Is it appropriate to use straw man arguments on this integral forum?

Is it appropriate to use straw man arguments on this integral forum?

  • No
  • Yes
  • I don’t know
  • I don’t want to give my opinion

0 voters

The reason I write this post is that I want this forum to be open and inclusive and civilized, exactly as outlined in the community road rules. For some reason I have gotten no response from the moderators in 16 days since I flagged a post and asking the moderators for some feedback. After waiting for about 8 days I even e-mailed the moderators directly to their public e-mail addresses. I have not contacted the administrator of the forum because I know he is very busy and he has delegated the moderating function. And because I know myself enough to expect that I will be upset if he also gave no response.

So another option is to turn to the wisdom of the crowd. I think readers here are individually already very wise (yes I also mean you :wink:), but perhaps you find it easier to vote in an anonymous poll than to give your opinion directly.

I am clearly not targeting any individual, I am only addressing a certain kind of behavior. If someone wants to argue that a certain interaction is not a straw man, or something else unrelated to this poll, I respectfully ask that this is done on another topic. You can probably agree that this current question is more important. Other comments, for example why you answered in a certain way are off course welcome.

I will end by giving a description of what a straw man argument is, quoted from Wikipedia:

The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:

  1. Person 1 asserts proposition X .
  2. Person 2 argues against a superficially similar proposition Y , falsely, as if an argument against Y were an argument against X .

This reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: it fails to address the proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position.

For example:

  • Quoting an opponent’s words out of context—i.e., choosing quotations that misrepresent the opponent’s intentions (see fallacy of quoting out of context).
  • Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, then denying that person’s arguments—thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself) has been defeated.
  • Oversimplifying an opponent’s argument, then attacking this oversimplified version.
  • Exaggerating (sometimes grossly exaggerating) an opponent’s argument, then attacking this exaggerated version.

So if I understand you:

You feel someone made a straw man argument.
You reported them to the moderators.
The moderators did not act as you thought they should.
Now you are want to “turn to the wisdom of the crowd”

What are you trying to accomplish with this discussion?

I myself vote “no”. (It is not appropriate to use a straw man argument).
However (and this is a VERY BIG however).

When I read the community road rules - I interpret them for myself that they are intended to be self-reflective. I don’t read anywhere in there that they are intended to be used by one person to judge that another has been in violation. I instead read them that they are rules that I should use to reflect on my own participation.
So when I vote no - I do so with the caveat that I do not find it appropriate for myself to use straw man arguments.
I suppose other people such as yourself my read them differently, but that is how I see them.

Yes, you are understanding me perfectly, thank you. Except that more than one straw man arguments were made in that particular topic.

That is a good question. I didn’t intend it to be a discussion, it is a poll. Depending on the result it could potentially be a building block to help many things that I want to see accomplished:

  • help to deal with my frustration and anger because I feel I am being ignored as a paying member of this community.
  • help this community to clarify the appropriate norms of behaviour and the ways to deal with transgressions
  • improve the quality of the discussions, prevent that ideas are dismissed without proper investigation.
  • prevent that members or potential members of this forum feel hurt, unwelcome, unheard, attacked, bullied… by witnessing this kind of behaviour
  • all of this helping to make his forum even more integral

I hope you are aware of what you are doing here. Without making it completely explicit, you are suggesting that there is at least another person that is using the community road rules “to judge that another has been in violation”. And you also make an implicit negative assessment (judgement) about this kind of behaviour. You do this by stating that it is not in the road rules and that you don’t do that, and also by using two emotionally loaded words, “to judge” and “violation”, instead of more neutral synonyms like for example “to estimate”. You enforce your message by using all capitals, that I associate with shouting and anger. From my previous interactions with you it is quite obvious it could be directed at me but if I recognize that it could appear that I “incriminate” myself or show that I am too sensitive or emotional because of my shadows. Which is not impossible.

I felt I needed to explain all that to even begin to address it, I could say it is very clever. Regardless if it was conscious or unconscious. My answer is that even before I read the road rules and joined this forum I already had concluded that using straw man arguments was bad behaviour. I gave you some reasons in our private conversation. So I didn’t need to use the community road rules to judge that kind of behaviour. (Unlike you* I don’t judge people, I judge behaviour.) The road rules help me to understand that this kind of behaviour is also not appropriate or not normal on this forum and give me an encouragement to address it. If I bring up the road rules in conversations with other people, it is to help to communicate that a particular kind of behaviour could potentially be inappropriate or to explain my behaviour.

So I am not denying that I, as a member of this community am using the community road rules to judge other peoples behaviour as well as my own. I can even use them to try to justify that I am doing that:

Now could you explain me why you think it is better to judge someones behaviour without referring to what is witten in the rules (as you are doing with me and others) than with it (as I try to do with you) ? Or let me know that I somehow misinterpreted what you wrote. I don’t know your intentions.

*here is an example were you explicitly judge a human being instead of their behaviour

BTW I think you might have forgotten to actually vote on the poll.

Nah, I didn’t forget to vote.
I was just giving you an opportunity to explain further your own reasoning and any background to the poll.
Thank you for explaining.
Now people can chose to vote (or not), knowing a little bit more what is behind the poll.

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I am thankful for the opportunity to explain myself better. I am even more thankful for the opportunity to deal with the infamous mean green meme. That felt really good on multiple levels. If I remember correctly it took me quite a while to conciously recognize it as that, even though it could be considered a text book example. This exercise will help me to recognize it and address it better, also in my own thoughts.

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I am starting to become at least open to the idea that I am being purposefully ignored in order that interesting lessons like this can be learned. After all, both moderators are professional integral coaches.

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Hi @Drieske, thank you for your comments here, and for doing your part to contribute to the overall health and vibrancy of the community. I just want to lay out a few of my own moderation strategies, in case it is helpful to you.

  • First off, I don’t think integral communities like this one should require strong moderation policies. We want to be bouncers, not babysitters. Which means that we will be happy to help regulate the discussion if we (I) see clear cases of abuse, or consistent and willful violations of the road rules.

  • The reason being, I believe communities like this should ideally be a place to develop our own “anti-fragility”. Which means that we can allow things to get a little bit messy, so long as that “messiness” is coming in good faith and remains in service of our mutual growth and awakening.

  • Which means that sometimes we will get straw-manned, bulldozed, etc., just as we see happening on every other social media platform. However, I think this community right here is a little bit special, since most of the participants here are current or past Integral Life members, which means they have “put their money where there mouth is” and would presumably have a greater chance of real enfoldment than we see in places like Facebook.

  • That said, there are still going to be major disagreements around some fundamental issues in this space. All of which is invited — integral does not offer a monolithic view of things like politics, economics, and other deeply complex realities. Our job, as I see it, is to figure out how to role-model “healthy disagreement” for the rest of the internet. We have all the right tools at our disposal — an intellectual framework that offers a common language for understanding, a spirit of non-exclusion and multi-perspectivalism, as well as a practice that helps us make objects out of our various subjects and identities so we don’t fall into the trap making our own perspectives overly-opaque.

  • I also thought creating this post/poll was a perfectly appropriate way to share your concerns. If we can geek out for a little bit, there is an important difference between the Zone 3 content of this group (what we are actually talking about at any given time) and the Zone 4 dynamics of the group (e.g. the unspoken “Overton” containers, lines, and windows that influence what content can and can’t be discussed here). (For the uninitiated, the “Zones” are simply pointing to the “inner” and “outer” of each quadrant — in this case, the “inner and outer” of the Lower Left Quadrant).

    Moderation, on the other hand, is typically a Zone 7/8 intervention (lower right quadrant). It’s not about finding new and novel ways to relate, it’s not about overcoming differences, and it’s not about shifting the overall container of discourse — it’s about protecting the container by pressing some buttons that end up forcing individuals out of the discussion. I see this as the “in case of emergency, break glass” solution. So what you are doing here, I think, is the right way to go. You guys are responsible for the Zone 3 discussions that take place here, and you are also largely responsible for shaping the overall Zone 4 container (guided by the road rules, of course). So if you feel like the dynamics of the group need improving, you can work together to make those shared subjects into objects, and then find new ways to cohere based on those discussions. And if problems escalate beyond the group’s capacity to manage their own Zone 4 container, that’s when I step in with a dose of healthy authoritarianism to help clean things up :slight_smile:

  • All of which is to say, I most likely will not moderate discussions when it comes to things like accusations of straw-manning. I think, generally speaking, it is much more beneficial for you guys to find ways to manage conflict amongst yourselves. And if you feel like your own perspective is not being fully or accurately represented, then you have an obligation to speak up and do your best to clarify your own position, even while knowing that you may still be misinterpreted. But 9 times out of 10, if we take the time to fully and authentically express ourselves, to leverage our own resilience and anti-fragility, and to treat each other in good faith, these tensions tend to dissolve before too long and new kinds of growth and mutual understanding can flourish in the wake.

I hope this is helpful!


Thanks for your reply, it is really helpful. I have read it a couple of times because there is lot in it. The only thing I don’t yet understand is what you mean with perspectives that are overly-opaque.

I have to correct myself, I thought that you were no longer moderating the forum yourself and had delegated this responsibility. This was based on your job description where the job of moderating the forum is not mentioned. But you have probably too many responsibilities to mention them all.:grinning:

It really helps to know that what I was experiencing as feeling ignored was not out of neglect, but as a conscious plan. I have to say that it is working for me. I feel that not only my resilience has increased at the reasonable cost of a few stressful hours and a disruption of my sleeping pattern.

But my concerns are not all gone. The first problem I see is a mismatch between the expectations of the members and the moderators about the role of moderation. You have cleared it up for the people who read this post. But reading the community road rules attentively gave me different expectations. I had already scanned the road rules for any text that encourages members to try to improve the group dynamics but I could’t find any.

In order to try to discourage what I saw as unrespectful behaviour I actually had to break one of the rules:

Had I followed the rules I would have just flagged the post and as I am hearing you, in this case nothing would have happened. The post that was in my eyes uncivil, unkind and humiliating would just stay unchallenged for eternity (or until someone else broke the rules). The person whose post was flagged wouldn’t even become aware that there could be a problem. In other words, while you write that our job is to figure out how to role-model “healthy disagreement” for the rest of the internet, in the rules you are discouraging most of the actions members can take because it wastes everyone’s time.

Here is an example from a private conversation with an experienced member that illustrates this. This member was very helpful but felt that they shouldn’t give their opinion even in private since I already contacted the moderator and he is the “authority” in the situation. This makes it difficult to come up with collaborative action.

Now that your secret is revealed anyway :wink: I think it would be an improvement to include the information that you share here over at the topic about the rules. Addressing the possible contradictions with the rule I pointed out is less important, people here can handle contradictions.

I am not sure if I understand the Zones correctly, if members can post here for everyone to see wouldn’t that influence the right hand quadrant also? From my perspective, at least the road rules as they are written on this website are part of the interior of the lower right quadrant, Zone 7. For Zone 8, I already had a minor suggestion to prevent the road rules from being unpinned automatically. Another suggestion that takes a bit more effort to implement is the following: Instead of moderators (not) giving personal feedback to people who flag a post, the system could give just the number of people that flag the same post as feedback to these people. A side effect is probably that more posts get flagged, I don’t know if this could be a problem.

While for me your plan is working out, that is perhaps thanks to all the privileges I enjoy in my life. My main concern is still that if people are being attacked here for expressing their opinion this place will become (or stay) more monolithic and less Integral. People are different in their skills, and since probably a lot less resilience, energy and time is needed to defend an opinion coming from the green worldview, there is more likelihood that these opinions will dominate. People with different opinions could decide to leave. This would have an effect on Integral Life as a whole. For example, I am quite sure people feeling unwelcome on this forum are less inclined to engage in the practices that they could benefit from. Perhaps this also applies to people with a dominant green worldview for a different reason. If their worldview dominates the discussions they most care about, they do not feel challenged here to grow.

After reflecting on all this I came up with another reason than you gave for why your approach might be healthy. The idea that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” resonates with me. That is why I think it is healthy that you use your absolute power very sparingly, just like Bilbo’s ring. Thinking about it in this way there is even a possibility that if one of the moderators responded, this answer could be used as a “weapon” of some sorts, or it could create a hierarchy. Not that all hierarchies are bad of course. Even the fact that I told that I flagged some of his posts at the start of my private conversation with this person probably made him more inclined to raise his defenses.

I think the way I engaged this issue is influenced by the fact that I recently, just for a couple of days, was a member of a forum where the moderators were completely powerless because of an explosion of their membership with millions of people. I shared some of my experiences on this forum, but especially on Reddit. I hope we will be ready when the day comes that that happens here.:grinning:

In the meantime I hope that now that our roles as members are clarified, more people are encouraged to participate in the ongoing discussions, including the ones about group dynamics. Lets continue this discussion, here or elsewhere. Perhaps I will change the name of the topic to reflect what is going on here. I am open to suggestions.

I think in reality it is very difficult to describe what a straw man argument is. It is far more complex than the description offered in Wikipedia.

Welcome to the forum and to this discussion. I am open to the idea that it can be difficult. Can you perhaps give an example to illustrate this? Is it just that there is uncertainty about the intention of the person making he argument or is there another difficulty?

Well, @Enopio can speak for himself what he means, but I would say:

  • X and y should be agreed to by both parties before the argument begins
  • It should be clear that the argument is about proposition X in the first place, and not actually about proposition Y, or indeed about topic Q, V, or W - or all of the letters together.
  • It should be clear that proposition Y actually is superficial, and not something that person 1 just wants to consider superficial because - insert motive.
  • It should be clear that the argument is between Person 1 and Person 2, not between multiple people trying to make multiple points about different aspects of an argument.
  • It should be clear that person 2 is arguing, and not another form of discussion such as discovery, posing rhetorical questions, probing, “stirring the pot”, etc.

Though I will also point out that the OP did make this request, and it could be interpreted as straw manning by person 1 if person 2 discusses superficial position Y rather than arguing position X when specifically requested not to:


I have a feeling, that this so called superficial similar position Y, is not actually superficial, and should not be so easily or absolutely dismissed.

The unfortunate thing is that proposition X, is not absolutely unrelated to proposition Y or any other.

There are situations, where a person will intentionally use an unrelated proposition Y, but that is not always the case. We should therefore exercise caution in the latter. We should ask, " why is this happening? " Another way of seeing this, is that if we purify proposition X to the most simple form, it almost loses its purpose for existing - it becomes unimportant.

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Sorry Enopio it took so much time to answer. If I understand you correctly, you prefer to include some aspect of intentionality in the definition of a straw man argument. I would prefer to leave intentionality out of the definition.

Here are some disadvantages of having a definition that includes intentionality: As far as I know there does not exist a term for an unintentional straw man. Since this can have the same effect in a discussion, lacking a term to address it will make it a bit more complex to defend from these unintentional straw man arguments. I would consider that a disadvantage because it slows down the discussion.
But the main disadvantage is that intention is very hard to know or to prove, and even person 2 can be unaware of his own unconscious intentions. This means that any claim that something is a straw man argument can easily lead to a new discussion. Even if person 2 is intentionally making a straw man argument, he can now accuse person 1 of disregarding the presumption of innocence and claiming the status of a victim. This will help him win the argument with some audiences, perhaps people with a dominant world-view at red or green.
To prevent this, person 1 can play it safe and call it only an “unintentional” straw man argument, for which I already explained there is no term. All this would make the “penalty” of making straw man arguments (whether intentional or not) smaller. Possibly leading to them being more frequent, which worsens the quality of the discussion.

The only advantage I see is that people who make an unintentional straw man argument perhaps suffer less damage to their reputation. But how do these unintentional straw man arguments arise? I think these will be almost always preventable, by carefully trying to understand what the other person is saying, if necessary asking for clarification. And addressing their best arguments.

I am obviously not talking about arguments that are not really straw man arguments. I felt that I had to make that clear to decrease the chance that I am misunderstood.

Here is a short definition of the straw man fallacy that doesn’t include intentionality:

" The author attacks an argument which is different from, and usually weaker than, the opposition’s best argument. "


Yet, there are several implied intentionalities.
The intention to attack
The intention to argue
The intention to be weaker or stronger
The intention to have an opposition

If one side never had any of these intentions, then this entire exercise falls under the logical fallacy of a false dilemma.

  • False Dilemma - Reducing responses to complex issues to an either/or choice. (Whether someone follows 1:1 debate rules in a discussion involving 10 people and 10 complex, multifaceted open-ended topics is completely irrelevant).

A false dilemma is in the category of logical fallacies “Unwarranted Assumptions”
Just for fun, here are a few other unwarranted assumptions I’ve seen in this polling topic:

  • Inappropriate Appeal to Authority - Using an alleged authority as evidence in an argument when the authority is not really an authority on the facts relevant to the argument. (Trying to use the Community Road rules selectively to enforce action that is the OPPOSITE of their intention.)

  • Loaded Question - when a question is asked that assumes a particular answer to another unasked question. (The Poll question infers a few things about IL community dynamics)

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Great discussion here on critical thinking, concise dialog, authority, and integral discourse!

Titanium man.

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Love the Titanium Man :-).

I’ll pile on the Hypothesis vs Theory vs Fact vs Law reminder for us. LOL

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