Before proceeding to discover the meaning of the term dichotomy, we are going to know its etymological origin. In this case, we can establish that it derives from the Greek, specifically from the word “dichotomia”, which is the result of the sum of three components of that language:
-The term “said”, which can be translated as “in two parts”.
-The noun “tome”, which means “cut” and which derives from the verb “temnein”, which is synonymous with “cut”.
-The suffix “-ia”, which is used to indicate “quality”.
A dichotomy is a division or separation into two parts. The concept can be used in different fields.
Based on all the above, we can establish that among the synonyms of dichotomy are fragmentation, bifurcation, separation or segmentation. On the contrary, among its antonyms, ligation, union or connection stand out.
In our lives and throughout history, human beings have encountered a series of dichotomies that have been and continue to be very present. Among the most significant we can highlight good and evil, heaven and hell, the body and the mind…
In the field of botany, a bifurcation of a branch or a stem is called a dichotomy. The dichotomous separation refers to the fact that the structure in question is divided into two parts that are almost identical.
The idea of dichotomy also appears in anatomy in the same sense. The trachea, for example, crosses a dichotomy that leads to the appearance of the bronchi.
Within the field of linguistics we have to highlight the existence of what is known as Saussure’s dichotomy. The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913) was the creator of this theory, within which he spoke of studying language in a synchronic and diachronic way while referring to what he called external linguistics and internal linguistics, for example. That without forgetting that he determined that the force of exchange and the spirit of the bell tower were on the tongue.
For philosophy, dichotomy is a classificatory method that implies the successive division of concepts in two. In this way, concepts B and C are obtained from a concept A. In turn, concepts D and E emanate from concept B, while concepts F and G arise from concept C. And so on.
Logic understands the dichotomy as the breakdown of a generic principle in two: a specific concept and its corresponding negation. This procedure is carried out when, starting from a situation, two paths are proposed that are opposite or contrary to each other.
Sometimes we speak of a false dichotomy or false dilemma to refer to the presentation of two options as the only possible alternatives, without considering the existence of other paths. This is common in electoral processes where two candidates stand out from the rest and polarize each other, ruling out the others. Suppose that, in a country, there are two best-known candidates for president: one leader from the Conservative Party and another from the Liberal Party. Voters, therefore, are presented with a dichotomy: choosing between a conservative model and a liberal model. However, there are other candidates (from the Radical Party, the Socialist Party, the Nationalist Party, etc.) that have different proposals. That is why the dichotomy, in this case, is false.