Avoiding False Alternatives

The following is adapted from the new book Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue from City Lights Books.

If a healthy political culture is rooted in conversation and based on honest argumentation, then one of the most corrosive rhetorical tactics is the use of false alternatives.

An argument based on false alternatives keeps people from considering the full range of relevant possibilities. Typically, this involves presenting an issue as if there are two – and only two – possible courses of action, one of which is unattractive for practical and/or moral reasons. An argument from false alternatives also routinely builds into its claim one or more assumptions that could be challenged.

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