Diagnosing Misattribution of Commitments: A Normative and Pragmatic Model of for Assessing Straw Man

  • Douglas WaltonEmail author
  • Fabrizio Macagno
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)


This paper builds a nine-step method for determining whether a straw man fallacy has been committed in a given case or not, by starting with some relatively easy textbook cases and moving to more realistic and harder cases. The paper shows how the type of argument associated with the fallacy can be proved to be a fallacy in a normative argumentation model, and then moves on to the practical task of building a hands-on method for applying the model to real examples of argumentation. Insights from linguistic pragmatics are used to distinguish the different pragmatic processes involved in reconstructing what is said and what is meant by an utterance, and to differentiate strong and weak commitments. In particular, the process of interpretation is analyzed in terms of an abductive pattern of reasoning, based on co-textual and contextual information, and assessable through the instruments of argumentation theory.



The research for this paper was funded by Insight Grant 435-2012-0104 from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by the Investigador FCT Grant no. IF/00945/2013 from the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia of Portugal.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.Instituto de Filosofia da Nova (IFILNOVA), Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e HumanasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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