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False Dilemma Fallacy: Definition and Examples


Think about this: Your mother texts you and tells you she’s stopping for ice cream on her approach dwelling from work. Then she texts once more and asks, “Would you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream?”

She in all probability didn’t imply to do it, however your mother simply supplied up a false dilemma. By asking whether or not you need chocolate or vanilla ice cream as a substitute of merely asking which taste you’d like, she implied that chocolate and vanilla are the solely choices out there. And possibly that’s the case—some ice-cream parlors carry just a few flavors. But when she’s stopping at a spot that has cookie dough, chocolate chip mint, birthday cake, and a bunch of different flavors, she misrepresented that store’s vary of flavors.

When the subject is ice cream, a false dilemma can hold you from getting the flavour you actually need. When it’s a political, social, or scientific difficulty, a false dilemma can warp your understanding of the topic and affect the selections you make. That’s as a result of a false dilemma intentionally presents solely two choices relatively than the quite a few potential options to a problem. 

What’s the false dilemma fallacy?

A false dilemma is a fallacy that misrepresents a problem by presenting solely two mutually unique choices relatively than the complete, nuanced vary of choices. Right here’s a fundamental instance:

  • If we don’t order pizza for dinner, we’ll need to eat the week-old spaghetti within the fridge.

Clearly, you’ve extra dinner choices. You may whip up one thing with what’s in your cupboards, or you possibly can go grocery buying, or you possibly can order one thing aside from pizza. However the individual arguing in favor of pizza right here is presenting week-old spaghetti because the solely different alternative, making the pizza appear to be the one good choice as compared. 

For this reason the false dilemma fallacy is typically referred to as the “both/or fallacy.” It presents a situation with a number of choices and outcomes as a binary state of affairs, usually presenting one choice as the one “good” alternative. 

Amongst logical fallacies, the false dilemma fallacy is an off-the-cuff fallacy. It is because the flaw lies with the argument’s content material relatively than its construction. You can also make a totally logical argument in the identical format as a false dilemma, as in these examples: 

  • If we depart our home too late, our solely choices are to skip the occasion or miss the opening speech.
  • The one firm that made me a proposal is within the logistics business. I can both settle for a job and pivot to logistics, or I can keep unemployed and proceed in search of work. 

In each of those examples, there’s no fallacy as a result of the choices offered are logical and truthful. With sure different fallacies, just like the crimson herring and advert hominem fallacies, a declare could be each true and fallacious. With a false dilemma, the fallacy’s crux is that the binary choices offered are not correct. 

A false dilemma can mislead readers or listeners and provides them an unrealistic view of the situation being offered. This could drive them to vote a sure approach, assist sure positions or causes, and perpetuate false concepts. Basically, it prevents them from thoughtfully contemplating the difficulty at hand and coming to their very own conclusions about it. 

When is the false dilemma fallacy used?

The false dilemma fallacy exhibits up nearly all over the place rhetoric is used. You’ll see it in political content material, promoting, enterprise pitches and descriptions. You’ll even hear it in person-to-person conversations. 

It’s not unusual for a false dilemma to be paired with one other logical fallacy, just like the straw man fallacy. For instance, a politician would possibly declare that your choices are to vote for them or to vote for dropping sure rights by voting for his or her opponent. This units up the opponent as a simplified, rights-canceling straw man and conveniently fails to say the opponent’s precise platform. It might probably additionally present up at the side of the sunk value fallacy, which is when somebody claims that because you’ve already invested time/cash/different assets right into a mission, your solely choices are to maintain going or abandon it and lose all of the work you’ve carried out up to now. 

You would possibly even discover cases of false dilemmas in your individual writing. No one is ideal, and all of us make illogical arguments generally. For instance, you is likely to be writing an argumentative or persuasive essay and end up condensing your factors with a purpose to hold your essay at a manageable size. Concision is okay, however you wish to keep away from oversimplification. 

While you return to edit your essay, search for locations the place you is likely to be misrepresenting your argument with a false dilemma or one other fallacy. You may repair a false dilemma by transforming your writing to acknowledge the vary of choices out there and, when vital, explaining why you’re selecting to deal with two particular positions. You may additionally wish to make a couple of phrase alternative adjustments, like switching “all the time” to “usually” or “by no means” to “hardly ever” and including in different modifiers to remove any absolute statements that may’t be confirmed. 

What are some frequent false dilemma fallacies?

Keep in mind the instance we gave earlier the place your mother asks whether or not you’d relatively have vanilla or chocolate ice cream? That’s a typical method to phrase the false dilemma fallacy. 

Generally, “would you relatively” is a enjoyable sport, like asking your buddy whether or not they’d relatively be chased by 100 puppies or by 100 kittens. It can be the premise of a thought train that drives you to suppose critically about methods to make the alternatives you make, like whether or not you’d relatively have the expertise of finding out overseas for a semester however graduate a semester later or miss out on that have however lower your expenses by graduating sooner.

These are two examples of false dilemmas that may be innocent and, within the case of the second instance, even useful. There are different cases the place a false dilemma can be utilized beneficially, prefer to make choices simpler or to simplify a situation so a toddler can perceive it. For instance, a guardian would possibly ask their little one if she needs to put on her inexperienced shirt or her yellow shirt when getting dressed within the morning. The kid may need a drawer stuffed with shirts, however by presenting this straightforward alternative, the guardian is empowering their little one to make her personal resolution with out overwhelming her with selections. 

Customer support representatives and other people in gross sales roles additionally use false dilemmas to make decision-making simpler for purchasers. For instance, a restaurant server would possibly ask a visitor if they need salad or french fries with their meal. The visitor would possibly be capable of go for no facet or select one thing totally different, like onion rings, for an upcharge. However by presenting the 2 customary choices, the server is making it simpler for the visitor to decide on what they want. 

What are some phrases associated to false dilemma fallacies?

You may need heard the phrases “false dichotomy” and “false analogy.” Each share similarities with the false dilemma fallacy. In actual fact, some individuals don’t make a distinction between a false dilemma and a false dichotomy. Those that make the excellence outline a false dilemma as a fallacious argument that presents the 2 choices as the one two choices, whereas a false dichotomy is the misinformed perception that the 2 choices offered are the one two choices. 

A false analogy is a bit totally different. It’s the declare that as a result of two issues are alike in a single regard, they have to be alike in different regards as nicely. It’s just like the equivocation fallacy. Right here is an instance of a false analogy:

  • Jessie is a instructor and likes studying. Cruz can also be a instructor, so he should additionally like studying. 

False dilemma examples

Generally, false dilemmas present up in enterprise and promoting: 

  • Use our fertilizer, or your crops will wither. 
  • 5 out of seven docs advocate this treatment over its direct competitor. 

They’re additionally frequent in political advertisements and claims:

  • Would you like your taxes to go up? If not, vote for candidate X.

And persuasive writing:

  • If we wish to make campus safer, we are able to both set up extra safety cameras or ban guests.

False dilemmas will help individuals, significantly youngsters, make choices by oversimplifying the choices:

  • You may take a nap or sit quietly with a e-book throughout nap time. 

False dilemma fallacy FAQs 

What’s the false dilemma fallacy?

The false dilemma fallacy is a logical fallacy that presents two mutually unique choices or options to a problem, disregarding all different potentialities. 

How does the false dilemma fallacy work?

The false dilemma fallacy skews readers’ and listeners’ understanding of a problem by failing to current its full, nuanced vary of choices. It might probably drive them to assist or agree with issues they in any other case wouldn’t as a result of it presents two choices as the one choices. 

What are the frequent false dilemma fallacies?

  • Vote for candidate X, or your taxes will go up. 
  • You may both go to grad college or keep underemployed without end. 
  • If we wish to make campus safer, we are able to both set up extra safety cameras or ban guests. 
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