What is a strawman argument?


I’ve read the definition, I’ve tried to figure it out, I feel so stupid.

In: 1656

It’s an argument one makes against an imagined position the second person doesn’t hold. Usually done because the imaginary position is easier to argue against.

For example, if I tell you “people should drink more water”, you going on a tirade about how “the other drinks shouldn’t be banned”, would be you making a strawman argument.

Imagine you are simultaneously debating an opponent, on, say, whether coffee is a soup, and also fist-fighting them.

They argue “it’s something edible steeped in hot water until the water takes on its flavour”, and take a swing at your head.

You reply, “OH! so you think any liquid is a soup? Well milk is not a soup so therefore you’re wrong”, and at the same time, you punch a big scarecrow made of straw that’s standing next to them, instead of your actual opponent.

Your argument is sound, but it’s not actually addressing the thing they’ve said or anything anyone really believes. Your punch absolutely demolishes the scarecrow, you knock his head clean off and he falls over. But he’s not a real guy and you’ve not actually punched your opponent.

Maybe thinking about it literally will help.

What is a strawman? It is a bunch of straw stuffed into a person’s clothes. Like a scarecrow, if you’ve seen the Wizard of Oz, but without magic animating it.

Have you ever tried to push over a bag of straw? Super simple. Anybody can do it, because the straw doesn’t do a good job of standing up in the first place.

But if you were watched from far away, by somebody that doesn’t know it’s a bag of straw, you could pretend that it’s a bag of cement or steel or something heavy. You can pretend that you are strong and did something impressive.

A strawman argument is dressing up something easy to counter (a bag of straw or an exaggerated/tangential argument) to look like what you are arguing against (looks like an opponent or your debate target to an onlooker) so that it’s easy to knock over and look like you are winning the argument.

Basically misrepresenting the other person’s argument and then “defeating” that argument, since you misrepresented their position it makes it easy to rip apart like a straw man since you are dismantling a position that they don’t actually hold. https://youtu.be/appAq7fQzSg

A strawman argument is a fallacy in debate where you assign a position to your debate opponent that they do not hold and debate against that statement instead of the actual statement. For example, in a debate about whether or not cats should be allowed outdoors, if someone in favor of letting cats outdoors says “my opponent says that cats should not get any playtime” that would be a strawman. It’s changing the opponents position from “cats shouldn’t be let outside” to “cats shouldn’t be allowed to play at all.” It’s a way to appear like you’re winning an argument against someone without actually arguing against what they’re saying.