I come across the Strawman (or Figure) Fallacy term all the time in the blogosphere. This video is really a little bit too advanced for me. I will go in search of a simpler one., so as to grasp full meaning from its roots.

In the interim…I’ve learned the following: thanks to some Wisegeek

(Rhetorical is another word that I’ll have to go chasing after as its meaning appears to escape me all the time).

A straw man argument is a rhetorical device that is meant to easily prove that one’s position or argument is superior to an opposing argument. However, the straw man argument is regarded as a logical fallacy, because at its core, the person using the device misrepresents the other person’s argument. The person does this because it then becomes easier to knock down the weaker version of the opposing argument with one’s more substantial counter argument. The term straw man derives from the use of scarecrows for military practice, such as charges. In reality, a scarecrow is far easier to defeat than an actual person.

The straw man argument, also called straw dog or scarecrow, deliberately misrepresents and weakens the argument of the opposing side. This can be done by leaving out key points of an opposing argument, quoting a person’s words out of context, or presenting a particular person’s poor defense as the entire defense of an opposing side. In the worst case, a straw man is literally an imagined person who weakly defends an argument and can be easily defeated.

Jun 1st, 2004 | By 

The straw man fallacy Category: Bad Moves

Free-market capitalism is founded on one value: the maximization of profit. Other values, like human dignity and solidarity, or environmental sustainability, are disregarded as soon as they limit potential profit.
Naomi Klein, nologo.org FAQ

The last four paragraphs give a clear example of the strawman (figure) fallacy according to Baggini’s Bad Moves article posted by Ophelia Benson.

…[K]lein’s argument is an example of the straw man fallacy. Although her target is the actual, essentially capitalist, economic system of western liberal democracies, she has not in fact confronted its reality. Instead, she has set up as a target a caricature of the free-market capitalism we have and attacked that instead. But her subsequent easy victory over it is seen as a victory over the real McCoy.

Put in general terms, the fallacy is of dealing with a weaker or distorted version of an argument or position as though it was in fact the full and accurate one. The position itself is then taken to be shown to be flawed even though it has not actually been subject to proper critique at all.

Although the misrepresentations characteristic of straw men can be willful, often they simply reflect how little effort people make to understand their opponents’ points of view. We like the world to be clear cut and simple, made up only of black and white. If we attribute hopelessly inadequate or repugnant views to others, the virtues of our own commitments seem obvious. But if we grant that our enemies have an arguable case, then our own views suddenly do not seem so unassailable, and our opponents not so clearly on the side of the devil.

Another explanation for the popularity of straw men is that if we win an argument, we feel that our opinions have been vindicated, even if our victory was won over an emaciated opponent. We forget that the aim of rational debate is not for us to win, but for the truth to win. That is rarely what happens when the fight is with a straw man.

 Read the rest here

Erm…I see another Confirmation bias phrase lurking about in the top hand corner of the B&W link just up above. Well, it too definitely needs to be thoroughly investigated, as it’s a phrase which can have dire consequences for people?!


I’ve been pulling the cart before the wheels and looking at a list of common fallacies compiled by one Jim Walker. Some are very familiar ones that crop up all the time in the atheosphere. One fallacy can beget another one. For example:

ad hominem: Latin for “to the man.” An arguer who uses ad hominems attacks the person instead of the argument. Whenever an arguer cannot defend his position with evidence, facts or reason, he or she may resort to attacking an opponent either through: labeling, straw man arguments, name calling, offensive remarks and anger.


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