Tully (tull) wrote in phmt,

The Strawman Fallacy

It seems that a favourite accusation in Feminist forums is to declare the use of a Straw Man fallacy, usually as justification to discontinue a line of argument. Now, I've studied my share of Philosophy and have always enjoyed learning techniques of critical thought and formal logic. This means that many basic logical fallacies scream out at me when reading some of the more passionate rants. Most of the time, one way or the other, people tend to work out the kinks in their logic, but it seems that many have heard this term "Straw Man" and taken it to mean that any disliked rephrasing of an argument can be declared fallacious.

For the benefit of my sanity then, below is an excerpt from the SkepticWiki definition of "Strawman" on the misuse of the term:

It is a strawman fallacy in itself to falsely claim one's opponent is using a strawman argument, when in fact one's opponent isn't.


Antagonist: Abortion is wrong because imaging techniques show the fetus writhing in pain before it's completely aborted. The fetus suffers.

Protagonist: So, if abortion is wrong because it presumably causes the fetus to suffer, then you would have no objections to abortion if fetal anesthetic were used beforehand.

Antagonist: What? Of course not!

Protagonist: Alright, if the fetus suffering or not suffering makes no difference in how you feel about abortion, then obviously suffering is not one of your reasons to believe abortion is wrong, so there was no point in bringing it up in the first place.

Antagonist: I don't have to defend myself against your strawman attacks!

In this case, the antagonist calls the protagonist's rebuttals a strawman attack in an attempt to discredit the author's persuasive appeal. However, the protagonist's rebuttal is acceptable, because it deals with the antagonist's argument in context and in the terms that the antagonist defined in the beginning. The antagonist is guilty of the strawman.


Appologies if you get this crossposted.
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