Fallacies from Chapter 3 - 5469
Only 2 choices are offered when there are more
False reduction of choices to just 2 (one of which is usually unacceptable) when there are other choices
A or B
Either A or B
If not A then B
Unless A, B
either, or, if not, unless, the only alternative, prefer
How to Explain
Name 3rd choice or alternative belief or middle ground
You're either with us or you're with the terrorists.
1. The textbook defines a dilemma as an argument that presents 2 alternatives, both claimed to be bad. A false dilemma is a dilemma that can be shown to be false (going between the horns of the dilemma) by demonstrating there is at least one other viable possibility to the 2 choices offered, or by challenging one or both of its other 2 premises (grasping the horns of the dilemma). The either-or fallacy is sometimes called the black-or-white fallacy and is very similar to the false dilemma. The either-or fallacy occurs when there is an argument that assumes just 2 viable alternatives, one of which is bad, although there is at least one other viable alternative.
NOTE: For this class, the either-or variation of the false dilemma fallacy will be named false dilemma.
2. Some people have a tendency to over-simplify an issue by reducing choices, since it's too hard for them to look for other alternatives or they have a vested interest in one of the choices.
3. False dilemmas are offered out of ignorance, laziness, as a diversion from the truth, or through a natural tendency to categorize.
4. Psychological explanation: The origin of black-or-white thinking is thought to come from childhood, where we had fairy tales, heroes and villains, and good guys and bad guys. This immaturity is then taken into adulthood because some people yearn for the security of childhood.
5. We can protect ourselves from someone who offers a false dilemma by always asking 'why not both' or 'why not neither'.
6. The Manichaeans were an early Christian sect whose views on good and evil have become interpreted in our time as the ultimate 'either-or' philosophy. Everyone and everything is either totally good or totally evil; no shades of gray, no mixed motives, no redeeming qualities in the wicked, no lapses of virtue in the saintly.
7. Either-or on the Internet
1. You're either with us or you're with the terrorists.
Analysis: The 3rd choice is neutrality.
2. Either we ease up on environmental protection or we see our economy get worse.
Analysis: We could have both occur or neither could occur. Studies show that many environmental companies are profitable.
3. Unless you go to college and make something of yourself, you’ll end up as an unhappy street person.
Analysis: This is the same as 'Either you go to college and make something of yourself or you’ll end up as an unhappy street person.' Again you could have both or neither occur. Many people who don't go to College do not end up on the street.
4. Either you are over 21 or you're not.
Analysis: Not a false dilemma, that is, no fallacy occurred since there is no 3rd choice.
5. Either you believe abortion is murder or you don't. Now which is it?
Analysis: The 3rd choice is that the person doesn't know or hasn't made up their mind.
6. The differences in behavior between the sexes is either due to heredity or environment.
Analysis: The 3rd choice is that it is likely that both play a role.
7. If we don't keep the death penalty then people will get off after a few years in prison and then parole. so, we shouldn't abolish the death penalty.
Analysis: The 3rd choice is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
8. Either we allow abortions or we force children to be raised by parents who don't want them.
Analysis: The 3rd choice is adoption.
9. The only alternative to a dictatorship is communism.
Analysis: A 3rd choice is democracy.
10 Either we cut spending or we'll increase the deficit.
Analysis: A 3rd choice is raising taxes.
11. Either we withdraw from Iraq completely or we stay the course.
Analysis: A 3rd choice would be removing most of our troops from Iraq at once, while reconfiguring the rest into small teams that would take the initiative in tracking the al qaeda affiliates still trying to despoil the country.
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Last updated: 15:36 on 30 January 2013
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