2

For example, I'm having a political debate and I am bringing up facts, like under this government the energy prices rose this amount, the unemployment rate is higher then ever and the government had this and this corruption scandals.

To which my opponent replies: Oh yes, and 90% of the people got leprosy since this government is in power and they are personally infecting people with Covid every night.

Is this a fallacy?

5
  • 1
    Straw man creates the impression of refuting an argument by replacing it with a caricature version that is much easier to refute.
    – Conifold
    Nov 19, 2021 at 12:13
  • Welcome to SE Philosophy! Thanks for your contribution. Please take a quick moment to take the tour or find help. You can perform searches here or seek additional clarification at the meta site. Don't forget, when someone has answered your question, you can click on the arrow to reward the contributor and the checkmark to select what you feel is the best answer.
    – J D
    Nov 19, 2021 at 14:00
  • Added the rhetorical tag as this may be also be rhetorical technique.
    – J D
    Nov 19, 2021 at 14:00
  • I don't think this is a strawman or any of the other standard fallacies, it just sounds like sarcasm to me. But if they consistently reply like this, one might say it's still a sort of "unserious" debate tactic in that they're probably trying to imply that you are overblowing how bad things are without their actually having to make the case for that, in the way a more serious debater would feel the responsibility to do (for example, arguing that unemployment or energy prices are due to other causes besides the policies of the administration, that the scandals aren't that big a deal, etc.)
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 20, 2021 at 23:13
  • Sometimes you hear a mathematician say “This is so bad, it’s not even wrong”. These statements are so bad, they are not even a fallacy :-)
    – gnasher729
    Nov 21, 2021 at 13:17

2 Answers 2

3

Short Answer

Maybe, but probably not.

What you have presented may be a logical fallacy, but there is a degree of absurdity of the counterclaim which suggests it's more a rhetorical technique than a logical fallacy. I believe it's better to consider this as a hyperbole. It's hard to believe that your opponent intended you to take the claim literally. From hyperbole (WP):

As a figure of speech, it is usually not meant to be taken literally.

Long Answer

Oh yes, and 90% of the people got leprosy since this government is in power and they are personally infecting people with Covid every night.

Conifold has reasonably identified the straw man fallacy of informal logic. But, we do have to worry about whether or not the claim meets the definition of the criterion " appears to refute the original argument". I think in educated company, no one would take seriously the claim that leprosy and SARS have anything in common. Since you've probably made no claims about leprosy and the government personally conveying the disease, among a crowd with a basic understanding of germ theory, it might be better to consider this an instance of rhetorical hyperbole. (And hyperbolic claims misattributed to a claimant often end in ad hominem).

We have two distinct traditions for examing claims, that of informal logic and that of rhetoric, and of course, there is a lot of overlap. Sometimes, claims don't fit nicely in categories. I believe this to be the case. One can look at language from the cogntivist perspectives which emphasizes the truth and the logical structure that inheres to the language. But one can also seek to find how language in argumentation might seek to exploit cognitive biases. I believe that while it's plausible to characterize this as a straw man, it might be better to see this as an attempt to use humor, likely building to be at your expense, to undermine the argument through emotional persuasion.

Ultimately, the context of the counterclaim will determine whether this is more of an informal fallacy (your opponent genuinely attempts to confuse hearers with an attack on an argument other than the one you made) or whether the absurdity is more of an attempt to show you disregard as a claimant by stuffing your mouth with counterclaims that are obviously silly. One might even want to consider if there's an audience at all when considering the nature of this counterclaim which, of course, is not to rule out that your partner in argument is not trying to deceive themselves. Rationalization is a normal occurrence in emotively charged topics of debate.

2

It's not a strawman or non-sequitur fallacy unless the opponent explicitly tells you that your argument,

under this government the energy prices rose this amount

is invalid because of,

90% of the people got leprosy since this government is in power

However, if you want to take the implicit meaning of the opponents expression than you may say he wanted to demean your argument but there would be problem because at the same time the opponent may have another implicit position by the same expression that is, to let you know that your argument (government to employment rate) is a non-sequitur just like his analogy government to leprosy rate is a non-sequitur.

In my opinion, it would be better to ask him back to clarify what he meant by that before saying he did a fallacy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.