FALLACIES: ARGUMENT TO MODERATION
The Fallacy of Argumentum ad Temperantiam (‘Argument to Moderation’) is a logical fallacy where given two positions, there must exist a middle position that is the correct one. It is also known as the Middle Ground Fallacy and the False Compromise Fallacy.
The argument assumes the following basic form:
[P1] View, belief, idea X is false and View, belief, idea Y is false
[C1] Therefore, the correct and true view, belief, idea Z must be between both X & Y.
The Argument to Moderation/False Compromise Fallacy assumes or at least implies that the opinions and views on either side of the continuum are always extreme and incorrect and that the opinion or view in the middle is always the correct one defended by no other rationale except that it is the in the middle. This is not always the case.
There are two aspects to the argument: one aspect rejects views on both ends positing a middle position as true/correct whereas another aspect accepts views on both ends taking aspects from each and striking a balanced middle view as true/correct.
[P3] Abdul wants to go north.
[P4] Jamil wants to go south
[C2] Therefore, they let’s go west instead.
Some Muslims call for the restitution of the Caliphate and others reject it totally.
I think we should reject both stances and wait until Allah grants it to us.
Some Muslims are extremists and others are liberalists.
I think we should reject both persuasions and be in the middle, as moderates.
Some Muslim thinkers reject democracy totally while others embrace it lock stock.
I propose an Islamic type democracy as neither is correct.
Some Muslims argue for the non-existence of Israel and others argue for the total existence of Israel over Palestine.
I on the other hand think both views are extreme and there should be a two-state solution.
…and so on. The examples are too numerous to mention.
- The da`wah carrier must first understand that what drives this kind of compromise in thinking. Indeed, those who use The Argument to Moderation/False Compromise Fallacy do assume that just because a view is on either extreme of the spectrum (i.e. a polarized view) it therefore is false but usually Muslims who hold to this kind of argument do so in order to show the balance and fairness of Islam. They have an assumed understanding that whatever is moderate (to them) is superior without actually addressing the views on the ‘extreme’ ends and ‘fringe’ ends. Thus, their motivation is sincere (cf. umma wasata [‘the balanced nation’]). Nevertheless, the argument is fallacious and it is not a sensible form of reasoning.
- The da`wah carrier must also understand the impact of these arguments in the wider political context. Muslim politicians, MPs, community leaders and even Imams who use this kind of argument, especially those who feel pressured by the strong media attacks on Islam, the negative judgments of the local community, Government policies (Contest I-II and Prevent Violent Extremism) or are in collaboration with government bodies often see this as a soft or ‘safe’ choice as it is socially and politically risk-averse. Thus, not being seen as situated on an extreme or ‘fringe’ end but in the middle (equated with ‘mainstream’) appears positive and acceptable. It is a compromise tactic that not only fails to secure the political objectives sought with it but it is intellectually a weak position to begin an argument or a demand from.
- These types of arguments are used more sinisterly to debunk or undermine those who call for the authentic form of political Islam as understood by the classical scholars (e.g. Imams Abu Ya`la, al-Mawardi, al-Ghazali, Ibn Taymiyya, etc.), namely that Islam has a defined ruling system and that the entity by which the Shari`ah laws are implemented and administered is the Caliphate. This view is pushed to the margins of the Islamic ‘opinion spectrum’ and deemed extreme and so the Da`wah carrier must be aware of the implications due to the use of such compromise arguments.