Please Stop: False Dichotomies

A false dichotomy is a powerful tool, one that our old fiction friend Jack Bauer often used.

“You only have two choices here: let me torture him mercilessly or let the world explode…” or something to that effect.

There are true dichotomies. If you only have a standard light switch in the room it’s either on or off. No cuts, no buts, no coconuts. It’s even helpful at times to point it out – especially to children who like to play with light switches:

“It’s either on or off!”

But political decisions (or most complex decisions) are not so clear-cut. For the most part when it comes to politics there are a multitude of options. Don’t give into the false dichotomy. The person using this logical ploy is trying to convince you – not help you.

Did you see that? That was a false dichotomy. It is entirely possible that a person is using a false dichotomy as a normal part of rhetoric without trying to manipulate you. Maybe the person is trying to give you information benignly – or trying to convince you in order to help you – or any other number of reasons.

But did you see how it worked? Did it get you for a second?

Look out for them and ask, “Why only two options? Aren’t there more?”

Often enough you will see that the person using a false dichotomy in the political arena is trying to hide the other possibilities so as to make his or her solution seem most plausible. It very well may be, but that’s not up to them. It’s up to you.


In case you’re wondering…

In my world right now the argument from both sides of the Presidential Election runs this way: if you don’t vote at all, you’re voting for (insert the name of the candidate the person ¬†opposes). So, how is this possible? By not voting I’m actually voting for both candidates???

No. I’m not voting for either of them, which is an option that breaks the false dichotomy and keeps my moral compass pointed in a direction that makes me feel true to my values.

So, please: no false dichotomies.

If you really want to know how I nuance the argument, stay tuned…I’ll be writing tomorrow on how a Philosophy professor helped me this week with advice from 15 years ago…

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