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Also Known as: Black & White Thinking, falsified dilemma, false choice, fallacy of the excluded middle, false dichotomy, false correlative, either/or fallacy, and bifurcation

Definition

A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the "or" operator.  It is often used to obscure the likelihood of one option or to reframe an argument on the user's terms. Putting issues or opinions into "black or white" terms is a common instance of this fallacy.

A False Dilemma is a fallacy in which a person uses the following pattern of "reasoning":

Either claim X is true or claim Y is true (when X and Y could both be false).
Claim Y is false.
Therefore claim X is true.

This line of "reasoning" is fallacious because if both claims could be false, then it cannot be inferred that one is true because the other is false. That this is the case is made clear by the following example:

Either 1+1=4 or 1+1=12.
It is not the case that 1+1=4.
Therefore 1+1=12.

In cases in which the two options are, in fact, the only two options, this line of reasoning is not fallacious.

Bill is dead or he is alive.
Bill is not dead.
Therefore Bill is alive.
 

Examples:

America: love it or leave it.

Every person is either wholly good or wholly evil.

Senator Sarah: "We'll have to cut education funding this year."
Senator Joe: "Why?"
Senator Sarah: "Well, either we cut the social programs or we live with a huge deficit and we can't live with the deficit."
Joe: "Sarah and I both support having prayer in public schools."
Sarah: "Hey, I never said that!"
Joe: "You're not an atheist are you Sarah?"

"Look, you are going to have to make up your mind. Either you decide that you can afford this stereo, or you decide you are going to do without music for a while."

Either you're for me or against me.

"Either man was created, as the Bible tells us, or he evolved from inanimate chemicals by pure random chance, as scientists tell us. The latter is incredibly unlikely, so..."

Either support animal testing, or babies will die.


Rebuttal

Identify the options given and show (with an example) that there is an additional option.

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