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Learn About False Dilemma Fallacy | How To Catch & Avoid It

Argumentation and debate is not easy task. They involve many pitfalls which can weaken your argument and strengthen your opponent. 

Debate and argumentation fall to pieces if they contain even a single fallacy. So avoiding a fallacy is one of the most important things to remember while arguing. Still, it is rather difficult to identify a logical fallacy if you don’t know what it is.

One of the most common fallacies people make is in debates in the false dilemma fallacy. So what is a false dilemma fallacy? How does it work? And how can you avoid it?

Continue reading, and you’ll find the answers to these important questions in this blog.

What Is A False Dilemma Fallacy? 

The fallacy of false dilemma is also known as a false dichotomy or black-and-white fallacy. The term “false dilemma” refers to an informal fallacy in which the claimant presents a choice between two mutually exclusive options. 

Moreover, it is implied that there are no other options, and one option is obviously worse. This presents a false choice, as everyone will be inclined to choose the better-sounding option.

This happens when the person arguing commits one of the following errors:

  • They reduce a complex issue to only two possible options when there are actually more than two.
  • They present two options as if they were exhaustive when they are not.
  • They present the options as if they were mutually exclusive.

The false dilemma presents a challenge. Humans are hardwired to see the world in black and white, in “us vs. them” terms. If you don’t choose one side, you’re automatically on the other side. So it’s easy to see why it occurs so often.

We want things to be simple because it makes life easier. But the world is quite complex. And when we try to reduce complex issues to only two possible options, we’re usually wrong. There are always a number of options in a given issue, and a middle ground can always be reached.

Let’s examine some examples to see how the false dilemma fallacy works.

False Dilemma Fallacy Examples 

So what does false dilemma mean in practice? One common example of the false dilemma fallacy is when people say that you either support something or are against it.

For example, let’s say you’re debating whether or not to support a certain political candidate. Your opponent says you either support the candidate or are against him. This is a false dilemma because there are more than two options. You could neither support nor oppose the candidate.

Check out more examples of this kind of fallacious argument. You’ll notice that only two options are presented, and one is obviously better, making it the only plausible choice.

  • You are either a vegetarian, or you hate the planet.
  • You either support Ukraine, or you support dictatorship.
  • If you’re not with us, you’re against us.
  • If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
  • There are only two possible explanations for this event: A or B.
  • If you don’t use our beauty products, you’ll never look youthful.
  • Would you rather pursue your passion or be stuck in a 9-to-5 job?
  • If you want our country to be safe, we must increase military spending.

Can you come up with more similar false dilemma examples? If yes, you’ve successfully learned to recognize the fallacy.

How To Avoid False Dilemma Fallacy 

There are two main ways to avoid the false dilemma fallacy:

  • Recognize the fallacy when you see it
  • Always keep your mind open for new ways of approaching any topic

Recognizing the fallacy can be difficult because it often looks like a valid argument. The easiest way to tell if an argument is a false dilemma is to ask yourself whether there can be more than two options. If there are more than two options, then the argument is not a valid example of a false dilemma.

False dilemma assumes that only two of the possible options are worth considering. This assumption can lead to faulty reasoning and should be avoided whenever possible. 

Always assume that there can be more than two options in a given situation. Of course, sometimes only two options seem obvious, but with a little effort, you can always find a third way.

Finally, how can you refute the false dilemma fallacy? Refuting a false dilemma argument is fairly easy. Firstly, specify and point out the fallacious argument. Secondly, prove that the situation is not as black-and-white as presented.

It requires some creative and critical thinking to figure out ways to break the false dilemma. But a little bit of thinking on your part will destroy your opponent’s false dilemma argument.

In this blog, you’ve read the definition and examples of the false dilemma fallacy. If you’ve reached this far, you will now have an easier time catching and avoiding the false dilemma fallacy. Note that it is important to avoid it as it makes your argument logically weak.

Jessica Haris
Jessica Haris
Lead Author

Holds a degree in Literature from the University of Utah and has been writing for more than 10 years.

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