Ethical Concepts: The Slippery Slope

The slippery slope is commonly considered a fallacy in contemporary logic textbooks. The argument consists in saying that, if you take the first step, it will inevitably lead to numerous subsequent steps, the last of which is bad. Therefore, we ought not to take the first step. Such argument are not always in fact fallacious. Sometimes the slope is less slippery than portrayed, sometimes there are significant breaking points along the slope to prevent an inevitable slide into catastrophe. In evaluating a slippery slope argument, we must look at the details to see whether the inference is warranted. For an excellent discussion of the slippery slope argument, especially in regard to bioethics, see LaFollette, Hugh. (2005). Living on a Slippery Slope. The Journal of Ethics, 9(3-4), 475–499. doi:10.1007/s10892-005-3517-x LaFollotte's analysis is thoughtful and nuanced, and he realizes that at times many of us live on the slopes, often quite safely.