OSSA Day 3: Aikin and Casey on Straw and Iron Men

the iron men
The Iron Men

OK, so we just finished our presentation at the OSSA, and things went very well.  James Freeman had some very good criticisms about our examples, and we got some very good feedback and new ideas.  Very thankful to David Hitchcock for running the session so efficiently.

We had two theses. Both familiar to NS readers.  #1: The straw man comes in a variety of forms and each can be fallacious and non-fallacious.  #2: there’s a parallel fallacy with the iron man, which is making others’ views better than they actually are.  We’ll post a link to the main paper in a while (HERE).

Comment (James Freeman):  Pretty much in agreement with the overall thesis, but the examples stink.  For example, our music teacher case not only doesn’t have an argument being straw manned, but there’s not even a claim being misrepresented.  How’s that a straw man? (Oooof!  We’ll fix that one!)

The main objections:

Finocchiaro: Calling (even some) acceptable arguments ‘straw man’ is a real terminological confusion.  You guys need a new term, because that’s a term for a fallacy.

Campolo: Your problems with iron man are too thin.  There are lots and lots of worse consequences.  Iron manned others don’t know that they don’t know. (An excellent iron man of our view, thanks!)

Bondy: There are even worse consequences Campolo had imagined — some folks you might iron man can get elected!  (Thanks for iron manning us!)

Lewinski: Can’t Iron-Manning be a useful rhetorical tool, like prolepsis, where one improves one’s opponents… and then defeats the better versions?

Hoppmann: Aren’t there excellent epistemic reasons to Iron Man?  You should, ideally, want to exchange with the very best opponents.  Shouldn’t your defaults be set on interpreting the arguments as best as they can be?

Zarefsky: Are all pedagogical purposes legitimate for straw and iron man?

Botting: Isn’t there a further requirement of the dialectical tier?  The reply to the others in disagreement?