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The false dilemma, also known as the ‘either-or-fallacy,’ is an informal fallacy that occurs when…

Someone is presented with a situation where only two options are considered when in reality, other options exist.

Example: “Either you’re married, or you’re a bachelor.”

Explanation: If someone is not married, it doesn’t mean that he or she is a bachelor. The person could be divorced, or a widower.

Arguments which commit the false dilemma fallacy have the following structure:

Either A or B is true

The arguer will reason:

if not A then B.
if not B then A… 

… all the whilst other alternatives such as C, D, or E is ignored or not considered.

false dilemma fallacy examples

False Dilemma Fallacy Examples in Politics

Here’s a textbook example of the false dilemma fallacy in politics. In his presidential address to the United State Congress in 2001, George W. Bush said:

“You’re either with us or against us.” 

False Dilemma Fallacy Examples in Real Life

  • “Either we raise taxes, or our economy will collapse!”
  • “I didn’t see you at the fundraiser event the other day. I thought you were a good person!”
  • “She may possess psychic abilities or she may very well be a fraud.”
  • “America, love it or leave it.”
  • “You will either vote for her during elections or you don’t believe in women’s rights.”

 

TIP: Notice how often you present yourself with false dilemmas of your own:

“There’s nothing good on TV tonight, I should go out for a drink.”

Avoid looking at situations through a mere black and white lens. In most cases, there will be other alternatives.