Entrenched in a false dilemma

Someone says that if you do not like or appreciate something that they do (e.g. art, music, an ideology) then you must not understand it – come on, you’ve met this type in your life before; or perhaps you are that person or maybe you are reading the words of one these people right now.

As if the only available options are:

1) You understand, therefore you approve. Namely, you approve because you understand.


2) You do not understand, therefore you do not (or, limiting your cognitive abilities, cannot) approve. You do not approve because you do not (cannot) understand.

Holy false dilemma, Batman! As if understanding could not possibly be accompanied by disapproval. Or that a matter of preference is an irrefutable proof, a self-evident truth.

So, a conversation may go something like this:

“What! You don’t like Lady Gaga?! Well, you can’t possibly understand her artistry and her message then.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I understand what she is doing – the fashion, the choreography, the accessible music that suggests transgression. Lady Gaga is a talented songwriter and musician but she just doesn’t make music I enjoy. I prefer Robyn for dance music.”

“Like I said, you don’t understand her. But it’s okay, you were just born that way.”

N.B. This notion of approval/affirmation and understanding does not reach toward deductive arguments. Of course, if a person does not approve/affirm a valid deductive argument then it is probably fair to say that they do not understand.

Also, Lady Gaga was used simply as an example. No little monsters were harmed in the making of these thoughts.


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