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What Is a Straw Man Argument? Definition and Examples


Think about arguing with a scarecrow. You can also make any argument you need and the scarecrow gained’t argue again. In actual fact, you are able to do greater than make any argument you need . . . you possibly can place the scarecrow’s argument any method you need, tailoring it into the right place so that you can argue towards.

Once you make a straw man argument, you’re primarily arguing towards an imaginary scarecrow. It’s a simple technique to make your argument sound infallible—and that’s what makes it a logical fallacy. 

What’s a straw man argument?

A straw man argument, typically known as a straw individual argument or spelled strawman argument, is the logical fallacy of distorting an opposing place into an excessive model of itself after which arguing towards that excessive model. In making a straw man argument, the arguer strips the opposing viewpoint of any nuance and infrequently misrepresents it in a unfavourable gentle. 

The straw man fallacy is an casual fallacy, which implies that the flaw lies with the arguer’s methodology of arguing fairly than the issues of the argument itself. The straw man fallacy avoids the opponent’s precise argument and as a substitute argues towards an inaccurate caricature of it. By doing this, the straw man fallacy is a fallacy of relevance, as a result of with it the arguer doesn’t interact with the related parts of their opposer’s place. 

Different frequent logical fallacies embrace the next:

  • Advert hominem
  • Crimson herring
  • Equivocation
  • Slippery slope
  • Hasty generalization
  • Attraction to authority
  • False dilemma
  • Bandwagon fallacy
  • Attraction to ignorance
  • Round argument
  • Sunk value fallacy
  • Attraction to pity
  • Causal fallacy
  • Attraction to hypocrisy
  • Tu quoque

Historical past of the straw man fallacy

One of many earliest references to the straw man argument dates to Martin Luther. In his 1520 guide On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he claimed that one of many church’s criticisms of him was that he argued towards serving the Eucharist in line with one serving follow regardless of his by no means truly making that argument. He described this criticism as “they assert the very issues they assail, or they arrange a person of straw whom they could assault.” 

Later recognition of the straw man fallacy as a definite logical fallacy dates to the 20th century. Usually, students agree that the time period originated with the thought of establishing a simplistic imagined opponent that’s simple to knock down, like a scarecrow or a army coaching dummy. 

How does a straw man argument work?

A straw man argument is constructed by presenting an opposing place as a warped, excessive model of itself. There are a number of alternative ways a person may flip an inexpensive argument right into a straw man:

  • Oversimplifying it: An arguer may regurgitate a posh or layered subject as a easy, black-and-white one.
  • Specializing in only one a part of the opposing argument: By doing this, the arguer ignores the varied elements at play and, just like oversimplifying the opposing argument, presents a tiny sliver of it as if that sliver have been the entire thing.
  • Taking it out of context: For instance, a person campaigning for higher pedestrian security measures may say, “vehicles are harmful,” and their opponent might flip this right into a straw man by claiming the campaigner thinks vehicles must be banned.
  • Presenting a fringe or excessive model of an opposing argument because the mainstream model of it: For instance, one may create a straw man by claiming that every one vegans are against all types of animal captivity, together with pet possession.

Straw man arguments are utilized in a number of alternative ways. In a dwell debate, one may be utilized in an try and again the opposing debater right into a nook and drive them to defend an excessive or unpopular tackle their place. In a bit of writing, a straw man argument makes it simple for the author to make their place look rational and interesting. By doing this, although, the author is giving readers a biased have a look at the problem they’re discussing. When readers aren’t acquainted with the subject, this may give them the improper thought and forestall them from creating well-reasoned opinions on it. And when readers are acquainted with the subject, it will possibly make the author look silly and trigger readers to take their place much less significantly. 

When and why is the straw man fallacy used?

You’ve in all probability seen and heard straw man arguments in webcomics, on podcasts, on speak radio, in weblog posts, and on tv. They typically seem in political rhetoric. You may need even used them your self, even with out realizing it. 

Individuals use straw man arguments for a wide range of causes. Typically, it’s to show the opponent right into a boogeyman that’s simple to rally supporters towards. Different instances, it’s resulting from a real misunderstanding of an opponent’s place. Preserve each of those factors in thoughts when you end up having to counter a straw man argument.

The best technique to determine a straw man argument is to find out whether or not an argument sounds too easy or excessive to be true. Check out these statements:

  • My opponent hates animals and doesn’t care what number of shall be displaced by his venture. 
  • Our new principal desires to ban all the pieces that’s enjoyable. 
  • Their solely precedence is to make more cash for his or her shareholders. 

See how all of those statements comprise easy statements that lack nuance? That’s a key attribute of a straw man argument. In actuality, the opponent within the first assertion may be targeted on his venture’s improvement and prioritizing it over ecological issues, however that doesn’t imply he hates animals. The principal within the second assertion may be making modifications at their faculty, however to say they need to ban all the pieces enjoyable shuts down any alternative for productive dialogue within the dialog about these modifications. And within the third assertion, the corporate being mentioned very nicely may prioritize maintaining their shareholders’ earnings —nevertheless it’s extremely unlikely that’s their solely precedence. 

counter a straw man argument

To counter a straw man model of your place, restate your place within the clearest, most definitive language potential. The clearer you’re, the tougher it’s to your opponent to distort your works or take them out of context. This works as a straw man prevention technique in addition to a straw man rebuttal technique. 

Once you’re actively being misrepresented by a straw man, keep calm and attempt to keep away from straw-manning your opponent in return or letting your argument devolve into different fallacies, just like the tu quoque fallacy (whereby you accuse your opponent of the identical wrongdoing you your self are accused of). No matter what you’re responding to, utilizing fallacies in your discourse solely undermines your place. Listed below are more practical methods to counter a straw man argument:

  • Asking your opponent to elaborate on their declare: Relying on the declare, ask them the place they obtained their information or how they got here to that conclusion primarily based on what you’ve mentioned and achieved.
  • Declaring that your opponent is misrepresenting you: Merely name it what it’s: a straw man argument. 

Countering straw man arguments isn’t the one ability it’s essential to develop to guard your work from being undermined this fashion. You additionally must know how one can acknowledge them in your individual writing. Once you’re writing an argumentative or persuasive essay, it may be simple to make use of straw man arguments—even by accident!

Earlier than representing an opposing argument in your writing, make certain you perceive it precisely. A method you possibly can take a look at that is by imagining you maintain the opposing viewpoint and writing out a well-articulated argument from that place. If potential, ask someone who holds that opposing place in case your understanding of it’s correct. 

Irrespective of how strongly you oppose one other place, understanding it precisely is necessary for a number of causes:

  • Understanding the opposing perspective lets you craft a stronger argument of your individual. Once you’re in a position to suppose critically about an opposing argument and formulate well-thought-out responses, your writing is extra impactful. 
  • In a debate or one other situation the place you’ll have a back-and-forth dialogue together with your opponent, understanding their place fully can allow you to anticipate their rebuttals and plan your responses accordingly.
  • Understanding opposing factors of view additionally lets you empathize together with your opponents. By understanding their views, you possibly can have extra productive discussions with them—and when the purpose is coverage change, this may help you’re employed collectively towards a mutually helpful answer. 

Test for straw man arguments (and different logical fallacies) while you learn by way of your first draft. Revising them might imply going again and doing extra analysis on the problem you’re discussing—so ensure you give your self enough time for extra analysis earlier than you begin working in your task. 

Straw man argument examples

Listed below are a number of extra straw man argument examples. Take into account that straw man arguments typically come up as reactions to others’ statements. 

 

Particular person 1: Due to the thefts in our constructing, I believe we must always add extra safety cameras.

Particular person 2: So that you’re saying you don’t belief your neighbors?

 

Particular person 1: I believe we must always mute debaters’ microphones when it’s their opponents’ turns to talk to allow them to’t interrupt one another. 

Particular person 2: I disagree as a result of I help free speech. 

 

Particular person 1: Our restaurant’s coverage is that no person beneath eighteen is admitted after 8 p.m.

Particular person 2: Why are you towards households consuming dinner collectively?

Particular person 1: We welcome company of all ages earlier than 8 p.m., however at evening, we keep an adults-only ambiance. 

Particular person 2: Your restaurant discriminates towards households with children. 

Straw man argument FAQs

What’s a straw man argument?

A straw man argument is the logical fallacy of distorting an opposing place into an excessive model of itself after which arguing towards that excessive model.

How does it work?

A straw man argument is constructed by presenting an opposing place as a warped, excessive model of itself. By doing this, the arguer makes an attempt to make their opponent look ridiculous and/or make their very own place look like the one rational possibility. 

What are some examples of a straw man argument?

Instance 1

Particular person 1: Due to the thefts in our constructing, I believe we must always add extra safety cameras.

Particular person 2: So that you’re saying you don’t belief your neighbors?

 

Instance 2

My opponent hates animals and doesn’t care what number of shall be displaced by his venture. 

 

Instance 3

All vegans are against animal captivity, together with pet possession.

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