Fallacy of the excluded middle

So many times we believe that there are only two choices, that something is either good or bad, and there is nothing in between.

As Hamlet said in Act II, scene 2, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

But this is a fallacy, and it has a name: The fallacy of the excluded middle. Here’s an example:

  • Too much water, and you drown.
  • Not enough water, and you die of thirst.

Therefore, water is always a bad thing and we should avoid it, right?

“You’re either with us, or against us,” I’m told. Not necessarily. Perhaps I support some of what you do, some of the time, in my own way.

Humans can’t achieve perfection, but nothing is ever a total failure either. I find that everything is somewhere in the middle.

2 Responses to “Fallacy of the excluded middle”

  1. Dario Says:

    No to be picky Stephen, but I think your first example is a counter example of what you’re railing against.

    Too much water you drown, then the middle where one is hydrated and happy, and then of course the death due to not having enough.

  2. Stephen Says:

    I’m not sure I follow how my example is a counter-example. The fallacy of the excluded middle says that you can’t just look at either extreme (no water, too much water) but you have to look at the middle as well. I’m saying that the same thing applies many other places as well — that nothing is either good/bad or black/white but usually somewhere in the middle (mostly good, mostly bad, a mixed bag).

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