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I’ve noticed a type of fallacious argument for which I’m not able to find a recognized name. It goes something like this:

Ms. W.: You might believe hypothesis A to be true, but reject it for reasons B and C; instead accept statement D (rest of the argument elided).

Mr. S.: Ms. W. said that hypothesis A was true, but she’s wrong for reasons X and Y (rest of the argument elided; it will often completely ignore W.’s actual position).

It’s a particular way of misrepresenting one’s opponent’s argument, by attributing to her a position she has considered and explicitly rejected. (It’s usually not quite as blatant as this, of course, and it may be based on an unintentional misreading of the first argument rather than malice.)

Is there a standard term for this fallacy?

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Seems like the "straw man" to me. It's attacking a position that nobody is actually defending.

Edit: In response to a comment below. It's worth noting that what S is encouraging his or her listeners to do is to commit a use-mention error.

  • It is a straw-man argument, but of a specific type. And it’s more insidious than a standard straw-man because skimming the initial argument will (falsely) confirm that Ms. W. did say what Mr. S. says she did. – J. C. Salomon May 23 '14 at 15:11
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    I think it's just the standard straw man fallacy, although there's the possibility of a use/mention error lurking in the background here. The person skimming might think that W is using the argument for position A, when she is in fact only mentioning it. But that's not an error S is making; although I suppose you could say that S is inviting the reader to make that mistake, but that seems more of a rhetorical error than a strictly logical one to me. Just my $0.02. – shane May 23 '14 at 15:14
  • If you would add the idea that S’s argument includes an invitation to commit a use/mention error I would accept your answer. – J. C. Salomon Sep 21 '14 at 16:28
  • good point. done. – shane Sep 21 '14 at 16:40

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