A dilemma, also called a pinch, is the compulsion of a person who has to choose between two possibilities that are equally difficult and unpleasant. Accordingly, the dilemma is always a situation which offers several ways out, but none of them leads to the desired result. Furthermore, the choice between two positive things can be called a dilemma. If there are three options to choose from, one usually speaks of a trilemma, there are several options, from a polylemma.

The noun can be derived from the Greek (δί-λημμα) and with two-part assumption, the majority (plural) is formed with dilemmas, but also dilemmas. This translation already refers to the fundamental point: an assumption, ie the presumption of a person from which two possibilities arise. One differentiates between positive and negative dilemmas.

The positive dilemma describes a situation that describes two ways out, but both lead to the desired result. It is therefore no matter which way the person chooses. For example, a person might be very hungry, and in the refrigerator there are exactly two meals – no matter which meal is consumed, the person is then full.

The negative dilemma means a situation that shows two ways out, with no one leading to the positive result. The dilemma is thus destroyed itself. For example, two people may be suffering from severe hunger, with only one meal available that could save a person. If person A is killed, inevitably person B. Consume B food, A must die. Who gets the food now?

Note: In general, however, the negative form is usually meant when the term is used. Most of the examples in philosophy and literature also deal with this form of the constraint, which describes a form of hopelessness (cf. Aporia).

Examples of the dilemma
In the following we would like to mention some well-known examples from the philosophy as well as the literature in order to illustrate the pinch mill even more clearly. The presented examples thus show two possibilities for the person concerned, which lead to an undesirable result.

Lifeboat dilemma
The rescue boat dilemma, also referred to as the board of the carneade, is a thought experiment of philosophy and is, in its original form, attributed to the Greek philosopher, Karneades. Since, however, Karneades himself did not write any writings, the known form is handed down only by the philosopher Cicero, who calls him the source. Consider the following situation:

In a storm a ship capsizes and sinks to the sea bottom. Two shipwrecked survive the disaster. In the wild water drifts a wooden plank (narrow board). which, however, could only bear one of the two. If both men try to stay above the water with the plank, they would drown. One of the shipwrecked ones decides to kill the other to save himself and survive.

One man therefore faced the dilemma of either dying and not committing a crime, or of surviving the misfortune through the murders of the other. Both possibilities do not lead to the desired result that both survive and illustrate the dilemma. The example raises legal philosophical and ethical questions. In the case of criminal law, too, the example can be used as a case study of whether a person’s life may be sacrificed to save one’s own life.

Cicero himself, who leads the example, comes to the conclusion that a fair selection is basically not possible. Only one batch process can lead to a result. Similarly, the judgments of the jurisprudence are in most cases absent. Cicero gives the dilemma with the following words:

Suppose, however, there is only one board, but two shipwrecked, and both are wise men. Should every one of them seek to tear himself to himself, or should he abandon himself to the other? It is to be ceded, but to the one who is worth more to keep his own affairs […] alive. But what if they have equal claims in both respects? There will be no dispute, but one will leave the other the precedent, as if he had lost by lots.

prisoner’s dilemma
The Prisoner’s dilemma is a frequent example in philosophy and game theory. The example is about two prisoners or two players who theoretically have the opportunity to work together and thus win both or betray each other. However, the participants do not know anything about the decision of the other. Let us imagine the following:

Two people are accused of jointly committing a crime and are being questioned separately by the police. They have no way to get in touch with each other and to advise themselves. The highest penalty for this crime is 6 years. When both are silent, they are imprisoned for two years each, confess both, they receive only four years, since they cooperated with the police. If one or the other confesses, the accused receives the highest sentence (6 years) and the other, because he acts as a witness, only a year on probation.

The prisoners now face a dilemma. If they trust each other and remain silent, they are two years old, but if the one admits and only one is silent, the silent has to accept the maximum penalty. But if he also confessed, it would be only four years because of the cooperation. In table form, the consequences and possibilities of A and B are as follows:

silent B
A: 2 years B: 2 years A: 6 years B: 1 year
Total penalty: 4 years Total penalty: 7 years
admits A: 1 year B: 6 years A: 4 years B: 4 years
Total penalty: 7 years Total penalty: 8 years
The above table illustrates why the two are in a pinch mill. They can not know how the other prisoner behaves during interrogation. Usually both would be silent to get a little punishment. But since they do not know what the other is doing, they should confess – if the other person is silent, one receives the little punishment, confesses the other, they do not get the punishment.

Buridan’s ass
Buridan’s ass is a parable of philosophy. It describes a dilemma that arises, although there are two positive possibilities, one way out is not because the actor can not choose one of the possibilities. The parable is attributed to the philosopher Johannes Buridan, even though there is no proof in his writings. It is as follows:

A donkey stands between two hay-looms of the same size and equidistant. He finally starves because he can not decide which one to eat first.

The above example seems paradoxical, but nevertheless metaphorically the hopelessness of an agent. It is true that the whole thing is actually attributable to the philosopher, but it is exactly the same for illustration: the donkey starves because he can not decide, since the necessity of choice makes a result impossible and he is thus in a dilemma.

Short overview: The most important part of the term at a glance
As a dilemma, a situation is described which has two possible outcomes, both possibilities leading to an unpleasant as well as difficult result. Especially in the field of legal philosophy and ethics, there are numerous examples which serve to illustrate hopelessness or be used as an exercise in judging.
If there are exactly three possibilities which lead to an unpleasant result, one speaks of a trilemma; if there are more than three, the whole is called polylemma.
There are actually several ways out, with only the one who has to decide to take a pinch, one speaks of the wrong dilemma. This can be used deliberately to suggest to others an out-of-the-way situation and manipulate it, but can also be based on false assumptions.
Note: The term “bredouille”, “clamp”, “misery”, “ditching”, “forcing” and “forcing” are often used synonymously. would have.
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