piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
i want to post this here so i can noodle about it later. elsejournal i said: "i am fairly dead-set against slippery slope arguments."

somebody else asked: Just for the sake of my own curiosity, in all contexts? And if so, why?

my reply:

probably not in all contexts, because that seems rarely true for me, but right now i can't come up with a context in which slippery slope arguments don't fundamentally bother me. i mean, even positive ones bother me. [ah, now that i've written the whole thing, i can feel something nudging at the back of my brain, but it'll have to wait til another time.]

let's see whether i have enough neurons online to explain concisely why i think SSAs are so dangerous.

logic, 2 points:
a) SSAs generally ignore the huge middle ground in human behaviours, and do not show convincing data to support their conclusions. human behaviour does not inevitably produce a domino effect.

b) SSAs are arguments from specific projected consequences which take advantage of humans being imperfect when making nuanced distinctions. but being imperfect at making the second-order distinction between distinctions we're good at and those we're bad at, we're bound to fail to make the distinction between good and bad SSAs. and we then arrive at a higher order mess.

application: i perceive in policy based on SSAs a strong tendency towards the very thing we're both decrying -- greater cynicism and mistrust in people's ability to do the right thing and therefore greater restriction of their self-determination, and more and more rules to hem them in just in case they might do something dangerous, even if the danger is just to themselves.

slippery slope arguments

on 2009-06-25 13:11 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
I don't know if I'm dead-set against them, but certainly approach them very cautiously. As a general form, they're certainly a failure for me because I mistrust them.

on 2009-06-26 03:13 (UTC)
Posted by [personal profile] matthewdaly
It would be rare for me to try to apply the slippery slope metaphor to an argument, but not unheard of. In retrospect, I think that a fine reason to have disliked the Patriot Act was borne out by how hard (and ultimately futile) it was to prevent its permanent re-authorization four years later. So if you're a fan of habeas corpus and not so much of warrantless wiretaps, there is a significant risk to rational compromise when it comes to granting absolute power to law enforcement in what feel like extraordinary times. Personally, I am highly critical of stem cell research on many levels, but among them is the concern that our future debate on cloning should not begin with the precedent that some growing things that contain the human genome and provide us with significant value are property and not people. I don't know if this sort of reasoning is ever my strongest reason for forming a belief, but it's part of the mix.

That said, I certainly don't ever want to hear someone on my side talking about what happens when you turn up the heat on a pot with a frog in it. That just makes my side look stupid.

on 2009-06-26 17:09 (UTC)
Posted by [personal profile] flarenut
I think your b) -- and to an extent a) -- only apply to the class of slippery-slope arguments made with respect to parties who are more or less neutral or randomly distributed with respect to the desired outcome. I'm much more used to slippery slopes arguments where you have a pretty good idea that some of the parties have a specific intent. That idea may be wrong, but the person making the argument has it firmly in mind.

Slippery slopes also interact pretty strongly with shobboleths and dog whistles.


piranha: red origami crane (Default)
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