False dilemma is a specific form of reasoning: despite the fact that it is based on a deductively valid argument form, it is rightly depicted as fallacy. A systematic exposition of false dilemma is missing in theoretical approaches to fallacies. This article formulates six criteria for a well-grounded exposition of a fallacy, suggesting also a systematic exposition of false dilemma. These criteria can be used to both explain, and categorise, the various false dilemma fallacies. The article introduces distinction between four types of false dilemma (and the respective subtypes): (1) False quandary, (2) Defeasible sound quandary, (3) False obstruction and (4) Defeasible sound obstruction. The types of criticism appropriate for each variant of false dilemma are suggested. Being able to discover false dilemma in situations when it is important to make good and free choices is a significant dimension of critical thinking. It may liberate us from accepting the consequences that necessarily follow from prearranged alternatives, when these are not the only alternatives possible. It may also liberate us from refraining from actions on the basis of obstructive disjunctive statements. In that respect, the faculty of critical thinking directed at uncovering reasoning based on false dilemma may also initiate the discovery of new alternatives, or discover the ways of unifying seemingly opposing alternatives. Thus, a well-developed ability to understand the tricky argumentative moves of false dilemma may be a good step towards initiating some features of creative thinking.
KeywordsFalse dilemma Constructive dilemma Destructive dilemma Fallacies Fallacy Argumentation structure Defeasible argument Critical thinking Argument criticism Argumentation theory
I would like to express my deep gratitude to two anonymous reviewers of the article, engaged in the valuable peer-review process provided by the journal Argumentation. Their detailed, analytical, responsible and intelligent comments, grounded in a high level of expertise in the field of argumentation, have been of a great advantage for improving the quality of the article. Many thanks to George Masterton, for proofreading of the first draft of the article, and to Martin Korpi for proofreading of the accepted version. I am grateful to my family for outdoor life, math and love.
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