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Guest mormonmusic

The Slippery Slope Argument. Valid?

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Guest mormonmusic

For all you philosophers and critical thinkers out there, I have a question.

There are different arguments which are considered fallacies when engaging in reasonable debate. For example, one is called the straw man argument. This is where you state your opponents position, but intentionally build weaknesses into it, as well as things your opponent doesn't believe in your presentation of their beliefs. This makes it easy to poke holes in that argument, thus justifying the name "straw man argument" -- something easy to knock down. Groups antagonistic to the Church do this all the time. To me, the straw man argument is definitely a fallacy in argumentation. It's also easy to refute by simply pointing out the facts.

However, there is one type of argument that I don't find to necessarily be a fallacy at all --the slippery slope argument. This is where you disagree with something, pointing to a string of consequences that go deeper and deeper, ending with something EVERYONE will disagree with. Much of the critical thinking literature parades the slippery slope argument as a fallacy.

Here is a sample slippery slope argument.

"You shouldn't drink. This leads to addiction, which can then spawn other addictions, such as intensifiying the drunken effect with drugs. This can lead to other drugs such as marijuana, and next thing you know, you're doing cocaine, free-basing, and then stealing money to fund your addiction. Don't drink and stop a life of crime."

For me, this line of reasoning may not be a true fallacy. You might consider this slippery slope reasoning to be valid because this is truly the way Satan tries to get us to give up our agency.

You've probably heard the story of the frog. Put a frog in a pot of boiling water, and he jumps out immediately. Put him in a pot of warm water on the stove, and then gradually turn up the heat, and he'll sit there until he boils to death.

Do you think the slippery slope argument is a fallacy? Or does it have merit? If it's a fallacy, where's the flaw in the reasoning.

And by the way, please don't turn this into a discussion about drinking -- we're talking about the slipperly slope argument here...

Edited by mormonmusic

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A logical fallacy does not mean 'My argument is wrong', but simply means 'This does not prove my argument'.

Someone could, using your drinking analogy, say that what is also likely to happen is that they would go out and have a beer with their friends and then come home, pay their bills and go to bed.

If you stated as fact: "A percentage of people can quantifiably be judged alcoholics. Alcohol has been involved in the destruction of numerous lives." And then quoted source, that would not be a slippery slope argument. That would be simple fact.

On the other hand, saying 'Peanut butter results in women marrying men old enough to be their father: Peanut butter is fattening. Sometimes, people eat too much and become fat. Sometimes, that causes physical attraction to diminish, which causes frictions in marriages, which causes divorce, which causes children to have abandonment issues. Women with abandonment issues are much more likely to date substitute father figures and get Step-Daddy boyfriends. Thus, Peanut Butter causes women to marry men old enough to be their father." is an example of a slippery slope argument. It's not necessarily wrong, but it can't be proved based upon a series of coincidences.

Fallacies, to reiterate, don't mean something is wrong. They simply don't prove a point.

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The problem with the slippery slope argument is that somewhere along the line, one thing may not always cause the other. In your example, the start is drinking, the end is serious drug addiction and potentially violent crime. Drinking does not in all cases lead to this.

The slippery slope argument depends on the idea that from A you may get to B, and from B you may get to C, when the probability is low. It is not a factual argument, and it is not logical, hence why it is a logical fallacy.

From Wikipedia

The slippery slope as fallacy

The heart of the slippery slope fallacy lies in abusing the intuitively appreciable transitivity of implication, claiming that A lead to B, B leads to C, C leads to D and so on, until one finally claims that A leads to Z. While this is formally valid when the premises are taken as a given, each of those contingencies needs to be factually established before the relevant conclusion can be drawn. Slippery slope fallacies occur when this is not done — an argument that supports the relevant premises is not fallacious and thus isn't a slippery slope fallacy.

Often proponents of a "slippery slope" contention propose a long series of intermediate events as the mechanism of connection leading from A to B. The "camel's nose" provides one example of this: once a camel has managed to place its nose within a tent, the rest of the camel will inevitably follow. In this sense the slippery slope resembles the genetic fallacy, but in reverse.

As an example of how an appealing slippery slope argument can be unsound, suppose that whenever a tree falls down, it has a 95% chance of knocking over another tree. We might conclude that soon a great many trees would fall, but this is not the case. There is a 5% chance that no more trees will fall, a 4.75% chance that exactly one more tree will fall (and thus a 9.75% chance of 1 or less additional trees falling), and so on. There is a 92.3% chance that 50 or fewer additional trees will fall. The expected value of trees that will fall is 20. In the absence of some momentum factor that makes later trees more likely to fall than earlier ones, this "domino effect" approaches zero probability.

This form of argument often provides evaluative judgments on social change: once an exception is made to some rule, nothing will hold back further, more egregious exceptions to that rule.

Note that these arguments may indeed have validity, but they require some independent justification of the connection between their terms: otherwise the argument (as a logical tool) remains fallacious.

The "slippery slope" approach may also relate to the conjunction fallacy: with a long string of steps leading to an undesirable conclusion, the chance of all the steps actually occurring in sequence is less than the chance of any one of the individual steps occurring alone.

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As Funky mentioned it isn't so much a case of cause and effect, or that A could lead to B but that A will result in B absent evidence that such is so. It is kinda like the difference between correlation and causation. Being a Mormon living in Utah and eating Jello are correlated, but being Mormon and living in Utah does not cause one to eat Jello.

Fallacies, to reiterate, don't mean something is wrong. They simply don't prove a point.

Yep, conclusions can be valid while the methods used to obtain them are logically incorrect.

Butter contains fat.

Peanut butter is a type of butter.

Therefore peanut butter contains fat.

The conclusion is correct, peanut butter does contain fat, but the methods used to get there could use some work. There is a term for this, flawed logic that results in a correct conclusion but it escapes me.

Edited by Dravin

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A logical fallacy does not mean 'My argument is wrong', but simply means 'This does not prove my argument'.

Good post, Funky, but just one pedantic nit-picky criticism: You confuse an argument with a conclusion. A conclusion is a statement offered as fact. An argument is a series of logical steps beginning with a set of premises and ending with a conclusion. The conclusion may be unjustified because (i) the argument is false or (ii) the premises are incorrect. If the argument or pemises are false, this does not necessarily mean the conclusion is incorrect. It simply means it cannot be supported.

Which is pretty much what you were saying in different words :)

Edited by Jamie123
Tidying up the wording.

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An interesting example of a fallacy is "begging the question" (also called petitio principii) in which the conclusion is initially assumed as a premise and then used to justify the conclusion. You hear it a lot in criminal cases, e.g. "He's shown no remorse at all, and it's quite obvious that he's guilty." Sounds good as rhetoric, but take it apart a little:

Premise: The defendent is guilty.

Argument: Good people show remorse for their crimes. The defendent has shown no remorse at all. Therefore he is not a good person, and this strengthens our conviction that he is guilty.

Conclusion: The defendent is guilty. (Now return to start.)

This works just as well if we reverse the premise:

Premise: The defendent is innocent.

Argument: Innocent people have no need to show remorse. The defendent has shown no remorse. Theis strengthens our conviction that he is innocent.

Conclusion: The defendent is innocent. (Now return to start.)

[sorry Mormonmusic - I've going rather off-topic here.]

Exactly the same principle is often used in electronic logic circuits. Logical loops whose premises feed from their conclusions can be in one of two states, indicating a logical 1 or 0. If the premise is forcibly changed, the conclusion is adjusted to support the new premise and the circuit changes state. This is how computer memories work.

Edited by Jamie123

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Followed closely by argumentum ad nauseum and strawmen.

Now if we just made it internet discussion those would move up in a big way along with ad honiem :)

Edit: Actually there is a reason these things have names and are categorized and it isn't because they've never occurred.

Edited by Dravin

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Now if we just made it internet discussion those would move up in a big way along with ad honiem :)

ARGH! How could I have forgotten Ad Hominem attacks! That's it. I need to cover myself.

You're only saying ad hominem attacks don't prove anything because you're one of those guys who is a big JERK!

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You're only saying ad hominem attacks don't prove anything because you're one of those guys who is a big JERK!

You know what, we should do a contest to see who can form the shortest argument with the greatest number of logical fallacies. You can use the same fallacy twice but simply repeating doesn't count (except for ad nauseum), it has to apply to different parts of the arguement. :D

Edited by Dravin

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Guest mormonmusic

OK, debate one of these, using as many fallacies as possible, in the shortest amount of words:

1. Adorning the walls of your house with livy is a sin.

2. Laws which force you to wear a seatbelt are evil.

3. If the ratio of responses to views of a thread you start is less than 10%, it means your topic is not engaging.

However, it might help if you identified which fallacies you're using for us guys who haven't read about fallacies in over a decade.

1. Adorning the walls of your house with ivy is a sin.

Argument 1: Slippery Slope:

Adorning your walls with ivy leads to the brick cracking, which can lead to structural instability, which can lead to the building being unsafe, causing death and destruction to the occupants of the house. Destruction of innocent people is evil and should be avoided (Slippery Slope).

Argument 2: Appeal to Authority

A researcher with a PHD at Harvard University concluded that adorning the walls with ivy is evil.

Argument 3: Personal Attack

The person who says that adorning the walls with ivy is a needy, overzealous, closed-minded person with a lot to learn about life.

Edited by mormonmusic

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Guest mormonmusic

Argument 4: Straw-man

People who think adorning the walls with Ivy is not a sin believe that any damage to the walls is caused by moisture, and not the Ivy. They believe the Ivy hangs from the roof and doesn't even touch the walls. Come on -- everyone knows that Ivy infiltrates the walls, weakens it, and makes the mortar come off! Get your facts straight Ivy lovers!!!!

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2. Laws which force you to wear a seatbelt are evil.

I would try and explain this to you all, but you are obviously too moronic (ad hominem) to even begin to contemplate what I know concerning this topic (appeal to authority). Of course, those of you who do support seatbelt laws are, in fact, supporting communist rule (non sequitur), and are tearing down the very fabric and foundation of our free nation with such laws (straw man)! You start with seat belt laws, then on to regulating cell phone use as we drive, before long, you will be weighing us to see if we're too heavy to drive (slippery slope)!

Communists regulate everything. Seat belt laws are an attempt to regulate, therefore those who support seat belt laws are communists (Fallacy of Accident). Most people hate seat belt laws, so why have them (argumentum ad populum/Red Herring)?

The Constitution ensures our freedoms and is the standard we follow. Seat belt laws take away our freedom and are therefore Unconstiutional (Begging the question). For those who support seat belt laws, is it true you have always been communists (Loaded question)?

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The thing about slippery slope arguments is that on paper they may seem fallacious, but we all know that if we allow one exception then everybody will want one, especially if we are talking about spiked toilet seat covers.

Anyway, our 5th grade class learned that if one were to allow chewing gum in class that it would lead to Southeast Asia falling to the communists. Along the way we also learned that if you took your first sip of beer that eventually you would end up hooked on heroin.

Much better to stay with milk and eventually end up with a coronary.

Those slippery slopes help us connect the dots in previously unimaginable ways.

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Adorning the walls of your house with livy is a sin.

The sight of ivy on your walls makes you think you live in an "Ivy League" university. This gives you intellectual pretensions, and you start believing you're an expert on subjects you know nothing about - such as politics, foreign affairs and economic policy. In no time at all you've become a politician and are elected to high office. Soon you are advising the President and telling him to do all the wrong things - such as closing down schools and hospitals and putting up taxes. The people rebel against the government, and there is bloodshed and anarchy in the streets. The entire country is ruined....and all because of your ivy!

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Ahem: Most fallacies in the fewest number of words

Seatbelt laws are evil:

Everyone knows seatbelt laws are evil except you because you are a communist who knows seat belt laws will let you take over the world and if you don't believe me I'll beat you up!

That single sentence had:

Appeal to emotion, ad hominem attack, Argumentum ad baculum, Appeal to Fear, Appeal to Spite, Appeal to motive, Argumentum ad Populum, Slippery Slope!

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Does anyone remember Father Ted? It was an Irish comedy show from the 90's/early 2000's about 3 barmy Catholic priests on a remote island on the west coast of Ireland. There was an episode where Father Ted (the parish priest) and Father Dougal (his clueless assistant) have wrecked a brand new car, donated as a raffle prize by Bishop Brennan (their boss). Ted suggests to Dougal that they rig the raffle so they win and no one finds out the car was destroyed. When Dougal objects, Ted's resorts to the slippery slope argument: (You've got to imagine this spoken in an Irish accent.)

Ted: If Bishop Brennan finds out we wrecked his car, he will kill us. And murder is a terrible, terrible sin. So by comitting this small sin, we'll actually be saving a bishop's soul!

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Hahah. Father Ted is classic! Still on.

Though, for me, there is basically only one British show I watch: Lark Rise to Candelford. And I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Except I'm kind of ashamed to admit it, so I guess part of that statement was a lie.

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Can you explain this one:

Appeal to force. My favourite example of it is from Ron Burgundy with his rendition of 'Afternoon Delight'.

"I'm Ron Burgundy and if you don't think this is the best song ever, I will fight you. And that's no lie."

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Guest mormonmusic

Appeal to force. My favourite example of it is from Ron Burgundy with his rendition of 'Afternoon Delight'.

"I'm Ron Burgundy and if you don't think this is the best song ever, I will fight you. And that's no lie."

Reminds me of Al Capone's version of this:

"You can get more with a gun and a kind word, than you can with a kind word".

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Argumentum ad baculum

I misread this one as "Argumentum ad bacon", and anything involving bacon is good in my book.

It would have to be Argumentum com succidia to be correct.. I think.

Edited by gabelpa
Wrong word for bacon used.. got lard instead of meat first time

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