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False Dilemma – Expanded

June 1st, 2010 No comments

-A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered. As a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore between taking the option or not; “take it or leave it”. The phrase is said to originate from Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner at Cambridge, England. To rotate the use of his horses he offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door or taking none at all.

-An apparently free choice that offers no real alternative.

-No real choice at all – the only options being to either accept or refuse the offer that is given to you.

The Spectator, No. 509, 1712, explains how Hobson did business, which shows clearly how the phrase came into being: “He lived in Cambridge, and observing that the Scholars rid hard, his manner was to keep a large Stable of Horses, … when a Man came for a Horse, he was led into the Stable, where there was great Choice, but he obliged him to take the Horse which stood next to the Stable-Door; so that every Customer was alike well served according.”

The most celebrated application of Hobson’s choice in the 20th century was Henry Ford’s offer of the Model-T Ford in ‘any color you like, so long as it’s black’.

Categories: Logic