Towards a Critique-Friendly Approach to the Straw Man Fallacy Evaluation

Argumentation 25 (4):469-497 (2011)
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Abstract

In this article I address the following question: When are reformulations in argumentative criticisms reasonable and when do they become fallacious straw men? Following ideas developed in the integrated version of pragma-dialectics, I approach argumentation as an element of agonistic exchanges permeated by arguers’ strategic manoeuvring aimed at effectively defeating the opponent with reasonable means. I propose two basic context-sensitive criteria for deciding on the reasonableness of reformulations: precision of the rules for interpretation (precise vs. loose) and general expectation of cooperativeness (critical vs. constructive). On the basis of analysis of examples taken from online political discussions, I argue that in some contexts, especially those that are critical and loose, what might easily be classified as a straw man following conventional treatment should be taken as a harsh, yet reasonable, strategic argumentative criticism.

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