Either/Or Fallacy: Examples & Overview

Either/Or Fallacy: Examples & Overview
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  • 0:01 Fallacy
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ben Nickol
This lesson examines the either/or logical fallacy, whereby a party in an argument characterizes a complex problem as having only two possible solutions.

Fallacy

When presenting an argument, whether orally or in writing, the goal is to convince an audience to agree with a point of view. To do that, we must appeal to our audience's sense of logic. They must see for themselves why what we're arguing is valid.

There are quite a few ways to construct valid logical arguments. We can present reliable evidence, use measured reasoning, concede other points, etc. But likewise, there are many ways to fail at constructing logical arguments; to construct arguments that might at first seem logical but in fact, make no sense. When we make the latter kind of argument, it is called committing a fallacy.

There are several kinds of fallacies, but this lesson will focus on what's called an either/or fallacy, whereby the arguer characterizes a complex problem with many possible solutions, as having only two possible solutions: one desirable and one not.

Examples of Either/Or Fallacy

Unfortunately, one of the most bountiful places to hunt for logical fallacies is political debates. Imagine that two politicians are arguing about gun control. What follows are a pair of either/or fallacies, one made by Politician A and another by Politician B.

Politician A:
While gun violence is tragic, it is essential that we protect the right to bear arms. Americans must have the means to defend themselves. If the government restricts gun rights, then what we'll have is a situation where the only people with guns will be criminals, and those criminals will run our society.

Why is this an either/or fallacy? While this politician could certainly find valid arguments for his views, this is not one of them. The way he's characterized the situation, there are only two possible choices leading to two possible outcomes. Either the right to bear arms is preserved, or criminals run society. Aren't there other options? Couldn't the right to bear arms be limited and still protected? Wouldn't limiting the availability of firearms also make it harder for criminals to obtain them? Wouldn't police still have weapons? Because the politician ignored all these complicating factors and other potential solutions, he has committed an either/or fallacy.

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