Description of Straw Man

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 (straw man) of a person to hurt the person.

The straw man fallacy is when you misrepresent someone else's position so that it can be attacked more easily, knock down that misrepresented position, then conclude that the original position has been demolished. It's a fallacy because it fails to deal with the actual arguments that have been made.

To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent.


Examples of Straw Man

1. Non-AR: "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."

AR version: "ARAs say that we should not eat meat. I can't understand why they want to kill us."

2. Non-AR: 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 everyday?"
Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."

AR version: "Your forum account has been deactivated (for using ad-hominems) until you read the guidelines."
Warwak: "I have learned forums are the wrong venue for drumming support and sharing ideas - doesn't matter anyway, as the ALF won't have me."
ALF: "You can join after you agree to our guidelines."
Warwak: "I am tired of caring what others think" (ALF note: on a forum entitled "brainstorming AR topics", listening to others is important)
3. Non-AR: "To be an atheist, you have to believe with absolute certainty that there is no God. In order to convince yourself with absolute certainty, you must examine all the Universe and all the places where God could possibly be. Since you obviously haven't, your position is indefensible."

AR version: "To believe that animals should have rights because they suffer you have to know with absolute certainty they have feelings. To know this with absolute certainty you need to communicate with an animals. Since you obviously haven't, your position is indefensible."



Show that the opposition's argument has been misrepresented by showing that the opposition has a stronger argument. Describe the stronger argument