# Dictionary Definition

dilemma n : state of uncertainty or perplexity
especially as requiring a choice between equally unfavorable
options [syn: quandary]

# User Contributed Dictionary

see Dilemma

## English

### Etymology

First attested 1523, from dilemma, from Ancient δίλήμμα (dilémma), "double proposition", from δι (di) + (lémma), premise, proposition### Pronunciation

- , /daɪˈlɛmə/ or /dɪˈlɛmə/, /daI"lEm@/ or /dI"lEm@/
- Rhymes: -ɛmə

### Noun

- A circumstance in which a choice must be made between two alternatives that seem equally undesirable.
- (disputed) A difficult circumstance or problem.
- A type of syllogism of the form "if A is true then B is true; if C is true then D is true; either A or C is true; therefore either B or D is true".

#### Usage notes

- The original meaning of this term is a choice between two alternatives only, by dint of its etymology. While some speakers and writers use the term as a synonym for "problem", this usage is considered nonstandard, and is avoided by careful users.

#### Synonyms

#### Derived terms

#### Translations

circumstance in which a choice must be made
between two alternatives

difficult circumstance

in logic

### See also

## Dutch

### Noun

- dilemma (between two alternatives)

## Italian

### Noun

- dilemma (between two alternatives)

#### Related terms

# Extensive Definition

A dilemma (Greek δί-λημμα "double proposition")
is a problem offering at
least two solutions or possibilities, of which none are practically
acceptable; one in this position has been traditionally described
as being impaled on the horns of a dilemma, neither horn being
comfortable.

The dilemma is sometimes used as a rhetorical device, in the
form "you must accept either A, or B"; here A and B would be
propositions each leading to some further conclusion. Applied in
this way, it may be a fallacy, a false
dichotomy.

In formal logic, the definition of a dilemma
differs markedly from everyday usage. Two options are still
present, but choosing between them is immaterial because they both
imply the same conclusion. Symbolically expressed thus:

A \vee B, A \Rightarrow C, B \Rightarrow C \vdash
C

Which can be translated informally as "one (or
both) of A or B is known to be true, but they both imply C, so
regardless of the truth values of A and B we can conclude C."

Horned dilemmas can present more than two
choices. The number of choices of Horned dilemmas can be used in
their alternative names, such as two-pronged (two-horned) or
dilemma proper , or three-pronged (three-horned) or trilemma, and so on.

Constructive dilemmas--

- 1. (If X, then Y) and (If W, then Z).
- 2. X or W.
- 3. Therefore, Y or Z.

Destructive dilemmas--

- 1. (If X, then Y) and (If W, then Z).
- 2. Not Y or not Z.
- 3. Therefore, not X or not W.

## Responses to a Dilemma

In
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert
Pirsig outlines possible responses to a dilemma. The classical
responses are to either choose one of the two horns and refute the
other or alternatively to refute both horns by showing that there
are additional choices. Pirsig then mentions three illogical or
rhetorical responses. One can "throw sand in the bull's eyes" by,
for example, questioning the competence of the questioner. One can
"sing the bull to sleep" by, for example, stating that the answer
to the question is beyond one's own humble powers and asking the
questioner for help. Finally one can "refuse to enter the arena"
by, for example, stating that the question is unanswerable.

## Named dilemmas

dilemma in German: Dilemma

dilemma in Spanish: Dilema

dilemma in French: Dilemme

dilemma in Hebrew: דילמה

dilemma in Dutch: Dilemma

dilemma in Japanese: ジレンマ

dilemma in Portuguese: Dilema

dilemma in Slovak: Dilema

dilemma in Finnish: Dilemma

dilemma in Swedish: Dilemma

# Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Aristotelian sorites, Goclenian sorites, Gordian
knot, Scylla and Charybdis, baffle, bafflement, bewilderment, bind, bother, box, catch-22, categorical
syllogism, choice of Hercules, confoundment, confusion, corner, crux, deadlock, difficulty, discomposure, disconcert, disconcertedness,
disconcertion,
disconcertment,
disturbance,
embarrassment,
enigma, enthymeme, figure, fix, hole, impasse, jam, knot, knotty point, mode, modus tollens, mood, mystery, mystification, no choice,
node, nodus, nonplus, only choice, oxymoron, paradox, paralogism, perplexity, perturbation, pickle, plight, pons asinorum, poser, pother, predicament, problem, prosyllogism, pseudosyllogism,
puzzle, puzzlement, quandary, riddle, rule, rule of deduction, scrape, snooker, sorites, spot, squeeze, stalemate, stew, stymie, syllogism, teaser, trouble, unassuredness, upset, vexed
question