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Thread: Slippery slope arguments and fallacies

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Slippery slope arguments and fallacies

    The matter of slippery slopes admittedly has me a bit confused, specifically about when it is a fallacious objection versus when it is a valid objection to undertaking some change from the status quo. When driving past a nearby church recently this came into focus for me, as their exterior sign displayed a message along the lines of (definitely my wording to my best recollection, not their exact phrasing) “If we do not resist now, then what one day is illegal will be legal, then it will be tolerated, then it will be promoted, then resistance to it will be illegal.” The following link describes slippery slopes, and gives a couple examples:

    https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/...Slippery_Slope

    “Description: When a relatively insignificant first event is suggested to lead to a more significant event, which in turn leads to a more significant event, and so on, until some ultimate, significant event is reached, where the connection of each event is not only unwarranted but with each step it becomes more and more improbable. Many events are usually present in this fallacy, but only two are actually required -- usually connected by “the next thing you know...”

    Logical Form:
    If A, then B, then C, ... then ultimately Z!”




    In that article, their first example (how to control a child’s behavior) relies on *probabilities* of A leading to B, then B to C, then C to D, etc. all of which are *likely* to be true. Then as you get further they get more unrealistic, say Q to R, R to S, S to T, etc. Those sequences happen to be *unlikely* outcomes, even if they are still possible.

    Their second example (taking the Bible figuratively) relies on the *certainty* (if we are to be consistent) that A would lead to B, then B to C, then C to D, etc.



    So is it that slippery slopes are actually NOT fallacies, and indeed are otherwise sound arguments to keep the status quo, when they are either mathematically certain or at least more likely to lead to the another undesirable event?

    It is only a slippery slope fallacy when it is *unlikely* that one event would lead to another?

    It seems that allows for a lot of gray area and uncertainties, in determining whether a slippery slope criticism is a legitimate criticism or not. Arguments that rely on slippery slopes sometimes are sound and sometimes are fallacious, it depends on the math.

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    Computerized facial recognition has become so common the slippery slope argument is being made against it. If it used on sidewalk cameras checking faces of all passerbys for warrants is that a slippery slope to invasion of privacy and tyranny, a police state?

    This was a news segment.

    If pot is legalized is that a slippery slope to wider drug use?

    Slippery slope means once you start something it snowballs out of control. You loose control of negative consequences.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Slippery slope means once you start something it snowballs out of control.
    Which can be a good thing, if it is something that we should not have had "control" of in the first place. If one citizen starts defying some unjust law, that can give confidence to others to also defy that law and other unjust laws, which then may spark a more massive social and political movement.

    You loose control of negative consequences.
    Whether or not the consequences are positive or negative is a subjective determination.

    In this thread though, I am asking when pointing out that undertaking action A "would lead to undertaking actions [X, Y, Z]" is a valid criticism or a logical fallacy, regardless of who likes or dislikes all those later actions.

    Similar to how if a fundamentalist Christian first spots some error in their pastor's sermon, they may quietly think later "What else is he wrong about?" That can lead them to questioning and doubting their pastor in general, then the same for their church, their denomination, their holy book, their religion, and eventually even their belief in God. So it is advantageous for the religion to stop any doubt at the initial steps, before it has a chance to get going. They would be displeased otherwise and view it as "negative."

    From those of us who have a more pro-secularist view though, we may be pleased with that same outcome. It would be "positive."



    If event D eventually led to event V, and was so through a slippery slope approach, that does not seem like a fallacy as long as it is consistent.
    Last edited by Brian63; 06-02-2019 at 01:42 AM.

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    Slippery slope is a simple metaphor. You are at the top of a slippery hill. You want to walk down 4 feet of a 20 foot slope. As you get to 4 feet you can not stop and accelerate until you hit bottom.

    The slippery slope argument is negative. It implies what is set inn motion will end uop being out of control resulting in negative consequences beyond the initial calculation. Slippery slope is an argument against doing something.

    The argument against toppling Sad am Hussein was a slippery slope, and it proved correct. Iraq was turned into a disaster without a central leader.

    The NRA makes a slippery slope argument. Any restriction's on guns will slowly lead to confiscation of guns.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Slippery slope is an argument against doing something.
    Which is not in itself an objective, logical fallacy. If proceeding from one action will likely lead to some other action, and then another action after that, and then some other action after that, etc., etc., etc. and that would ultimately likely lead to some very undesired end result, then the person may be better off not taking that initial first step. If drinking that first sip of alcohol for a recovering alcoholic is likely to lead them to a path back towards addiction and that first sip is the easiest to prevent, then a friend of that person who wants to help them avoid addiction would be better off helping them staying away from that 1st drink then the 5th or 6th or 20th drinks.

    So it would be wise for that friend to intervene at that earliest time possible. It would not be a logical fallacy for that friend to employ that argument.

    A lot of times though, people seem to think that a slippery slope is necessarily a logical fallacy. They are mistaken. Sometimes it is a fallacy, sometimes it is a valid argument.

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian63 View Post
    A lot of times though, people seem to think that a slippery slope is necessarily a logical fallacy. They are mistaken. Sometimes it is a fallacy, sometimes it is a valid argument.
    But is it really valid?
    The slippery slope argument is about a fear of the next steps being unavoidable, not a risk analysis. And often about unconnected consequences.
    Once we let races intermarry, then we'll have to let same sex marriages, then we will have to drop the age of consent, then cross species, then we will have children marrying their teddy bears.... The fallacy is in the claim that going two steps in makes it impossible to stop the third, fourth.

    But an alcoholic being susceptible to alcohol is an established fact. I mean, that IS what alcoholic MEANS. So taking that first drink is not a slippery slope, it is the step between being a recovering alcoholic and being in trouble.

    I really don't think likely and predictable consequences fit the 'slippery slope fallacy.' They're just consequences. The third drink is directly connected to t he fourth drink....

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith&Co. View Post
    The slippery slope argument is about a fear of the next steps being unavoidable, not a risk analysis.
    That is where I am unclear and undecided.

    Once we let races intermarry, then we'll have to let same sex marriages, then we will have to drop the age of consent, then cross species, then we will have children marrying their teddy bears.... The fallacy is in the claim that going two steps in makes it impossible to stop the third, fourth.
    What if the claim was not that it was *impossible* to stop the later, but rather the claim would be that it would be more difficult to stop the later because of our psychological impulses, or if that if the initial change were to occur then the person should (if they were logically consistent with their new-found beliefs) going to undergo other major changes.

    Like in the example given earlier---a fundamentalist Christian spots some error in their pastor's sermon, then starts wondering what else the pastor is wrong on, then what else the church is wrong on, what the denomination is wrong on, what the holy book is wrong on, what the entire religion is wrong on, etc. It is possible that a person could stop somewhere in the middle there, say they admit their denomination is wrong but stick to their belief that their holy book is right still. They would have no good reason to do one and not the other---that would be inconsistent. Psychologically though, people can be and are inconsistent. If they were consistent, they would ditch the entire religion for the same reason(s) they reject their pastor's statement.

    So where does the idea of "slippery slope" fit in? If that person's church members were to say to the person "Kelly, you need to stop questioning Pastor Harry because that may lead you down a dark path." would that church be committing a slippery slope fallacy? If Kelly was to remain consistent, then they would be right that it would lead her down the dark path towards deconversion. Depending on how internally consistent she ends up being will determine how much of her religion she ends up rejecting.

    So I am not sure if a slippery slope is always a fallacy, or if it is sometimes a valid criticism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian63 View Post
    Slippery slope is an argument against doing something.
    Which is not in itself an objective, logical fallacy. If proceeding from one action will likely lead to some other action, and then another action after that, and then some other action after that, etc., etc., etc. and that would ultimately likely lead to some very undesired end result, then the person may be better off not taking that initial first step. If drinking that first sip of alcohol for a recovering alcoholic is likely to lead them to a path back towards addiction and that first sip is the easiest to prevent, then a friend of that person who wants to help them avoid addiction would be better off helping them staying away from that 1st drink then the 5th or 6th or 20th drinks.

    So it would be wise for that friend to intervene at that earliest time possible. It would not be a logical fallacy for that friend to employ that argument.

    A lot of times though, people seem to think that a slippery slope is necessarily a logical fallacy. They are mistaken. Sometimes it is a fallacy, sometimes it is a valid argument.
    You are turning a simple, obvious, and common metaphor into a compacted discussion. It is not a logical proposition, it is more risk analysis carried to the extreme. In the issue like the invasion of Iraq there were arguments for and against the slippery slope. It is about projecting forward in time possible occurrences that can not be reduced to a syllogism like argument.

    Most of the time in police issues it is an appeal to emotion, fear, and prejudice. If democrats take the WH and the senate they will start with gun control laws leading to raking away our guns.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    It is not a logical proposition,...
    Correct that it is not a proposition, but it is a type of fallacy (at least sometimes).

    https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/...Slippery_Slope
    https://www.thoughtco.com/slippery-s...allacy-1692105

    "In informal logic, slippery slope is a fallacy in which a course of action is objected to on the grounds that once taken it will lead to additional actions until some undesirable consequence results. Also known as the slippery slope argument and the domino fallacy."

    "Logicians call the slippery slope a classic logical fallacy."

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    It is a metaphor like saying about North Korea, 'give Kim an inch and he will take a yard'. Or on Kim, 'give him a cookie abd he's going to want a glass of milk'.

    Some say Trump is on a slippery slope with Iran leading to war.

    I tried to come up with a metaphor for the slippery slope metaphor but alas I could not.

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