Moderation and Radicalism

Lat. argument ad temperentiam, Lat. temperentia, “moderation, measure, restraint”

1. Argument to moderation and radicalism

In politics, moderation is opposed to radicalism or extremism, as reformism is to revolution. The argument from moderation is developed in discourses which prioritize the necessity of sticking to practicality, to compromise, of holding inclusive positions, changing things little by little, etc. The appeal to radicalism is developed in discourses which foreground the urgency of the decision, the necessity of a new start, of avoiding deadlocks in discussions, the will to be true to one’s principles framed as antinomies, “freedom or death”.

Two contrasted ethos and emotional states are associated respectively with moderation and radicalism: conservative vs. progressive; open to dialogue and compromising vs. uncompromising; realist vs. idealist; calm / exaltation; etc.

2. Middle ground argument

The middle ground argument justifies a measure by showing that it does not satisfy any of the opposing parties. The speaker takes the position of the responsible third party, S. Roles.

Both the far right and the far left attack my policy; it clearly shows that it is a good policy.
Keep away from extremes.

Christianity has reestablished in architecture, as in other arts, true proportions. Our temples, bigger than those of Athens, and smaller than those of Memphis, have that proper balance, in which beauty and taste par excellence prevail.
Chateaubriand, [The Genius of Christianity], 1802[1]

The intermediate position is valued: reason and virtue “stand in the middle” (Lat. in medio stat virtus):

Neither rash nor coward, just courageous.

The arguer who opts to take the middle-ground will be stigmatized as a person who is indecisive, or who does not want to examine the arguments of the parties in detail, “let’s stop the discussion, meet in the middle; split the difference”. The case of Solomon’s judgment shows that there are stakes that cannot be so easily split up.

[1] Quoted after François René de Châteaubriand, Le Génie du christianisme. Part 3, Book 1, Chap. 6. Tours: Mame, 1877, p. 194-195.