Finding the Straw Man
November 14, 2011 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Academics: Searching with texts that promote a fair hearing for the opposition.

I'm looking for texts, scholarly or otherwise, that deal directly with how opponents are fairly (or unfairly) represented in literature and rhetoric. I'm trying to create a homiletical taxonomy for how opponents are described... and how scholars and speakers portray the opposition (weak development, flat characterization, stereotypification, etc.).

These could be from the fields of debate, rhetoric, sociology, homiletics, theater, anything really.

In other words, I want to examine the use of the straw-man fallacy in modern rhetoric. Eventually I want to develop a rubric for analyzing the portrayal of the opponent in public speaking for use in a classroom setting.

Any sources that come to mind would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Tennyson D'San to Education (3 answers total)
For example, public speakers are famous for making a thin case for their opponent's position. It comes most naturally to representatives on all sides.
"Liberals spend money on websites for turtles!"
"Conservatives don't care about humans after they're born."
In a homiletical setting you see it happening across the board -
"The problem with Atheists is that they're strict materialists..."
"Fundamentalists will have you believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old..."
"The prosperity gospel teaches that God wants everyone to be rich!"

Enlightened audiences can see through this sort of thing and it's distracting. Often times the straw-man fallacy is much more nuanced, however. I think it's important to provide a fair hearing to an opponent's position before it's incorporated into public rhetoric. I'm looking for work on this topic.
posted by Tennyson D'San at 8:08 PM on November 14, 2011

Had to look up "homiletics" :)

You might take a look at the (voluminous) work of George Lakoff.

He's a linguistics professor at UC Berkeley who spends a lot of time analyzing political discourse.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:14 PM on November 14, 2011

See Donald Davidson on his "principle of charity" and other philosophers on "interpretative charity" more broadly.
posted by Jahaza at 11:16 PM on November 14, 2011

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