All the chewy goodness of fallacious reasoning in new fun-sized bites!

According to John Nolt et al., the fallacy of false dichotomy rests under the broader category of fallacies of false premises. In other words, the fallacy or error in thinking in this particular regard lies in the premise itself. The fallacy of false dichotomy “is committed when we make the false assumption that only one of a number of alternatives holds.”[1]

For example:

Either you support same sex marriage or you are a hater and a homophobe.
You do not support same sex marriage.
Therefore, you must be a hater and a homophobe.

Clearly, there are more positions that an individual can have than the ones described above. Perhaps, an indifferent person has no opinion either way and has decided to remain neutral in this area. Perhaps, a Christian holds a principled conviction while not bearing any ill-will towards a gay person. None of these fit into the false dichotomy characterized above. Therefore, the premise is false.

Also, do not be persuaded by visual campaign ads like NOH8 which many use to implicitly convey the false dichotomy that principled disagreement equates to hate. It is sad to see that this particular confusion currently pervades Western culture. Beware of the fallacy of false dichotomy.

The best way to point out someone’s fallacy is by using the Columbo tactic as laid out in the Funsized Tactics series. There are plenty of excellent resources available in book, e-book, or PDF format. Two good places to start, with regard to formal and informal fallacies, are A Preface to Philosophy by Mark B. Woodhouse and Schaum’s Outlines: Logic by John Nolt, Dennis Rohatyn, and Achille Varzi.

[1] John Nolt, Dennis Rohatyn, and Achille Varzi, Schaum’s Outlines: Logic, 2nd ed. (New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011), 215.