I came across a reference to an Argument to Moderation that makes the point that the middle ground between truth and falsehood represents merely another type of falsehood. I'm looking for critiques and context regarding of the Argument for Moderation.

Soviet propaganda is used as an example, and the linked wiki also points out that the middle ground between Liberty and Slavery is a moral fallacy, but it seems to me this is the system we live under: partial freedom constrained by the need to earn wages in order to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

You can see moderation in the evolution of the a certain American conservative position on climate change as a series of middle grounds:

  1. Climate change is not happening.
  2. Climate change may be happening, but it it certainly not anthropogenic.
  3. Anthropogenic factors are contributors, but we must be cautious in policy decisions.

Presumably, you'll eventually get to a place where this position recognizes a need for policy on the matter, per the idea that: "[People] and nations do act wisely when they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”

In essence, flipping from one extreme to the opposite is disruptive and never seems to end well, where gradual, moderating steps, while an imperfect solution, do at least have the effect of creating a middle ground that may be workable.

  • What is the philosophical question you're framing?
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:01
  • @Lawrence This relates to my overall inquiry on applications of moderation in philosophy in general, from meden agan to minimax. Here I am looking for critiques, support, or context regarding the "Argument to Moderation", per the long history of the argument toward moderation, and the 20th century mathematical validation of moderation as an optimal strategy.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:13
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    @DukeZhou I'm fairly new to Philosophy.SE, but I was under the impression that in SE generally, we are expected to ask an answerable question when posting a question.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:24
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    I too am highly unsure what the question was.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 3:43
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    Aren't you conflating true statements with reasonable actions? It may very well be that moderate steps and middle grounds are often a good way to design policy, or one's personal behavior (indeed this is a philosophy of political and social conservatism, the humility of reason), but arguing that the truth is what splits the difference between the extreme positions held is still always fallacious (often it turns out to be closer to an extreme, or something not even considered).
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


I'll take your question to be asking for the flaws in the linked argument to moderation.

The 'middle ground' needs to be evaluated on its own merits. It's not a priori a good solution or a bad solution simply because it is the middle ground.

More generally, if the values at the ends are comparable in the context of a partial ordering, the value of the middle could be argued to lie between them. That is, if there is a metric by which the 'worst' solution is measurably worse than the 'best' solution, a 'moderate' solution would by definition be measurably 'sandwiched' between them.

If the values at the ends are not comparable (in that same sense), or if there's no agreement on the overall metric to use, then they are not truly 'ends', but simply alternatives in some solution space for which no metric has been imposed. In that case, a 'middle' or compromise might well have better utility - or worse.

In the information-misinformation example you raise, one end is considered to be the only answer. There, it isn't simply that the middle is no good - it's that except for the single accepted answer, every answer is no good.

  • Thanks answering! You make a good point by raising the concept of partial ordering to shed light on the underlying complexity of issues, which are reduced to simple binaries for the purpose of simplification and debate. But again I am recalled to minimax, which is an optimal strategy for decisionmaking in a condition of uncertainty. This brings me back to Socrates, who makes the point that certainty is problematic, thus all assumptions must be questioned. With that as a guide, "hedging ones bets" (moderating) is the only rational strategy.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:45
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    The Aristotelian attitude, one truth, the rest false, is, what the guy in the link means. Lawrence has that right. But it isn't sufficient to the modern difficulty. There exists issues Aristotle explicitly rejected, and left outside his system. Outside the Law of Identity, for example. One needs to confront the "framing" issue. Facts, as naive truths, break down in certain very demonstrable ways. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(social_sciences)
    – user26700
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 0:03
  • @DukeZhou You're welcome. Minimax is related to maximising minimum gains (i.e. max of the mins), sometimes generalised to the opposite (min of the maxes). I'm not sure it's relevant to this question, but if it is, the metric is explicit - it's the score that has those minima and maxima. That puts it into the 'comparable' category of my answer.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 2:49
  • @Lawrence Absolutely. To give you some context, I'm approaching Philosophy from the standpoint of automata (initially economic automata, but minimax is widely used in computing for many functions not related to human commerce) with the goal of alignment with human values. Avoiding extremes (use of ideas like confidence levels to mitigate unintended consequences,) thus "moderation in all things" is part of the equation.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 18:25

If we term it a fallacy of good sense, changing the inflection, we may have a more direct way to the issue. Informal fallacies, then, are fallacies of experienced or sound judgment. The example in the link is specific, U.S. Russian relations at a certain moment, not fit for a theoretical precept.

"one should not be looking for a middle ground between disinformation and information."

That has very-noisy idealistic overtones does it not? So, if we speak of pragmatic good sense, I think, this is not the right tonality. That points one to truth as an independent and unchanging ground, does it not?

One can say, American elites have a certain style, politeness, apparent compromise, mixed with the ambitions of hidden charismatic methods for influencing others. If the Russian doesn't understand this, then he comes to a false conclusion about the elite Westerner behavior. All that is empirical, a matter of a quite-distinct actual situation. The good sense needed, about the fallacy, is relative to the historical situation.

There's a case here for truth as a negotiation, no truth as such, is there not? Trump, if one may judge, often seems to approach matters this way. As with the claim one should not rehash the past with Putin, who is charged with all manner of corruption and violations, but pragmatically remain hushed on those charges. One can than, it seems to me, ask whether it is truly the right way to do things. Truth becomes a matter of the right way to frame matters, ex tempore, and not an independent or objective standard.

  • Thank you weighing in! "Truth becomes a matter of the right way to frame matters, ex tempore, and not an independent or objective standard." is quite useful. Objective truth may exist beyond mathematical frameworks, but when I poke at the subject of objectivity, I come away concluding that all rationality, human or algorithmic, seems to be subjective, with the only rationality that can be said to be objective is the systems itself (Cantor diagonalization re: Laplace's Demon.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:36
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    This is the essence of Kant's philosophy. Trying to reconcile this situation as revealed by human reason.
    – user26700
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:45
  • everything always seems to lead to Kant! But Kant is complicated. It's possible I'm trying to reconstruct his philosophy from first principles in the context of automata (which currently are quite far from being able to grasp Kant, assuming they ever are;)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 18:27
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    I wonder if a Descartes' scholar can settle this question about whether he had any moral sense, or moral concern. The way Kant was crucially guided by Rousseau's extraordinary concern for the preservation of the common sense notions of justice seems to be a consideration totally lacking in Descartes. I suppose they may simply be discovered to recline on the other side of the pineal gland or epiphysis cerebri. Naturally, though perhaps it indicates no flaw, automata have no such gland.
    – user26700
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:55
  • thanks for mentioning Descarte! He seems to be the jumping off point for those thinkinging about human/algorithmic value alignment. (Slightly off topic, but to a madman like myself, "cogito ergo sum" may be taken as a support for the idea that awareness, no matter how basic, is simply a function of processing;) Nevertheless, Descarte is currently beyond the grasp of automata, unlike minimax, which is "comprehensible" to algorithms and heavily utilized in many aspects of computer science. Thus my drive to take things back to Delphi maxims: "Know thyself" and "Moderation in All Things".
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 21:07

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