By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood

What is a slippery slope argument and why is it bad?

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Slippery Slope < Logical Fallacies < Four Mind Traps < TST Framework

What is a slippery slope argument and why is it bad?

A slippery slope argument one in which you take a reasonable position, and move it to the extreme. One thing doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.

A slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy that suggests taking a minor action will lead to a series of related consequences, without providing concrete evidence for the chain of events. This type of reasoning is “bad,” or rather, it represents an error in logic, because it relies on speculative and often unfounded assumptions rather than on a solid, causal relationship between the links in the chain of events.

The main issue with slippery slope arguments is that they play on fear and exaggeration, distracting from rational and evidence-based discussion. By suggesting that one small step in a particular direction will inevitably lead to an extreme outcome, these arguments often discourage critical analysis of the initial action itself.

For example, consider the argument:

“If we allow students to redo their assignments to improve their grades, next they’ll want to retake entire courses, and soon they’ll expect to get degrees without doing any work at all.”

This statement assumes, without justification, that allowing assignment redos will lead down a path to complete academic disengagement, skipping over any number of intermediate steps where practical and reasonable limits could be established. Identifying slippery slope arguments is crucial for reasoned discourse, as it helps separate realistic outcomes from exaggerated predictions, ensuring decisions are made based on facts and probabilities, not fear or hyperbole.

Slippery slope is a logical fallacy. Logical fallacies are one of the Four Mind Traps which is part of the TST Framework. For an overview of the top 11 logical fallacies, take the 7-minute deep dive: Logical Fallacies Overview.

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