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A false dichotomy, or false dilemma, is a dichotomy (a set of two mutually exclusive, jointly exhaustive alternatives) of arguments that ignores the potential:

  • for an infinite set of alternative arguments;
  • for an infinite number of overlapping arguments; or
  • for the potential that neither part of the dichotomy is correct.

A false dichotomy is often employed by an arguer to force the other side into an extreme position by assuming that there are only two possible positions. At its essence, it says “you are either with us or against us,” which ignores all of the other possibilities, such as “we are with you on points A and B, but against you on points C, D, and E.”

Example of a false dichotomy

Anti-vaxxer: Vaccines are so dangerous that you either support vaccines which means you hate children, or you’re against vaccines which means you love children.

Pro-vaxxer: In fact, the adverse effects of vaccines are so small, and the risk of complications from vaccine-preventable pathogens is so large, the evidence supports the use of vaccines. The argument should be that the benefits far outweigh the risks so preventing disease is what is important.

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