False Dilemma

The false dilemma fallacy occurs when a speaker rhetorically backs his or her audience into a corner, presenting them with only two options and arguing that they must choose either one or the other. This is also known as the “either/or” fallacy. Critical thinkers know that the world can’t be simplified to black and white, good and bad, or right and wrong. Yet many people rely on such oversimplifications when making arguments. A speaker who argues that immigrants to the United States should learn English or go back to their own country doesn’t acknowledge that there are many successful immigrants who have successful lives and contribute to society without speaking English fluently. The speaker also ignores the fact that many immigrants do not have access to English language instruction or the time to take such classes because they are busy with their own jobs and families. Granted, such a rhetorical strategy does make it easier to discuss complex issues and try to force people into a decision, but it also removes gray area in the form of context that can be really important for making a decision. Be critical of speakers and messages that claim there are only two options from which to choose.

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