Beware the false dichotomy

There are many logical fallacies in our world, used innocently and on purpose to mislead us from the great truths available. One day I hope to provide a more exhaustive resource, but for now this will serve as a sample.

A logical fallacy is a piece of reasoning that appears sensible and conclusive, but is not.

Such is the false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is presented as a situation or decision with only two outcomes, when in fact there are many more avenues.

For example, in our world right now, Black Lives Matter is a hot topic. A false dichotomy would be whether a person supports them or not. Only two choices, and one makes a person look like a racist, so there is kind of only one choice.

This is false. There are many levels and kinds of support. Idealogical, logistical, financial. Do I post on Facebook? Do I feed protestors? Am I a protestor? Do I insert my body between a police officer and the person they are beating or choking?

So it is with many situations. There are almost always more than two choices in a situation.

The Bait

This fallacy is inviting because it’s easy. We want easy, simple, direct. It provides a sense of confidence that we made a good decision. We want to be sure. The problem is that this desire is used against us.

The Trap

The false dichotomy is used to manipulate us by eliminating all the choices the presenter doesn’t want us to see, and we are left with only two: the one they want us to pick, and the one they are hoping we don’t want to pick. See the manipulation?

By hiding all the other choices, and making one of the two undesirable, the presenter has herded us to THEIR desired outcome.

The Prod

Urgency is used to force the decision. “This opportunity only exists now. Hurry!”. Again with the herding! Be wary of anyone insisting on your urgency. There are situations where their motives may be pure, and many where they won’t be.

The Escape

I have recognized that, in a false dichotomy, there is always a third option: Gather more information.

This option kills the urgency to decide, and can lead to the discovery of more options.

Also recognize that just because someone else is herding you to a decision doesn’t necessarily make that option bad. You may still choose it, but choose it on YOUR terms, for your reasons.

Challenge: Recognize the false dichotomies in your own thinking and the thinking of others. Explore the third option. Observe how things change or end up differently because you did.

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