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Have you met Mr. Straw Man?

6 posts in this topic

Have you met Mr. Straw Man?

Quickie from Wiki: “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 a superficially similar proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.”

The straw man fallacy is an often used fallacy in the United States because American citizens have a low level of intellectual sophistication.

One recent use of this fallacy is that Guantanamo detainees are terrorists and thus too dangerous for detention on American soil.

Obviously American prisons contain many bad guys from whom the public must be protected. Also most of these bad guys are released while still alive. Also records indicate that that many of these released become recidivists.

The FBI scares us by saying that these terrorists represent a different kind of detention problem.

The “Fallacy Files” web site {} provides an important introduction to both formal and informal fallacies. I think their work on informal fallacies being the most important for our needs today. It is the informal fallacies that we must learn to recognize.

The early settlers had to learn the sign and behavior of the wolf and bear but it is the informal fallacy that today’s citizen must learn. When not recognized the manipulative sophistication of those who wish to control our society will cause us similar damage.

Those members of our early American settlers were required to understand many things about their natural habitation in order to survive. These early frontier settlers had primarily natural conditions that threatened their existence. They worried about and learned to understand the signs of the wolf and the bear also the clouds and the weather in general. Their survival depended upon it.

Today our well being, if not our very survival, depends upon our ability to understand the society we live in and the fellow citizens that occupy our space with us. Our needs for understanding our environment especially that part of it that contains fellow citizens has become acute because our fellows have become expert at manipulating our environment. If we do not understand how these things are being manipulated we are the losers.

Many of us who were first introduced to the concept ‘fallacy’ when we took a college course on ‘Logic’ found the matter to be boring. It appears, from what I hear, that many students took away from those classes distaste for everything related to the concepts of ‘logic’ and the associated ‘fallacies’. That is unfortunate and is perhaps an indication of why it is so important for all individuals to become self-actualizing self-learners after their school daze is over.

This wonderful phrase “the ubiquity of ambiguity” I found on a web site that I think all individuals who understand the importance of CT (Critical Thinking) might wish to visit.

What I am trying to say is that the folks living in the early days had to know the habits of the wolf and the bear to survive. Today we have to know the habits of those who wish to manipulate us by using logical fallacies.

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Posted (edited)

The military is doing summersaults to get this issue of there back and the military-industrial complex is probably helping them. The truth is we need to build a Supermax Prison on a military base, that way we will just transfer them to another U.S. military facility. The Moslem in Guantanamo, Cuba (A U.S. Territory and military installation) there rights are denied the same way U.S. citizens of Japanese decent were treated during WW2. Which in those days, while it was not legally possible for an individual to own a slave in the US, it was legally possible for the United States to declare a person or persons a slave of the US…

As far as the legal status of these individuals from the context modern day Jurisprudence these individuals are under the authority of the United States Military (this is why they get such good medical care). Which is actually different than being a U.S. Citizen, as anyone who reads the fine print when they enter the military the government is under no obligation to inform your family how exactly you died (which is why there are problems in that respect with friendly fire incidences). In order for the U.S. Military to release them the individuals currently held in Guantanamo, Cuba will have to be afforded a status one which gives them access, beyond the access they have with the military at present. The only person who can change that status is Congress or the Supreme Court or the President of the United States. Today if one looked one could actually find law suits that have been filed on behalf of them, on there way to the Supreme Court. As far as the President well he is a politician, his obligation is to his Constituents and so is Congress. This then brings up the issue of exactly how many people are there out there protesting the release of these prisoners? How many are actually trying to introduce legislature in to Congress for the purposes of emancipating these individuals?

The truth is all things being equal there are probably some innocent people inside that prison who, because of how things are muddled up will leave at some point when there age dictates they are no longer a threat. Water boarding can and does kill people. I mean if somebody tried it for fun they could end up dead or being charged with a homicide, because if enough water gets into your lungs, and for example that person has some kind of muscular cramp or otherwise reaction at the same time? They die in about 3 minutes (and they are just starting to mention that in the news) however if someone happened to have like a rowing oar and hit there backs with it, the water would come out, although now they need a hospital.

The problem with the truth is sometimes it is believed that many people would not want to know the truth. Complicating the lives of individuals by telling them the truth who themselves do not understand or can address the issues that "complex". There are also inexorably limits to what can be done and so therefore a civilian death toll in any armed conflict and then of course there are historical considerations. Me being an American I would point out that during the height of Moslem empires there leaders always allowed individuals to chose there religious beliefs. Yes there are very complicated issues out there and perhaps the tunnels which ended in Grozny lead to Iraq and were based on Chinese tunnel building technology. The Chechens who were given there independence when the Soviet Union fell they (The Chechen) built a military and invaded Russia proper, in so doing they headed strait for an area that was populated by Moslems along the boarder with the Moslems who lived in China proper. The Moslems in Russia proper contact Moscow and the Russian military chased them back to Grozny when for pretty much 9 month they surrounded the city. It is really hard to believe that the Russians had no idea that they were dealing with tunnels and that where the tunnels lead.

Potentially causing a World War should be illegal in fact it probably is at this point. But from a philosophical standpoint all things being equal what is presented is somewhat disturbing. The Russian having stayed there so long it might seem they were waiting for someone to figure it out, which is strange in a way because they actually beat there military recruits as a part of Russian military basic training.

Yes we do try to manipulate each other for the purposes of gaining an advantage but what would have been the effect of reporting to the public of the free world, every near miss scenario that occurred during the Cold war?

The ones which could have resulted in the sterilization of our planet? Because of these problems a certain rapport exists between our world leaders that do not mean that things cannot go wrong. These people should not be tortured they are the unfortunate result of events, given the above is correct and even given that these persons are still a threat in that sense under some similar but other scenario.

Political Science is a philosophy even though it is called political science and even though that is really silly and somewhat childish today it is still called political science. The last thing our government (the US) wants at this point is for it to be considered that the prisoners could be placed in a U.S. military base in another country because that could be a real mess. What we are probably being told is to avoid the whole issue.

Yes we are bombarded by Fallacies of Logic. If we do not know the difference we are easy to manipulate, with respect to the legends about Pirate Captains, such a mistake, often made for a problem to the unsuspecting hero, who had not been trained in Logic and offered and accepted conditions for surrender. There is a lot of anger in this country over what happened on 9/11 but the reality is, that we as U.S. Citizens (as do the citizens of any other country) need to be very careful when the question comes to how a person is being held captive in this country because things can change. We can end up the ones being held captive and can also be innocent.

Any thoughts?

PS: Thanks I saved the file.

Edited by Triad

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I go to a Poker Parlor for the first time and sit down at the table to play a bit of poker. Two hours later I leave the game fleeced. After a couple of experiences similar to this I recognize I must better learn the rules of this game.

I diligently study the rules of the game and return to the game to find that while I am not fleeced as quickly as before, I am fleeced more slowly but continuously.

I was puzzled until I conclude that perhaps the fleecing results because of the nature of the game and of those rigging the game. I discover that I am being fleeced consistently because the people running the game also have the ability to reason; like the bull fight, if the bull does not learn to “see” the Matador he shall always end up as hamburger.

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If you noticed during the last presidential election John McCain from time to time would get a strange look on his face in response to something someone said (like with David Letterman and during the debates). There is a methodology that trains a person (for an example actor) how to control ones facial expressions. Basically a person spends time looking in a mirror and adjusting there facial muscles to looks they wish to present during certain activities. I am sure that to some extent individuals can be really good at this naturally but for the most part it requires practice. Most individuals who have been trained (either by others or self taught) can easily see differences in those who have not and if you’re going to play poker it is a good idea to develop a good poker face. Once you have found what you are looking for, memorize the position of your facial muscles and then watch a movie that to you is good without reacting with exception of your poker face. Within the context of such things in general there is a term called the "Tell" it could be something as small as blinking twice when one gets a good hand. Gambling is income one is suppose to pay taxes with earnings so it really is a job and gamblers treat it just like that.

When I was in college the issue was brought up as part of my education but these days (as far as I know) it’s being brought up sooner.

Any thoughts?

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Thanks for this post, coberst! I'm actually taking a college course on Critical Thinking right now! I find this website very helpful in understanding arguments. Maybe because I'm going back to school now that I'm 30, I really enjoy the things I learn in that class and try to apply them here. Understanding logic is very important, indeed! Great thread about the Straw Man Fallacy! :tu:

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I just wanted to add some additional thoughts to this matter of CT.

CT is an acronym for Critical Thinking. Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.

Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic principles of reasoning. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.

The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.

Most decisions we have to make are judgment calls. A judgment call is made when we must make a decision when there is no “true” or “false” answers. When we make a judgment call our decision is bad, good, or better.

Many factors are involved: there are the available facts, assumptions, skills, knowledge, and especially personal experience and attitude. I think that the two most important elements in the mix are personal experience and attitude.

When we study math we learn how to use various algorithms to facilitate our skill in dealing with quantities. If we never studied math we could deal with quantity on a primary level but our quantifying ability would be minimal. Likewise with making judgments; if we study the art and science of good judgment we can make better decisions and if we never study the art and science of judgment our decision ability will remain minimal.

I am convinced that a fundamental problem we have in this country (USA) is that our citizens have never learned the art and science of good judgment. Before the recent introduction of CT into our schools and colleges our young people have been taught primarily what to think and not how to think. All of us graduated with insufficient comprehension of the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for the formulation of good judgment. The result of this inability to make good judgment is evident and is dangerous.

I am primarily interested in the judgment that adults exercise in regard to public issues. Of course, any improvement in judgment generally will affect both personal and community matters.

To put the matter into a nut shell:

1. Normal men and women can significantly improve their ability to make judgments.

2. CT is the domain of knowledge that delineates the knowledge, skills, and intellectual character demanded for good judgment.

3. CT has been introduced into our schools and colleges slowly in the last two or three decades.

4. Few of today’s adults were ever taught CT.

5. I suspect that at least another two generations will pass before our society reaps significant rewards resulting from teaching CT to our children.

6. Can our democracy survive that long?

7. I think that every effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they need to study and learn CT on their own. I am not suggesting that adults find a teacher but I am suggesting that adults become self-actualizing learners.

8. I am convinced that learning the art and science of Critical Thinking is an important step toward becoming a better citizen in today’s democratic society.

Perhaps you are not familiar with CT. I first encountered the concept about five years ago. The following are a few Internet sites that will familiarize you with the matter.

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