Argumentation

, 25:469 | Cite as

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

Article

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.

Keywords

Argumentation Fallacies Online deliberation Pragma-dialectics Strategic manoeuvring The straw man fallacy 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Parts of earlier versions of the paper were presented at the International Conference “Logic, Argumentation and Critical Thinking”, University Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile, 8–11 January 2008; Research Colloquium of the Department of Speech Communication, Argumentation Theory and Rhetoric, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 18 September 2009; and 10th Amsterdam-Lugano Colloquium on Argumentation Theory, University of Lugano, Switzerland, 27–28 November 2009. I would like to thank participants to these events, as well as Frans van Eemeren, Bart Garssen, Dima Mohammed, Steve Oswald, Andrea Rocci, João Sàágua, Francisca Snoeck Henkemans and two anonymous referees for Argumentation for their numerous comments, criticisms and suggestions. Completion of the paper was possible thanks to two grants of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT): PTDC/FIL–FIL/10117/2009 and SFRH/BPD/74541/2010.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy of Language (IFL)Universidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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