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    • Join Date: Sep 2009
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    #1

    False dichotomy-true or false?

    I recently had an argument with somebody over the false dichotomy.I used the following Wikipedia definition:-"Involves a situation in which only 2 alternatives are considered,when in fact there are other options"

    My example was as follows:-
    Following a run of bad results,a supporter argues this is because of either (a) a bad manager or (b) bad players. He fails to mention other possible options such as (c)a mounting injury list ,(d)lack of board investment etc etc

    My opponent discounts my example on the following grounds:-

    What you were giving as an example was approaching the target area but it wasn't properly realised. To make a true false dichotomy (ha, now it's getting convoluted) you need the two horns of the dichotomy to be the potential outcomes. Yours was backwards, as it was referring to two potential causes. So saying "either a or b is the cause of this situation" is either true, or false (c might be, or d or x or a mixture.) It's not fallacious. To be fallacious, you'd need to be saying "a or b must be the result of this situation" - where there are other possible outcomes that are being denied. It's fallacious because you are illogically denying people valid choices which they should be free to make if they want to. There is an improper exclusion.

    Who is correct and why?
    Last edited by dibble; 19-Sep-2009 at 19:20. Reason: error in copied text


    • Join Date: Aug 2009
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    #2

    Re: False dichotomy-true or false?

    I think you should try to find your and your friend's points of view on the list of false dilemmas here:

    False dilemma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
    • Posts: 4
    #3

    Re: False dichotomy-true or false?

    Thanks for your reply Ann-I had already visited Wikipedia as my counterpart in the argument rather patronisingly directed me there.
    I should like to point out that neither of us are teachers (just in case there were a reluctance to reply because of a perceived danger of upsetting a fellow professional).I should also like to point out that my counterpart's objections were in fact a direct quote and I should have put same in quotation marks.

    I think the best thing I can do to illicit replys is to give my own perspective.In my example the supporter gives only 2 possible reasons for the poor form-the other options he fails to make available represent an improper exclusion.I think this qualifies my example to be a false dichotomy.

    Now my counterpart,who was VERY dismissive of my arguments,talks of causes and results.I've trawled the net looking for examples and nowhere can I see that the 2 horns of the dichotomy have to be "results" rather than "causes".Indeed the definition itself only talks of a situation with only 2 alternatives offered.

    I also find his assertion that in my example (a) or (b) can be true or false,as can (c), (d) etc and so it's not fallacious as rather bizarre.The whole point is that the supporter ONLY gives (a) and (b) as options and denies the existence of the other options.

    Can anyone help me with this?

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    #4

    Re: False dichotomy-true or false?

    Quote Originally Posted by dibble View Post
    I recently had an argument with somebody over the false dichotomy.I used the following Wikipedia definition:-"Involves a situation in which only 2 alternatives are considered,when in fact there are other options"

    My example was as follows:-
    Following a run of bad results,a supporter argues this is because of either (a) a bad manager or (b) bad players. He fails to mention other possible options such as (c)a mounting injury list ,(d)lack of board investment etc etc

    My opponent discounts my example on the following grounds:-

    What you were giving as an example was approaching the target area but it wasn't properly realised. To make a true false dichotomy (ha, now it's getting convoluted) you need the two horns of the dichotomy to be the potential outcomes. Yours was backwards, as it was referring to two potential causes. So saying "either a or b is the cause of this situation" is either true, or false (c might be, or d or x or a mixture.) It's not fallacious. To be fallacious, you'd need to be saying "a or b must be the result of this situation" - where there are other possible outcomes that are being denied. It's fallacious because you are illogically denying people valid choices which they should be free to make if they want to. There is an improper exclusion.

    Who is correct and why?
    Yes, I would call that a false dichotomy - only because I can't think of a better term for it.
    It's obviously a logical mistake, and if your opponent refuses to accept it as a false dichotomy, then you should first ask them whether they agree that it is a logical fallacy, and if they agree, ask them what kind it is. This may be more constructive than just disagreeing.

    As your opponent indicates, "false dichotomy" usually refers to either a future choice or a timeless truth (the sun is either square or triangular).
    It does sound strange using it for a cause, as you've given.
    It's not a false "dilemma" since this does refer to a choice.

    Dichotomy: Merriam-Webster:
    1 : a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities <the dichotomy between theory and practice>


    I'm not a logician but I would accept that attributing a certain result to either cause A or cause B is a false dichotomy if other causes are possible.


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
    • Posts: 4
    #5

    Re: False dichotomy-true or false?

    Thanks for your reply-very helpful.

    I would make the following 2 points:-
    (1)Management and players are 2 mutually exclusive groups (management in this instance does not include a "player manager").

    (2)The supporter does give the choice (of blame).

    Amongst the raft of examples Google throws up is the one of the car salesman offering a choice of blue or red car (when other colours are available).I don't see much difference between this and the choices the supporter offers,as in both examples other choices were available and not offered.

    Anyway,again thanks for your valued assistance


    • Join Date: Sep 2009
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    #6

    Re: False dichotomy-true or false?

    My thanks to all

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