8: False Dilemma & Strawman

Informal Fallacies

Key Terms

Modus Ponens
Modus Tollens
Disjunctive Syllogism
Reduction Fallacy
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
False Dilemma
Straw Man

  • Not logical
  • Pseudo-reasoning (false reasoning)
  • Unsound arguments

Fallacies in Debating

  • Deny, confuse, or falsify an argument most often in a debate
  • Six types:
    • False Dilemma
    • Straw Man
    • Special Pleading
    • Slippery Slope
    • Meaningless Jargon
    • Weasel Words

False Dilemma

  • Only two options are presented to a difficult problem, when more are possible
  • Used to boost the perceived reasonableness of one position by offering a far less desirable choice as the only other alternative


  • Either you agree with the President, or you're not a real American.
  • Either we cut spending on education or America will go bankrupt.
  • You either agree with my interpretation of the text, or you're a heretic.

Straw Man

  • Opponent's argument is misrepresented (or underrepresented) such that the substance of the argument is replaced by an easily defeatable position.
  • Quote taken out of context
  • Ignoring key points of an argument
  • Causes superficial attacks to seem more damaging


  • Senator Smith wants to reduce our military spending overseas.
    • Therefore, Senator Smith hates America.
  • Darwin teaches evolution, which promotes the classification of greater and lesser species.
    • Therefore, we shouldn't study genetics because Darwin was racist.


  • Conclusions drawn from insufficient information
  • Minimize and misrepresent the target's argument