False dilemma:

Conceptual Fallacy
Definition Example
When two alternative positions or choices are wrongly assumed to be the only ones possible. If you are not with us, you’re against us!
Also known as: false dichotomy / middle ground
  Notes
One informative example is the statement “Either this rock is alive or dead.”. This completely ignores the option that the rock is “lifeless”, which does not carry the misleading connotation that “dead” carries. “Dead” implies having previously lived, while “lifeless” does not.


A false dilemma is the inverse of the fallacy of denying the correlative. The single cause fallacy is one type of false dilemma.

Case Study One

One common false dilemma frequently heard during any war is as follows.

Are you in favor of this war? If not, you can’t call yourself a patriot.


Case Study Two

Theists often argue “You don’t worship my god? Why do you hate him so much?” This completely ignores the possibility that someone does not worship a god because they don’t believe that particular god exists.


Case Study Three

Often, two ideologies that are in conflict such as big pharmaceutical companies and alternative medicine are framed as a dilemma; the drugs of one side work, and the drugs of the other do not. This is a false dilemma since the claims of both sides could be correct…or incorrect. The improprieties or failures of neither side validate the claims of the other side, nor does the demonstration of efficacy on one side invalidate the claims of efficacy of the other side.


Case Study Four

If someone brings up the possibility that an accusation of an offense may be false, they are not condoning the offense. For example, you are not defending rape if you admit the possibility that the accusation of rape may have been fabricated.


Keep in mind that a fallacious argument does not entail an erroneous position.


One Response to False dilemma:

  1. Pingback: Where’s the fun in that? | from synapse to byte

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