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It is possible to craft an argument so that it appears to be a straw man in that there is no evidence to back up claims being made and it appears that the reasoning for the argument is being made simply to make someone look bad.

But it may be that the reasons given are the actual reasons for the actions in question. In other words the reasoning may seem to be exaggerated and made up, and it may be that the person arguing may have intended to exaggerate and or make up a reasoning for a position, but the reality is that the stated position is at least generally an accurate statement of reality.

Does this accuracy or correctness of the assertion in the argument negate the straw man fallacy of the argument?

To clarify it is not that the derived conclusion is right or wrong, but rather that the assumptions and exaggerations that would normally identify a straw man argument happen to be true. Does the definition of being a straw man argument require that the assumptions and exaggerations of the claims being made deviate from reality?

  • What do you mean specifically by "negate the straw-man fallacy"? Someone can make a fallacious argument and still have their conclusion be true. Informal fallacies are just incorrect ways to argue, it means that the premises of the argument do not entail the conclusion. You can still have true premises and true conclusions, but in a fallacy the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. If you mean "negate" as in "it's totally okay because the answer is still right" then sure, whatever floats your boat, but it's still a fallacy because the conclusion doesn't follow. – Not_Here Jul 31 '17 at 17:54
  • Fallacies in your argument in no way indicate the conclusion you've reached is wrong. It just means that you haven't proven your conclusion is true. – kbelder Jul 31 '17 at 17:56
  • @kbelder - Actually i am thinking of a place where an arguement was crafted as a strawman... but that strawman argument was actually an accurate representation of reality. In other words the argument was only crafted in that manner with the intent of making a target look bad, and the arguer had no factual basis for the assertion, but the claim happened to be true. – Chad Jul 31 '17 at 18:07
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Logical fallacies get too much attention, in my mind. They only apply to purely logical arguments, which are pretty much the unicorns of the debate world. But people do like to cling to them.

A straw-man argument is a straw man argument. It is logically flawed. That does not mean the argument is wrong, it merely means that it is not being defended with a logical argument. That doesn't even mean it's a bad argument. It just means it's not 100% logical. It means the persuasive element must include something else, such as an emotional plea. There's nothing wrong with that, so long as they don't claim the argument to be 100% logical.

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    To your first paragraph: no, there's a difference between a formal fallacy and an informal fallacy. I agree that people over use the word and often times obsess over the importance of finding a fallacy, or think that a fallacy ruins the truth of a conclusion, but informal fallacies are real things. It just so happens that people conflate them with formal ones or put too much emphasis on how important they are. – Not_Here Jul 31 '17 at 18:10
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    As I understand it, the Strawman isn’t an invalid argument: it’s a valid argument against a position nobody holds. That’s why it’s only an informal fallacy: formally, the argument's fine. – MarkOxford Jul 31 '17 at 20:17
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    Are you sure you mean "... does not mean the argument is wrong ..." rather than "... does not mean the conclusion is wrong ..."? – Hurkyl Aug 2 '17 at 1:45
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An argument addresses an intended position, not necessarily a real situation.

A straw-man argument is a purposeful misunderstanding of the position, usually an oversimplification, but not necessarily. (Some straw-man arguments against complex systems like Catholicism or Post-Modernism often exaggerate the complexity of the actual position to make it seem untenably abstruse.)

If the straw man argument still misrepresents what the original speaker meant it remains a misrepresentation, even if what he meant was wrong and the misrepresentation is somehow closer to the real facts.

  • I think your last paragraph is the core of what I am looking for and I agree with the statement, I just do not know how to explain why it is still a strawman even though it may represent reality albiet by chance rather than intent – Chad Aug 1 '17 at 13:06
  • Because arguments are about what you prove, not about what is true. A straw-man argument proves something other than what is stated, unrelated to whether what is stated was the best version of the truth. The essence of the straw-man argument is to lie about what your opponent has claimed subtly enough that you think you can get away with it. – jobermark Aug 1 '17 at 16:07
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No.

In general, a fallacy is a fallacy. The fact that the conclusion happens to be true doesn't change the fact that it's a fallacy. You can come up with fallacious arguments for almost any conclusion. I can give you really bad reasons to believe that the sky is blue; it doesn't change the fact that the sky is blue or that the reasons I just gave you are bad reasons.

Here's another problem: what if we tried to extend the same reasoning to premises of arguments, too? For example, suppose we used the following argument:

All cats are mammals.
All dogs are cats.
Therefore, all dogs are mammals.

True conclusion, valid argument, true first premise. So, by the same logic we're using above, would the second premise have to be true, too? But clearly dogs aren't cats, and clearly a correct conclusion doesn't "fix" other errors in the argument. As I said above, you can come up with plenty of bad reasons to believe true conclusions.

There are, of course, limited exceptions where informal fallacies may be inductively strong (even if technically deductively invalid). For example, ad hominem arguments may actually be indictively strong in certain circumstances (e.g. in a courtroom); for example, the fact that Witness X was previously convicted of perjury is actually very relevant as to the veracity of his claims. It's technically an ad hominem attack, and the fact that the witness was previously convicted of perjury doesn't necessarily prove that they're lying this time, but it certainly provides you with a good reason to doubt the testimony (and I'd certainly hope that a jury wouldn't convict based on that witness's testimony).

There aren't any such exceptions for straw man arguments - they're always just bad arguments. There's no circumstance in which they can be even inductively strong.

TL;DR A straw man argument is still a bad argument even if the conclusion happens to be true.

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An informal fallacy, by definition, is something that convinces because it superficially resembles a good argument, but that provides little or no actual support for its conclusions (upon deeper analysis). A "strawman" is arguably what we might describe as a "meta-fallacy," an argument that superficially resembles an argument used by your opponent, but one that you can defeat without weakening their actual argument.

The fact that your strawman resembles their actual argument, therefore, is not an incidental condition, it is definitional of what a strawman is. At the end, all that really matters is if your objections have force against their actual argument or not. If they do, you might defeat the argument, if they don't, you won't (unless people are fooled by your rhetorical tricks). The fact that you might have defeated a strawman along the way is entirely incidental --the idea that a bad argument invalidates a good argument it travels alongside is itself a fallacy (the "fallacy fallacy").

It seems that you may be asking what happens in the case that you actually defeat a stronger or more cogent argument than the one your opponent proposes. The short answer: nothing --you still haven't defeated their actual argument (unless you did so incidentally). If I kill a bull, it doesn't save you from being bitten by a dog. If their own argument is genuinely weaker, it should be even easier for you to dispatch it --right?

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Here is Wikipedia's description of a straw man argument:

A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.

The article notes that there may be an ethical component:

This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery "battle" and the defeat of an "enemy" may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue.

This suggests that when an arguer uses a straw man, it may not be just a logical fallacy, but an ethical issue. Such issues would raise questions such as whether the arguer is not only guilty of committing a logical fallacy, but involved in, perhaps, defamation.

The OP asks the following question about the use of a straw man argument where "there is no evidence to back up claims being made and it appears that the reasoning for the argument is being made simply to make someone look bad", but "the reality is that the stated position is at least generally an accurate statement of reality":

Does this accuracy or correctness of the assertion in the argument negate the straw man fallacy of the argument?

It would seem that if the arguer is truly making accurate claims the arguer should be able to adjust the argument to avoid a straw man. Proceeding anyway with a straw man argument only weakens the arguer's position especially if it is effectively countered by the opponent.

Attacking a straw man is like an arguer deliberately misquoting a text to make the author look bad. The arguer risks being caught doing so. This is a needless risk if the arguer's position is correct because from the opponent's position nothing need negate the straw man fallacy nor prevent that opponent from raising an objection.

So, one can conclude that the "accuracy or correctness of the assertion" will not "negate the straw-man fallacy of the argument". It will just give the opponent an opportunity to make a potentially stronger counter move.

If there is more going than a logical fallacy, that is, if there is the possibility of a defamation charge, this just increases the risk taken by the arguer who presents a straw man argument.


Reference

Wikipedia, "Straw man" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

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