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[1]—is an informal fallacy which asserts that the truth must be found as a compromise between two opposite positions. This fallacy's opposite is the false dilemma.

Vladimir Bukovsky points out that the middle ground between the Big Lie of Soviet propaganda and the truth is itself a lie, and one should not be looking for a middle ground between disinformation and information.[2] 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 operating within the false compromise fallacy believes 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.[1] This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy can create the rather illogical situation that the middle ground reached in the previous compromise now becomes the new extreme in the continuum of opinions; 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.

An example of the argument to moderation would be to regard two opposed arguments - one person saying that slavery is always wrong, while another believes it to be legitimate - and conclude that the truth must therefore lie somewhere in between.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fallacy: Middle Ground, The Nizkor Project (accessed 29 November 2012)
  2. ^ Vladimir Bukovsky, The wind returns. Letters by Russian traveler (Russian edition, Буковский В. К. И возвращается ветер. Письма русского путешественника.) Moscow, 1990, ISBN 5-2350-1826-5, page 345.
  3. ^ Susan T. Gardner (2009). Thinking Your Way to Freedom: A Guide to Owning Your Own Practical Reasoning. Temple University Press.

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