Philosophy:Morton's fork

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Short description: False dilemma in which contradictory observations lead to the same conclusion

A Morton's fork is a type of false dilemma in which contradictory observations lead to the same conclusion. It is said[by whom?] to have originated with the rationalising of a benevolence by the 15th century English prelate John Morton.

The earliest known use of the term dates from the mid-19th century and the only known earlier mention is a claim by Francis Bacon of an extant tradition.[1]


A stained glass portrait of Cardinal John Morton in red clothing.
John Morton, the namesake of Morton's Fork.

Under Henry VII, John Morton was made archbishop of Canterbury in 1486 and Lord Chancellor in 1487. He rationalised requiring the payment of a benevolence (tax) to King Henry by reasoning that someone living modestly must be saving money, and therefore could afford the benevolence, whereas someone living extravagantly was obviously rich, and therefore could also afford the benevolence.[1][2] Morton's Fork may have been invented by another of Henry's supporters, Richard Foxe.[3]

Other uses

"Morton's fork coup" is a manoeuvre in the game of bridge that uses the principle of Morton's fork.[4][5]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Morton's Fork". Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 
  2. Morton's Fork. Oxford English Dictionary. 
  3. Chrimes, S. B. (1999-07-11) (in en). Henry VII. Yale University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-300-21294-5. 
  4. Frey et al. (1976). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, p. 295. ISBN:0-517-52724-3.
  5. Gray, Robert. The Bridge World, March 1973