Name for this type of fallacy?

It may not be a fallacy, exactly, but what do you call an argument that is structured so that any response supports it

For example:
Psychiatrist: Do you dream about cigars and hot dogs?
Patient: Yes.
Psychiatrist: This is a manifestation of your subconscious obsession with phalli

Psychiatrist: Do you dream about cigars and hot dogs?
Patient: No.
Psychiatrist: This is because you are suppressing your subconscious obsession with phalli

It’s not a great example, but it’s the best I could come up with at this hour.


False dichotomy.

No idea for the name of the fallacy, but perhaps a better example is asking someone if he is an alcoholic or other addict. Denying you’re an addict is one of the first symptoms of addiction.

An even better(?) trap is to ask a very homophobic guy: “Have you ever sucked a better cock than your dad’s?”

He loses either way. I personally have never used this, but I knew a guy who loved to spring this on homophobes. Man, things could turn south quick in those days…

That’s a ripoff of “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s not a fallacy, in that it’s not an example of reaching a conclusion through faulty reasoning.

I’d call it “jumping to conclusions.” It’s not a fallacy, it’s just overlooking a lot of alternative explanations. Maybe P’s dreaming of a hot dog because he really wants a hot dog. Maybe he’s not dreaming of a hot dog because he’s too busy dreaming about fellating a 14 inch penis.

The dialogues you’ve posted don’t clearly constitute arguments. I’d say that rather what they illustrate is an uninformative theory. “Uninformative” in the sense that it fails to rule anything out. For any possible occurance O within the domain of the theory, the theory would “explain” both the occurance O, and the occurance not-O.

On the other hand, we might read an argument into the dialogues. One reconstruction would go as follows:

If you dream about cigars, it’s because you are obsessed with penises. (Premise)
If you don’t dream about cigars, its because you are suppressing your obsession with penises. (Premise)
If you are suppressing your obsession with penises, then you are obsessed with penises. (By def. of suppression.)
So if you don’t dream about cigars, you are obsessed with penises. (From 2nd and 3rd lines)
Conclusion: You are obsessed with penises. (From 1st and 4th lines.)

That’s a valid argument, but of course its got some questionable premises. Why should I buy either of them? It seems like someone should believe them only if she assumes already that everyone is obsessed with penises. But if that assumption lies behind the two principles, then the argument is circular: it assumes that the patient is obsessed with penises, and also concludes that the patient is obsessed with penises.


What do you think false dichotomy means?

This is what’s called forced choice. You get it in magic tricks a lot: pick one of two cards. Pick this one? I will discard it, pick that one, I will discard the other and use it.

False dicotomy is when you act as if there are only two choices when there are many: either quit your job or admit you don’t love me!
Complex question is when a question assumes the answer to another, hidden question.

A false dichotomy is where you posit only two possibilities, then argue that since one is clearly ridiculous the other must be true.

I am far from clear what the OP is asking about since his example is not an example of an argument where any response supports it. But the OP doesn’t seem to describe a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have the characteristic: “there is only *this * and that, you agree it can’t be *that * so it must be this” formulation.

I’m not aware of any type of argument that is structured so that any response supports it. There are of course questions that, if answered in accordance with their own terms, will cause the answerer to tacitly agree with the question’s implicit assumption. That is, “loaded questions”. However, such questions are not arguments. Nor is it true to say that “any” response to such a question will support the implicit assumption (“mu”).

The example given is of a person being asked two questions. They are not loaded questions. Answering them does not support any argument.

In the examples given, the questioner has reached a conclusion namely that all men have a subconscious obsession with phalli, and that they either suppress that obsession or manifest it, by having or failing to have dreams about cigars and hot dogs, respectively. The questioner has reached that conclusion based on nothing given in the example.

That conclusion is neither supported nor contradicted by the answers given to the questions he asks.

A false dichotomy is an untrue belief or assumption that one is limited to two exclusive choices, when in fact there are more choices available. For example, the belief that one must either love or hate opera is a false dichotomy.

The OP does not involve a dichotomy, false or otherwise. It’s more a problem of presumption - the psychiatrist believes the patient is obsessed with penises and interprets everything the patient says in that light. I suppose you could call it a “hidden assumption.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Heads I win, tails you lose.

The example provided in the OP (cigar dream) is an example of a closed system of thought, in that either of the offered responses (Yes/No) can be subverted to support the premise that there is a psychological complex to be diagnosed and treated (when in fact there may not be).

An equivalent way of looking at it is to say it is a example of a hidden premise. The questioner is basing the question on the premise, or presumption, that a dream about a cigar has some deeper meaning or significance, when in fact this premise is itself open to question.

As others have noted, it is not any kind of ‘fallacy’ as such because it is not an example of false or flawed reasoning.

It is not strictly an example of a false dichotomy, although it can be seen as closely related. A false dichotomy, as some have noted, is to offer two choices as if these are the only possible choices, when in fact this might not be the case.

I agree with the broad thrust of what you say but not this bit. The responses do not in any way “support” the premise, even subversively. Rather, the psychiatrist’s theory provides an explanation for all possible answers to the question, so no matter what you answer his theory will cope, but the answers don’t support the premise.

The situation in the OP is called a “phallacy”

Sure it does. The Psychiatrist in the OP limits the possibilities to either (1) the patient’s phallic obsession with phalli causes him to dream about cigars, or (2) the patient has a phallic obsession but is repressing it, preventing him from dreaming about cigars. It ignores the 3rd (or more) possibility that the patient does not haev a phallic obsession.

I’d call it a predetermined conclusion. The response is pretty much irrelevant, since the person asking has already decided what the answer is, and is really just seeking validation. (“See, your dreams about hot dogs are proof that I’m right.”)