I don't know why I see this so often.

When I say, it may not be good to sell 35 years of your life to the corporate world in a stressful way being golden handcuffed by a high salary or stock, somebody would say, "you can always go to a burger place and earn $15 an hour. No one is stopping you."

So while I am saying it may not be good to get US$300k or $350k per year and work like crazy, they'd say, you can always work at a $30k per year job. There are many jobs out there that are $120k, $160k, and many people live a happy life getting that salary, especially if they choose not to live in the high living cost California or New York.

So what is this "make it go all the way to the other extreme so that now it seems stupid" and then it seems they have proven their point? What is the name of this? I see it as one of the most stupid things.

  • 1
    From the movie Terminator (Salvation), Marcus Wright: (looks at Kyle eating) What is that? Kyle Reese: Two day old coyote. Better than three day old coyote. 😄 The Kyle Reese Fallacy
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 1:57
  • I've never heard a reduction to absurdity: that extreme. Just as important, some people like that much stress.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 5:34
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    A much better question would be "it may not be good to get US$90k or *$95k per year and work like crazy". That I've heard, to which the quite reasonable reply is: if you don't like it, find a better job.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 5:37
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    Sounds like a variant of the straw man fallacy: "when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion."
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 6:24
  • The dramatic difference, is that after even a fairly short period at high pay, savings can allow many options, retraining, starting a business &c. But, people get hooked on status, high spending, & can become workaholics.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 13:16

3 Answers 3


This is an invalid (although very informal) reduction to absurdity: the interlocutor is contesting the claim by contending that, if the claim is accepted, an obviously false result logically follows. Invalid reductions to absurdity are sometimes called appeals to extremes.

The errors made in this invalid reduction to absurdity include a strawman argument: the interlocutor is making a claim that you did not make, equating it to your claim, and arguing against the made-up claim instead.

Another error is a false dichotomy: the interlocutor is suggesting that only two possibilities exist, while the existence of other possibilities is readily apparent.

Keep in mind... knowing and being able to name and categorize common types of logical fallacies or cognitive errors is useful to you. However, naming your interlocutor's errors to your interlocutor is not useful. It is much more useful to simply describe the error or clarify your position. Instead of "X or Y is a false dichotomy!" just say "X and Y aren't the only possibilities, so you don't have to choose between them." Instead of "A is a strawman!" just say "I don't mean A, my claim is B."

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    I think your last point is important and often understated, but I think "false dichotomy" is generally intuitive and known well enough that you can say it in an argument. "Begging the question" and "post-hoc ergo propter hoc", definitely not.
    – llama
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 15:02
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    I like the retort "why does it have to be one or the other?"
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 13:41
  • I am perplexed. Maybe you could make your argument clearer for people like me. In what was does the the interlocutor suggest that a particular result follows? Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 0:09
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. the semi-formalized version of the argument would look like this: Suppose the premise: high paying jobs are not worth the stress and time commitment relative to the alternative. One alternative is an entry-level unskilled service job, which must be the alternative that is meant. The choice is between the high-paying high-stress job and unskilled service work. The premise therefore means that unskilled service work is the best job to have. Since people obviously do not like such jobs, the premise must be false.
    – g s
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 3:45

The argumentative strategy you're describing is known as a "false dichotomy". The other person only thinks about only two possible scenarios as if they were the only options available.

In this context the other person is presenting a false dichotomy: either you earn a high salary and work like crazy, or you earn a low wage at a fast-food restaurant with low to zero stress.

They are ignoring the middle ground, which includes other options such as working a job that pays moderately well but also respects work-life balance.

Another term for this type of argument is "reduction to absurdity," where one refutes an argument by showing the absurdity of its logical conclusion. In this case, they are taking your initial point and reducing it to an absurdly oversimplified choice between two extremes.


This is a form of mockery

Expressing yourself in a crude or extreme way appears tough and can end an argument more quickly than victory through logic.

Your interlocutor is presenting an obvious false dichotomy, as if your employment choices were between stressful work in high finance and a junior role in the service industry.

They are doing this because stating such a stark dichotomy sounds tough. The subtext here is expressed by the idiom "If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen"; your interlocutor wants to portray your complaints as whiny and baby-ish - shaming you into withdrawing from further debate.

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