Faulty Logic: Straw Men

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or "Arguements up with which I will not put". The first in a series of posts where I explain why I do not accept certain kinds of arguements as valid.

Consider the following scenario:

Alice holds position A. Bob holds an opposing position, position B. Carol holds position C, which at first glance looks like position A. Bob attacks Alice using attack K, using as its central arguement Proof P. Proof P is a proof against position C.

This is the classic "straw man" setup.

To call attack K a "straw man" attack is to say the following:

1) Proof P is a valid proof.
2) Position C is untenable.
3) Attack K in no way undermines Alice or position A.

It should be pointed out that calling an attack a "straw man" attack has the following limitations:

4) It in no way proves position A
5) It in no way attacks position B
6) It in no way requires the denial of the existence of Carol or position C.
7) It in no way invalidates attack K as an attack against Carol or position C.

It should be noted that calling attack K a "straw man" arguement is not an attack on a position, but an attack on the original attack.

As point 7 indicates, attack K can still be used legitimately against Carol or position C. It is presumed in all "straw man" cases that postition A is stronger than position C (especially since C is provably false), even though A might not ultimately prove to be true. So, attacking position C is generally seen to be rather foolish as the real (i.e. strong) opposition to B is not Carol, but Alice.

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