Ignored Alternatives

AKA: False Dilemma, False Dichotomy, Excluded Middle

The fallacy of presenting or considering fewer solutions or options than there actually are. If there are two options being offered, this can be called a False Dilemma. If three, it can be referred to as a False Trilemma. Those prone to polar thinking may whittle a situation down to two possible solutions or options.

For example, Charlotte's mother wants her to get a job at the wood mill, but Charlotte doesn't want to. Her mother declares "You will get a job at the wood mill - because I won't have you become a lazy shiftless bum like your Aunt Rachel!" This ignores the possibility of options that are neither working at the wood mill nor being a lazy shiftless bum - eg, getting a job somewhere else, or volunteering for a cause, or even something else entirely.

Or, Chad tells Rose and Tia a story about a girl named Daisy who can supposedly use her mind to move objects and set things on fire. Chad claims the story is true, and that he's even met Daisy and seen her use her abilities. Tia says that she doubts the story is true. Rose looks to Tia and says, "well, there are three options - either Daisy is lying, or she's mentally ill, or she's telling the truth. We know Daisy clearly isn't lying, and she's obviously not mentally ill - so she must be telling the truth!" Rose overlooks the possibility that Chad might be the one who is lying or mentally ill, and that the story he's telling is either greatly distorted or a complete fabrication or delusion.

Or, Dan has a book on the history and culture of a local town that contains a few stories of encounters with ghosts. Dan believes they're all true - but his friend Wanda doesn't. When Wanda says she doesn't believe them, Dan says, "Well, either this book is true or the author is a total liar - and the author is a respected history professor at a university who isn't exactly known for making things up, so I think it's safe to say he's not lying. So I think we can believe these stories!" Dan overlooks other possibilities - that the author isn't a liar himself, but he does believe in the supernatural and included the stories because he personally believes them to be true, or that he included them because he felt they were an important part of the local culture, not because he believed they were historical fact.

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