Evaluating Relevance and Commitments in Rhetorical Straw Man

  • Fabrizio Macagno
  • Douglas Walton
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 14)


This chapter is focused on rhetorical strategies based on indirect reporting and distortion of a party’s viewpoint. We begin by clarifying the role of the notion of argumentative relevance for assessing when a viewpoint is correctly reported or manipulated. We will describe relevance as a sequential concept referring to the number of premises and intermediate arguments to connect a move (the interpretation of a move in this case) to the issue or claim discussed or to be proved (the original move in this case). A formal model of dialogue for evaluating misreports and the corresponding strategies (straw man fallacy) is constructed, providing a normative dialectical framework that can guide an analyst in the tasks of detecting, representing, criticizing and justifying a distortion of a viewpoint. We will outline five straw man rhetorical techniques that can be used both for helping us identify and understand the straw man as a fallacy and for illustrating how fallacious arguments of this type can be used to cleverly persuade a target audience.


Relevance Formal model of Dialogue Straw man Argumentation Interpretation Pragmatics Implicatures Fallacies 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabrizio Macagno
    • 1
  • Douglas Walton
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e HumanasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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