Often "dilemma" is used to describe a situation of choosing between two undesirable alternatives, or two unpleasant choices. I am interested in a situation where there are sharply conflicting two answers for a (scientific) question, there are good reasons to doubt each of the two answers, but otherwise, each answer, if correct, will be fruitful and "good." Is using "dilemma" to describe such a situation appropriate (and not confusing)? Is there an alternative word?

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    I think terms along the line of "happy dilemma" are sometimes used to describe a choice between two good options. – Hot Licks Nov 9 '15 at 23:28
  • It probably wouldn't usually be used when there are only two [desirable] alternatives, but spoilt for choice is a common idiomatic usage. Many if not most written contexts involving both "dilemma" and "spoilt for choice" in close proximity are clearly using both expressions to describe the same "difficult" choice. (By implication, dilemma doesn't always imply "between undesirable alternatives.) – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '15 at 23:59
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    I agree with Hot Licks. You could also say "fortuitous dilemma," which is more to the point, but "happy dilemma" does sound a lot better. "Spoilt for choice" is cute but it kind of implies that there are more choices than just two. – Ricky Nov 10 '15 at 0:02
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    @Ricky: Each to their own, I guess. But to me, a "fortuitous dilemma" would suggest a situation where one unexpectedly (by chance rather than intention) found oneself in the position of being able to make a choice. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '15 at 0:09
  • @FumbleFingers: I'm not sure what you're objecting to. Isn't what you've just described exactly what the OP meant? Please clarify. – Ricky Nov 10 '15 at 0:38

"quandary" is not exactly the same as "dilemma" but their meanings sometimes overlap.

"quandary" - a state of perplexity or doubt, a situation in which you are confused about what to do. MW

  • The unexpected results of the test have created a quandary for researchers.

  • I'm in a quandary about whether I should try to repair my stereo or buy a new one, even though I don't have the money to do either.

  • Williams's quandary is not unlike that faced by other urban executives who have had to wrestle with a deeply rooted power structure.

If you’re uncertain what to do because all of your options seem unpleasant, you’re probably in a quandary. Some voters find themselves in a quandary when they dislike all of the candidates. A more common quandary is when you plan two events at the same time and can’t decide which one to attend. Some synonyms are predicament, dilemma, plight, and pickle — and choosing which word to use is a quandary in itself. vocabulary.com

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