Argument to moderation
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Argument to moderation (Latin: argumentum ad temperantiam; also known as [argument from] middle ground, false compromise, gray fallacy and the golden mean fallacy) is an informal fallacy which asserts that the truth can be found as a compromise between two opposite positions. This fallacy's opposite is the false dilemma.
As Vladimir Bukovsky puts it, the middle ground between the Big Lie of Soviet propaganda and the truth is a lie, and one should not be looking for a middle ground between disinformation and information. According to him, people from the Western pluralistic civilization are more prone to this fallacy because they are used to resolving problems by making compromises and accepting alternative interpretations, unlike Russians who are looking for the absolute truth.
An individual demonstrating this false compromise fallacy implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground is always correct. This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy allows any position to be invalidated, even those that have been reached by previous applications of the same method; all one must do is present yet another, radically opposed position, and the middle-ground compromise will be forced closer to that position. In politics, this is part of the basis behind Overton window theory.
In politics this fallacy is known as "High Broderism" after David Broder, a columnist and reporter for the Washington Post who insisted, against all reason, that the best policy was always the middle ground between the Republicans and the Democrats.
- "Some would say that hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet, but others claim it is a toxic and dangerous substance. The truth must therefore be somewhere in between."
- "A 100 ft canyon lies in front of Jack and Jill. Jack wants to build a 100 ft bridge to cross the canyon, but Jill doesn't want to cross at all. A compromise between the two would be a 50 ft bridge, which would only please Jill."
- "Bob says we should buy a computer. Sue says we shouldn't. Therefore, the best solution is to compromise and buy half a computer."
- "Should array indices start at 0 or 1? My compromise of 0.5 was rejected without, I thought, proper consideration." — Stan Kelly-Bootle
- "The fact that one is confronted with an individual who strongly argues that slavery is wrong and another who argues equally strongly that slavery is perfectly legitimate in no way suggests that the truth must be somewhere in the middle."
- "You say the sky is blue, while I say the sky is red. Therefore, the best solution is to compromise and agree that the sky is purple."
- "Jon wanted to touch the fire because he said that fire is cold, Jim said he shouldn't because it is hot, So they compromised and said it was lukewarm and Jon burned off his hand."
- Fallacy: Middle Ground, The Nizkor Project (accessed 29 November 2012)
- Vladimir Bukovsky, The wind returns. Letters by Russian traveler (Russian edition, Буковский В. К. И возвращается ветер. Письма русского путешественника.) Moscow, 1990, ISBN 5-235-01826, page 345.
- Susan T. Gardner (2009). Thinking Your Way to Freedom: A Guide to Owning Your Own Practical Reasoning. Temple University Press.