Discussion on Logic: Is Slippery Slope always a fallacy?

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Many of you know what the Slippery Slope fallacy is. But is it always used correctly?
What would be an example of when this fallacy is improperly used?

Have You ever had an experience that seemed like a slippery slope? (if so please explain) for example:

A relative or a friend comes over, then they asked to stay for day, it turns into a few days then weeks go by and they are still there, eating your food and making a mess.

Given that things like this do happen is it wrong to assume or at least expect that it cannot happen in other scenarios or situations?

Of course it's not always a fallacy, some things may lead to others. It's only a fallacy when it's claimed that it will, or is likely to, lead to something it won't or isn't likely to.

Where slippery slope is applied as a fallacy: selection of prime embryos(without genetic disorders) -> cloning. We can outlaw cloning anywhere along the line make the point mute.

Where I've used slippery slope argument I can't remember(I know I have but I feel they where justified). One example of valid slippery slope would be abolishment of labor unions or regulatory bodies. I believe that without any workers advocate groups we will slowly have more legislation passed that lifts any restriction on how companies can treat workers. And without government run regulatory bodies for important things like medical devices or food we'll have many more deaths per year than our current device failure rate/ food poisoning deaths. While in both instances it is possible to punitively collect from a company that breaks laws but in both cases these groups help to prevent breaking laws and resulting deaths/serious injuries. So a family may get several million dollars in damages doesn't mean it won't stop that company from trying something similar or would bring back the dead. These examples lead us closer to what I would call a dysfunctional capitalistic government where people are treated as if they where in China or Soviet Russia, just under a different brand of monetary policy.

Some people in the literal sense live on that slippery slope. An example, a drug addict, a recovering drug addict knows that the cannot do drugs "recreationaly" or "socially" for them it is the literal slippery slope.

Some things are a slippery slope. The slippery slope fallacy is attributing this idea to something that does not necessarily follow. For example:

Gay rights movements in the west. It was said (this is decades ago now) that decriminalizing homosexuality would lead to increases in and normalizing of pedophilia. This is an example of the slippery slope fallacy because there is no necessary connection - Homosexuals have been gaining more and more rights formerly denied to them over the decades since these movements and yet western societies are still just as disapproving of underage sex (maybe even more so). Yet this same argument is still trotted out by some detractors of gay marriage.

It also is correctly used when discussing things that rules and legislation can easily fix. For example: "If we allow animal cloning it will lead to human cloning." - well not if it's made illegal.

But sometimes there really is a slippery slope. Arguments against giving women the vote often said that this would lead to women not wanting to get married and wanting to work in "male" jobs down the track. While I think this is actually a good thing; its interesting to note that those people were right and it makes you wonder if some countries knew what society would be like today they would not have allowed women to vote.*

*Please note that I am all for those advances in feminism over the last century or so. However many of the early detractors cited a future state of greater equality between the sexes as an example of things going wrong and many of their opponents tried to reassure people that things would never go that far.

thaluikhain:
Of course it's not always a fallacy, some things may lead to others. It's only a fallacy when it's claimed that it will, or is likely to, lead to something it won't or isn't likely to.

But by observing patterns and making calculations couldn't someone (especially an expert) reasonably say that something is likely to happen?

Friendly Lich:

thaluikhain:
Of course it's not always a fallacy, some things may lead to others. It's only a fallacy when it's claimed that it will, or is likely to, lead to something it won't or isn't likely to.

But by observing patterns and making calculations couldn't someone (especially an expert) reasonably say that something is likely to happen?

Yes, that's the basis of all human endeavour. It's only wrong when it happens to be wrong. It's implied that this is deliberate, but it doesn't have to be, there could be an unconscious bias.

thaluikhain:

Friendly Lich:

thaluikhain:
Of course it's not always a fallacy, some things may lead to others. It's only a fallacy when it's claimed that it will, or is likely to, lead to something it won't or isn't likely to.

But by observing patterns and making calculations couldn't someone (especially an expert) reasonably say that something is likely to happen?

Yes, that's the basis of all human endeavour. It's only wrong when it happens to be wrong. It's implied that this is deliberate, but it doesn't have to be, there could be an unconscious bias.

Exactly.
In fact, Slippery Slope is not a logical fallacy per se. It's more a rhetorical one. It's only logical when one claims that if A happens then B MUST follow. Saying 'If A then likely B' is just rhetorical dishonesty (unless it actually is the case that the outcome is likely).

It's a fallacy to use it as proof of logical necessity.

As it concerns probability in human decision making[1], which is an empirical concept.

It's quite obvious that allowing some things contrary to a particular rationale will weaken that rationale in other instances. Slippery slope would seem quite appropriate in regard to "gay marriage" weakening resistance to "polyamorous marriage".

Why? Because the underlying rationale have shifted from "Marriage is about reproduction and creating a stable environment for the offspring" to "Marriage is an expression of love and a set of legal rights". Which can also encompass a polyamorous marriage. The path unfortunately haven't been entirely cleared - the other main rationale that "Marriage is an expression of monogamy" have yet to fall - but there's little doubt that the probability have increased under the new rationale compared to the old one.

[1] "Human decision making" robbing the term of its mathematical connotations, since such can't actually be calculated. Only gauged through induction, which rest on empiricism.

Friendly Lich:
Many of you know what the Slippery Slope fallacy is. But is it always used correctly?
What would be an example of when this fallacy is improperly used?

Have You ever had an experience that seemed like a slippery slope? (if so please explain) for example:

A relative or a friend comes over, then they asked to stay for day, it turns into a few days then weeks go by and they are still there, eating your food and making a mess.

Given that things like this do happen is it wrong to assume or at least expect that it cannot happen in other scenarios or situations?

The most common rhetorical use of it is probably something like, "BUT WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE!?"

To which a sufficient response is, "Right there, actually. No need to worry."

It is never a strict formal fallacy in itself, however it is often based on unspoken assumptions, which are themselves false or at least not entirely true.

Logically speaking:

P1: A>B
P2: B>C
P3: C>D
P4: A
________
C1: D

Is valid (it's called the closure principal). The problem usually arises when people assume that propositions necessarily follow.

Rhetorically, the slippery slope trick is not always a play on fear, it can also be a play on good hope.

Friendly Lich:

But by observing patterns and making calculations couldn't someone (especially an expert) reasonably say that something is likely to happen?

Logically, yes. That would be induction, and the more likely a proposition is to be true, the more inductive force it has. That's why the scientific method demands large sample sizes and loads and loads of repetition and statistical analysis- it's all to measure the probability.

But they couldn't say it would necessarily happen, because it relies on experience- aka a posteriori knowledge. As opposed to a priori knowledge.

Example:

A priori:
IF all men are mortal
AND Socrates is a man
THEN Socrates is mortal

We know that Socrates is mortal without going to check. He must be so. It is necessary by virtue of the category he occupies (if you imagine a venn diagram it might help).

Or

IF Tim is a Bachelor
THEN Tim is unmarried.

It simply cannot be otherwise. A married Bachelor cannot exist. This is deductively necessary.

Deduction reasons from the general to the specific. This is very reliable.

A posteriori:

IF The sun has always risen
THEN The sun will rise tomorrow.

You can see how it isn't necessarily the case in the same way it is with the above examples, because the truth of the second proposition depends on reality, one which has not yet been observed because it hasn't happened. We won't know if the sun will rise tomorrow until the sun has risen tomorrow.

We assume that the past resembles the future. But that's clearly bull.

This also applies spatially. One of the big problems (philosophically) with science is that for all its certainty, it hasn't actually been applied to all that much of the universe. Not only might things change over time, but they may in fact be different somewhere else at the same time.

Induction reasons from the specific to the general. This is not very reliable.

Someone might say that science doesn't use induction, but rather abduction. I'd argue that abduction is just a simplified version of induction anyway, so neuh. :P

I've seen a valid slippery slope plotted out on The Escapist in real time during the gun debate, with people referring to the banning of handguns or assault rifles as a "good start" while in other posts declaring their belief that all guns should be banned. With this in mind, why would anyone who wants to still own guns agree to any concession when they know it will only allow further pushing towards total abolishment? Allowing guns restrictions is a slippery slope.

And here's a fallacy

I'm sorry Yoda, but I don't see why any of those can't lead to any other, your logic if full of holes.

It's a fallacy, but that doesn't mean it's always wrong. It's just a pitfall you have to avoid if you wish to make decisions based upon logic. There are other sources to consider when making decisions. A decision based on a slippery slope could easily arise from experience or intuition.

Midnight Crossroads:
It's a fallacy, but that doesn't mean it's always wrong.

Err... it does. If it wasn't wrong, it wouldn't a fallacy.

DevilWithaHalo:

Midnight Crossroads:
It's a fallacy, but that doesn't mean it's always wrong.

Err... it does. If it wasn't wrong, it wouldn't a fallacy.

That's incorrect. A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound. It makes no judgement, however, as to whether the argument is true or not. To think so is, in fact, a fallacy in of itself. If your reason is to be followed, then you're wrong.

It's not really as much of a fallacy as people think.

Midnight Crossroads:

That's incorrect. A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound. It makes no judgement, however, as to whether the argument is true or not. To think so is, in fact, a fallacy in of itself. If your reason is to be followed, then you're wrong.

1. An argument cannot be true or false, it can only be sound or unsound.
2. A proposition cannot be sound or unsound, it can only be true or false.

Danny Ocean:

Midnight Crossroads:

That's incorrect. A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound. It makes no judgement, however, as to whether the argument is true or not. To think so is, in fact, a fallacy in of itself. If your reason is to be followed, then you're wrong.

1. An argument cannot be true or false, it can only be sound or unsound.
2. A proposition cannot be sound or unsound, it can only be true or false.

Midnight Crossroads' statement is correct if he instead says "... as to whether the conclusion is true or not." However, that is to some degree trivial: no proposition about reality is true or false by force of argument alone. Even analytic truths depend on definitions. And synthetic truths depend on matters of fact. (Not everyone thinks that there is an analytic/synthetic distinction, but I don't think the problems raised by Quine are insuperable.)

Midnight Crossroads:
That's incorrect. A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound. It makes no judgement, however, as to whether the argument is true or not. To think so is, in fact, a fallacy in of itself. If your reason is to be followed, then you're wrong.

Danny Ocean:

1. An argument cannot be true or false, it can only be sound or unsound.
2. A proposition cannot be sound or unsound, it can only be true or false.

Danny jumped on this one eh?

I'm not talking about "wrong" in a moral or judgmental sense. I'm talking about "wrong" as a matter of accuracy. The very definition of fallacy requires one (or more) of the following; deception, misleading or false. If it isn't any of these; then it's not a fallacy.

An argument that supports the relevant premises is not fallacious and thus isn't a slippery slope fallacy.

Think logically...
If A requires B
But C does not have B
Then C =! A

DevilWithaHalo:

Midnight Crossroads:
That's incorrect. A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound. It makes no judgement, however, as to whether the argument is true or not. To think so is, in fact, a fallacy in of itself. If your reason is to be followed, then you're wrong.

Danny Ocean:

1. An argument cannot be true or false, it can only be sound or unsound.
2. A proposition cannot be sound or unsound, it can only be true or false.

Danny jumped on this one eh?

I'm not talking about "wrong" in a moral or judgmental sense. I'm talking about "wrong" as a matter of accuracy. The very definition of fallacy requires one (or more) of the following; deception, misleading or false. If it isn't any of these; then it's not a fallacy.

An argument that supports the relevant premises is not fallacious and thus isn't a slippery slope fallacy.

Think logically...
If A requires B
But C does not have B
Then C =! A

You're still wrong. I can make an accurate statement based on fallacious logic. Often times information is incomplete and fragmented, requiring a person to use more intuitive and contextual reasoning. Concerning the slippery slope, this is almost always the case as a man is most often using it to refer to the future, which is uncertain. Maybe you're not understanding that I'm referring to logic as a tool used in conjunction with other methods to make a conclusion. Think holistically.

Midnight Crossroads:
You're still wrong.

Saying I'm wrong doesn't make it accurate. You're ignoring the definitions behind what makes something a fallacy. I can't make an example simpler than the one I provided.

I think you're getting to caught up in the words I'm using rather than the intent behind them. Would it make more sense to simply say that a sound argument is not a fallacy? Thus an argument that provides sound reasoning connecting actions and outcomes as causation would not qualify as a slippery slope fallacy? That would be accurate logic. A Slipper Slope Fallacy isn't "logical", therefore inaccurate and "wrong".

Midnight Crossroads:
Maybe you're not understanding that I'm referring to logic as a tool used in conjunction with other methods to make a conclusion.

That has no bearing on whether or not the logic is sound.

Midnight Crossroads:
Think holistically.

Sure, because there's no problem with applying logic to a theoretical and philosophical concept... /rollseyes

Hammartroll:
I've seen a valid slippery slope plotted out on The Escapist in real time during the gun debate, with people referring to the banning of handguns or assault rifles as a "good start" while in other posts declaring their belief that all guns should be banned. With this in mind, why would anyone who wants to still own guns agree to any concession when they know it will only allow further pushing towards total abolishment? Allowing guns restrictions is a slippery slope.

When people use the slippery slope in regards to gun control (myself included) it's often because of a different outlook on the situation. We see our (in my case British) gun laws as a better system than the US's but we know that America would never go immediately to what we have so we show that minor steps, that aren't that drastic individually, lead to our preferred system.

'Our' being the key word. Say America is at 0 on a scale and the UK is at 10; 10 individual 'slips' that take you from US laws to UK laws. Put me in charge and I'll take you to 10, because that's the system I like. An American on the other hand might only go to 3 or 4. Just because you can push for further restrictions doesn't mean you will. There is no reason to argue against a single 'slip' which makes things better because it 'might' be done again later.

Hammartroll:

I'm sorry Yoda, but I don't see why any of those can't lead to any other, your logic if full of holes.

That's quite easy. A natural reaction to fear is to lash out in anger and try beat back the threat. You stay angry at someone long enough and you hate them and finally if you hate someone enough you have less of a problem in causing them suffering.

For example WW2; Britain feared a Nazi invasion, they were angry at being attacked meaning people hated the Nazis and had no problem shooting them down and bombing the Germans in retaliation.

I guess the simple answer is it is only used correctly when there is a proven correlation between two things. It is use incorrectly when someone tries to invent a correlation that is not proven. Someone above used the example of homosexuality leading to pedophillia. Of course my favorite example is my rock that keeps away bears. Had it for 20 years and I have never seen a bear once.

DevilWithaHalo:

Midnight Crossroads:
You're still wrong.

Saying I'm wrong doesn't make it accurate. You're ignoring the definitions behind what makes something a fallacy. I can't make an example simpler than the one I provided.

I think you're getting to caught up in the words I'm using rather than the intent behind them. Would it make more sense to simply say that a sound argument is not a fallacy? Thus an argument that provides sound reasoning connecting actions and outcomes as causation would not qualify as a slippery slope fallacy? That would be accurate logic. A Slipper Slope Fallacy isn't "logical", therefore inaccurate and "wrong".

Midnight Crossroads:
Maybe you're not understanding that I'm referring to logic as a tool used in conjunction with other methods to make a conclusion.

That has no bearing on whether or not the logic is sound.

Midnight Crossroads:
Think holistically.

Sure, because there's no problem with applying logic to a theoretical and philosophical concept... /rollseyes

I see now. You're ignoring the conclusion and focusing on the argument. Of course an argument can't be sound if its fallacious. In fact, I said that earlier in one of my posts.

A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound

That doesn't have any impact on the conclusion, which is what I'm referring to.

Context and intuition don't impact logical reasoning because they're different things that can be used to make conclusions which can be used together with logic to make better decisions. Hence, thinking holistically.

Midnight Crossroads:
I see now. You're ignoring the conclusion and focusing on the argument. Of course an argument can't be sound if its fallacious. In fact, I said that earlier in one of my posts.

A fallacy just means that the argument is unsound

I kind of figured we might have been arguing two different things.

Midnight Crossroads:
That doesn't have any impact on the conclusion, which is what I'm referring to.

I'm not quite sure I completely agree. It may depend on circumstance, but damaging an argument does seem to damage the conclusion from a perceptual basis. I'm not saying it makes the conclusion "wrong", simply that those who may have been convinced otherwise are impacted by the methods used to reach the conclusion.

I would personally probably "throw the conclusion out" until such time it can be reached in a logically sound way. If I can not reach a conclusion soundly, I do not understand the process, and by not understanding the process, I cannot be certain of the conclusion. A purely personal preference.

Midnight Crossroads:
Context and intuition don't impact logical reasoning because they're different things that can be used to make conclusions which can be used together with logic to make better decisions. Hence, thinking holistically.

Err... maybe. Context and intuition can impact logical reasoning depending upon how they're employed. They aren't always used to make decisions "better" from a rational standpoint. I could cite multiple anecdotes (from personal experience) of people attempting to rationalize poor behavior and decision making based on intuition.

Friendly Lich:

thaluikhain:
Of course it's not always a fallacy, some things may lead to others. It's only a fallacy when it's claimed that it will, or is likely to, lead to something it won't or isn't likely to.

But by observing patterns and making calculations couldn't someone (especially an expert) reasonably say that something is likely to happen?

Happens all the time, sometimes even by actual experts. There is not as strong a correlation between being an expert and being believed as one would hope, however.

Midnight Crossroads:

Context and intuition don't impact logical reasoning because they're different things that can be used to make conclusions which can be used together with logic to make better decisions. Hence, thinking holistically.

Ooooh... you're thinking more day-to-day rather than in terms of actual logic.

Yeah, people can accidentally get things right (aka express a true conclusion) using invalid logic or incorrect premises.

Obviously they'll fall down when they try to justify their conclusion, if challenged to do so by themselves or others.

At least, I think that's what you're trying to say.

Fallacy: Legalizing homosexuality will lead to people legally marrying animals or inanimate objects.
Not a fallacy: Trying meth has a high chance of you becoming an addict and destroying your life.

It's basically the same as with all other fallacies. If the argument isn't founded in anything or is meant to put the other side off it's a fallacy. If it has actual argumentative value to the discussion it's not a fallacy.

I'd say it's not always a fallacy, but it is always very weak logic.

You have to back up points with other evidence, uncircumstantial evidence. I consider the slippery slope to be about as strong as pointing out a correlation: it's evidence, but it's very, very weak evidence by itself.

Silvanus:
I'd say it's not always a fallacy, but it is always very weak logic.

You have to back up points with other evidence, uncircumstantial evidence. I consider the slippery slope to be about as strong as pointing out a correlation: it's evidence, but it's very, very weak evidence by itself.

Yes, a slippery slope is as good as the evidence and reasoning to suggest it occurs. But this means the logic is not always weak, rather that the logic is as good as the connections between each step of the process - which could be anywhere from abysmal to excellent.

Agema:

Yes, a slippery slope is as good as the evidence and reasoning to suggest it occurs. But this means the logic is not always weak, rather that the logic is as good as the connections between each step of the process - which could be anywhere from abysmal to excellent.

That's true. I should have said it's weak in and of itself, but it's really as good as the connections it makes.

Wow, a lot of people on the ball here.

Basically to represent it with symbolic logic:

A fallacy is if A is true (substitute this with whatever you want, like Gay Marriage for example), then D is true (whatever argument used against gay marriage). There's no connection between A and D, so it's a logical fallacy by account of there being no evidence that A will cause B which will cause C which will cause D.

To sum it up, a slippery slope fallacy is when someone says that if x happens this terrible thing will follow without actually connecting the dots.

An example of the slippery slope being correct is the statement if you drink excessively your social life will suffer. There are a few steps between the two, but it's self-evident that ecessive alcohol consumption will have a negative effect on other aspects of your life.

ElectroJosh:
Some things are a slippery slope. The slippery slope fallacy is attributing this idea to something that does not necessarily follow. For example:

Gay rights movements in the west. It was said (this is decades ago now) that decriminalizing homosexuality would lead to increases in and normalizing of pedophilia.

This was not decades ago now, it still continues today. Sad, I know.

There are two separate things here.

Q: Is the slippery slope always a fallacy?

A: Yes. It is by definition bad logic. Remember, pointing out a demonstrable cause/effect relationship is not a slippery slope. "If you keep running with scissors you might hurt yourself" is not a slippery slope. "If you throw a match at that petrol it will explode" is not a slippery slope. As people have mentioned, you can also connect these statements into coherent chains of causality without it being a slippery slope.

A slippery slope is when you appeal to emotion rather than reason to imply that a relatively insignificant event will lead to a whole series of other events in sequence (which are inadequately explained), culminating in a more dramatic or significant event. "If you let your children play video games, next thing you know they'll be taking drugs and joining gangs" would be a slippery slope. There is no causal relationship between these two things, it's just playing on a generalized fear that a particular course of action will lead to a whole sequence of "things going to hell" for poorly substantiated reasons.

Q: Is the slippery slope fallacy always untrue?

A: No. Being a fallacy has no bearing on whether a statement is actually going to be true. The fact that the above slippery slope is a slippery slope doesn't mean that if I let my children play games they're guaranteed never to do drugs or join a gang. The fallacious nature of the argument is purely a comment on the assumption of causality.

It's even possible that the fallacious person might turn out to be correct and there is a cause/effect relationship which was not originally obvious, but it would still have been a fallacy to assume that based on the logic being presented.

Mudze:

ElectroJosh:
Some things are a slippery slope. The slippery slope fallacy is attributing this idea to something that does not necessarily follow. For example:

Gay rights movements in the west. It was said (this is decades ago now) that decriminalizing homosexuality would lead to increases in and normalizing of pedophilia.

This was not decades ago now, it still continues today. Sad, I know.

Without a doubt - but I was trying to highlight that this has been an old argument that still has not come true.

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