A Weak Man Argument Recenters a Category to Defeat It

A ‘weak man’ argument presents a belief that only a small number of people have in order to defeat it. This is similar to a ‘straw man’, but a straw man presents a belief that no one has in order to defeat it. A ‘weak man’ is a more believable logical fallacy.

The profound effect it has is to re-center the category one is arguing against. For example, when arguing against religion, one might cite the Westboro Baptist Church as an example that proves religion is bad. While the one example may be true, it is an over-simplification that re-centers the category on the weak man argument.

Re-centering can grow into a super weapon if it becomes accepted by everyone over time. Even acknowledging the re-centering in order to argue against it, legitimizes it and serves the weak man purpose. This can cause in-groups en masse to conflict against another group even if both groups agree the weak man argument is true (e.g. the Westboro Baptist Church is bad) because re-centering can profoundly change society.

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See also:

  • Weak man are persuasive similar to how projections onto different dimensions aids in understanding. The reality is things are complicated, so simplifying categories for people can be extremely effective.
  • When groups get involved to defend against weak man arguments (even if they are true) is an example of in-group favoritism and dynamics.
  • Related to belief congruence theory, holding one of these weak man arguments might be an important part of signaling you are part of the in-group and therefore gain better treatment.