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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Straw Man


Imagine the following fictional conversation between two people:


Person 1: Given how quickly things escalated when Hamas recently attacked Israel, I think the rights of United States citizens shouldn’t be infringed by rigid restrictions on certain weaponry, magazines, and ammunition, because the time for preparedness to defend your life isn’t after lengthy legislative periods of red tape—it’s when the enemy shows up.


Person 2: So you believe we should allow citizens further access to instruments of death, which will only incentivize bad actors to exploit lenient weapon policies and cause further mass shootings, senseless acts of violence, and add to the already burdensome firearms crisis in this nation. Your proposal would have a catastrophic effect on the very people you think it would protect, which would hurt society in the long run.


What I’ve demonstrated herein is the straw man fallacy, which one source states “is the distortion of someone else’s argument to make it easier to attack or refute. Instead of addressing the actual argument of the opponent, one may present a somewhat similar but not equal argument.”


Although persons 1 and 2 may have valid arguments, person 2 failed to appropriately refute person 1’s position regarding firearms. Instead, person 2 concocted a straw man argument and attacked the fabricated positon.


Perhaps it may benefit the reader to understand how the logical form of a steel man fallacy is comprised. Per one source:


Logical Form:


Person 1 makes claim Y.


Person 2 restates person 1’s claim (in a distorted way).


Person 2 attacks the distorted version of the claim.


Therefore, claim Y is false.


Often, people disturb themselves with irrational beliefs about what they perceive is being stated by other individuals. Understanding how the straw man fallacy works may benefit a person by learning to listen as a matter of comprehension and to form a creditable response regarding what is actually being stated.


In August 2022, I posted a blog entry, entitled The Steel Man Technique, in which I stated, “Rather than mischaracterizing what others have to say, I could use the steel man technique which is said to be done by “building the best form of the other side’s argument and then engaging with it.”


Whereas a straw man is constructed of soft material (i.e., scarecrows are made of straw), a steel man is made of a hard substance (i.e., steel). Therefore, learning to paraphrase a person’s argument in a manner by which that individual states, “Yeah, that’s precisely what I’m saying,” is the key to understanding other people.


Though it may be tempting to erect a bad faith argument, learning to think rationally about what others are saying can benefit an individual by also understanding how one’s own mind functions in an irrational manner. Once we’re able to comprehend these unhelpful beliefs, we may then dispute them.


Then again, who cares about trying to understand other people when there’s war within the world, people in this country who already have scary weaponry, and the heavy burden upon society through the escalation violence doesn’t afford the luxury of considering logic and reason!?


(See what I did there?)


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



References:


Cato Institute. (n.d.). “Good faith” vs. “bad faith” arguments or discussions. Retrieved from https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/2020-07/Good_Faith-vs-Bad_Faith-Arguments_or_Discussions.pdf

Conversion Rate Experts. (n.d.). Use the steel man technique to persuade people who disagree with you. Retrieved from https://conversion-rate-experts.com/steel-manning/

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/blog/categories/disputation

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2023, January 8). Logic and reason. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/logic-and-reason

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

Hollings, D. (2022, August 15). The steel man technique. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-steel-man-technique

Hutchinson, B. (2023, October 16). Death came from sea, air and ground: A timeline of surprise attack by Hamas on Israel. ABC News. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/International/timeline-surprise-rocket-attack-hamas-israel/story?id=103816006

Logically Fallacious. (n.d.). Strawman fallacy. Retrieved from https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/cgi-bin/uy/webpages.cgi?/logicalfallacies/Strawman-Fallacy

Nikolopoulou, K. (2023, October 9). What is straw man fallacy? | Definition & examples. Scribbr. Retrieved from https://www.scribbr.com/fallacies/straw-man-fallacy/

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