Morton's fork

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A Morton's fork is a specious piece of reasoning in which contradictory observations lead to the same conclusion. It is said to have originated with the collecting of taxes by John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in the late fifteenth century, who held that a someone living modestly must be saving money and therefore, could afford taxes, whereas those living extravagantly obviously were rich and could afford them as well.[1][2]

In some instances, such as Morton's original use of the fallacy, it may be that one of the two observations is likely valid, but the other is pure sophistry: evidence of possessing wealth may be genuinely relevant to having a source of taxable income.

In other cases, it may be that neither observation may be relied upon to support the conclusion properly. For example, asserting that a person suspected of a crime who is acting nervously must have something to feel guilty about, while a person who acts calmly and confidently must be practiced or skilled at hiding guilt. Either observation therefore has little, if any, probative value, as equally, each could be evidence of the inverse situation.

"Morton's fork coup" is a maneuver in the game of bridge that uses the principle of Morton's Fork.[3][4]

An episode of the television series Fargo is entitled "Morton's Fork", after the dilemma.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morton's Fork. Oxford English Dictionary. 
  2. ^ Morton's Fork. Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 
  3. ^ Frey et al. (1976). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, p. 295. ISBN 0-517-52724-3.
  4. ^ Gray, Robert. The Bridge World, March 1973