Subject of a Straw Man

When engaged in a dialogue, it’s important to avoid the use of logical fallacies. It can be easy to rely on a logical fallacy as a shortcut for arriving at a seemingly well-reasoned conclusion, especially if your opponent doesn’t realize what you’re trying to pull.

However, proper Philosophy—the practice of argumentation with style—does not permit such sophistry. Flagrant and intentional use of logical fallacies is a key indication of a disregard for normative discourse ethics, which are paramount to the success of any dialogue worth your participation.

Always remember that an argument is valid if and only if (iff) it is impossible for the premises to be true while the conclusion is false.

One common logical fallacy is the straw man. According to Wikipedia, the Fountainhead of Knowledge:

straw man, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally, is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

In other words, a straw man can be used to “win” arguments by arguing against something other than the actual position an opponent is progressing. You may be interested to read more about the structure of a straw man argument here.

Do yourself and those you hold in high rhetorical regard a favor: avoid the straw man. Work hard to craft robust and original arguments of your own that are true to both the positions of you and of your opponents. That way, when you win an argument it will be through sound logic and impeccable style, not through slight of hand or smoke and mirrors.

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