Four students arrive too late for an exam, and the professor turns them away. They protest: "we're late because our car got a flat tyre on the way to the University". The professor has his doubts, but says they can sit a retake. The four students arrive on the day agreed for the retake. The professor takes them one by one to a small room, and gives them a sheet of paper with a single question: ‘Which tyre was flat?’. A tricky dilemma - perhaps it's better that they own up that the story was untrue - or should they guess?
Maybe not a classic ‘Dilemma’, but there are numerous definitions of a dilemma, such as that given in the Oxford dictionary: ‘a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.’
The word dilemma has many meanings and uses
Although the word Dilemma has many uses, it always means a choice between at least two equally desirable or more often, undesirable options. So not simply a choice between ‘ the best of both worlds’, but more frequently a choice between ‘the worst of two worlds.’
Dilemmas can be straightforward: do you want to eat out, or do you want to go shopping? But if you want to be pedantic, the word ‘dilemma’ should really only be used when a tricky choice has to be made between equally (un)attractive options. A really great example can be found in the film ‘127 Hours’. This tells the true story of Aron Dalston who had to decide between severing his own forearm to free himself after a climbing accident, or to do nothing and remain trapped - and probably dieing. Not a choice many of us would like to make.
Other types of dilemmas
‘If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem’ is sometimes referred to as a ‘false dilemma’. If we take a closer look, this is not really a true dilemma. It’s more a question of ‘for and against’, rather than making clear which is the best choice between two undesirable options. What’s more, the statement was made by Eldridge Cleaver, who although admittedly a writer, was also a political activist with an infamous past.
But what about if a truck driver’s brakes fail, and he has two options: to bring his vehicle to a halt he can either steer towards the left side of the road where a single person is walking, or steer towards the other side where a family group is standing? This dilemma involves an ethical/moral element.
Dilemmas of our time
You may have come across ‘Warnock’s dilemma’ in Internet jargon, a term that suggests there can be a number of reasons why there’s no reaction to a message on Internet. A lack of reaction doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no interest in the message, or that it’s not been read. It could instead be that no commentary is needed – in other words, there’s nothing more to be said. Or perhaps no-one understands the message or they think it’s nonsense, or even that no-one is willing to react for whatever reason. There's no right or wrong in this form of dilemma - and often no solution. Politicians and economists often struggle with this type of dilemma, think for instance of the Grexit issue!
Download DilemmaMatch, take up the challenge!
The emphasis in our DilemmaMatch app is more nuanced - it’s not always a question of choosing between two ‘bad’ or two negative choices, but rather about finding out how others thinks on a whole variety of topics. As well as answering dilemmas in DilemmaMatch, you can give reasons why you make a particular choice or have a certain opinion. Besides being a fun app to use, our app can also help you come into contact with people who have similar opinions. DilemmaMatch’s unique matching algorithim finds links between like-minded users.
In other words, DilemmaMatch’s approach is completely different to that used by other social media platforms: (and if you dare to be honest!) you’ll be rewarded with greater insight into how others see the world, and can find out what other people think about topics of interest to you, or which are important to you.