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Aspects of the Fallacy of Straw Man

Erroneous reasoning can significantly impact the course of the dialogue, shifting the topic to the side, confusing the opponent. While they may be random, some people may use them on purpose, so it is imperative to distinguish between basic techniques. The purpose of this essay is to analyze Straw Man’s typical fallacious reasoning to compare it with other demagogic methods.

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First of all, one needs to understand what exactly is the Straw Man. As Lewis writes (30), this type of argument consists of distorting the original statement, presenting the opponent’s opinion with a meaning that was not originally put there. Thus, the opponent’s point of view appears to be incorrect due to accidental or deliberate distortion, making it much easier to reject an argument or attack a person.

One crucial detail distinguishes Straw Man from the usual disagreement with another person’s argument – the opponent distorts the original point of view. Although there is indeed a denial of the idea of person A, person B also presents A’s thoughts in an unfavorable light, which allows A to be attacked (Lewis 33). In addition, there is a substitution of the subject of discussion since A will have to move on to defend their position, moving further and further from the original thought.

One must be able to distinguish Straw Man from other forms of erroneous reasoning. So, for example, Appeal to Person is exceptionally closely related to the type under discussion; however, it has one main difference. Although both types of reasoning ultimately call for an attack on the person, Straw Man is based on the distortion of a person’s thoughts, and Appeal to Person is based on his particular personality (Lewis 33). The main reason for expressing mistrust in a person is his characteristics, for example, political views, character traits, biographical facts.

On the other hand, Appeal to Popularity uses the belief that since many people trust an idea, it is true. Although such a judgment may appear in the context of distortion and denial of another person’s thoughts, its essence is precisely an appeal to the alleged connection between the popularity of a concept and its veracity (Lewis 35). However, although, in general, the application of such reasoning is erroneous, it may be true in the context of a popular opinion among experts.

Finally, Red Herring is a type of fallacious reasoning that takes the argument away from the original topic. Unlike Straw Man, there is no distortion of the interlocutor’s point of view. Instead, one of the disputants forms an argument that distracts from the issue under discussion. As a result, a conclusion is created that has nothing to do with the original topic and, thus, forms a wrong perception of the problem, allowing the opponent to win the argument.

Consequently, Straw Man consists precisely in distorting the interlocutor’s words to discard their arguments or conduct an attack on them. An example of such erroneous reasoning is the following dialogue. Let’s say person A says, “Sunny days are good.” In response, person B states: “If all the days were only sunny, then there would never be rain, without which there would be drought and death.”

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In this case, person A expresses their own opinion regarding sunny days, not to say that all days should be so. Person B distorts this idea, transforming it into a judgment that all days should be sunny and immediately destroying this argument by “attacking the straw man.” In this case, there was a particular substitution of the thesis to destroy it to demonstrate the wrong views of A. Therefore, this example belongs to the Straw Man type.

Thus, it is essential to distinguish between different types of erroneous reasoning to not fall for them. Straw Man is one of the most dangerous in this context since it deliberately distorts the interlocutor’s thoughts, exposing them negatively. Therefore, it is with this type of demagogic technique that one should be most careful and attentive.

Work Cited

Lewis, Vaughn. Philosophy Here and Now. Oxford University Press, 2019.

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