Appeal to moderation

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An appeal to moderation, otherwise known as the false compromise or the argument from middle ground is a logical fallacy that states that the answer to a problem is always between two extremes. It is closely related to the balance fallacy.


[edit] Form

There is a choice to make between doing X or doing Y. Therefore, the answer is a compromise between X and Y.

The problem is that it's possible that either X or Y is entirely true, meaning that only partially doing the right thing makes little sense.

[edit] Examples

  • The Missouri compromise, which tried to find a "middle ground" between abolitionists and pro-slavery forces. Of course, the abolitionists were entirely correct to want to outlaw slavery completely but this was seen as too extreme for many at the time.
  • "Some say austerity in a depressed economy is bad. Others say austerity in a depressed economy is good. Therefore, some austerity in a depressed economy is the correct answer." This one's fairly common in America, where there is no single left-wing party to promote the idea of spending more in a depressed economy, so the debate is between centrists and right-wingers.[1]
  • "One of my friends wants me to use a pharmacists prescription to treat my illness, another one of my friends wants me to use holistic medicine. Therefore I'll do a little of both."
  • "Joe thinks the Packers will win the game. Frank thinks the Eagles will win. That means the game will probably end in a tie."
  • "Homosexuals want the right to marry. Fundamentalists don't want homosexuals to marry. Therefore we should just give homosexuals civil unions and be on our merry way."
  • The "Semicontrolled Demolition" xkcd comic

[edit] Exceptions

Obviously there are times when the answer actually is in the middle, and compromise isn't always a bad thing.

  • Most gun control laws are compromises between banning all guns and not having any rules on guns. This is usually thought of as reasonable by people who like this solution.
  • The drug laws in some countries are compromises between being unrealistically tough on drugs and legalizing all drugs.
  • Much foreign policy is a compromise between being isolationist/pacifist and extremely hawkish. Though whether this is good or not depends on the issue at hand.

And there are plenty more examples, but just keep in mind that if the answer happens to be in the middle it doesn't mean it's true because it's in the middle.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

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