A Quick Question - Slippery Slope

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Reply Fri 8 May, 2009 07:16 pm
I wonder if a "slippery slope argument" is logically valid.
As an example, if two people were debating whether a certain male murderer should receive death penalty, is the argument that all men should recieve the death penalty valid?
It migh have a valid conclusion within this argument, but the logical conclusion of course implies this horrific conclusion.
Does that mean that this argument is not valid when arguing for a particular instance, as it's ultimate conclusion is not generally agreed upon to be acceptable? Which we might not notice in more complicated examples.

And does this have a name?
 
ACB
 
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 05:51 pm
@EmperorNero,
The argument is valid only if it is formulated as follows:

1. A certain male murderer should receive the death penalty.
2. All male murderers should be treated equally (i.e. if one should receive the death penalty, they all should).
3. Therefore, all male murderers should receive the death penalty.

But premise 2 is obviously unjustified. Each case is different; some murders are morally worse than others. The circumstances and method of each murder need to be taken into account. Was it committed in passion or in cold blood? Was the victim's suffering deliberately maximised? Was the victim innocent and/or defenceless?

Logically, (3) does not follow from (1) alone.
 
EmperorNero
 
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 06:53 pm
@EmperorNero,
Thank you.

I asked myself this a while ago after hearing about the gay marriage debate in the United States, specifically California.
The argument on the pro side is as follows:
(1) Laws banning marriage with a person of the same gender discriminate on base of sexual preference. (As established in a supreme court ruling.)
(2) Per the 14th amendment of the US constitution, discriminating on base of sexual preference is unequal treatment under the law.
(3) Unequal treatment under the law should not be permitted.

In essence (3) says "Everyone should be equal". Can this argument be used without actually wanting everyone else to be equal in different instances?
Does someone who puts forward this argument have to oppose all violations of the 14th amendment of the US constitution, or is this a fine argument only opposing this one violation of the 14th amendment?

Or: Can you argue for the execution of one person with the argument of executing everyone, since that would include that person?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 09:47 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;82880 wrote:
Thank you.

I asked myself this a while ago after hearing about the gay marriage debate in the United States, specifically California.
The argument on the pro side is as follows:
(1) Laws banning marriage with a person of the same gender discriminate on base of sexual preference. (As established in a supreme court ruling.)
(2) Per the 14th amendment of the US constitution, discriminating on base of sexual preference is unequal treatment under the law.
(3) Unequal treatment under the law should not be permitted.

In essence (3) says "Everyone should be equal". Can this argument be used without actually wanting everyone else to be equal in different instances?
Does someone who puts forward this argument have to oppose all violations of the 14th amendment of the US constitution, or is this a fine argument only opposing this one violation of the 14th amendment?

Or: Can you argue for the execution of one person with the argument of executing everyone, since that would include that person?


Slippery slope - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
richrf
 
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 11:51 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;82880 wrote:
In essence (3) says "Everyone should be equal". Can this argument be used without actually wanting everyone else to be equal in different instances?
Does someone who puts forward this argument have to oppose all violations of the 14th amendment of the US constitution, or is this a fine argument only opposing this one violation of the 14th amendment?

Or: Can you argue for the execution of one person with the argument of executing everyone, since that would include that person?


The argument you are presenting is a bit confusing because there are so many concepts being used. For example, the 14th Amendment does not state that "Everyone should be treated equal". It states that no person can be denied equal protection of laws. Entirely different. Everything depends upon what the law says and it must be applied universally. This phrase is vague enough that it is constantly be interpreted and re-interpreted by state and federal courts.

14th Amendment

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
 
EmperorNero
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 07:33 am
@richrf,
richrf;82903 wrote:
The argument you are presenting is a bit confusing because there are so many concepts being used. For example, the 14th Amendment does not state that "Everyone should be treated equal". It states that no person can be denied equal protection of laws. Entirely different. Everything depends upon what the law says and it must be applied universally. This phrase is vague enough that it is constantly be interpreted and re-interpreted by state and federal courts.


Well, it wasn't so much about the intricacies of the gay marriage debate as about the argument.
You are correct. It's not the 14th amendment that states that "Everyone should be treated equal", that is stated by same sex marriage proponents.

My question was whether their argument "Everyone should be treated equal" is valid in the instance of gay marriage while ignoring all other violations of the 14th amendment.
Can you argue "Everyone should be treated equal" while really only wanting person B, C and J to be equal?
Or in my analogy from the OP, can you argue for the execution of one murderer with the argument that all murderers should be executed while not supporting the full consequence of that argument?

I realize I'm pretty bad at explaining this.
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 07:42 am
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;82880 wrote:
I asked myself this a while ago after hearing about the gay marriage debate in the United States, specifically California.
The argument on the pro side is as follows:
(1) Laws banning marriage with a person of the same gender discriminate on base of sexual preference. (As established in a supreme court ruling.)
(2) Per the 14th amendment of the US constitution, discriminating on base of sexual preference is unequal treatment under the law.
(3) Unequal treatment under the law should not be permitted.

In essence (3) says "Everyone should be equal". Can this argument be used without actually wanting everyone else to be equal in different instances?
Does someone who puts forward this argument have to oppose all violations of the 14th amendment of the US constitution, or is this a fine argument only opposing this one violation of the 14th amendment?

Or: Can you argue for the execution of one person with the argument of executing everyone, since that would include that person?


There are two different types of discrimination here.

(a) Discrimination against a subject:
A may do (or suffer) X but B may not.
E.g. "A man may study at a university but a woman may not."

(b) Discrimination against an associate of the subject:
A may do X with B but not with C.
E.g. "A man may be married to a woman but not to another man."

Now let us look at each of the numbered statements in your post and see which type of discrimination they refer to.

(1) Laws banning marriage with a person of the same gender discriminate on base of sexual prerference. (Type (b))

(2) Per the 14th amendment of the US constitution, discriminating on base of sexual preference is unequal treatment under the law. (Type (b))

(3) Unequal treatment under the law should not be permitted. (Ambiguous)

(4) If one murderer should be executed, they all should. (Type (a))

As I am British, I have limited knowledge of the US constitution, but I will assume that your statements are accurate. If so, you will see from the above that the 14th amendment (and the supreme court's interpretation of it) deals only with Type (b) discrimination, so it does not imply (4), which concerns Type (a). Hence the 'slippery slope' argument fails in this case.
 
richrf
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 07:46 am
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;82956 wrote:
Well, it wasn't so much about the intricacies of the gay marriage debate as about the argument.
You are correct. It's not the 14th amendment that states that "Everyone should be treated equal", that is stated by same sex marriage proponents.

My question was whether their argument "Everyone should be treated equal" is valid in the instance of gay marriage while ignoring all other violations of the 14th amendment.
Can you argue "Everyone should be treated equal" while really only wanting person B, C and J to be equal?
Or in my analogy from the OP, can you argue for the execution of one murderer with the argument that all murderers should be executed while not supporting the full consequence of that argument?

I realize I'm pretty bad at explaining this.


I guess the issue here is that there are classes of people who are always being treated in a different manner. For example, minors are treated differently. Someone who is licensed in real estate for example, has a higher fiduciary standard in a real estate transaction than someone else.

So there is really no such thing as everyone being treated equally. However you want everyone to be protected equally under the law. So a minor who is part of a minority race, receives the same equal protection as anyone else.

Then there is the tricky issue of gay marriages. If the law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, then .... is a gay person not getting equal protection. The problem arises, of course, because people who are married do get special benefits. Does the recognition of a civil union address this inequity. Well, ... to be decided.

Rich
 
EmperorNero
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 01:09 pm
@EmperorNero,
Thanks for the answers, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for.
My question was this: "Is an argument valid, in a specific case, if it embodies a consequence, in other cases, that is not justifiable by the one making the argument?"
In other words: "If you claim A should happen to X, do you have to answer for that it should also happen to Y?"
So if I argue that one violent murderer deserves the death penalty, and I use the argument "all murderers should receive the death penalty", do I have to answer for that consequence?
 
mickalos
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 02:33 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;83037 wrote:
Thanks for the answers, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for.
My question was this: "Is an argument valid, in a specific case, if it embodies a consequence, in other cases, that is not justifiable by the one making the argument?"
In other words: "If you claim A should happen to X, do you have to answer for that it should also happen to Y?"
So if I argue that one violent murderer deserves the death penalty, and I use the argument "all murderers should receive the death penalty", do I have to answer for that consequence?


A simplistic slippery slope argument would be that if we condemn some murders to death, then we will end up condemning all murderers to be put to death:

∃x(Mx & Dx) ⊢ ∀x(Mx -> Dx)

M: ... is a murderer
D: ... should be put to death.

This is not a valid argument. The only question that you should have to provide an answer to is why some murderers should be put to death, if all murderers satisfy those criteria, so be it, but you the is no reason to exclude all murderers.

However, there are some complex arguments towards that conclusion that we might describe as slippery slope arguments, which are based on additional premises and that make them valid, and we have to take these seriously.
 
ACB
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 03:18 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;83037 wrote:
So if I argue that one violent murderer deserves the death penalty, and I use the argument "all murderers should receive the death penalty", do I have to answer for that consequence?


It depends why you think that particular murderer deserves the death penalty. If your reason is that all murderers should receive the death penalty, it would be inconsistent to argue that a subsequent murderer should not receive it. However, if your reason is that the murderer in the present case is especially evil, then you are not committed to arguing for the death penalty for subsequent murderers.

I think your main question is: "If everyone should be treated equally in some respect, does it follow that everyone should be treated equally in all respects?" And I would say the answer is "no". The latter proposition needs to be argued on its own merits; it would be a logical fallacy to derive it solely from the former proposition.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 03:32 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;83037 wrote:

So if I argue that one violent murderer deserves the death penalty, and I use the argument "all murderers should receive the death penalty", do I have to answer for that consequence?


I don't understand what you are asking. What does it mean to answer for a consequence? And, which consequence are you referring to? Could you just ask your question in simple English? Then you might get an answer you find satisfactory.

It is certainly true that if your premise is that all murderers deserve the death penalty, it follows that any particular murderer deserves the death penalty. What more are you asking? (In simple English).
 
Joe
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 04:44 pm
@kennethamy,
I dont like laws that aren't updated for their culture. Its all about the past holding onto the future. Ethics is good and all, but Culture should be the forum of ethics, while the law protects those ethics. Adult gay people in this country wanna get married. Let them. lol, thats my argument. Let them.
 
EmperorNero
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 04:25 am
@ACB,
ACB;83060 wrote:
It depends why you think that particular murderer deserves the death penalty. If your reason is that all murderers should receive the death penalty, it would be inconsistent to argue that a subsequent murderer should not receive it. However, if your reason is that the murderer in the present case is especially evil, then you are not committed to arguing for the death penalty for subsequent murderers.


Yes, exactly. The reason used as argument is not that the murderer we are talking about is specifically violent, but the reason is that all murderers should receive the death penalty, hence this one should. (While only debating that one murderer, not any others.)
Which may be a fine argument for this one murderer, as it would logically follow that he should receive the death penalty if all should.

Is it a valid argument if it is inconsistent?

ACB;83060 wrote:
I think your main question is: "If everyone should be treated equally in some respect, does it follow that everyone should be treated equally in all respects?" And I would say the answer is "no". The latter proposition needs to be argued on its own merits; it would be a logical fallacy to derive it solely from the former proposition.


Not in all respects, but for all groups. Society is made up of many groups and some suffer an inequality. In this example same sex marriage bans are an inequality towards gays, while progressive taxation is an inequality towards those with higher income. So can you demand one of these inequalities being abolished, while ignoring all the others, using the argument that all should be abolished? So the question is: "If the argument that everyone should be treated equal is used for one groups inequality (where it is a valid argument), isn't it inconsistent to not demand that other groups should be treated equal?"
 
ACB
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 07:09 am
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;83409 wrote:
Not in all respects, but for all groups. Society is made up of many groups and some suffer an inequality. In this example same sex marriage bans are an inequality towards gays, while progressive taxation is an inequality towards those with higher income. So can you demand one of these inequalities being abolished, while ignoring all the others, using the argument that all should be abolished? So the question is: "If the argument that everyone should be treated equal is used for one groups inequality (where it is a valid argument), isn't it inconsistent to not demand that other groups should be treated equal?"


If you think one type of inequality is wrong in principle, you must apply that principle across all groups. So if you think everyone should be able to marry whoever they wish, you must logically apply this to gays as well as heterosexuals. But if you think one type of inequality is wrong, it does not follow that all types are wrong. That would be a logical fallacy. So you can still be in favour of progressive taxation, for example. Of course, you may think that all inequalities are wrong; but you are not committed to doing so.

You said "Not in all respects, but for all groups". But it is actually about different respects (e.g. marriage and taxation), not just different groups.
 
EmperorNero
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 10:43 am
@ACB,
ACB;83432 wrote:
If you think one type of inequality is wrong in principle, you must apply that principle across all groups. So if you think everyone should be able to marry whoever they wish, you must logically apply this to gays as well as heterosexuals. But if you think one type of inequality is wrong, it does not follow that all types are wrong. That would be a logical fallacy. So you can still be in favour of progressive taxation, for example. Of course, you may think that all inequalities are wrong; but you are not committed to doing so.

You said "Not in all respects, but for all groups". But it is actually about different respects (e.g. marriage and taxation), not just different groups.


Ah, I see. Thanks for clearing that up. I had this thread waiting around for months. Wink

In response to you saying that demanding an inequality abolished not being inconsistent as long as the inequalities one does not address being of a different type.
What I meant was that "Violation of the 14th amendment of the US constitution" is one type.
 
 

 
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