Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Straw-personing

I caught the following sentence in an interesting review on Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews:
There is a section discussing Richard Dawkins, but atheist philosophers could reasonably maintain that Corlett's focusing on Dawkins is straw-personing atheism.
Straw-personing? I must be getting really old, because I cannot for the life of me see what's wrong with straw man as the name for the fallacy.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the gender-neutral formulation--rather, it's treating the noun as a verb that gets my goat.

PA said...

A now deceased former professor once accused a classmate of having committed genocide against populations of straw people. Is that okay, jerk?

chrono said...

Well, the author using 'straw person', as can be seen from the quotation in the first paragraph (from p92 of the book). Perhaps they're poking a little fun at the way the author uses it. Or perhaps they agree with the author that we should stop using 'straw man', and they're trying to help propagate the term. My bet is on the former.

Anonymous said...

Just person up, and take it like a person...
That's what getting old feels like.

Glaucon said...

Robustly in touch with my inner nerd as I am, I can only quote TMBG:

Person man, person man
Hit on the head with a frying pan
Lives his life in a garbage can
Person man

Is he depressed or is he a mess?
Does he feel totally worthless?
Who came up with person man?
Degraded man, person man

Anonymous said...

I'd say something mean here, but I don't want to commit an ad personam.

English Jerk said...

Is this Spiros's way of celebrating International Women's Day?

Anonymous said...

Is it that ridiculous to think that someone might want to avoid terms that imply maleness as the norm?? I don't see what the problem here is (unless, as 10:30 said, the problem is treating it like a noun - which is pretty weird).

Anonymous said...

(... treating it like a verb, I mean)

Glaucon said...

At the risk of rankling my prescriptivist brothers and sisters, you can verb any noun.

CTS said...

I'm with the prescriptivists, here. Yes, Glaucon, one can treat a noun as a verb - an adjective as an adverb, a verb as a noun, and so forth. But ought one to do so?

At any rate, I have no problem with gender neutral language. I do find the efforts of some younger academics to create new words (hir, hu, hem) a bit silly. But, then, I'm getting on.

WV: beesent? I don't even know what to do with that, unless it has some relevance to gardening.

Mostly Anonymous said...

From that remarkable comic Calvin and Hobbes, verbing weirds language.

Anonymous said...

I am loving this post. I am waiting for one of you jerks to come up with the origin of the word 'strawman'. I'm too lazy.
I personally think it is good to use gender-neutral terms whenever possible, but chrono has a point --the reviewer might be poking a bit of fun. Any why not? Most fuckers in this discipline take themselves way too seriously.
So, is the "blind-review" officially out?

Anonymous said...

@English Jerk: Spiros is too old and cranky to have been aware that today is International Women's Day.

Frank O'File said...

Glaucon, CTS

Interjection, you guys.

Glaucon said...

You're probably right. In unrelated news, I chair a college committee; yesterday a member contacted me about the meeting minutes (I'm tasked with forwarding them), since they did not mention her requesting that I loan her my Dixon Ticonderoga so should could pencil in her thoughts (writing helped structure her thinking, she told me) on a motion which was tabled after we cycled through several objections.

Anonymous said...

awesome comment, English Jerk.

Anonymous said...

I think a straw man is just a scarecrow. I had a professor (now emeritus - age is no excuse for avoiding language that makes being male the norm) who referred to the scarecrow fallacy rather than the straw man fallacy. It's not gender specific but avoids the ackwardness of 'straw person'.

Asur said...

If using the male pronoun and its satellites (as with 'he' and 'straw man') excludes women, and using their female counterparts (as with ships, nations, and the planet itself) objectifies and thus dehumanizes women, I can only conclude that using gender neutral terms -- being a balance between the two -- constitutes a hybrid exclusion and dehumanization.

Santa said...

Do straw men have straw penises?

Verify word: inderp

Santa said...

@ anon: 5:53 So are you implying that the English language be the first Romance language that is gender neutral?

I would suggest taking that up with speakers of French, Italian, and Spanish languages and see how far your quest for gender neutral language goes.

Anonymous said...

A former colleague of mine -- who, incidentally, was a terrible philosophy instructor, a terrible thinker and a terrible human being -- used the term 'straw figure'. She even stressed the 'figure' when she used it in conversation with anyone who committed the error(?) of saying 'straw man'.

May she rot in Hell.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite unsettling that I cannot tell if Asur or 2:37 are being sarcastic...

Asur said...

I don't know about 2:37, but I'm being serious; this push to replace gendered pronouns is silly.

We would think intellectually feeble anyone who claimed that one gender was superior to another because the former's pronoun was seen more often in writing.

None of us would take that argument seriously.

If that's true, then the use of gendered pronouns can't be a matter of consequence.

Ben A. said...

Azur, you seem to be arguing that since an argument for gender superiority based on in-print pronoun frequency would be fallacious (I'd agree), we can conclude that in-print pronoun frequency has no consequences of any kind.

But that's fallacious. Pscyhological effects are not caused exclusively by sound reasoning.

Also, if issues of "staw man" vs "straw person" seem to you to be of such little consequence, why the resistance on your part to a change?

Asur said...

Ben,

My take is that matters of emotion -- such as how we psychologically feel about something -- are essentially outside of our control, and as such, are essentially random factors.

Since I don't think a random factor can bear any weight as a premise (it makes no sense to say "Given X or ~X, therefore Y"), I don't think they're any use in forming a conclusion -- such as whether or not gendered pronouns should be used in general contexts.

This means that the only consideration here is, in fact, whether something is rationally persuasive.

As to your last, I'm not resistant to people choosing to use "straw person" if that's what tickles them, I'm resistant to being taken as insensitive or worse if I choose the traditional term.

Santa said...

any body who neuters pronouns or terms because of hypersensitivity is a puss filled anus (pick your gender of said orifice).

www.muebles-en-cadiz.com said...

This cannot have effect in actual fact, that's what I think.