The Overton Window

WARNING: This article features ANCIENT code! I'm keeping it online because it's interesting to see what I was thinking 10+ years ago. But you DEFINITELY should not be using this code. Anything you're reading about on this page has changed significantly since this was written.

I love finding out that some fluttering thought has a proper name.

Reasonable people should agree that simply having two sides to an issue doesn't make them equally correct. If you disagree, just take any issue you feel strongly about, consider the polar opposing, and decide if the you would agree to the 50-50 compromise. You would? Okay, well move the other viewpoint one step towards the extreme. Would you still agree? Certainly not - 50-50 became 40-60 - the former "compromise" now favors your opponent.

Suppose I argue that a triangle has 5 sides.

You say 3.

Should we compromise on 4?

What if I say 10? Is the number of sides of a triangle even up for debate?

That's the essence of the Overton Window - the range of beliefs that reasonable people can hold on a topic.

The difficulty lies in the Argument to Moderation, a fallacy that, given two extremes, the truth necessarily lies in the middle. Proponents of a particular viewpoint can manipulate the Overton Window by adopting values more extreme than their actual beliefs. As a result, the apparent middle ground shifts, changing the whole debate.

Not exactly a revelation - people manipulate each other and the public opinion.

I was just intrigued that there's a term that particular phenomenon.

A few related links: