Morton's fork

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A Morton's fork is a type of false dilemma in which contradictory observations lead to the same conclusion. It is said to have originated with the rationalising of a benevolence by 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]


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

Popular culture[edit]

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

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

In the movie Princess Bride Vizzini employs this fallacy during the Iocaine Powder Battle of Wits.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Morton's Fork". Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  2. ^ Morton's Fork. Oxford English Dictionary.
  3. ^ S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, p. 203.
  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