Evaluating relevance and commitments in rhetorical straw man

Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter is focused on rhetorical strategies based on indirect reporting and distortion of a party’s viewpoint. We begin by clarifying the role of the notion of argumentative relevance for assessing when a viewpoint is correctly reported or manipulated. We will describe relevance as a sequential concept referring to the number of premises and intermediate arguments to connect a move (the interpretation of a move in this case) to the issue or claim discussed or to be proved (the original move in this case). A formal model of dialogue for evaluating misreports and the corresponding strategies (straw man fallacy) is constructed, providing a normative dialectical framework that can guide an analyst in the tasks of detecting, representing, criticizing and justifying a distortion of a viewpoint. We will outline five straw man rhetorical techniques that can be used both for helping us identify and understand the straw man as a fallacy and for illustrating how fallacious arguments of this type can be used to cleverly persuade a target audience.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterpreting Straw Man Argumentation -
Subtitle of host publicationThe Pragmatics of Quotation and Reporting
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages44
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-62545-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-62544-7
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event1st International Conference in Pragmatics and Philosophy, 2016 - Palermo, Italy
Duration: 16 May 201616 May 2016

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


Conference1st International Conference in Pragmatics and Philosophy, 2016


  • Argumentation
  • Fallacies
  • Formal model of Dialogue
  • Implicatures
  • Interpretation
  • Pragmatics
  • Relevance
  • Straw man


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