The FALSE DILEMMA
The False Dilemma fallacy(sometimes called ‘The Balck and White Fallacy’) involves a situation in which only two alternatives are presented (or considered) when in fact there are other options. This uses the following pattern of ‘reasoning’:
1. Either claim X is true or claim Y is true (when X and Y could both be false).
2. Claim Y is false.
3. Therefore claim X is true.
This line of ‘reasoning’ is clearly fallacious because if both claims could be false, then it cannot be inferred that one is true because the other is false. That this is the case is made clear by the following example:
1. Either 1+1= 4 or 1+1= 12.
2. It is not the case that 1+1= 4.
3. Therefore 1+1= 12.
= this is clearly false!
“… we need to be aware that there can only be two sides – either they accept our [secular] way of life or leave the country… either they are with us in this matter of stopping the tide of political Islam or they are with the terrorists in our midst who threaten our way of life…”
- False dilemmas can be very dangerous especially in the minds of the listeners. Often, the seriousness of the subject matter clouds any objective analysis of the argument.
- The presentation of only two options (either “our way of life” or “the terrorists”) in the example is clearly false. What about those not part of the way of life of the proponent, e.g. fundamentalist Christians who reject western liberal secularism and reject Islam?
- The da`wa carrier must be aware that often false dilemma arguments will be used to trap, to confuse and to intimidate.
- Being on guard against this is especially important so as to avoid being caught on the ‘horns’ of a dilemma when in actual fact there is no real dilemma at all.