What is slippery slope fallacy? The slippery slope fallacy, also called the domino fallacy, is a logical fallacy according to which one action or occurrence may end in a series of circumstances with a comparatively extreme outcome. This fallacy also asserts that if one particular situation is handled in a specific way, then subsequent extreme situations should also be handled in the same manner.
What is slippery slope fallacy?
In a nutshell, this fallacy claims that if a certain small-scale incident is permitted to occur today, a significant and terrible incident will follow soon after.
Understanding slippery slope is crucial since they frequently appear in discussions on a variety of topics, including day-to-day debates about important issues.
Slippery slope fallacy: Examples
The slippery slope fallacy can be used in different fields, including politics, science, or even mundane daily arguments. Consider the following examples of the slippery slope fallacy:
James said to Mickeal, “I do not want to eat this burger. If I eat this burger, I will most probably lose control of myself and I will let go of my diet. If I do not follow my diet, my weight will increase, and I will become obese. If I become obese, I will get diabetes and other diseases. If I get diabetes, I will die young. So, I don’t want to eat the burger as I don’t want to die young.”
In this conversation, James refuses to eat one burger due to the fear of getting diabetes. He assumes these additional repercussions result from having one burger in an effort to talk himself out of doing it. But no one gets diabetes or completely strays from their healthy diet by eating a single burger. Therefore, the slippery slope fallacy is present in this argument.
Slippery slope fallacy: The different types
The way that various theorists approach different kinds of slippery slopes varies significantly. In general, however, there are a number of traits that are common to the various slippery slope argument types.
- a relatively mild starting point
- a relatively extreme ending point
- a technique for moving from the starting point to the ending point that typically cannot be stopped in the middle.
The three main categories of the slippery slope fallacy include:
- causal slopes
- precedential slopes
- conceptual slopes
Casual slippery slope fallacy
An argument asserting that adopting the first step will trigger a series of occurrences that will end in a catastrophic result is known as a causal slippery slope fallacy.
For instance, consider the following argument: “Tutors should not assist struggling kids by giving them more tutoring. This can eventually lead to tutors just issuing flawless scores to all pupils, whether they put out any work or not.”
This argument is a fallacy as it assumes a catastrophic event in the future without any logical data to support it.
The fundamental structure of casual slippery slopes can be given as “If a relatively small event happens now, it will cause a relatively huge event to occur later.”
The causal slippery slopes necessitate at least two incidents, but any number of happenings may occur between them. Each occurrence in the sequence happens as a direct consequence of the one before it.
These slopes frequently involve a positive feedback system in which the original action triggers a domino effect that strengthens itself. The individual suggesting this slope may make explicit mention of this prospective feedback mechanism, or it may be implied in their case.
Conceptual slippery slope fallacy
A claim that asserts there is no significant difference between two things if it is feasible to switch between them in a sequence of small, practically indistinguishable steps, and that they should thus be treated equally is known as a conceptual slippery slope fallacy.
For instance, consider the following argument: “Now that people want to legalize same-sex marriages, the demand for marrying minors will follow soon. When that becomes legal, it may pave the way for other demands, like marrying inanimate objects or animals. Shortly, marriage will lose its significance and meaning in society.”
The fundamental structure of conceptual slippery slopes can be given as “There is no acceptable way to make a contrast between two things if it is feasible to get from one to another through a succession of minor steps.”
The main question asked in this type of fallacy is where to draw the line in a succession of events. It is founded on the notion of vagueness.
Precedential slippery slope fallacy
An argument asserting that if a precedent is set for treating a relatively little thing in a specific way, then something very significant will also need to be treated in the same manner is known as a precedential slippery slope fallacy.
For instance, consider the following argument: “If this relatively safe substance is legalized by the government now, they will also be forced to allow another considerably harmful substance later.”
The fundamental structure of precedential slippery slopes can be given as “If a relatively minor issue is handled in a particular way, then a precedent will be built that will require a relatively significant issue to be handled in the same manner down the road.”
The urge to handle similar occurrences identically provides the foundation for a precedential slippery slope fallacy.
How to prevent a slippery slope fallacy
Authors can easily prevent slippery slope fallacies in their writings using some simple techniques:
Avoid lengthy sequences
Avoid using lengthy chains of interconnected events to draw logical conclusions whenever possible. The strength of these chains is determined by their weakest link. As a result, when one of the assertions is incorrect, there is a risk of shattering the chain of reasoning.
Furthermore, the longer the sequence, the more likely it is that one or more of the intermediate steps will be misinterpreted, leading to wrong conclusions.
Compare the initial and final statements
Authors should always carefully consider the initial step as well as the outcome. If the outcome appears drastically distant from where the argument began, it probably is a slippery slope fallacy.
Validate every link
Verify with sufficient proof that every step in the sequence of actions gives rise to the subsequent one. Consider the complete argument again, even though one of the links looks unlikely.
Cross-check every link with extreme caution if a broad conclusion is being drawn from an apparently straightforward first action.
Think about probabilities
Even when one step might escalate to another, think about how likely it is. Can the legalization of same-sex marriage, for instance, lead to the acceptance of marriages between minors?
Maybe an unhinged monarch might permit such a thing, but the likelihood is extremely minimal. Authors should try to avoid making claims using such improbable possibilities.
Examine the bias toward the conclusion
The author should check to see if they like or dislike the decision they made or the approach they took. If the author has a bias, then it is possible that they may have fabricated evidence to support their opinions, leading to incorrect claims.
Proofread the document
It is crucial that authors read their work before publishing it. This will help them to remove any slippery slope fallacies that might have cropped up in the document unknowingly.
Pay particular attention to details like word choice and streamline the work while reading through the rough draft.
Many times, slippery slope fallacies can be transformed into rational ones by altering a couple of words.
1. How to react or respond to a slippery slope argument?
Different approaches can be used when responding or replying to slippery slope fallacies. Some of them include:
- Identify the slippery slope’s missing components:
There are many crucial events or occurrences that slippery slope fallacies may neglect to include in an argument. Pointing out these crucial connections between the initial and final steps of the fallacy might help highlight the problems with the suggested slope.
- Call attention to the fallacies’ flawed premises:
Consider a case where more than one of the assumptions supporting the slope is false. In this situation, it might be advantageous to address the false premise directly rather than address the problems with the slope.
- Draw attention to the disconnection between the various sections of the slippery slope:
The slope becomes less plausible the further apart the sections of the slippery slope are from each other. This can be problematic, for instance, when there is a slight chance that one occurrence may cause the one that is supposed to come after it.
- Give an appropriate example illustrating the problems with arguments in the slope in general:
This strategy entails addressing the idea of slippery slopes in general, for instance, by demonstrating that they could be fallaciously made in relation to almost any subject matter.
- Indicate the disconnection between the slope’s beginning and ending positions:
Illustrating the separation between the slope’s starting and ending points makes it easier to see why the first step is unlikely to result in the proposed outcome.
- Demonstrate that the progression from the start to finish points can be stopped
Describe the methods by which it is feasible to actively stop the first occurrence from progressing to the ultimate event. If possible, provide examples of prior instances where a similar approach was employed to support the claim.
2. Can slippery slope fallacies be used to make logical arguments?
Slippery slope fallacies may not always be intrinsically incorrect. In certain situations, slippery slope fallacies might be a valid form of thinking instead of a logical mistake.
Consider the example: “Relaxing the entry criteria of the competition will encourage more youth to participate, which will stretch the already-scarce resources considerably.”
This is not an illogical argument or conclusion. Relaxing the entry criteria will surely increase participation in the competition as more youths will now be eligible to participate.
The probability that the original occurrence will result in the desired outcome contrasts with fallacious slippery slope reasoning from one that is not.
Since this is not an exact science, an argument may vacillate between being fallacious and logical.
3. What are slippery slope arguments?
A slippery slope argument is a course of action that is rejected because it contains little to no evidence. Many slippery slope examples can be found when referring to medicine. It’s usually possible to make a logical argument in the same way that the slippery slope argument can get made as.
- Merriam Webster – slippery slope – Definition
- Wikipedia – Slippery slope
- Encyclopedia Britannica – slippery slope argument
- Grammarly – Slippery Slope Fallacy: Definition and Examples
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