Straw Man

straw man by sam island

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To ‘attack a straw man’ is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting it with a superficially similar yet not equivalent proposition (the ‘straw man’), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

The origins of the term are unclear; one common (folk) etymology given is that it originated with men who stood outside courthouses with a straw in their shoe in order to indicate their willingness to be a false witness, but the practice is of questionable authority. Another more popular origin is a human figure made of straw, such as practice dummies used in military training. Such a dummy is supposed to represent the enemy, but it is considerably easier to attack because it neither moves, nor fights back.

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