Black or White
Also: False Dichotomy, Either Or, All or Nothing, Binary Thinking
Class: Distort > Exaggerate
Oversimplifying a problem to yes/no or either/or, when really it is more complicated.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a racist book!
Well, racism is a continuum, not a coin. The book was very progressive for its time, just not by today’s standards.
He’s a total sexist! He always calls women “Sugar”.
Sexism is a spectrum, not a switch. Wouldn’t you say some guys are far more sexist than that? So does that make him a “total” sexist, or somewhere in the middle?
The police are racist!
That’s a broad blanket statement. Do you think every police officer is racist?
Of course not.
So some are racist. Should they be allowed to remain racist?
So we agree that some are racist and that needs to stop. We have a common goal!
Sexism affects boys too. They don’t have the freedom to be emotional or care about fashion.
It’s not like girls have total freedom!
I agree, but it’s not a contest. Isn’t it possible that boys have challenges too, even if girls have it worse?
Social media platforms are having difficulty programming filters to detect misinformation.
No, they’re just not trying, because they profit from it!
Well, it’s both. The executives are probably only half trying, but the engineers are sincerely trying.
Foolacy vs. Fallacy

Black-or-White is a type of Exaggeration, specifically exaggerating to two extremes. This is the common name for False Dilemma and False Dichotomy.

False Dilemma is when you argue there are only two choices when really there are more. But I could not find any good examples as a fallacy. Most examples were just contrived and unrealistic. And the others don’t seem like a cheat: people often pose dilemmas to help put your choices in perspective between two extremes, like, “Do you want a boring 9-to-5 job, or do you want to follow your passions?” The listener is not being tricked into thinking those are the only two choices. This rhetorical device is fair and common, not really a fallacy.

False Dichotomy is when you assume there are only two conditions when really there are multiple or a continuum. But this is not always a cheat. Legal trials come down to guilty or not guilty; elections come down to one party or the other. Debates are divided into two sides, pro and con. (Having said that, this thinking gets in the way of finding a better third option or making improvements, but it’s still not a fallacy.)

“Love it or leave it” and “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem” are common examples, but I found they’re used more as cliche expressions and rhetorical devices, not really arguments that fool anyone.

There were so many Black-or-White argument examples that I added two more specific foolacies which overlap as subtypes of Black-or-White:

Archenemy is like “If you’re not for me you’re against me.”

Perfectionist is like “The solution doesn’t fix everything so reject it,” and “You were wrong once so you’re unqualified.” (The quizzes accept either Perfectionist or Black-or-White as correct answers for many of these.)

Racism and sexism are common examples of Black-or-White (no pun intended). People often argue that people/institutions either “are” or “are not” racist/sexist, ignoring the continuum in-between. Or that men cannot argue for men’s rights as if sexism were either/or.

Examples like “Vote for this bill or you’ll ruin our country!” are saying if-action-A-then-consequence-B. They are binary rhetoric, but not good examples of false dilemmas or dichotomies. They fit better as Exaggerating and maybe Scare Tactics.
These are Level 3-4 examples   Show Analysis

© Critical Thinking Project   Privacy   Help   Suggest/Contact