English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Today, in an attempt to clarify my thoughts on a political argument I had with a friend, I searched for a concise definition of the term "reasoned compromise".

A short Google search turned up several instances of others using the term, but I was unable to find a single clear definition of the term.

I am asking because this is not the first time that I have run into this exact type of problem while searching for the clarification of a term.

This instance especially disturbed me because I have just finished listening to a lecture on the current economic crisis by Bill Moyers in which he explained that, in spite of the fact that it is one of the founding principles of our society, the concept of "reasoned compromise" (along with several other foundational concepts) is no longer a part of the public school curriculum.

My central question is:

  • Can anyone please recommend a site that may contain an easy to access , concise , clear definition of the term "reasoned compromise" and terms like it or were i may find some useful references to the term in question ?
share|improve this question
This is an interesting question. I guess that this term has it bad in that it's both (1) not terribly common and (2) it already sounds like what it means, so no one felt the need to define it explicitly. – Jeremy Aug 21 '11 at 17:05
Agreed it's an interesting question. But OP is looking for help acquiring skills in rhetoric, debate, thinking, organising of thoughts & arguments, etc. He should sign up for the beta site phiilosophy.se and ask about this there. – FumbleFingers Aug 21 '11 at 17:24
thank you , i will check that site. – Starbuckns Aug 22 '11 at 11:46
i was just told by the philosophy stack that i should have posted here... hope the humor is not lost. – Starbuckns Aug 22 '11 at 13:55
As I've just read David Deutsch laboriously explain in The Beginnings Of Infinity, that particular compromise on PR is mathematically incapable of being implemented in a way that avoids regularly having to be "tweaked" because of manifestly unfair outcomes. So arguably it's the opposite of "reasoned", since it is always liable to create disputes as state populations fluctuate. – FumbleFingers Aug 22 '11 at 16:48

The phrase "reasoned compromise" appears in a number of 1920's-vintage books [ref1] and then as now, its meaning probably was regarded as self-evident to native speakers of English, rather than as necessary of special explanation. Moreover, its frequency of use [ref2] has never been high (twice per billion words in Google's English corpus).

Part of the reason for modifying "compromise" with the adjective "reasoned" is to make a contrast with "forced compromise", a word pair that occurs a little more often [ref3].

By the way, your presentation of this question has a number of problems.

1: The title "reacquiring difficulty finding definitions of important concepts" is gobbledygook.

2: You failed to capitalize the first words of sentences, and the personal pronoun I. That choice may be suitable elsewhere, but in a forum like this it gets in the way of clear communication. [Update: B.L. fixed the capitalization problem.]

3: Phrase "this exact type problem" contains superfluous word "exact" and is missing the word "of".

4: The question "how is it [...] that such an important concept can be so obscured?", if not rhetorical, should perhaps be treated in chat or other discussion forum rather than here. See FAQ.

share|improve this answer
thank you for the respectful way that you worded your corrections of my sleep deprived editing and typos. – Starbuckns Aug 22 '11 at 11:20

On obscuring the term:

Depending on the definitions used, both words can be fairly ambiguous. For example, in the loosest form I can think of we're looking at something like "an opinion made of good sense" (or "senses", where "senses" is the sense (or feeling) of many, which is inherently changeable). If taken in that way it is much more clearly open to, well, anything. On the political forum, that makes for a weak stance, or at least one that’s hard to pin down.

Which bring me more to the point. The term and words are positive and progressive. They seem as though they should resonate something more profound. Making the potential implications feel as though they should yield something substantial. However, I would wager that that really is only a feeling and no more. In other words, it's great political speak because it does sound good. Yet there's nothing particularly binding about it. There's nothing that requires the result of a reasoned compromise to have its own requirement for action, change, improvement, or anything similar. Thus, from a politician’s standpoint, it sounds good to use and is also quite safe.

share|improve this answer
i suppose that dose shed some light on how the term may have become obscured. – Starbuckns Aug 22 '11 at 13:56

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.