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Middle = Reasonable

September 22, 2009

Apparently the “middle” position between the polar “extremes” is always the most reasonable position. This general assumption makes it easy to utilize the following handy rhetorical device: whatever your position is, portray it as between two other “extremes.” This should be easy—whatever position one holds, there are bound to be people to the left and to the right.

Obviously this is bullshit. The idea that the middle position is (probably? always? necessarily?) the right one is something that generally props up the status quo and so-called “common sense.”

Yet this “taking the reasonable middle position” is something we see time and time again in scholarly literature. I’m reading it right now …

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2009 5:10 pm

    Yeah I used to think that the view between the extremes was always most likely to be right when I was 12 or so.
    Then I though, imagine if some people were adamantly saying 1+1=2 and other people were adamantly saying 1+1=4… that hardly makes it reasonable to assume 1+1=3.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    September 22, 2009 5:13 pm

    I know, right!? But people still say it!!

  3. September 22, 2009 10:31 pm

    Now I’m having flashbacks to the Nicomachean Ethics. (Not that I could give you a fantabulous summary now, but my memory of it was an interminable list of things in which both extremes were bad, but the middle was awesome.)

  4. roland permalink
    September 23, 2009 1:07 am

    It can be a great rhetorical strategy (have used it on occasions), especially when most people would assume that a marxist position is ‘extreme’. Simply position it as the norm, with which people identity, rule out extremes (liberals maybe, and evangelicals) and your audience finds it difficult to rule you out of order. As long as you don’t actually believe the middle position is the right one.

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