Setting Up A Straw Man

I have a lot of fun with logical fallacies.  You know, errors in thinking, mistakes in debating, intellectual dishonesties.

You can find a wonderfully comprehensive list of them here.

They’re entertaining to talk and learn about, and knowing more about them does help people see through manipulative people and arguments.  I haven’t personally found that it helps much in dealing WITH such people, because pointing out to someone that their argument is logically flawed hasn’t often had such positive results for me.

Every once in a while, though, you wind up with an honest person willing to examine their own thinking and position, and then knowing something about fallacies might get you some headway.

One example of a fallacy that I see a lot (and have probably been guilty of myself) is the “straw man” fallacy.  In this you’re not responding to the argument of someone with whom you disagree; you’re first distorting their position and attacking that distortion.  You’re, in effect, setting up a straw man as a target, attacking that straw man, and claiming victory.

For instance, if my son has missed his curfew and suggests to me that it’s not a big deal because he’s only five minutes late and that he’s usually on time and I then state that he’s saying that commitments and punctuality are unimportant and I start lecturing him on THAT, I’m setting up a straw man, because he didn’t say that.

Now, if I start to lecture him on how I expect punctuality every time, that may or may not be unreasonable of me, but it’s logically consistent, because I’m responding to what he said.

As it happens, I didn’t lecture him, because he’s usually on time and because I allow him a few minutes’ grace period anyway.

But logical fallacies are fun.

Hope all’s well out there, friends, and God bless.