My favorite example in this is the “I have to lie about those jeans looking good on her, because if I don’t I’m falling into the trap, and she calls me an asshole.”
Which is utter bullshit.
You know what being an asshole is. And you know when you’re doing it. Maybe you even get a sort of smug self-satisfaction from it, because you thought you were being baited.
“Do these jeans make me look fat?”
“No, your fat makes you look fat.”
There? See how easy it is to spot someone being an asshole?
And people tell me constantly that that is WHY THEY HAVE TO LIE. Because otherwise, they will be assholes.
Let me say that again: People claim they have to lie or be an asshole.
This is a logical fallacy.
False Dichotomy, False Dilemma or Excluded Middle Fallacy:
When only two choices are presented yet more exist, or a spectrum of possible choices exists between two extremes. False dilemmas are usually characterized by “either this or that” language, but can also be characterized by omissions of choices. Another variety is the false trilemma, which is when three choices are presented when more exist. || Many people use Aristotelian either/or logic tending to describe in terms of up/down, black/white, true/false, love/hate, etc. (e.g., You either like it or you don’t. He either stands guilty or not guilty.) Many times, a continuum occurs between the extremes that people fail to see. The universe also contains many “maybes.” source, [another source]
These are used in political manipulation all the time, in the format of, “if you don’t agree with me on this, you are a monster,” or “If they have ever lied in the past, they can never be believed about anything,” and so on.
Here on FetLife:
- If you love X kink or lifestyle, then you are against Y kink or lifestyle.
- If you are not into N kink or lifestyle, then you believe it’s wrong.
- If you speak out against D kink or lifestyle, you hate me and all I stand for.
And we don’t just use these against others, we use them against ourselves:
- I go to my parent’s place for the holiday, or I am a bad/ungrateful child.
- I either go to the party tonight, or I will have no friends.
- I lose weight, or I will never be loved.
And so on.
BUT, usually, even when we use these false dichotomies against ourselves, we’ve gotten them from somewhere, from someone else, who has an agenda.
And that’s worth exploring.
- Who gave us this belief?
- What was their benefit in doing so?
- Does it benefit us at all to maintain it?
- How does it harm us to believe this?
Those last two are BOTH important to ask. Because we may find benefit, sure. Hell, false dichotomy fallacies are super easy (and lazy), and that’s a benefit of less thinky stuff.
If we look we may also find quite a bit of harm to our friendships, our relationships, and our decision-making, too.
Just look at some arguments you’ve had or read online recently, and I’m sure you can come up with numerous examples.
So, I thought I’d throw this out here as a PSA.
What false dichotomy fallacies have you been subjected to, or fallen for yourself? How did you reason around them?
OR, what might you need help with?