Video Podcast 21 — The False Dilemma Fallacy

I managed to keep this one under seven minutes.

The False Dilemma Fallacy is used frequently. It is slightly misnamed, sometimes used unwittingly, but I have found that it is usually a cunning attempt to force someone to choose between two possibilities when there are really more than two. 

One example that I forgot to include in the video and remembered after it was complete is often found on Facebook. People will post something along the lines of, "If you care about this problem, you will share this picture". It implies that you either care (demonstrated by sharing the thing) or that you do not care (by not sharing). Possibilities that were omitted include:
  • You spotted the fallacy and will not participate even though you really do care about the issue
  • Thinking that sharing does not help solve the problem
  • Someone was busy and forgot to come back and share it.
I've seen things related to this where someone says, "I'm updating my friend list, comment if you want to stay on it". Really? People have to do this to prove to you that they want to remain "friends" on Facebook (or whatever)? False dilemma. Some of the above possibilities apply, but also that someone simply did not see the message and still fails the "test". I think that kind of thing is shallow, and if I'm "unfriended" because of it, so much the better for me.

Although rather manipulative, I think that people doing this on Facebook usually have innocent motives and are simply being careless. Some of us will not post those things, or take out the ultimatums.

I can think of three cautions that are needed here. First, there's no need to jump at someone and say, "Aha! You've just used the either/or fallacy!" when someone is simply making conversation. Second, if you do point out the fallacy, be ready to show one or two options that were left out. Third, sometimes there really are only two possibilities.

Logical fallacies are conversation stoppers and destroy arguments. How can someone build on a flawed foundation?