an
   opposing position that is weaker than the opponent's is claimed as a
   refutation of all opposing arguments. Because they have found
   significantly increased use of the selection form in modern political
   argumentation, they view its identification as an important new tool
   for the improvement of public discourse.^[15]

   Aikin and Casey expanded on this model in 2010, introducing a third
   form. Referring to the "representative form" as the classic straw man,
   and the "selection form" as the weak man, the third form is called the
   hollow man. A hollow man argument is one that is a complete
   fabrication, where both the viewpoint and the opponent expressing it do
   not in fact exist, or at the very least the arguer has never
   encountered them. Such arguments frequently take the form of vague
   phrasing such as "some say," "someone out there thinks" or similar
   weasel words, or it might attribute a non-existent argument to a broad
   movement in general, rather than an individual or

   A variation on the selection form, or "weak man" argument, that
   combines with an ad hominem and fallacy of composition is nut picking,
   a neologism coined by Kevin Drum.^[18] A combination of "nut" (i.e.,
   insane person) and "cherry picking", as well as a play on the word
   "nitpicking," nut picking refers to intentionally seeking out extremely
   fringe, non-representative statements from or members of an opposing
   group and parading these as evidence of that entire group's
   incompetence or irrationality.^[16]


   See also: Procatalepsis

   A steel man argument (or steelmanning) is the opposite of a straw man
   argument. The idea is to help one's opponent to construct the strongest
   form of their argument. This may involve removing flawed assumptions
   that could be easily refuted, for example, so that one produces the
   best argument for the "core" of one's opponent's position.^[19]^[20] It
   has been advocated as a more productive strategy in political dialog
   that promotes real understanding and compromise instead of fueling
   partisanship by discussing only the weakest arguments of the

See also[edit]

     * Philosophy portal

     * Aunt Sally
     * Ad hominem
     * Begging the question
     * Devil's advocate
     * Cherry picking (fallacy)
     * Cognitive bias
     * Concern troll
     * Cratylism
     * Fallacy of quoting out of context
     * List of fallacies
     * Media manipulation
     * Pooh-pooh
     * Red herring
     * Tilting at windmills
     * Trivial objections


    1. ^ Downes, Stephen. "The Logical Fallacies". Archived from the
       original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
    2. ^ ^a ^b Pirie, Madsen (2007). How to Win Every Argument: The Use
       and Abuse of Logic. UK: Continuum International Publishing Group.
       pp. 155-157. ISBN 978-0-8264-9894-6.
    3. ^ ^a ^b "The Straw Man Fallacy". fallacyfiles.org. Retrieved 12
       October 2007.
    4. ^ Dennis V. Lindley (2006). Understanding Uncertainty. John Wiley &
       Sons. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-470-04383-7. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
    5. ^ A. W. Sparkes (1991). Talking Philosophy: A Wordbook. Routledge.
       p. 104. ISBN 978-0-415-04223-9. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
    6. ^ ^a ^b ^c Douglas Walton, "The straw man fallacy". In Logic and
       Argumentation, ed. Johan van Bentham, Frans H. van Eemeren, Rob
       Grootendorst and Frank Veltman. Amsterdam, Royal Netherlands
       Academy of Arts and Sciences, North-Holland, 1996. pp. 115-128
    7. ^ ^a ^b ^c ^d Christopher W. Tindale (2007). Fallacies and Argument
       Appraisal. Cambridge University Press. pp. 19-28.
       ISBN 978-0-521-84208-2.
    8. ^ Damer, T. Edward (1995). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical
       Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments. Wadsworth. pp. 157-159.
    9. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (1898). "Man of Straw (A)". Dictionary of
       Phrase and Fable. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
   10. ^ "Origin of the term "straw man"".
   11. ^ Bosanac, Paul (2009). Litigation Logic: A Practical Guide to
       Effective Argument. American Bar Association. p. 393.
       ISBN 978-1616327101.
   12. ^ ^a ^b Waicukauski, Ronald J.; Paul Mark Sandler; JoAnne A. Epps
       (2001). The Winning Argument. American Bar Association. pp. 60-61.
       ISBN 1570739382. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
   13. ^ ^a ^b Rottenberg, Annette T.; Donna Haisty Winchell (2011). The
       Structure of Argument. MacMillan. pp. 315-316. ISBN 978-0312650698.
       Retrieved 25 February 2016.
   14. ^ Adrian Desmond and James Moore [2009] 'Darwin's Sacred Cause: How
       a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution'
       Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
   15. ^ Talisse, Robert; Aikin, Scott (September 2006). "Two Forms of the
       Straw Man". Argumentation. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 20 (3):
       345-352. doi:10.1007/s10503-006-9017-8. ISSN 1572-8374.
       S2CID 15523437.
   16. ^ ^a ^b Aikin, Scott; Casey, John (March 2011). "Straw Men, Weak
       Men, and Hollow Men". Argumentation. Springer Netherlands. 25 (1):
       87-105. doi:10.1007/s10503-010-9199-y. ISSN 1572-8374.
       S2CID 143594966.
   17. ^ Douglas Walton (2013). Methods of Argumentation. Cambridge
       University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-43519-3.
   18. ^ Kevin Drum (11 August 2006). "Nutpicking". The Washington
   19. ^ ^a ^b Friedersdorf, Conor (26 June 2017). "The Highest Form of
       Disagreement". The Atlantic.
   20. ^ Messinger, Chana (7 December 2012). "Knocking Down a Steel Man:
       How to Argue Better". The Merely Real (blog).

External links[edit]

     * Straw Man Arguments: How to Recognize, How to Counter, and When to
       Use Them Yourself: a discussion of straw man arguments and their
       usage in debates.
     * The Straw Man Fallacy at the Fallacy Files
     * Straw Man, more examples of straw man arguments

     * v
     * t
     * e

   Fallacies (list)


   In propositional logic
     * Affirming a disjunct
     * Affirming the consequent
     * Denying the antecedent
     * Argument from fallacy
     * Masked man
     * Mathematical fallacy

   In quantificational logic
     * Existential
     * Illicit conversion
     * Proof by example
     * Quantifier shift

   Syllogistic fallacy
     * Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise
     * Exclusive premises
     * Existential
     * Necessity
     * Four terms
     * Illicit major
     * Illicit minor
     * Negative conclusion from affirmative premises
     * Undistributed middle


     * Equivocation
     * False equivalence
     * False attribution
     * Quoting out of context
     * Loki's Wager
     * No true Scotsman
     * Reification

     * Circular reasoning / Begging the question
     * Loaded language
          + Leading question
     * Compound question / Loaded question / Complex question
     * No true Scotsman

     * False dilemma
          + Perfect solution
     * Denying the correlative
     * Suppressed correlative

   Illicit transference
     * Composition
     * Division
     * Ecological

   Secundum quid
     * Accident
     * Converse accident

     * Anecdotal evidence
     * Sampling bias
          + Cherry picking
          + McNamara
     * Base rate / Conjunction
     * Double counting
     * False analogy
     * Slothful induction
     * Overwhelming exception

     * Accent
     * False precision
     * Moving the goalposts
     * Quoting out of context
     * Slippery slope
     * Sorites paradox
     * Syntactic ambiguity

     * Animistic
          + Furtive
     * Correlation implies causation
          + Cum hoc
          + Post hoc
     * Gambler's
          + Inverse
     * Regression
     * Single cause
     * Slippery slope
     * Texas sharpshooter

   Appeals to emotion
     * Fear
     * Flattery
     * Novelty
     * Pity
     * Ridicule
     * Think of the children
     * In-group favoritism
     * Invented here / Not invented here
     * Island mentality
     * Loyalty
     * Parade of horribles
     * Spite
     * Stirring symbols
     * Wisdom of repugnance

   Genetic fallacies
   Ad hominem
     * Appeal to motive
     * Association
          + Reductio ad Hitlerum
               o Godwin's law
          + Reductio ad Stalinum
     * Bulverism
     * Poisoning the well
     * Tone
     * Tu quoque
     * Whataboutism

     * Authority
          + Accomplishment
          + Ipse dixit
          + Poverty / Wealth
     * Etymology
     * Nature
     * Tradition / Novelty
          + Chronological snobbery

   Appeals to
     * Argumentum ad baculum
     * Wishful thinking

   Other fallacies
   of relevance
     * Ad nauseam
          + Sealioning
     * Argument to moderation
     * Argumentum ad populum
     * Appeal to the stone / Proof by assertion
     * Ignoratio elenchi
     * Argument from anecdote
     * Argument from silence
     * Invincible ignorance
     * Moralistic / Naturalistic
     * Motte-and-bailey fallacy
     * Rationalization
     * Red herring
          + Two wrongs make a right
     * Special pleading
     * Straw man
     * Cliche
     * I'm entitled to my opinion

     * Category

   Retrieved from

     * 16th-century neologisms
     * Martin Luther
     * Relevance fallacies
     * Barriers to critical thinking
     * Error
     * Political metaphors referring to people

   Hidden categories:
     * Articles with short description
     * Short description is different from Wikidata
     * Use dmy dates from July 2020
     * All articles with unsourced statements
     * Articles with unsourced statements from January 2022

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