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Argument to moderation (Latin: argumentum ad temperantiam, also known as middle ground, false compromise, gray fallacy and the golden mean fallacy) is a logical fallacy which asserts that any given compromise between two positions must be correct. The middle ground is often invoked when there are sharply contrasting views that are deeply entrenched. While an outcome that accommodates both parties to some extent is more desirable than an outcome that pleases nobody, it is not necessarily correct.

The problem with the false compromise fallacy is that it implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground 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 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.

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Examples

  • "Some would say that arsenic is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet, but others claim it is a toxic and dangerous substance. The truth is somewhere in between..."
  • "Bill owns a cake. Jake would like to have the cake. Bill wants to keep it. Therefore, 1/2 of the cake should be given to Jake."
  • "Jane says she is not pregnant, but Bill says that she is. Jane is therefore exactly one-half pregnant."
  • "Jane and Bill are married. Jane believes they should be monogamous, but Bill would like to have an extramarital affair. As a compromise, Bill offers to be faithful on weekdays and only spend weekends with his lover."
  • "Should array indices start at 0 or 1? My compromise of 0.5 was rejected without, I thought, proper consideration." - Stan Kelly-Bootle
  • The choice of 48 bytes as the ATM cell payload size, as a compromise between the 64 bytes proposed by parties from the United States and the 32 bytes proposed by European parties; the compromise was made for entirely political reasons, since it did not technically favor any of the parties.
  • Okrent's law, stated by Daniel Okrent: The pursuit of balance can create imbalance because sometimes something is true. Referring to the phenomenon of the press providing legitimacy to fringe or minority viewpoints in an effort to appear even-handed.

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