Straw man Fallacy

The Straw man Fallacy is a situation whereby one interprets the others point of argument with a distorted, exaggerated and misinterpreted version of the person’s position. A person who behaves in this manner towards the other person’s position is said to be committing a straw man fallacy or a ‘attacking a straw man.” Thus, this essay analyses the Straw man’s fallacy and looks its application in an argumentative discourse while comparing it with other fallacious approaches under similar circumstances.

A typical straw man fallacy can be exhibited in the manner in which a person creates an illusion that they have completely differed with their opponent. On the contrary, they are giving a different version from the actual position of the original person’s argument (Douglas, 116). Straw man Fallacy strategies have been used throughout history especially in highly emotive and charged debates.

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There are many instances of straw man fallacies during arguments or debates to show how one feels or their position in regards to a given subject. For instance, in its logical form, the Person A will make a claim X then Person B restates person A’s claim but in a distorted version. This means that person B has essentially attacked the distorted version of the same claim (Douglas, 116). Thus, the claim X is wrong. In a practical situational example the argument would be as follows (although in a reported speech); if person A said that Biological evolution is a fact and a theory, then person B says it is funny and that we cannot be sure that we evolved from an explosion. Person A responds that it is a serious misinterpretation of his assertion and that he did not claim that man evolved from some explosion. He supports his arguments by saying that unlike logics and math, science is usually based on empirical evidence. Thus, science is usually based on facts and the empirical evidence proves it and that is why it falls under this category (Robert, and Aikin, 347). The explanation is that, Person B’s position is that of an ignorance and has mischaracterized that debate by making false assumption that we evolved from an explosion and there is no such thing. Secondly, he has equally made assumption of the facts which mean he is certain.

Conversely, there is another aspect of interpretation of ones position during an argument in a positive way which is known as the Principle of Charity. This is where in philosophy and rhetoric, the charitable interpretation usually requires that whoever is interpreting the speakers mind should be able to do so in the most rational manner possible. This can happen in case of an argument while taking into account its correct and strongest possible interpretation (Paul and Nisbett, 251). There are situations where this can occur in day to day arguments and conversations as well as national debates. This then confirms that not all arguments are likely to have a straw man fallacy effect. The debates or arguments can take the principle of charity direction and people have very logical and meaningful arguments. This approach is usually important in situations where the there is need to deal with rhetoric. Its means that this principle is not meant to disregard other people’s rhetoric just because their points of argument is considered weak or has no basis (John, 27). During this time, we normally seek to understand the person point of view in its strongest and most persuasive manner before we come up with our own evaluation. For instance, an argument or debate between two persons can take the following direction; if Person B agreed with person A’s claims and substantiated the facts by supporting the argument, then it would satisfy the conditions of principle of charity.

Therefore, the principle of charity is premised on the fact that when you compare a critical commentary of someone’s arguments, it is supposed to be done critically but in the best possible interpretation of the argument. This will then encourage a proper and meaningful dialogue.


Works Cited

Clevenger, John. Davidson, Natural Selection And The Principle Of Charity. 2019, pp. 25-33, Accessed 17 Sept 2019.

Talisse, Robert, and Scott F Aikin. Two Forms Of The Straw Man. 2006, pp. 345-352, Accessed 17 Sept 2019.

Thagard, Paul, and Richard E. Nisbett. “Rationality and charity.” Philosophy of Science 50.2 (1983): 250-267.

Walton, Douglas. The Straw Man Fallacy. 1996, pp. 115-128, Accessed 17 Sept 2019.