• WordNet 3.6
    • n dilemma state of uncertainty or perplexity especially as requiring a choice between equally unfavorable options
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Dilemma A state of things in which evils or obstacles present themselves on every side, and it is difficult to determine what course to pursue; a vexatious alternative or predicament; a difficult choice or position. "A strong dilemma in a desperate case!
      To act with infamy, or quit the place."
    • Dilemma (Logic) An argument which presents an antagonist with two or more alternatives, but is equally conclusive against him, whichever alternative he chooses.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n dilemma A form of argument in which it is shown that whoever maintains a certain proposition must accept one or other of two alternative conclusions, and that each of these involves the denial of the proposition in question. The alternatives are called the horns of the dilemma, which is also called a horned syllogism. The argument is also called a dilemma, in a looser sense, when the number of such horns exceeds two. The dilemma originated in rhetoric, and was not noticed by logicians before the revival of learning; consequently there has been some dispute as to its logical definition and analysis. The standard example (from Aulus Gellius) is as follows: Every woman is fair or ugly; it is not good to marry a fair wife, because she will flirt; it is not good to marry an ugly wife, because she will not be attractive; therefore, it is not good to marry at all. The essential peculiarity of this reasoning is that it involves the principle of excluded middle, the falsity of which would leave ordinary syllogism intact. Logicians, however, have made the dilemma a matter of form of expression, saying that the above argument, for instance, is not a dilemma as long as the first premise reads as above, but that it becomes one if that premise is put in this form: If it is good to marry, it is good to marry a fair wife, or it is good to marry an ugly wife. They have at different times recognized the following forms as dilemmas or as parts of dilemmas, for many logicians hold that, a dilemma consists of three syllogisms: Simple constructive dilemma: If A, then C; if B, then C; but either B or A; hence, C. Simple destructive dilemma: If A is true, B is true; if A is true, C is true; B and C are not both true; hence, A is not true. Complex constructiv dilemma: It A, then B; if C, then D; but either A or C; hence, either B or D, Complex destructive dilemma: It A is true, B is true; if C is true, D is true; but B and D are not both true; hence, A and C are not both true, The importance of the kind of reasoning now called dilemma was first strongly insisted upon by the Stoics. Nevertheless, in the Stoical terminology a dilemma is opposed to a monolemma, as a conclusion from two premises. This was the origin of the word, and it is only later that it is met With in the modern sense.
    • n dilemma A difficult or doubtful choice; a state of things in which the alternatives appear to be equally bad or undesirable.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Dilemma di-lem′a a form of argument in which the maintainer of a certain proposition is committed to accept one of two alternative propositions each of which contradicts his original contention: a position where each of two alternative courses (or of all the feasible courses) is eminently undesirable: a trying practical difficulty. The argument was called a 'horned syllogism,' and the victim compared to a man certain to be impaled on one or other of the horns of an infuriated bull, hence the Horns of a dilemma: the usual phrase Landed in a dilemma is, or suggests, a mixed metaphor
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  • H. L. Mencken
    “Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas.”
  • Edgar Allan Poe
    “Believe me, there exists no such dilemma as that in which a gentleman is placed when he is forced to reply to a blackguard.”


Horns of a dilemma - If you are on the horns of a dilemma, you are faced with two equally unpleasant options and have to choose one.


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
L. dilemma, Gr. ; di- = di`s- twice + to take. See Lemma
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
L.,—Gr. dilēmmadi-, twice, double, lēmma, an assumption—lambanein, to take.


In literature:

It appeared to be a sad dilemma they were in; but after a short consultation the thoughtful Hans suggested a solution of it.
"The Bush Boys" by Captain Mayne Reid
Once out of their present dilemma, they might seek refuge there.
"The Cliff Climbers" by Captain Mayne Reid
In the agony of his dilemma he put the question to the gentleman who, beyond all doubt, had restrained him from committing manslaughter.
"The Lone Ranche" by Captain Mayne Reid
I laughed at his dilemma.
"The Pacha of Many Tales" by Frederick Marryat
I find myself in a dilemma.
"Rattlin the Reefer" by Edward Howard
And now the reader will perceive why Corporal Van Spitter was in a dilemma.
"Snarley-yow" by Frederick Marryat
The issue of cruel dilemma had come in spite of every defensive effort and every possible care.
"The Tyranny of Weakness" by Charles Neville Buck
I'll tell him that I will devise something, in order that I may procure some respite in this dilemma.
"The Comedies of Terence" by Publius Terentius Afer, (AKA) Terence
Oswald was now in a dilemma.
"Oswald Langdon" by Carson Jay Lee
Now this same maddening dilemma seized upon me.
"Debts of Honor" by Maurus Jókai

In poetry:

MOSCON. Leaving our partitioned love
In a rather odd dilemma,
For "The Wonderful Magician"
Ask the pardon of its errors.
"The Wonder-Working Magician - Act III" by Denis Florence MacCarthy
But the sad need thereof, his nearing death,
So mocked humanity that she shamed to prize
A world conditioned thus, or care for breath
Where Nature such dilemmas could devise.
"Her Dilemma" by Thomas Hardy
Poor Annie did not speak, she remained quite mute,
And with agitation she trembled from head to foot,
The poor girl was in a dilemma, she knew not what to say,
And owing to Matthew training her, she couldn't say him nay.
"Annie Marshall the Foundling" by William Topaz McGonagall
So in his crystal ball them two he weighs,
solidly, dreaming of his sleepy son,
ah him, and his new wife.
What roar solved once the dilemma of the Ancient of Days,
what sigh borrowed His mercy?—Who may, if
we are all the same, make one.
"Dream Song 56: Hell is empty. O that has come to pass" by John Berryman

In news:

Familiar with conventional separators , Mr Collari concluded that they would not be suitable to address the shop's dilemma.
Personnel shortage contributes to dilemma.
Art House / Film This Sunday's moviegoing dilemma: programs screen simultaneously .
It's a Valentine's Day dilemma: He likes chocolate.
Spurs face sizable dilemma in Splitter.
As employers across the country continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs, many manufacturers face an ironic dilemma.
It's every CIO's dilemma: bandwidth requirements ebb and flow throughout the month.
Refractory status epilepticus poses a treatment dilemma.
A way out of the stickler 's dilemma is to think about three levels of acceptability for words and usages: those you use in your own writing.
Gamburg introduces us to a real-life Muscovite who also faces the dilemma that "success" often brings for modern women.
In the late 1990s Americans witnessed a startling new terror: kids killing other kids in school FRONTLINE takes a measure of this national dilemma through a detailed, intimate journey into the life of one high school shooter, Kip Kinkel.
Mike faces the moral dilemma of " tattling " out of loyalty to his employer or feigning ignorance to avoid a potential backlash.
But a startup in Manhattan — which swings from sweltering to frigid every year — is getting ready to test a solution for the too-hot/too-cold dilemma of city dwellers with antique steam radiators.
Terma Radar Aims To Slow Wind Turbine and Air Surveillance Dilemma.

In science:

Now that the principal behind prisoner's dilemma has become clear, let's introduce a more interesting example: So in this scenario an we look over a murder investigation, we have two suspects and we are certain that one of them has committed the murder.
Nations At War I: Why do we keep building weapons?
Let's apply this to the modern world, we have several players (each country) but to examine the issue of building weapons we will only consider 2 players and reduce the situation to prisoner's dilemma.
Nations At War I: Why do we keep building weapons?
However, to avoid the type of “surprising findings” that Doss found, we would resolve this dilemma by nonetheless using (3) but with the nuisance parameter Λ0 estimated from Dcens , for instance using the Nelson–Aalen estimator used by Doss.
Rejoinder: Quantifying the Fraction of Missing Information for Hypothesis Testing in Statistical and Genetic Studies
We are however apparently saved from this dilemma because our best approach to developing a fundamental theory of all forces (M-Theory) is presently heading in the opposite direction, by predicting more and more possible quantum vacua and associated effective theories [40, 41].
Editorial note to "Large number coincidences and the anthropic principle in cosmology"
Christensen, C. (1997), The innovator’s dilemma: when new technologies cause great firms to fail, Harvard Business Press.
A Wikipedia Literature Review