Upgrade the Argument: From the Steel Man to the Titanium Man

Ryan Nakade
8 min readApr 6, 2021
Image from Iron Man Wiki — Fandom

Let’s start with a definition of terms.

Straw man: A distorted misrepresentation of one’s argument or position, which often involves oversimplifying it. When one attacks a strawman instead of one’s actual argument, this is called the “strawman fallacy.”

Steel man: The strongest, most accurate representation of one’s argument. This involves reinforcing one’s position as they have articulated it.

Titanium man: Taking the core of one’s argument and rearticulating it at a higher level of nuance, sophistication, abstraction, and complexity. The argument is buttressed with more perspectives, contexts, and variables.

In our hyper polarized political climate, it is all too easy to straw man opposing arguments. Steel manning is a good antidote to this tendency. However, the titanium man takes this one step further by upgrading an argument to higher levels of complexity, which allows us to gain new uses, insights, and meanings from any argument, while also avoiding the pitfalls of the straw man.

Titanium Man Examples

In his book The Listening Society, Hanzi Freinacht demonstrates the titanium man by rearticulating the same argument at increasingly higher levels of complexity and abstraction. Here’s an example…



Ryan Nakade

Depolarization, mediation, dialogue. Integrative solutions to cultural conflict. And diaphanous goat whisperer.