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The Basic Slippery Slope Argument


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Although studies have yielded a detailed taxonomy of types of slippery slope arguments, they have failed to identify a basic argumentation scheme that applies to all. Therefore, there is no way of telling whether a given argument is a slippery slope argument or not. This paper solves the problem by providing a basic argumentation scheme. The scheme is shown to fit a clear and easily comprehensible example of a slippery slope argument that strongly appears to be reasonable, something that has also been lacking.
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© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric
Department of Philosophy
University of Windsor
Windsor, ON
Canada N9B 3P4
Abstract: Although studies have
yielded a detailed taxonomy of types
of slippery slope arguments, they
have failed to identify a basic argu-
mentation scheme that applies to all.
Therefore, there is no way of telling
whether a given argument is a slip-
pery slope argument or not. This
paper solves the problem by provid-
ing a basic argumentation scheme.
The scheme is shown to fit a clear
and easily comprehensible example
of a slippery slope argument that
strongly appears to be reasonable,
something that has also been lack-
Résumé: Bien que des études aient
donné une taxonomie détaillée des
types d'arguments de pente glissante,
ils n’ont pas réussi à identifier un
schème d’argumentation de base qui
s’applique à tous. Par conséquent, il
n'y a aucun moyen de savoir si un
argument donné est un argument de
la pente glissante ou non. Cet article
permet de résoudre ce problème par
un schème d'argumentation de base
qui correspond à un exemple clair et
facile à comprendre d’un argument
de pente glissante qui semble forte-
ment raisonnable, quelque chose
d’absent dans les études sur ces ar-
Keywords: vagueness, compressed slippery slope arguments, argumentation
schemes, genetics, eugenics, ethical argumentation, critical questioning
1. Introduction
The slippery slope argument has become a prominent and con-
troversial form of reasoning in biomedical ethics (van der Burg,
1991; Holtug, 1993; Launis, 2002; Saliger, 2007) and legal ar-
gumentation (Schauer, 1985; Volokh, 2002; Rizzo and Whit-
man, 2003). Notably since (Beardsley, 1966), it has been treated
as a distinctive type of argument in its own right in the logic
textbooks, typically under the heading of informal fallacies.
However, it remains a central problem that although different
definitions of the slippery slope argument as a distinctive type of
argument have been put forward in the literature, they don’t
agree with each other, and don’t go far enough to provide a pre-
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
cise model of the structure of the argument that is adequate to
move forward to solve the problem of how to analyze and eval-
uate slippery slope arguments. Corner et al. (2011, 134) noted
that while “it is simple to produce an intuitive characterization
of slippery slope arguments, they [these characterizations of
slippery slope arguments] have resisted attempts to provide a
comprehensive definition.” Is it this apparent intuitive simplicity
of slippery slope arguments that in fact makes them difficult to
define in a way that is clear, precise and comprehensive? The
definitions given in the literature identify some characteristics of
the slippery slope argument well enough, but do not include
enough characteristics to show precisely how they are combined
to make any of them workable as a comprehensive definition.
There has been considerable work done on analyzing many
interesting and controversial cases where the slippery slope ar-
gument has been used. This work has enabled the development
of a typology providing argumentation schemes for the analysis
and evaluation of different kinds of slippery slope arguments.
Corner et al. (2011, 134) noted that the definition of the slippery
slope argument in Walton (1992) distinguished four types of
slippery slope arguments, depending on the mechanism that
moves the argument forward: those based on causal mecha-
nisms, those that set precedents, those that are attributable to the
vagueness of concepts, and a fourth type that combines features
from each of the three other types. Corner et al. (2011, 134) note
however that although the Walton (1992) analysis provides a
detailed taxonomy, it fails to identify the core features common
to all slippery slope arguments, and therefore does not provide a
central definition that applies to all slippery slope arguments.
Lode (1999, 1492) has even gone so far as to claim that there is
no single, distinctive form of the slippery slope argument.
This paper provides an argumentation scheme for a basic
slippery slope argument that models the structure of this type of
argument and enables the construction of a definition that repre-
sents its core features. The slippery slope as a type of argument
is defined by stating ten requirements that need to be made for a
given argument to fit this category, and showing how the basic
scheme is related to its four subtypes and other closely related
types of arguments.
2. Sources of the slippery slope argument
Alfred Sidgwick is the earliest known author of a book on in-
formal logic, at least to my knowledge, to identify, illustrate and
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
define the commonly used type of argument corresponding to
what is nowadays called the slippery slope argument. However,
Sidgwick (1910, 40) called it the thin edge of the wedge objec-
tion, defining it as follows.
We must not do this or that, it is often said, because if we
did we should be logically bound to do something else
which is plainly absurd or wrong. If we once begin to
take a certain course there is no knowing where we shall
be able to stop within any show of consistency; there
would be no reason for stopping anywhere in particular,
and we should be led on, step by step into action or opin-
ions that we all agree to call undesirable or untrue.
Later informal logic textbooks, notably including Beardsley
(1966, 176) took the direction of including the slippery slope
argument under the general heading of informal fallacies. How-
ever, although Beardsley described slippery slope arguments as
often alarming enough to be persuasive, he added the comment
(Beardsley, 4th ed., 1975, 150) that slippery slopes can be good
arguments in some instances. Currently the standard treatment
of the slippery slope argument in the logic textbooks is to in-
clude it under the section on fallacies, but also to occasionally
concede that such arguments are not always fallacious.1 But of
course, evaluating whether such an argument is fallacious de-
pends on how the type of argument is defined.
3. Structure of the slippery slope argument
Rizzo and Whitman (2003) cited three characteristics they claim
are common to all slippery slope arguments: (1) an initial, seem-
ingly acceptable decision, (2) a dangerous outcome that is unac-
ceptable, and (3) a process or mechanism leading from the initial
decision to the dangerous outcome. These three characteristics
surely are common to all slippery slope arguments, but until we
know more about the nature of the mechanism that leads from
the initial decision to the dangerous outcome, and how it works
1 A Google Ngram search for the expression ‘slippery slope fallacy’ on Au-
gust 12, 2014 found that there were zero occurrences in 1960, and although
the number went slightly upward by 1980, there was a tenfold increase peak-
ing in the 1990s. The search was not restricted to informal logic textbooks,
but covered all occurrences of the expression in all books in the Google data-
base at that time.
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
to drive the argumentation forward from the start point to the
end point, we have not comprehensively defined the slippery
slope type of argument. One problem is that it does not provide
a way of distinguishing between slippery slope arguments and
arguments from negative consequences, a much more common
form of argumentation.
Corner et al. (2011, 135) offer a better definition that states
that slippery slope arguments have four components: (1) an ini-
tial proposal for action, (2) an undesirable outcome, (3) a belief
that allowing the action will lead to a reevaluation of the unde-
sirable outcome in the future, and (4) the rejection of the initial
action proposed, based on this belief. This definition is more
comprehensive, because it brings out a fourth characteristic, but
it still fails to give a precise and sufficiently detailed account of
the mechanism through which allowing the initial action leads to
some sequence of actions or procedure that drives the sequence
forward from the start point to the end point. This fourth charac-
teristic is emphasized in the definition offered by Volokh (2002,
1030): “I think the most useful definition of a slippery slope is
one that covers all situations where decision A, which you might
find appealing, ends up materially increasing the probability that
others will bring about decision B, which you oppose.” Howev-
er, this definition is even more minimal than the previous two.
It is a problem cited by Walton (1992) that when students
first learn about slippery slope arguments, they tend to label any
argument from negative consequences as a slippery slope argu-
ment. This kind of labeling or (mislabeling) can have the effect
of shifting the burden of proof against the arguer who appears to
have committed a fallacy, and is therefore obliged to somehow
try to respond. Volokh (2002, 1030) has noted this reaction.
When someone says “I oppose partial-birth abortion bans
because they might lead to broader abortion restrictions,”
or “I oppose gun registration because it might lead to gun
prohibition,” the common reaction is “That’s a slippery
slope argument.”
A problem with this reaction is that in the absence of a precise
definition of the slippery slope argument, it is unclear whether
the two arguments cited are merely argument from negative
consequences. But the mere labeling of the argument as a slip-
pery slope may put the other side on the defensive.
Corner et al. (2011, 135) do distinguish between slippery
slope arguments and arguments from negative consequences.
They call argument from negative consequences “general con-
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
sequentialist arguments,” citing the example of opposing the le-
galization of cannabis because it would lead to an increase in
chronic obstructive lung disease. In contrast they cited an exam-
ple of what they consider a genuine slippery slope argument: if
cannabis were legalized, attitudes towards harder drugs might
become more positive, and in the future heroin might also be-
come legalized. According to Saliger (2007, 342), slippery
slope arguments belong to the class of practical consequence
arguments,” agreeing with the view of Corner et al. (2011) that
there is a distinction to be drawn between the two types of ar-
guments, one being a subset or special subtype of the other. On
Saliger’s view, (2007, 343), not all result arguments (arguments
from consequences) are slippery slope arguments. Drawing this
distinction is very helpful to working towards an adequate defi-
nition of the slippery slope argument, but by itself, none of these
definitions provides a precise enough or fully adequate compre-
hensive account of the slippery slope argument to explain how
the mechanism from the start point to the end point works, and
what its requirements are as a distinctive type of argument.
Holtug (1993, 403) defines the slippery slope argument as
having the following kind of structure as an argument with three
premises and conclusion.
Premise 1: An agent is considering whether or not to
bring about an action or class of actions A.
Premise 2: The argument is brought forward that if A is
carried out, another action B will inevitably or proba-
bly follow.
Premise 3: B is morally undesirable
Conclusion: The agent ought to refrain from bringing
about A.
He adds “Normally, B is not thought to follow directly from A,
but through a series of steps A1-An.” This definition is better but
still not fully adequate, because the mechanisms of how the
slope is slippery and how the sequence is driven forward by loss
of control are not accounted for.
4. Relation to vagueness and argument from negative
As shown in section 3, there has been a difficulty in clearly dis-
tinguishing between the slippery slope type of argument and
other kinds of arguments it is closely related to. This difficulty
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
has been compounded by mixing the slippery slope argument
with another type of argument recognized in some of the texts
called the argument of the beard (Walton, 1996). The argument
of the beard is a criticism used by one party to attack an oppo-
nent by alleging that the opponent’s argument is fallacious be-
cause the opponent used a vague term falling on a continuum.
The first of the nine textbooks that included a discussion of this
fallacy between 1930 and 1967 was that of Thouless (1930).
Thouless (1930, 183) described it as the fallacy of arguing that
there is no difference between two things because there is a con-
tinuum between them that exhibits no sharp dividing line.
Damer (1980, 37) described it as the fallacy of arguing that it is
impossible or arbitrary to make a definite distinction between
two things on a continuum because there is no precise point on
the continuum where a distinction can be drawn between the one
thing and the other. This kind of argument is at least in some
cases fallacious because, as we now know, natural language ar-
gumentation, such as the kind of argumentation that takes place
in legal contexts, is open-textured. This means that a given term,
even if precisely defined, will always be open to vagueness and
reinterpretation when applied to a new case it has not yet been
tested against. Vagueness is a common phenomenon in the using
of a verbal criterion to draw classifications that are required in
argumentation. But vagueness is not always incorrect or falla-
cious in arguments, and is not always eliminable (Walton, 1996,
The argument of the beard is very closely related to the so-
rites type of argument widely known to the ancient Greek phi-
losophers. A paradox called the heap (sorites) has been attribut-
ed to Eubulides, a student of Euclides, an older contemporary of
Plato. The paradox of the heap can be posed in the form of an
argument with two premises leading to an absurd conclusion
(Kneale and Kneale, 1962, 114).
Premise 1: If you take one grain away from a heap, it
makes no significant differenceyou still have a
Premise 2: Each time you repeat this step, it makes no
difference, because one grain is too small to make a
difference between something being a heap or not.
Conclusion: Repeated long enough, the conclusion of this
reasoning will become absurd, for it will become ob-
vious that what is left can no longer be described as a
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This form of argument is different from the kind of slippery
slope argument we are familiar with in the logic textbooks be-
cause it is not about a sequence of actions that leads to some
dangerous outcome were a warning is being offered not to take
the first step in the sequence. However, we can see that there are
some similarities. Both forms of argument are about a sequence.
In both cases, once the sequence moves forward and is not
stopped, the result is a problematic outcome.
A comparable example of the sorites argument was called the
bald man paradox, described by the following sequence of ques-
tions and replies (Kneale and Kneale, 1962, 114).
Would you say that a man was bald if he had only one hair?
Would you say that a man was bald if he had only two
Would you . . . , etc.
Then where do you draw the line?
This is a paradox, but putting it in this format shows that it could
also be used as the basis for a clever argument to attack some-
one who is having difficulty drawing the line, or making a clear-
cut line of demarcation on a continuum.
Cicero (Academica 93, H. Rackham, tr., Loeb Library, 1951,
586) understood that such paradoxes arise from vagueness be-
cause there is no clear cutoff point. If we are asked by gradual
stages whether a person is a rich man or a poor man we do not
know at what point in the addition or subtraction to give a defi-
nite answer. In such cases, since there is no way of setting abso-
lute limits, a series of questions asked in gradual stages can be
used to press ahead. So for example, 1,000,000 grains of sand is
a heap of sand, and a heap of sand minus one grain is still a
heap, but repeated actions of removing one grain at a time even-
tually forces you to accept the conclusion that one grain of sand
is a heap. Using such a clever argument to drive an opponent to
an absurd conclusion is a sophistical strategy that could perhaps
be associated with fallacies.
As we will see, once we have looked at a clear example of
the slippery slope argument and analyzed its components and
structure in detail in section 7, it will become evident how
vagueness is an essential component in the slippery slope argu-
ment. But at the same time it will become evident that vague-
ness is not the whole story of the slippery slope argument. There
are two factors that are combined to make a slippery slope ar-
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
gument slippery, as will be shown in section 8. The first is the
connection between a so-called gray area caused by indetermi-
nacy, typically arising from vagueness, on a continuum in a con-
templated sequence of actions. The second factor is loss of con-
trol combined with this indeterminacy. Once the agent contem-
plating taking the first step in the sequence proceeds along the
sequence and enters the indeterminate gray area, it loses control
over its capability to stop moving ahead. The ultimate outcome
of the combination of these two factors is held by the slippery
slope arguer to result in the series of steps in the sequence lead-
ing to a catastrophic outcome.
Once the structure of the slippery slope argument has been
more clearly and precisely defined by the argumentation scheme
proposed in section 7, the distinction between it and the argu-
ment from negative consequences will become more evident.
All slippery slope arguments are instances of argument from
negative consequences, but they are special instances that have
the feature of the sequence of actions leading into and out of the
gray zone. To make the distinction between the two types of ar-
guments more precise for those who have to identify instances
of each of them in texts of natural language discourse, the char-
acteristics of argument from negative consequences have to be
defined more precisely.
Argument from negative consequences cites the consequenc-
es of a proposed course of action as a reason against taking that
course of action. This type of argument also has a positive form,
in which positive consequences of an action are cited as a reason
for carrying it out. The following are the two basic argumenta-
tion schemes for arguments from consequences (Walton, Reed
and Macagno, 2008, 332), where A represents a state that could
be brought about by an agent.
The first scheme is called argument from positive conse-
Premise: If A is brought about, good consequences will
plausibly occur.
Conclusion: Therefore A should be brought about.
The other scheme of the pair is called argument from negative
Premise: If A is brought about, then bad consequences
will occur.
Conclusion: Therefore A should not be brought about.
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Argumentation from consequences offers a reason to accept a
proposal for action tentatively, subject to exceptions that may
arise as new circumstances become known. An instance of ar-
gument from consequences can be stronger or weaker, depend-
ing on its initial plausibility and the critical questions that have
been used to attack it.
Nobody would be likely to challenge the view that argument
from negative consequences is a legitimate and reasonable form
of argument in many instances, even though it can go wrong and
is associated with incorrect or fallacious arguments in some in-
stances. We use this kind of argument all the time, for example
when we consider whether or not to take a medication and look
on the bottle to see its listed side effects.
5. Compressed slippery slope arguments
In many examples that are identifiable as slippery slope argu-
ments, the argument is presented in a compressed form that
jumps to the conclusion seeming in one quick step. Consider the
following three examples of slippery slope arguments studied by
Corner, Hahn and Oaksford (2011, 133).
1. If we allow gay marriage, then in the future people will
want to marry their pets.
2. If voluntary euthanasia is legalized, then in the future
there will be more cases of medical murder.
3. If we accept voluntary ID cards in the UK, we will end
up with compulsory ID cards in the future.
Corner, Hahn and Oaksford (2011, 133), comment on the first
example that few would agree that homosexual marriages are
the beginning of the slippery slope to interspecies marriages, but
add that this argument was actually put forward by a group
called the American Family Research Council in 2004. On the
second example they comment that this argument is somewhat
more plausible. On the third example they comment that it
seems extremely likely that ID cards would become compulsory
if they were introduced in the UK. So here we have a range of
slippery slope arguments in which some are more plausible than
In all three of these cases, it is hard to decide for sure on the
basis of the given evidence whether they are really slippery
slope arguments or should better be classified as simply argu-
ments from negative consequences. In the case of the third one,
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
it is not even really certain whether it is an argument. On the
surface it looks to be merely a prediction in the form of a condi-
tional statement. To reconstruct it as an argument we have to do
a lot of filling in and making assumptions with very little textual
evidence to go on. It looks like it is a slippery slope argument on
the basis that it is claiming that ending up with compulsory ID
cards in the future might be perceived to be a very dangerous
outcome, and that the first step in some sequence of events lead-
ing to this outcome is the acceptance of voluntary ID cards in
the UK. Some idea of how to make it into a slippery slope ar-
gument is given by Corner, Hahn and Oaksford (2011, 133) who
make the comment that it is likely that ID cards in the UK would
become compulsory if they were introduced if it turns out that
they were to function as an effective security measure. This out-
come might make them a necessity to guard against security
threats. However, it is not altogether certain whether this addi-
tional contextual information should be inserted as part of the
argument. This uncertainty poses a problem, because we do not
want to commit the straw man fallacy by inserting an implicit
premise in an argument that the arguer has not actually stated.
A special feature of these three examples is their compressed
format. We usually think of slippery slope arguments as built
around a connected sequence of actions and consequences start-
ing from an initial action or policy and then proceeding through
a sequence to an eventual outcome. However in many examples,
the three examples of slippery slope argument given above be-
ing cases in point, only the initial action and the eventual out-
come are specified.
On February 3, 2015, Britain became the first country to al-
low the creation of babies with genetic material from three per-
sons. Mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells generate the
energy that our cells need to function properly. About 100 chil-
dren a year suffer from faults with mitochondria that are often
agonizing and fatal. Mitochondria contains DNA, and therefore
intervention using germline therapy results in genetic changes
that will be inherited by the mother’s children, and all their chil-
dren, and so forth. The slippery slope argument used against this
procedure is that it will be “the first step on the road to designer
babies” (No author given, Oh Baby, The Economist, February 7,
2015, page 12). The reply made to the slippery slope argument
given in the Economist article states: “[This complaint] is as
weak as any other slippery slope argument: approving one pro-
cedure does not mean automatically approving others.” Here we
have an instance of a condensed version of the slippery slope
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
argument arguing against going ahead with this genetic inter-
vention. And then we have a counterargument claiming that the
slippery slope argument is weak because approving one proce-
dure does not mean automatically approving others.
In this case the slippery slope used to attack the argument for
genetic intervention does not seem to be inherently unreasona-
ble. The problem is that it is so compressed that we cannot tell
what the steps are supposed to be between this first step and the
alleged ultimate outcome of “designer babies,” taken by many to
be a catastrophic outcome because of its association with eugen-
ics. The term ‘eugenics’ is associated in the public mind with
the Nazi euthanasia program and other crimes aided by medical
policies in Nazi Germany (Bashford and Levine, 2010).
However the reply made to the slippery slope argument also
seems reasonable, because it makes the generally valid point
that approving one procedure does not automatically lead to ap-
proving others. In other words there it makes the reasonable
point that more evidence needs to be given by the proponent
showing how the intervening steps between the first step in the
catastrophic outcome are of such a nature that somewhere along
the line there is a descent into a set of circumstances where it is
no longer possible to go back and as a result the catastrophic
outcome becomes inevitable.
So in this instance, the argumentation between the two par-
ties is a stalemate, until the proponent replies to the respondent
by filling in enough gaps in the slippery slope sequence so that
the burden of proof shifts back again to the respondent side to
present further critical questions or counterarguments. The hy-
pothesis suggested by such cases is that in many instances of
slippery slope arguments some of the premises of an argument
are not stated explicitly, but are tacitly assumed. An enthyme-
matic argument is an argument that only makes sense if one or
more of its components (premises or conclusions) are inserted,
typically using Gricean implicature (Grice, 1975; Macagno and
Walton, 2013). Each case has to be analyzed and the arguments
in it classified using the textual evidence of the case. Here the
hypothesis is proposed that it is the presence of the second
through the sixth premises (in the argumentation scheme pre-
sented in section 7) that enables us to determine in any given
case whether the argument fits the scheme for the slippery slope
argument as well as fitting the more general scheme of argument
from negative consequences.
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
6. The drug example
In this paper it is argued that slippery slope arguments can be
reasonable in some instances. Previous authors have maintained
this thesis (Govier, 1982; Walton, 1992). But as one looks
through the literature on slippery slope arguments, it is difficult
or even impossible to find a single example of one that meets all
the requirements for being a reasonable argument. Many of the
leading examples in the literature on euthanasia, freedom of
speech and so forth, are controversial and interesting, but ex-
pressed in such a compressed way, and mixed with other argu-
ments on a controversial issue that it is hard to figure out what
the premises and the conclusion are supposed to be. Another
problem is that the slippery slope is often supposed to be a falla-
cy, but it seems to be presupposed in the literature that under the
right conditions it can be a rational argument. On the other hand,
there is no clear example of it being a rational argument in the
literature, at least of a kind that can be used as a paradigm ex-
The closest example of an argument that looks to be simple
and a fairly reasonable instance of the slippery slope argument is
the following one quoted from (Burgess, 1993, 169).
Many slippery slope arguments in applied ethics are sim-
ple in structure, highly specific in scope and modest in
the practical counsel they offer us. A good example in-
volves the question whether to prescribe drug A or drug
B to a patient. For the condition concerned, A might
score best on almost all relevant criteria whilst B does
adequately on all, if less well on some. Suppose, further,
that there is no realistic possibility of switching drugs in
mid-treatment. Now, if A leads to tolerance, eventually
needing to be administered in a lethal dose, a simple and
sound slippery slope argument leads to the conclusion
that drug B is to be preferred.
This example compares arguments about the side effects of two
drugs. Each of the arguments is clearly an argument from nega-
tive consequences. The example is a good one because it is an
argument that seems quite reasonable. If it is not possible for the
patient to stop taking drug A in mid-treatment, and continuing to
take it will lead to the death of the patient at some point past
mid-treatment, the argument does seem to fit the slippery slope
category. Giving the patient advice not to start taking drug A
certainly does seem to be practical counsel given these circum-
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
stances. Unfortunately however, the example is one of those
compressed instances of the argument where the sequence of
actions leading from the initial step to the eventual outcome is
not explicitly stated enough for us to grasp its essential features.
But still, the example has some good features, and it is possi-
ble to build on it by making up a hypothetical example about
taking drugs where the intervening sequence of actions has been
set out more explicitly. This example is easily recognizable as a
common sort of argument that appears to be a reasonable, even
if defeasible, argument. Let’s call it the drug example. This ex-
ample is set out in a narrative fashion in the following two para-
Alice is a student. One day one of her fellow students who
had been taking heroin at a party offered Alice a free sample,
saying it would make her feel very good. Alice was hesitant be-
cause her father Bob had warned her never to take drugs because
they can be addictive and eventually lead to a situation where
they ruin your life entirely. Alice decides to think about the situ-
ation before accepting any offer of drugs. After that she told
Bob about what happened at the party. Bob repeated his earlier
advice to her, but was disturbed about the incident and thought
after some reflection that he should try to offer Alice a better
argument that would be more convincing to persuade her not to
take drugs such as heroin. He did a little research on addiction,
and presented a more carefully structured argument to her.
He told her that taking a drug of this kind is characterized by
immediate gratification but easily leads to a situation of depend-
ence because as it is taken again and again a dependency is cre-
ated where the body needs more and more of the drug in order to
get the same state of pleasure. This condition of tolerance to the
drug leads to withdrawal symptoms, such as intense cravings,
nausea, and tremors that can only be relieved by taking increas-
ingly larger amounts of it. At this point it can become extremely
difficult or impossible to stop taking drug, even with medical
intervention, even though continuing to take it can be cata-
strophic to health and normal function, even though it may lead
to serious medical disability or death. Based on these facts, Bob
reiterated that Alice should never take an addictive drug such as
heroin even one time because it is addictive, and once you start
taking it, even a few times, it becomes progressively harder to
stop, and you never know when it becomes so hard to stop that
you can’t do it. He argued that the long-term effects of such an
addiction on the body are ruinous to health and well-being. He
said that a sensible person knows that he or she should never
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take such a drug, even once, because the risks are too great. He
also added some other arguments, including the argument that
taking heroin is illegal, and if anyone finds out you have taken
such a drug it can ruin your reputation.
In this case, Bob is giving advice to Alice as she makes a de-
cision about what choice to make when confronted by someone
offers her a drug such as heroin. His advice takes the form of an
argument, based on what Bob claims are some facts about addic-
tive substances. Bob’s argument seems fairly reasonable. Many
of us would even say that his argument is very reasonable and
that he is giving Alice some good advice.
On the other hand it might look to an audience that Bob’s
argumentation could be classified as a slippery slope argument.
Indeed Alice might reply to it by saying, “That’s a slippery
slope argument.” And since slippery slope arguments have tradi-
tionally been treated as fallacious, it might look to the audience,
at least initially, that there is something terribly wrong with this
7. A proposed argumentation scheme for the slippery slope
Strictly speaking, to be a slippery slope, an argument has to
meet requirements of its argumentation scheme. The scheme has
a characteristic set of premises and a conclusion defined as
statement forms that contain variables and constants. The con-
stants have to be defined externally and restrictions are placed
on what entities can fit into the variables. There needs to be
identification rules that help a coder engaged in argument identi-
fication to determine whether a given argument in a natural lan-
guage text fits a particular scheme or not. There are also sets of
basic characteristics defining a particular type of argument such
as the slippery slope argument that can help to differentiate be-
tween instances of it and other comparable types of arguments.
There are six basic characteristics common to all slippery
slope arguments (Walton, 1992, 208). These six characteristics
are included in the ten basic characteristics listed below, but
have been reformulated in order to make them expressible with-
in the structure of a formal multi-agent deliberation dialogue.
There are two agents taking turns making moves in the form of
speech acts to each other. One kind of speech act is that of put-
ting forward an argument, another move made as a speech act is
that of replying to the argument by criticizing it for making an
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objection to it. In a deliberation dialogue, the agents taking part
in the proceedings are trying to arrive at a decision on what to
do in a particular set of circumstances, or perhaps to agree on a
policy. The participant contemplating carrying out the particular
action in the case of a slippery slope argument will be called the
agent. The responding party, who is criticizing the argument or
objecting to it by putting forward a slippery slope argument, will
be called the critic. For purposes of the ease of exposition, the
former agent will always be designated as “she,” and the other
agent will be designated as “he.”
Using this terminology, the ten basic characteristics of the
slippery slope type of argument can be formulated as follows.
1. The agent is deliberating on whether to take an action or
accept a policy.
2. The critic postulates a sequence of further actions that
will move forward as consequences of the agent’s car-
rying out the initial contemplated action.
3. At the beginning, each single step in the sequence ap-
pears to be a small or not very significant one, but as
the sequence proceeds the consequences tend to be-
come more serious.
4. There are factors that help to propel the argument and
series of consequences along the sequence, making it
progressively harder for the agent to resist continuing
to move ahead.
5. At the beginning of the sequence the agent retains con-
trol of whether to stop moving ahead.
6. However during some interval along the sequence of ac-
tions, the agent loses control of the possibility of stop-
ping from moving ahead.
7. This interval cannot be precisely specified, meaning that
the agent never knows during the earlier steps in the
sequence at what precise point her loss of control will
take place.
8. Once the agent enters into the interval where she loses
control, she cannot go back and must continue the pro-
cedure of bringing about further consequences in the
9. Past the loss of control interval, the sequence inevitably
proceeds to an endpoint, an outcome that is catastrophic
for the agent, and for the other agents taking part in the
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10. The critic argues that the agent should not take the first
step, because if she does, she will be led to unpredicta-
bly lose control, and then will be unable to avoid the
catastrophic outcome.
These ten characteristics are codified in the basic argumenta-
tion scheme for the slippery slope argument below, a substan-
tially revised version of the comparable argumentation scheme
for the slippery slope argument formulated in (Walton, 1992,
199-200). Let’s call it the basic argumentation scheme for the
slippery slope argument.
Initial Premise: An agent α is considering carrying out an
action A0.
Sequential Premise: Carrying out A0 would lead to A1,
which would in turn lead to carrying out A2, and so
forth, through a sequence A2, . . . , Ax, . . . Ay, . . ., An.
Indeterminacy Premise: There is a sequence A0, A1, A2, . . .
, Ax, . . . Ay, . . ., An that contains a subsequence Ax, . . .
Ay called the gray zone where x and y are indeterminate
Control Premise: α has control over whether to stop carry-
ing out the actions in the sequence until α reaches some
indeterminate point in the gray zone Ax, . . . Ay.
Loss of Control Premise: Once α reaches the indetermi-
nate point in the gray zone Ax, . . . Ay, α will lose con-
trol and will be compelled to keep carrying out actions
until she reaches An.
Catastrophic Outcome Premise: An is a catastrophic out-
come that should be avoided if possible.
Conclusion: A0 should not be brought about.
The factors referred to in characteristic 4 are called drivers. A
driver is a catalyst that helps to propel the argument along the
sequence and the argument, making it progressively harder for
the agent to resist continuing. There can be a driver such that
once the agent takes a given step Ai then she will also be natural-
ly, but not initially, inevitably impelled forward to take the next
step Aj of the sequence. There can be more than one driver in a
given slippery slope argument, and different drivers can come
into play at different parts of the sequence, as illustrated in the
drug example below. Drivers include such factors as precedent,
public acceptance, or vagueness, but can include many other
factors as well. In the full slippery slope argument previously
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modeled by (Walton, 1992, 199), the driver is a climate of social
opinion. To cite an example, public acceptance of voluntary eu-
thanasia may lead to wider public acceptance of the policy of
terminating life, which could lead to greater tolerance for poli-
cies of ending life other than on a voluntary basis. Or to cite an-
other kind of example of a driver, taking a drug could become
habit-forming and eventually lead to an addiction.
To show how Bob’s argument in the drug example fits the
scheme, it is necessary to identify the premises and the conclu-
sion of Bob’s argument. When this argument is fitted to the
scheme, there are seven premises, two drivers and one conclu-
sion. Below, each premise is given a name as a label.
Initial Premise: You are considering taking a drug, in this
instance heroin.
First Sequential Premise: One thing leads to another, and
so it is very likely that you will continue taking the
drug, and may suffer no visible harmful effects.
First Driver: Taking a drug such as heroin typically results
in immediate gratification that leads to forward to re-
peat this feeling of pleasure more than once.
Indeterminacy Premise: People vary concerning their sus-
ceptibility to a drug such as heroin. Some become ad-
dicted very easily while others can control it for a long
Control Premise: At first you have control over whether to
stop taking the drug at any point.
Loss of Control Premise: Once you have become addicted,
you have lost control, and you cannot stop taking the
Second Driver: Once the body has adjusted to the drug,
and has become dependent on it, withdrawal symptoms
make it very hard to reduce or discontinue taking the
Second Sequential Premise: Once you have lost control,
you are impelled forward to the catastrophic outcome,
such as losing your family, your friends, your career,
your financial assets, your reputation and your health,
or even your life.2
2 This sequence should not be seen as inevitable. There are exceptions. For
example, you are impelled to the final outcome unless you can get medical
help. But even if you can get medical help, the addiction may be too strong.
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Catastrophic Outcome Premise: This outcome is cata-
strophic and should be avoided at all costs.
Conclusion: You should not take this drug.
The problem posed by this example is how to model the drivers.
It seems that the drivers should be additional premises, but they
are optional, meaning that in some cases no drivers are identi-
fied while in other cases one or more drivers can be identified.
This example suggests that the drivers can be modeled as addi-
tional premises that support particular premises of the kind stat-
ed explicitly in the basic argumentation scheme for the slippery
slope argument. Following this method, the first driver is taken
as a premise that supports the first sequential premise, while the
second driver is taken as an additional premise that supports the
loss of control premise. This way of modeling the drivers in the
example is shown in figure 1. It follows the format of the Car-
neades Argumentation System (CAS) by showing the ultimate
conclusion at the left, and using the lines going from the premis-
es to a circular argument node that goes to the conclusion (Gor-
don, 2010). A pro argument is represented by a plus symbol in
the argument node.
Figure 1: Modeling the Slippery Slope Argument
in the Drug Example
In figure 1 the scheme for the basic slippery slope argument
fits the node containing the notation +a1. It is an important re-
quirement for this scheme that the second through sixth premis-
es be present (either explicitly or implicitly). Without these
premises, the argument clearly is an instance of argument from
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negative consequences, but not one that can also be properly
classified as a slippery slope argument. In more compressed ver-
sions of the slippery slope argument, one or more of the six es-
sential premises are unstated but implicit. In this case we have
shown the sequential premise as split into two. This is not an
essential feature of slippery slope arguments but it is useful to
split them in some cases when showing drivers.
The broader structure of the slippery slope argument repre-
sented by this scheme has a modus tollens form comparable to
the form of argument known as reductio ad absurdum.
If the initial step A0 is taken (as can be seen by applying
the next six premises) the catastrophic outcome An will
occur, or at least will be likely to occur in the future.
The catastrophic outcome An should carefully be avoided.
Therefore the initial step A0 should not be taken.
It can also be seen that this broader structure of the argument is
a special instance of the scheme for argument from negative
consequences. These remarks suggest the beginning of a classi-
fication system. In this paper, the task of building a classifica-
tion system showing the connections between these related types
of argument is not attempted. But in the literature (Govier, 1982;
Walton, 1992), several types of slippery slope arguments have
been identified, such as the precedent type, the linguistic type
(based on vagueness of a term), and the causal type. Some re-
marks are needed how these types can be classified as special
instances of the basic argumentation scheme formulated above.
A scheme for the causal type of slippery slope is quoted from
(Walton, 1992, 93).
Initial Action Premise: S0 is up for consideration as a
proposal that seems initially like something which
should be brought about.
Causal Sequence Premise: Bringing about S0 would
plausibly cause (in the given circumstances, as far as
we know) S1, which would in turn plausibly cause S2,
and so forth, through the sequence S2, . . . , Sn (for
some finite n).
Ultimate Outcome Premise: Sn is not something which
should be brought about (because it is horrible, unde-
sirable, etc.).
Conclusion: S0 should not be brought about.
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How does this scheme fit the one for the basic slippery slope
argument? Several remarks are in order to address this question.
First there are some slight differences of syntax. The basic
scheme talks about carrying out actions while the causal scheme
talks about bringing about states of affairs. These differences
can be reconciled by treating an agent’s carrying out an action,
at least for the purposes of relating the two schemes, as being
comparable to an agent’s bringing about a state of affairs. This
is a tricky point, because it requires some considerations in the
philosophy of action, but there is no space for that here. But it is
not the main problem.
The main problem is that the causal scheme explicitly uses
the term ‘cause’ in the causal sequence premise. So whenever
we try to define the controversial notion of cause, the causal
scheme is restricted to instances in which one step in the se-
quence causes the next step (Walton, Reed and Macagno, chap-
ter 3). The basic scheme is more general as it uses the language
of one action leading to another action, a language that could
include causal steps as well as non-causal steps in the sequence.
The basic scheme is general enough to encompass both kinds of
steps. Hence it seems reasonable to conclude that the causal
scheme can be classified as special subspecies of the more gen-
eral basic scheme.
Another problem is that the causal scheme as stated above,
only has three premises, whereas the basic scheme has six prem-
ises. What needs to be done to integrate the two schemes is to
revise the causal scheme by adding the three additional premises
of the kinds required by the basic scheme. So what needs to be
done is to revise the causal scheme of 1992 by adding these
three premises to it. By this means the Walton 1992 version
causal scheme can be shown to be a subscheme of the basic
slippery slope scheme. Basically the same kind of procedure of
revision can be used to accommodate the scheme for the prece-
dent slippery slope argument from (Walton, 1992, 155) and the
scheme for the full slippery slope argument (Walton, 1992,
199). This makes these earlier versions of these schemes more
complex, but it also brings out essential elements of the slippery
slope argument shown to be important in this paper.
It is important to realize that the basic slippery slope argu-
ment is a species of goal-based reasoning, so-called practical
reasoning, of which the conclusion can be not only a single ac-
tion but also a proposal or policy for action. The practical rea-
soning form of argument applies not only to actions by a single
agent but also to multi-agent deliberation in which a group of
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agents is collectively deciding on what to do in a given set of
circumstances. Both practical reasoning and the slippery slope
argument are based not only on goals but also on values that can
support or detract from such goals. Case in point is the designer
babies example from section 5. This argument was directed
against the practical wisdom of the decision made by British
MPs in 2015 to allow the creation of children with genetic mate-
rial from three people. The complaint made in the slippery slope
argument was that the decision made to approve this procedure
by agreeing that it should become policy is the first step on the
road to designer babies.
Argument from precedent is a form of argument that has its
own scheme (Walton, Reed and Macagno, 2008, 344), and it is
this scheme combined with the basic scheme that produces the
precedent slippery slope argument. This latter structure has been
built on a series of cases in the argumentation scheme for the
precedent slippery slope argument in (Walton, 1992, 155). Ac-
cording to this form of argument allowing an exception to a
general rule such as a law would lead to a sequence of other
precedents, cases that are similar, and that would ultimately lead
to an intolerable outcome. The following example from (Wal-
ton, 1992, 267-27) was about the burning of an American flag
by Gregory Lee Johnson during a political demonstration to pro-
test policies of the Reagan administration. Johnson was convict-
ed of desecration of a venerated object, but the Texas Appeals
Court overturned the ruling by arguing that Johnson’s act could
be classified as “expressive conduct” protected as free speech.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals argued that Johnson's
conduct was a form of “symbolic speech” intended to convey a
political message and that, as such, it should be protected by the
First Amendment, which includes, under the heading of
“speech,” such acts as organized demonstrations and the distri-
bution of literature. In the opinion written by Justice William J.
Brennan, Jr. in the case of Texas v. Johnson (1989 WL
65231(U.S.), 57 U.S.L.W. 4770), it was argued that Johnson’s
action can be classified as the expression of an idea, of a kind
protected by the First Amendment, quoted from (Walton, 1992,
We perceive no basis on which to hold that the principle
underlying our decision in Schacht does not apply to this
case. To conclude that the Government may permit des-
ignated symbols to be used to communicate only a lim-
ited set of messages would be to enter territory having no
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discernible or defensible boundaries. Could the Govern-
ment, on this theory, prohibit the burning of state flags?
Of copies of the Presidential seal? Of the Constitution?
In evaluating these choices under the First Amendment,
how would we decide which symbols were sufficiently
special to warrant this unique status? To do so, we would
be forced to consult our own political preferences, and
impose them on the citizenry, in the very way that the
First Amendment forbids us to do.
In (Walton, 1992, 270) this argument was classified as an in-
stance of the precedent type of slippery slope argument. It was
classified as a variant of the precedent slippery slope argument
where a first step is said to lead to a series of related decisions
about what to include. Justice Brennan argued that these subse-
quent decisions, as one precedent led to another, would culmi-
nate in a final outcome where the courts would be imposing
their own political preferences on all citizens, a violation of the
First Amendment. This outcome would appear to be catastrophic
enough in a free country to make the argument against it an in-
stance of the precedent slippery slope argument. In this case
there is a sequence of steps in which a legal decision based on
precedent is made at each step, and the sequence as a whole
leads to a catastrophic outcome.
Any decision made by the Supreme Court is a precedent that
takes priority over rulings of other courts, such as a state court,
and is binding on them. In the common law system, laws are
based on statutes passed by a legislative assembly, but statutory
interpretation is based on arguments put forward and decided by
the courts. Importantly, whether a law is held to be binding or
not in a given case depends on precedents set in similar prior
cases. One precedent leads to another as the same rule that held
up in one case is applied to another. This chain of argumentation
naturally falls into a sequence so that when one case is a prece-
dent for another, the second one can become a precedent for
third one, and so forth. An influential ruling by the Supreme
Court can easily set such a chain of sequential argumentation
into motion.
In this case the sequence of argumentation is impelled for-
ward by four drivers. The first one is its setting in the common
law system where decisions made on the basis argument from
precedent can be binding on other cases. The notion of a prece-
dent and the way it works in the common law system means that
a decision can set up a slippery slope argument to attack the pri-
or argument that an action should be taken to make a ruling that
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leads to the formulation of a new law or acceptance of a new
exception should be applied to a given case at issue. A precedent
drives an agent forward to the catastrophic outcome by a route
that is not causal, but logical. The second driver is that of com-
mitment. The proponent of the argument attacked by the slip-
pery slope argument must concede that if she accepts that the
defendant should be convicted of a crime in the present case she
must also concede, on pain of inconsistency, that another person
in a similar situation should also be convicted of the same crime.
The second driver in such a case is the commitment set in place
that makes an arguer logically bound to accept a similar proposi-
tion even though it is different in some respects from the one it
is being compared to. The third driver is the openness or so-
called open texture of terms and contexts used in legal argumen-
tation, such as “free speech,” that are continually subject to rein-
terpretation as new cases are decided in the courts. This linguis-
tic factor pertains to the vagueness, or open texture as it is often
called, of key legal terms. The fourth driver is the notion of sim-
ilarity that drives chains of argumentation based on interpreta-
tion forward in courts on the principle of treating similar cases
alike. This is to assume that argument from precedent is based
on argument from analogy.
The argumentation scheme for the precedent slippery slope
argument given in (Walton 1992, 155) begins with a premise
that the particular case at issue is claimed to be an exception to a
rule. The next premise, called the related cases premise, holds
that the case at issue is similar to another case, which in turn is
similar to a sequence of other cases, so that giving a ruling on
the original case, a chain of argumentation will be set up by case
to case similarity (argument from analogy). The third premise
says that treating the case at issue as an exception to a rule
would be intolerable because it would move this chain of argu-
mentation forward so that it would ultimately lead to a cata-
strophic or intolerable outcome. The conclusion of the argument
is that the original case cannot be judged to be an exception to
the rule. This form of argument fits into the basic scheme be-
cause it has all the same characteristics as those matching the
premises and conclusion as those specified in the basic scheme.
The difference is in the four drivers that can propel a ruling for-
ward from case to case.
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8. What makes the slope slippery?
The answer to the question of what makes the slippery slope ar-
gument slippery begins with the observation (Schauer, 1985,
378) that as one proceeds along a sequence of small steps, it is
impossible to know where to draw the line. One enters a gray
zone, but because of the indeterminacy of this gray zone, there is
no specific point along the sequence where it begins (Walton,
1992, 50-52). But at some undetermined point within this gray
zone, one has lost control, meaning that there is no longer the
possibility of turning back (Walton, 1974). After reaching that
point one is impelled down the remaining part of the slope to the
catastrophic outcome at the bottom.
From the drug example one can see the importance of the
possibility that there can be two or more drivers pushing the se-
quence of argumentation forward into the gray zone, through it
and beyond until the agent is on the steepening part of the slope
where it is impelled downward with no control toward the cata-
strophic outcome. The gray zone (gray area) within which con-
trol is lost is represented in figure 2.
Figure 2: Slippery Descent of the Slippery Slope Argument
On the part of the descent before reaching the gray zone and en-
tering into it, the agent’s actions are impelled forward by the
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pleasure of taking the drug. At some undefined point in the gray
zone the agent has become addicted to the drug and now it is
much more difficult to stop taking it, for some agents perhaps
even impossible, because of the increasingly painful withdrawal
symptoms. The paradox of the heap (bald man) is not itself a
slippery slope argument, but its feature of the gray area is the
key component that explains what makes the slippery slope
slippery. What makes it slippery, as shown precisely in the
scheme proposed in section 7, is the connection between the
gray area and the loss of control once one has entered into it.
Now we are in a position to obtain a much clearer grasp of
how the slippery slope argument, even though it is a species of
argument from negative consequences, is distinct as a special
form of argument in its own right with identifiable characteris-
tics that mark it out. The first characteristic is that the transition
from the action to its consequence must take place over an inter-
vening sequence of actions A0, A1, A2, ... , Ax, ... Ay, ... , An such
that each action in the sequence leads to the next one, even
though the individual links between pairs of actions can be quite
different. The second characteristic is that the sequence contains
a subsequence Ax, ... Ay called the gray zone where x and y are
indeterminate points. The third characteristic is that once the
sequence of actions enters the gray zone (area) the agent loses
control over whether to continue taking the actions in the se-
quence or not. The fourth characteristic is that once the sequence
of actions proceeds out of the gray zone, the agent has lost con-
trol, and is impelled if not inevitably drawn much more strongly,
to the end point of the sequence, the catastrophic outcome. The-
se four characteristics combine so that once the agent has taken
the first step A0, the slippery slope sequence will kick into place
and generate a movement of its own that will carry the agent
forward more and more strongly toward the catastrophic out-
come, causing the agent to lose control in an insidious manner.
The slippery slope argument does essentially involve vague-
ness on a continuum, but that is far from the whole story of it. A
vitally important component is the loss of control as the se-
quence of actions is moved forward by the drivers over the gray
area toward the ultimate outcome. Once the structure of the slip-
pery slope argument has been precisely modeled, and a reasona-
bly clear case, namely the drug example, is given to show how
such an argument can be reasonable in some instances, the force
and legitimacy of the argument can be appreciated. The essential
structure of the slippery slope argument is shown in figure 3.
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Figure 3: The Sequence and the Gray Area
The essential structure of the argument is the sequence of ac-
tions beginning with the first action A1, the moving forward of
the sequence through the gray area, loss of control at some point
as the sequence goes through the gray area, and the ultimate de-
scent to the catastrophic outcome An. What makes the slippery
slope slippery is the indeterminacy of the gray area, which
means that the point at which the agent loses control cannot be
anticipated in advance. The agent can rationalize, thinking that it
can stop at any point, and this is true at first, but insidiously be-
comes false in a way that is impossible to anticipate, and so the
agent becomes trapped. Once the slippery slope argument is ex-
plained in this way, it is easy to appreciate why it is a scary ar-
gument, and one that a rational agent should pay careful atten-
tion to. On the other hand, because it is such a scary argument, it
is also easy to take advantage of it to try to manipulate an audi-
ence with sleight-of-hand. There are always two sides to it. It
can be attacked as well as defended, and needs to be evaluated
on a balance of considerations where the pro and con arguments
are displayed together in an argumentation tree.
We can briefly illustrate how this procedure works by look-
ing back to the example of the designer babies slippery slope
argument from section 5. In figure 4, the action of approving the
procedure of genetic intervention is shown in the rectangle con-
taining “Approve Procedure.” The pro-argument supporting this
conclusion is labeled in the circle containing the notation +a1.
Below this argument there is a second argument, a con argument
labeleda2, attacking the pro-argument +a1. Finally there is a
con argumenta3 attacking the argumenta2. The con argu-
ment is based on the premise stating that approving one proce-
dure does not mean automatically approving others. In the fig-
ure, this premise is indicated by the notation “Not Automatical-
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Figure 4: Arguments in the Designer Babies Example
The conclusion of argument a1, the action of approving the pro-
cedure for transferring the nucleus of an egg cell with damaged
mitochondria into the body of an egg that is not damaged, is
shown in the rectangle at the top left of figure 4. The slippery
slope argument is shown in the figure at this argument a2. The
counterargument to the slippery slope argument is the argument
a3, which has the premise that approving one procedure does not
mean automatically approving others. So argument a1 is a pro-
argument supporting the ultimate conclusion. Argument a2 is a
con argument, a slippery slope argument attacking argument a1.
And argument a3 attacks argument a2. It is an instance of two
undercutters, where an undercutter is defined following Pollock
(1995) as an argument attacking the inferential link between the
premises and conclusion of a prior argument. This example is a
case of one undercutter undercutting another undercutter.
This argument, as shown in figure 4, is a classical example of
the formalism widely used in artificial intelligence called ab-
stract argumentation frameworks. In this formal model, argu-
ments can take on one of three values: accepted (in), rejected
(out), or neither accepted nor rejected. In this formalism, an ar-
gument is accepted (in) as long as it is not attacked by any other
argument that is accepted (in). But an argument is rejected (out)
if it is attacked by any other argument that is accepted (in). If the
first argument is attacked by a second argument that is accepted
(in) then the first argument is refuted (out). But if the second
argument is attacked by a third argument that is accepted (in) in
the second argument becomes unacceptable (out). Therefore, the
status of the first argument is automatically restored. It is
changed from unacceptable (out) to acceptable (in). Neverthe-
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less while this formalism does model some main aspects of the
slippery slope argument used in the designer babies example, it
can be improved significantly by adding the argumentation
scheme for the basic slippery slope argument into the structure
of the figure and taking this scheme into account.
Above it was noted that the slippery slope argument is shown
in figure 4 as argument a2. In some formal argumentation sys-
tems of the kind developed in artificial intelligence, such as AS-
PIC+ (Prakken 2010) and CAS (Gordon 2010). In CAS, for ex-
ample, the argumentation schemes, including the one for the
slippery slope argument that is contained in the computational
structure CAS, fit into the circular argument nodes. In this in-
stance, the argument node containing the notation a2 is taken to
be an instance of the slippery slope argument. This means that
the requirements of the scheme need to be built into the argu-
ment displayed at node a2. In such systems, a slippery slope ar-
gument is modeled in such a way that it does not successfully
refute the original argument it was directed against unless the
refuting argument fits the requirements of the scheme, in this
instance the basic scheme for the slippery slope argument. This
means that all the premises of the slippery slope argument
shown in the basic scheme have to fit the example, and the slope
argument is not adequate to refute the argument it was directed
against unless it can be shown that all the premises of the basic
scheme are present in the text, or if they are implicit they can be
made explicit using evidence from the text, in this case the ar-
gument as it was put forward in the Economist article. In this
instance the argument that this is the first step to designer babies
is meant to be a slippery slope argument, and is only possible if
taken this way, but nevertheless states only one of the premises
of the basic slippery slope scheme. No evidence indicating or
supporting the other premises is provided. Hence the slippery
argument fails in the designer babies example, judging by the
text given as the example.
The fundamental problem is that the model of the argumenta-
tion shown in figure 4 only has the first step and the conclusion
of the basic argumentation scheme for the slippery slope argu-
ment. None of the other premises has been explicitly stated. But
the argument cannot be evaluated as a slippery slope argument,
using the basic scheme to represent the logical form of that type
of argument, until the other implicit premises have been made
explicit. Until this has been done, if the argument a2 in the de-
signer babies is supposed to be a slippery slope argument, the
counterargument a3 is basically correct to make the criticism
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
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that this prior argument is weak, because it does not show how
one step in the sequence automatically goes into a gray area
leading to loss of control, and ultimately to the allegedly cata-
strophic conclusion of approving a procedure that will produce
“designer babies.”
The example shows how an argumentation scheme can be
used within a formal argumentation model as a device for argu-
ment evaluation. An argument can be shown to be weak if it
omits or fails to substantiate some of the premises required by
the scheme. A more general discussion on how formal argumen-
tation are applicable to such cases is offered in section 10.
9. Critically questioning a slippery slope argument
The argumentation scheme for the slippery slope argument pre-
sented in (Walton 1992) has a list of critical questions attaching
to this scheme. Slippery slope arguments are defeasible, mean-
ing that they only hold tentatively, and may be defeated by the
asking of critical questions or the putting forward of counter ar-
guments. Once such an argument has been identified, the next
question is how to respond to it appropriately by examining its
pros and cons.
There are basically three ways to attack an argument in for-
mal argumentation systems such as ASPIC+ and CAS: you can
attack its premises, you can attack the inferential link between
premises and conclusion, or you can attack the conclusion di-
rectly by posing a counterargument against it, making the claim
that the conclusion is false, or not acceptable based on the evi-
dence. However, there are also other ways to attack an argument
that someone puts forward as a slippery slope argument. As
shown by the examples above, such an argument may not really
be a slippery slope argument, but maybe better fit some other
argumentation scheme such as argument from negative conse-
quences, without fitting the requirements necessary to make it a
genuine slippery slope argument. To attack the argument in this
way, the critic needs to bring forward the argumentation scheme
for the slippery slope argument, and also perhaps explain the
necessary characteristics that identify an argument as fitting the
slippery slope category, and show that the given argument fails
to meet one or more of these requirements. This move shifts the
burden of proof onto the proponent of the argument to bring
forward more evidence to show that it fits the slippery slope cat-
egory. Failure to meet these requirements means that the argu-
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ment cannot be criticized as a fallacious slippery slope argu-
Another way to attack the slippery slope argument is to ask
critical questions matching the argumentation scheme (Walton,
1992). These critical questions represent standard ways of find-
ing gaps in the argument and probing into its weak points. They
are therefore helpful to the beginner who has not been trained in
argumentation and may find it difficult to respond to a cleverly
expressed slippery slope argument, even though the argument is
in such a compressed form that is full of all kinds of holes. One
of the most important critical questions is whether there is a
bright line that can be placed into the gray zone to stop the slip-
pery slope from moving forward. This form of attack was in fact
the move made in the designer babies example.
What makes a slippery slope slippery is this gray zone, and
what makes the gray zone possible is indeterminacy of a kind
that offers no clear and precise point demarcating the action at
which the agent will lose control, and afterwards descend inevi-
tably to the catastrophic outcome. However, legal argumentation
is full of cases where laws are enacted by legislatures and then
interpreted by court rulings that tighten up the open texture of
terms that are difficult to precisely define. In some cases these
proposed criteria do not work very well, for example because
they lead to a law that is unenforceable. But in other cases the
proposed criteria work very well, especially when they are test-
ed and refined by new cases that challenge them. The procedure
is one of case-based reasoning, where laws are applied to cases
using precedents from previous cases. In other words, law al-
ready has a working system in place for dealing with slippery
slope arguments, or even preventing them from arising. Law al-
so illustrates the possibility of finding a bright line by devising a
legal rule that can be used to cut through the gray zone prevent-
ing the slippery slope from descending to the catastrophic out-
The following objection seems to pose a problem. A slippery
slope critique seems to express the message that the critic is ad-
vising the proponent not to take the initial step, for even by not
taking the initial step she might already lose control. It would
seem that if not, the proponent could easily answer: “Thanks for
the warning, but I will stop before I enter the gray area.” This
possibility seems to pose in connection to the basic argumenta-
tion scheme as a model of the logical form of slippery slope ar-
guments, because it seems that the initial action must already
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
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reside within the gray zone, contravening the requirements of
the basic scheme.
The reply to the objection is that as the slippery slope argu-
ment is stereotypically used, it is not meant to advise the propo-
nent not to take the initial step for the reason that even at this
initial step she might already lose control. That is an additional
argument that might optionally be added on in some cases. The
critic might add, in a case about considering trying heroin for
example: “Some people can resist taking heroin even after trying
it several times, so it is possible that you could stop before en-
tering the gray area, but there are also some rare instances where
once a person has taking this drug even once, the impact is so
pleasurable that she cannot resist trying it again.” However, this
additional argument should not be seen as part of the slippery
slope argument. It is an add-on that might make the argument
even powerfully persuasive to some respondents. But also runs
the risk of seeming unpersuasive to others. For example adoles-
cents can be very suspicious that warnings about taking drugs
are exaggerated and used as scare tactics.
There is also another objection to be considered. The nature
of slippery slope arguments being what they are, they are argu-
ments about what might or will happen in the distant future. A
critic might say therefore, that it is impossible to prove or dis-
prove them. But this is too harsh a stance. We use arguments
that depend on predictions about the future all the time. Argu-
mentation from negative consequences is one of the most com-
mon forms of argument in human deliberations, and it is an ar-
gument about what can or will happen in future. The problem
with slippery slope arguments is that they generally are about
what will happen in the distant future if you carry out a particu-
lar action now that might lead to a lengthy sequence of actions
resulting in some highly unpleasant outcome over the long term
at some endpoint. Of course a critic can try to respond to such
an argument by saying that it’s all speculation. But if the audi-
ence is worried enough about the catastrophic outcome, and if
the audience is inclined to accept the premises of the slippery
slope argument, even if they have not been explicitly stated or
supported by the proponent, this type of argument can be power-
fully persuasive. Indeed, we have argued here that it can be in
principle a reasonable argument in some instances, if supported
well enough by the evidence that is available, even though it re-
quires extrapolating the argument quite a distance into the fu-
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© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
For these reasons, a line of counterattack that is very im-
portant for a critic to work on is to argue that a bright line crite-
rion can be furnished that will stop the slippery slope by dissi-
pating the gray zone. This line of attack can be put forward even
if the critic does not know at the present time how that bright
line will be defined precisely, or even what it is. For as argued
above, it could be quite possible that the legal system can do
away with the slippery slope by means of its usual methods of
case-based reasoning, and testing criteria in trials.
10. Conclusions and further research tasks
In this paper, it has been shown that slippery slope arguments
are in principle reasonable arguments, or can be, because they
are a species of arguments from negative consequences. These
findings support the conclusion drawn by Govier (1982, 316)
that a slippery slope argument may make many mistakes, but
need not make any. Slippery slope arguments can be reasonable
in some cases of intelligent deliberation, as shown by the exam-
ple of advice-giving deliberation in which the father advises his
son that taking drugs would not be a good idea because it can
lead to loss of control resulting in a catastrophic outcome. A
reasonable slippery slope argument of this kind has four basic
characteristics that can be summed up as follows. First, there
must be a framework of deliberation in which one agent is ad-
vising another on a choice of action. Second, there must be a
sequence of actions leading from the action to be chosen to an
ultimate outcome. Third, there must be a gray area in the middle
region of the sequence in which the agent will lose control.
Fourth, once the agent has lost control, he or she will be im-
pelled along the sequence leading to an ultimate catastrophic
It has also been easy to assume that the slippery slope argu-
ment is fallacious for three reasons: (1) because it is a long-term
argument that goes far into the future and necessitates long-term
planning, (2) because it is such a complex form of argument that
it is hard to grasp its structure, and (3) because it is often associ-
ated with arguments on euthanasia and eugenics and the like,
arguments that seem exaggerated because they make emotional
appeals and use emotional terms such as “euthanasia” and “eu-
genics” associated with mass murder programs of the Nazi peri-
od in Germany (Bashford and Levine, 2010).
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
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Because slippery slope arguments typically go so far into the
future, and have so many additional components than the more
common kinds of arguments from negative consequences, they
are hard to support, but they need much support, often empirical
support deriving from the circumstances of each individual case.
To be a slippery slope argument, an argument has to fit the re-
quirements of having the right premises and conclusion to fit the
argumentation scheme for that type of argument. The argumen-
tation scheme proposed in this paper helps with this job by car-
rying through a series of steps in the procedure for the identifi-
cation method. Allied with better knowledge of how the basic
slope argument is related to its subtypes, such as the linguistic,
causal and precedent types, the basic scheme is a tool useful for
analyzing and evaluating slippery slope arguments.
This paper goes some way toward casting doubt on the thesis
of Lode (1999, 1492) that there is no single distinctive form of
the slippery slope argument. His argument is based on the prem-
ise that different slippery slope arguments hold that stepping on
the slope is objectionable for different reasons. The conclusion
he has drawn is that slippery slope arguments are a family of
related arguments rather than a class of arguments whose mem-
bers all share the same form. To conclusively refute this thesis
we would need to analyze a large and representative number of
examples of slippery slopes, including many from law, and
show that all of them can be shown to be instances of the basic
slippery slope argumentation scheme. This task can be proposed
as a topic for further research in which the hypothesis to be test-
ed is the scheme for the basic slippery slope proposed in this
paper. The procedure required to apply this scheme to examples
that purport to be genuine instances of slippery slope arguments
has been built in this paper.
As applied to instances of the slippery slope argument, the
procedure has the following steps. First of all, frame the argu-
ment in a context of deliberation in which one agent is giving
advice to another. One of the agents is contemplating taking
some particular step, and the other is advising the first agent not
to take that step because it will lead forward by a sequence of
actions that will, during a gray zone, run out of control leading
to an outcome that the second agent evaluates as highly nega-
tive, catastrophic or intolerable. Once the argument has been
situated in this context of a deliberation, the next step is to see if
it has all of the characteristics of the slippery slope argument.
For these purpose the application of the basic argumentation
scheme for the slippery slope type of argument to the textual
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© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
data of the given argument is required. Some arguments that are
said to be slippery slopes and that look like a slippery slope may
not fit all of the requirements. In particular, it is necessary to
analyze the given argument to find the three key components of
it, the gray zone, the sequence and the drivers.
For length reasons, naming and classification issues were not
extensively treated in this paper. Various other names for the
slippery slope argument, such as the thin edge of the wedge ar-
gument, the dam bust argument, the camel’s nose in the tent ar-
gument, and so forth, are present in the literature. No serious
attempt has been made to confront the issue of whether these
terms are equivalent to the slippery slope name, or whether they
represent different types of arguments related to the slippery
slope argument, such as species of slippery slope argument. This
subject can also be further investigated using the basic scheme.
The contextual variability of use of the slippery slope argu-
ment, and related types of arguments it is built on, such as ar-
guments from goal-directed practical reasoning and arguments
from negative consequences is a high level problem that cannot
be solved in this paper. But it is an important problem, and some
analysis of how it impacts on the analysis of the slippery slope
argument put forward in this paper are useful. Those writing on
biomedical issues concerning the slippery slope argument tend
to see the framework of its use as a deliberation dialogue in
which one party is considering carrying out a particular action,
such as a genetic intervention, and the other party in the dia-
logue is using a slippery slope argument to suggest that carrying
out this section would be the first step in the sequence of follow-
ing events that might lead to a disastrous outcome. Commenta-
tors treated above such as Corner et al., Saliger, and Holtug, fall
into this category. However, as the six basic characteristics of
the slippery slope argument proposed in (Walton, 1992, 208)
make clear, this analysis is much broader, because it includes
cases of slippery slope arguments used in other types of dia-
logue, such as persuasion dialogue and negotiation dialogue.
This analysis is based on a dialectical framework where the
steps in the slippery slope argument are modeled through the
device of a commitment store in a dialogue. The commitment
store is a database of propositions such that at each step of the
slippery slope argument, as it unfolds in the dialogue between
the two sides, propositions can be inserted into the database or
deleted from it, depending on the dialogue protocol and the
kinds of speech acts put forward by each party unity to move.
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
Each instance of an argument in a natural language text is
different and needs to be treated as an individual case, but for-
mal models are sometimes very useful tools to set out normative
requirements for what should count as a correct argument of a
particular type. Argumentation schemes need to be part of such
more formal models, and many tools commonly used in argu-
mentation and informal logic such as argument diagrams have a
formal structure. Informal logic is a field of study that grew
from the perception that the formal methods used during the
20th century, especially classical deductive logic, were not as
useful as one might like to study real examples of argumentation
in natural language. Formal argumentation methods developed
in computer science took this challenge seriously, and responded
by offering more flexible formal systems and tools designed to
be helpful for the tasks of informal logic. These tasks were taken
to include the identification, analysis and evaluation of argu-
ments, and even the task of argument invention. The outcome of
these developments is that argumentation theory has grown into
an interdisciplinary area that integrates and applies tools and
methods from different fields. This interdisciplinary aspect of
argumentation was made clearly apparent in a recent invitation
from the director of the Leibniz Center for Informatics to the
author to participate in a one-week Schloss Dagstuhl3 seminar in
Germany entitled Natural Language Argumentation: Mining,
Processing, and Reasoning over Textual Arguments. The state-
ment was made in the invitation that because argumentation is
an inherently cross-disciplinary topic involving philosophy,
communication studies linguistics, and computer science, where
different interpretations, analyses, and uses of arguments are
proposed and applied, there needs to be progress not only within
each domain, but also in bridging these various disciplines.
The literature on formal argumentation systems has now been
expanded to include formal multiagent deliberation dialogue
systems based on practical reasoning (McBurney, Hitchcock and
Parsons, 2007; Kok et al., 2011; Medellin-Gasque, et al., 2011),
a form of argument closely related to slippery slope arguments.
It is important for new research on such arguments to take such
formal argumentation systems currently being developed in mul-
tiagent systems research and artificial intelligence into account.
Now that formal argumentation models of dialogue are available
in which slippery slope arguments and related arguments such as
3 Dagstuhl supports computer science by organizing advanced seminars on
current topics and problems in informatics that bring together personally
invited scientists from academia and industry from all over the world.
Douglas Walton
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
argument from negative consequences can be modeled, re-
searchers studying informal logic should take advantage of the
tools they provide.
The primary type of dialogue in which slippery slope argu-
ments are used, for example in biomedical issues about genetic
therapy, is deliberation dialogue. In this type of dialogue one
agent, the proponent, is faced with a decision about what to do
in a particular set of circumstances, and the other agent, the re-
spondent, is playing the role of critic by asking critical questions
and putting forward counterarguments directed to the action the
proponent has tentatively chosen to go forward with (McBurney,
Hitchcock and Parsons, 2007; Kok et al., 2011; Medellin-
Gasque, et al., 2011).). This type of dialectical situation is the
prototypical case in which forms of argument such as argument
from negative consequences and the slippery slope argument are
primarily used. The contribution of this paper is to provide a
basic argumentation scheme for the slippery slope argument that
can be fitted into the broader framework of the analysis of slip-
pery slope arguments given in (Walton, 1992) that is commit-
ment-based, and that covers uses of slippery slope arguments in
other types of dialogue as well as that of deliberation.
Further research is also needed to show more precisely how
the slippery slope scheme is related to the scheme for practical
reasoning, a scheme that is very closely related to the scheme
for argument from negative consequences. Especially important
in this regard is the scheme for value-based practical reasoning.
In an argument from negative consequences, the consequences
are described as “bad” or “negative,” meaning that they are low
in a preference ordering exhibiting a scale of values representing
the values applicable in a particular case. Similarly, in a slippery
slope argument, the ultimate outcome is described as a catastro-
phe, implying that it has to be very low on the preference order-
ing, so low that it is imperative to take steps to avoid it.
How these factors work in to the analysis of the slippery slope
argument is a subject of argumentation research that needs to be
investigated in more detail. Although slippery slope arguments
are complex, because they are made up of a network of simpler
arguments nested together into the one large argument, the best
way to grasp their complexity and help us to understand them is
to classify this cluster of arguments so that it can be shown how
the slippery slope scheme is built up from other schemes, such
as argument from negative consequences. Although the basis for
this work is built in the present paper, continuing it requires a
The Basic Slippery Slope Argument
© Douglas Walton. Informal Logic, Vol. 35, No. 3 (2015), pp. 273311.
research on classification of argumentation schemes covering all
the known schemes.
Another main problem arising from the paper was that of
dealing with compressed slippery slope arguments, arguments
that are claimed to be slippery slope arguments that are ex-
pressed in such a compressed form that many of the necessary
ingredients for this type of argument are not explicitly stated.
What needs to be done in such cases is to use the basic argumen-
tation schemes to search the text of discourse in a given case for
the missing elements by using the basic argumentation scheme.
This procedure is a typical argumentation task associated with
enthymemes, arguments with missing premises or a missing
conclusion. It can be used to help evaluate arguments, such as
the slippery slope argument, using formal argumentation sys-
tems currently being developed in AI, such as ASPIC+ and
CAS. Dealing with these problems is beyond the scope of this
paper, but enough of the structure of the slippery slope argument
has now been identified to provide a basis to help this research
work move forward.
The research for this paper was funded by Insight Grant 435-
2012-0104 from the Social Science and Humanities Research
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... However, most Slippery Slope debate focuses on the nature of Actions A and B, and less on the mechanisms in between. This is an issue shared with the broader philosophical discussions of the Slippery Slope (van der Burg, 1991;Walton, 2015) as well as previous usage of the term. The Slippery Slope can be understood as Action A triggering a nonlinear feedback loop that later results in Action B (Walton, 2015) ( Fig. 1). ...
... This is an issue shared with the broader philosophical discussions of the Slippery Slope (van der Burg, 1991;Walton, 2015) as well as previous usage of the term. The Slippery Slope can be understood as Action A triggering a nonlinear feedback loop that later results in Action B (Walton, 2015) ( Fig. 1). Understanding potential feedback loops is critical to robust discussion and governance of initially innocuous but potentially highrisk actions. ...
... There is a well-developed literature focusing on the philosophy and principles of generic Slippery Slope arguments (Walton, 2015). However, these provide little guidance for understanding the applied causal nature of the Slippery Slope (Whitman, 1994). ...
Climate engineering research attracts Slippery Slope concerns – the idea that initial research will inevitably lead to inappropriate deployment. Some have dismissed it as an unrealistic, unproductive critique. However, extant climate engineering discussions of the Slippery Slope discuss an unorganised set of different causal mechanisms with little detail. These range from technological cost reduction, to the creation of special interest lobby groups, to normalisation across society and policymakers. Dismissing the Slippery Slope may be premature if its causal nature is unclear, especially given the potentially high impacts and controversy of global climate engineering deployment. Disaggregating and clarifying the Slippery Slope can reduce unnecessary ambiguity, promote productive debate, and highlight risks that require further attention. Drawing on previous Slippery Slope literature and mechanisms of change from range of disciplines, this paper creates a typology of Slippery Slopes for application to stratospheric aerosol injection and other emerging technologies. Initial research can lead to deployment by 1) sparking price-performance improvements and sunk cost biases, 2) contributing to normalisation and legitimisation, 3) altering power structures, 4) sparking hype, and 5) incrementally progressing development. These feedback loops may currently seem unlikely, but unforeseen dynamics could still trigger rapid development and implementation of stratospheric aerosol injection. Conversely, there is no guarantee one of these Slippery Slopes will occur. The point is that they could – the future is too uncertain to fully dismiss non-linear change, particularly for high impact and accessible technologies like stratospheric aerosol injection. This can provide direction and clarity for effective technology governance and Slippery Slope discussion. Furthermore, this typology differentiates the Slippery Slope from lock-in and highlights their interaction points. Slippery Slope dynamics are processes that can (but are not guaranteed to) lead to different types of lock-in. Lock-in is when a technology is entrenched in existing sociotechnical systems. Given the risks of unchecked undesired lock-in, lock-in is a state to be encouraged instead of avoided.
... In this way, these users demonstrated what is often referred to as a "slippery slope" argument. A slippery slope argument is defined by its logical leap from an acceptable situation (e.g., a reasonable policy decision) to a dangerous, unacceptable outcome (e.g., the collapse of moral society) (Walton 2015). Yet, while slippery slope arguments are typically understood as a logical fallacy, as Walton (2015) argues, they can be reasonable in some cases depending on the specific circumstances, for example, if the agent controlling the dreaded outcome could plausibly lose control. ...
... A slippery slope argument is defined by its logical leap from an acceptable situation (e.g., a reasonable policy decision) to a dangerous, unacceptable outcome (e.g., the collapse of moral society) (Walton 2015). Yet, while slippery slope arguments are typically understood as a logical fallacy, as Walton (2015) argues, they can be reasonable in some cases depending on the specific circumstances, for example, if the agent controlling the dreaded outcome could plausibly lose control. ...
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Freedom of speech has long been considered an essential value in democracies. However, its boundaries concerning hate speech continue to be contested across many social and political spheres, including governments, social media websites, and university campuses. Despite the recent growth of so-called free speech communities online and offline, little empirical research has examined how individuals embedded in these communities make moral sense of free speech and its limits. Examining these perspectives is important for understanding the growing involvement and polarization around this issue. Using a digital ethnographic approach, I address this gap by analyzing discussions in a rapidly growing online forum dedicated to free speech (r/FreeSpeech subreddit). I find that most users on the forum understand free speech in an absolutist sense (i.e., it should be free from legal, institutional, material, and even social censorship or consequences), but that users differ in their arguments and justifications concerning hate speech. Some downplay the harms of hate speech, while others acknowledge its harms but either focus on its epistemic subjectivity or on the moral threats of censorship and authoritarianism. Further, the forum appears to have become more polarized and right-wing-dominated over time, rife with ideological tensions between members and between moderators and members. Overall, this study highlights the variation in free speech discourse within online spaces and calls for further research on free speech that focuses on first-hand perspectives.
... 15 14 Walton is perhaps the most prolific writer on SSA. E.g., Walton (1992Walton ( , 2015Walton ( , 2017. The details of his treatment vary over time, I mainly rely on the two later papers. ...
It has been argued that geoengineering research should not be pursued because of a slippery slope from research to problematic deployment. These arguments have been thought weak or defective on the basis of interpretations that treat the arguments as relying on dubious premises. The paper urges a new interpretation of these arguments as precautionary arguments, i.e., as relying on a precautionary principle. This interpretation helps us better appreciate the potential normative force of the worries, their potential policy relevance, and the kind of evidence required by slippery slope arguments. Understood as precautionary arguments, it is clear that slippery slope arguments against geoengineering capture concerns that are worth taking seriously.
... My conclusion is simple: failed to respond convincingly to the perfectly valid and reasonable (see, e.g., Walton, 2015) slippery slope argument. ...
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Smith & al. (2022), Hammer & Thiele (2021), and some other authors recently discussed and proposed dramatic changes to the International Code of Nomenclature of algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) aimed at the provisions allowing rejection and replacement of valid and legitimate names that reflect the “colonial and imperialist power” or may be considered, at least by some experts and users, as “culturally offensive or inappropriate” because of several broadly and vaguely formulated reasons, such as names considered to be “derogatory or insulting to a person or group of people”, those honoring “a person that the taxonomic community agrees should not be honoured”, and even any name that “otherwise causes deep offense”. These proposals and their possible outcomes were analyzed and criticized in my article (Mosyakin, 2022), which was, in turn, criticized in a recent article by Smith & al. (2022). In the present note I respond to that criticism, discuss additional cases of possible “culturally offensive or inappropriate” names, and provide additional evidence of possible (and, in my opinion, highly probable) confrontational and disruptive outcomes in case if the proposals to reject “culturally offensive or inappropriate” names are accepted and incorporated into the ICN. I appeal to the international community of taxonomists to reject such proposals, to protect the fundamental Preamble 1 and Art. 51 of the ICN, to protect the scientific freedom and principles of nomenclatural stability and political neutrality, and to protect our science from politically motivated decisions. The Pandora's Box of anticipated fights for or against “culturally offensive and inappropriate names” should remain firmly closed. Scientists in general and plant taxonomists in our case should firmly stand for the common values of scientific freedom, mutual understanding and respect, tolerance, reconciliation, a bold, open-minded and honest view of history (including history of taxonomy), and, specifically, the principle of neutrality of biological nomenclature well expressed in Art. 51 of the ICN. Essentially the same provisions in earlier versions of the Code or other earlier rules of botanical nomenclature served well the generations of taxonomists and users of taxonomic information, preventing unnecessary conflicts between people and peoples over names of organisms, which someone sometime somehow may or may not consider “culturally offensive or inappropriate”. Preamble 1 and Art. 51 of the ICN are crucial tools for maintaining nomenclatural stability, civility, and tolerance in our diverse, complicated and, unfortunately, not so peaceful present-day world, and especially in our science of biological taxonomy reflecting the amazing diversity of the living world of our planet. FREE ACCESS.
... Çizgi nereden sonra çekilmelidir? 34 Kürtaj konusunda da bir olguda izin verildiğinde diğer olgulara izin verilmemesi için mantıklı bir açıklama olmayabilir. Hangi anomalili bebeklerinin kürtajına izin verildiğinin, sınırlarının nereden çizilmesi gerektiği konusu hassas bir konudur. ...
öğrencilerinin kürtaj ile ilgili görüşlerinin saptanması amacıyla yapılmıştır. Araştırmaya ilişkin veriler Gazi Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi’nde öğrenim gören 1., 4. ve 6. sınıf öğrencilerine uygulanan soru kâğıdı ile toplanmıştır. Örneklem, basit rastgele örnekleme yöntemi ile belirlenmiştir. 1358 öğrenciden 698’ü soru kâğıdını doldurmuştur. Döllenmeden itibaren, “Sizce fetüsün birey sayılması için, sınır kaçıncı hafta olmalıdır?” şeklindeki soruya tıp fakültesi öğrencilerinin %32,0’ı kalp atımının başladığı zaman olan 6. haftayı belirtmiştir. Öğrencilerin %26,0’ü ise bu sınırı döllenmeden itibaren çizmiştir. Çalışmada görüldü ki öğrencilerin çoğu (%81,2) kürtajı bir doğum kontrol yöntemi olarak görmemektedir. Kürtajın bir gerekçesi olarak annenin ileri derece mental retarde olması ya da annede ölümcül bir hastalığının olmasının gösterilmesine çoğu öğrenci kararsız kalmıştır. Öğrencilere kürtaj hakkında babadan izin alınması ile ilgili görüşleri de sorulmuştur. Buna göre öğrencilerin çoğu (%81,0) anne ve babanın evli olması durumunda babadan izin alınması gerektiğini düşünürken, evliliğin olmaması durumunda ise görüşlerinin değiştiği, yüzdelerin babadan izin alınmasının gerekli olmadığı yönüne doğru kaydığı görülmüştür. Araştırmada ayrıca öğrencilerin %57,0’ı kürtajın yasal sınırı olarak gebeliğin 10. haftasını uygun bulmuş ve çoğu öğrenci (%67,9) kürtajın tamamen yasaklanmasına karşı olduklarını belirtmiştir. Araştırmada tıp fakültesi öğrencilerine örnek verilen kürtaj olgusu ne kadar karmaşıksa yani ele alınması gereken etik ilke ne kadar çoksa, yaşadıkları etik ikilemin o derecede fazla olduğu görülmüştür. Ayrıca öğrencilerin kararlarını etkileyen önemli faktörlerden birinin Türkiye’nin kürtaj ile ilgili mevcut yasal düzenlemeleri olduğu görülmüştür.
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The first issue of Artificial Intelligence and Law journal was published in 1992. This paper provides commentaries on landmark papers from the first decade of that journal. The topics discussed include reasoning with cases, argumentation, normative reasoning, dialogue, representing legal knowledge and neural networks.
This chapter surveys the benefits of critical and argument skills in bilingual pre-service teachers' future careers for assessment pursuits. It also examines how informal logic for pedagogical purposes is scarcely considered in education settings – both primary and university levels. Yet, such a lack of teacher training will negatively influence subsequent feedback and ad hoc formative assessments to measure bilingual pupils' knowledge accurately. Hence, taking as referents argumentation and critical thinking and enquiring, the chapter aims to establish the fundamental theoretical foundations for understanding and designing formative queries.
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In this paper, we use concepts, structure and tools from argumentation theory to show how conversational implicatures are triggered by conflicts of presumptions. Presumptive implicature are shown to be based on defeasible forms of inference used in conditions of lack of knowledge, including analogical rea-soning, inference to the best explanation, practical reasoning, appeal to pity, and argument from cause. Such inferences are modelled as communicative strategies used to fill knowledge gaps by shifting the burden of proof to provide the missing contrary evidence to the other party in a dialogue.c Through a series of illustrative examples, we show how such principles of inference are based on common knowledge about the ordinary course of events shared by participants in a struc-tured dialogue setting in which they take turns putting forward and responding to speech acts. Keywords Argumentation Á Implicatures Á Argumentation schemes Á Analogy Á Speech acts Á Pragmatics Á Implicit speech acts Á Indirect speech acts The notion of implicature was introduced by Grice in 'The Causal Theory of Perception' (Grice 1961) and developed in his further essays (Grice 1975) 1 . The theory is meant to describe the relationship between what is said and what is meant in cases in which the conventional meaning commonly associated with the sen-tence (''what is said'') does not correspond with the speaker's communicative intention, or his/her intended effect on the audience (''what is meant'') (Grice
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Autonomous planning agents that share a common goal should be able to propose, justify and share information about plans. To reach an agreement on the best plan, strategies for persuasion and negotiation could be used by agents in order to share their beliefs about the world and resolve conflicts between the agents. We present an argumentation scheme and associated critical questions to create and justify plan proposals where plans are combinations of actions requiring several agents for their execution. An analysis of different ways in which actions can combine is presented and then associated with the argumentation scheme and the critical questions. We believe these elements are necessary to enable agents to engage in rational debate over co-operative plan proposals.
Slippery slopes have been the topic of a spate of recent literature. In this Article, the authors provide a general theory for understanding and evaluating slippery slope arguments and their associated slippery slope events. The central feature of the theory is a structure of discussion within which all arguments take place. The structure is multilayered, consisting of decisions, rules, theories, and research programs. Each layer influences and shapes the layer beneath: Rules influence decisions, theories influence the choice of rules, and research programs influence the choice of theories. In this structure, slippery slope arguments take the form of meta-arguments, as they purport to predict the future development of arguments in the structure of discussion. Evaluating such arguments requires knowledge of the specific content of the structure of discussion itself. This Article then Presents four viable types of slippery slope arguments; draws attention to four different factors that, other things equal, tend to increase the likelihood of slippery slopes; and explores a variety of strategies for coping with slippery slopes.
This article summarizes both the history and the historiography of eugenics across the world and that indicates new lines of inquiry that have evolved in recent years. It demonstrates that eugenics rapidly has become a shared language and ambition in cultures and locations that were otherwise radically different. It discusses the complicated relationship between the unconditional advocacy of contraception by neo-Malthusians and the cautious ambivalence typical of eugenicists. This article extends the analysis of eugenics through gender by addressing the question of masculinity and the subjectivity of eugenic advocates. This article analyzes the transnational themes in eugenics and surveys the important question of place-based differences in eugenic aims, methods, policies, and outcome. Eugenics invokes a modern political history in which individuals have been subsumed within collectives and their perceived interests and soon became a signal for, and almost a symbol of, modernization.
Arguments of the "if this, then that, and finally that" variety have a long heritage in legal and popular discourse. They appear in all fields of law and seem especially common in Professor Schauer's own area of expertise: free speech law. In this Article, Professor Schauer examines the presuppositions and defining characteristics of slippery slope arguments. His aim is not to defend or debunk such arguments, but to distinguish them from other arguments often couched in slippery slope form, and through this process of analytic isolation to expose the foundations on which slippery slope claims must stand or fall. He argues that slippery slope arguments depend for their persuasive power on the currently perceived inability of future decisionmakers to recognize, comprehend, or defend doctrinal lines drawn by their predecessors. Hence, Professor Schauer concludes, slippery slope arguments may flourish in law because of the unique way in which law, set apart from other disciplines, pays allegiance to the past while guarding the future.