Straw man

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This political cartoon shows destruction of a political "straw man" issue in the 1900 US presidential campaign

Straw man is a type of incorrect reasoning, in which a changed (usually exaggerated) version of someone else's argument is proved wrong, and it looks as if the real argument has been proved wrong. Sometimes such an easy to disprove argument is simply invented. Straw man can be understood also as the mentioned argument itself. The name suggests a human figure made of straw that is easy to destroy.

The straw man argument can have many forms. The fallacy of attacking a straw man can also arise from an honest mistake.[1]

Examples[change | change source]

An everyday conversation:

  • Alice: Taking a shower is beneficial.
  • Bob: But hot water may damage your skin.

Bob attacked the non-existing argument: Taking an extremely hot shower is beneficial. And because such an argument is obviously false, Alice might start believing that she is wrong because what Bob said was clearly true. But her real argument was not disproved, because she did not say anything about the temperature.

  • Alice: I didn't mean taking an extremely hot shower.

Alice noticed the trick and defended herself.

History[change | change source]

The origins of the term are unclear. An 1898 definition refers to men who stood outside courthouses with a straw in their shoe in order to indicate their willingness to be hired to give evidence in a court trial.[2]

In the 1900 US presidential election campaign, the issue of Imperialism became a "straw man" issue when President McKinley accepted his party's nomination. Cartoonist William Allen Rogers focused on the destruction of this issue in a September issue of Harper's Weekly.[3]

Gallery[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter and Robert J. Fogelin. (2009). Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic. p. 390.
  2. Brewer, E. Cobham. (1898). "Man of Straw," Dictionary of Phrase and Fable; retrieved 20123-1-10.
  3. Rogers, William Allen. "Smashed!" Harper's Weekly, September 22, 1900, p. 881; retrieved 2013-1-10.

Other websites[change | change source]