Is there a name for the assumption that, if two options or things are different from each other, one must be necessarily better than the other?

  • Could you give an example? Apples and oranges come to mind, "a false analogy... such as where an apple is faulted for not being a good orange".
    – Conifold
    Aug 21, 2021 at 21:23
  • I've noticed in discussions of science fiction, for example, where divisions are made between "hard" and "soft" or in discussions of fantasy as "high" or "low," emotions start running high quickly because the participants assume descriptions (usually "soft" and "low") are meant as pejoratives.
    – Cass
    Aug 22, 2021 at 4:16
  • Or, for another example, the idea that either an omnivore diet or a vegetarian diet must be the better one, when each is "better" along certain dimensions, or in certain situations. Or the idea one nose shape or skull shape (or other trivial physical detail) must be "better" than another. The most obvious name for this idea I could come up with is "false heirarchy" or "assuming a heirarchy," but these phrases don't seem to have been used this way before.
    – Cass
    Aug 22, 2021 at 4:26
  • If I catch your drift we can add snobbery, elitism and racism to that list. But in all of these examples it is not that people mistakenly assume there must be a ranking between two things, they affirmatively judge one as "morally superior" to the other. Terms for this, like illusory superiority, are more typically applied to people than things, but can be projected to diets or fiction too, where people attach themselves to the "high" vs "low". Much is wrong with such self-serving judgments, but it is not a mistake of reasoning or fact, I think. "Moral worth" is assigned, not inferred.
    – Conifold
    Aug 22, 2021 at 7:56
  • As formulated, "better than" implies an absolutism about differences (e.g. 19 would be in all cases, even independently of human minds, better than 37). Differences are subjective (depends on the subject) and relative (depends on the object). If x=10+9, then 19 is better than 37 for x (the object) in such equation, for my goals (the subject).
    – RodolfoAP
    May 18, 2022 at 13:55

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a false dichotomy.

"Better" or "more good" are very fluffy, vague terms. As you said, it may be that the options are entirely unrankable.

If someone is attempting to force ranking or choice, they are committing a false dichotomy because they are neglecting option 3; that both are equal or non comparable.

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