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February 09, 2006

Comments

"When a principle is used to justify one thing and can also be shown to justify other things, then that is a sound 'logical slippery slope' argument."

Not so much. What I read was a bunch of hope and fear. Some hope gay marriage will lead to something else others fear it will. There are arguments against polygamy that stand on their own and will have to be confronted should it be proposed that those laws be changed.

I like a bit more concrete on my slippery slope. Clever people can twist arguments to fit their agenda. We won't know if there is actually a slippery slope until the feared additional thing actually happens. Of course, we then run the risk of asserting a post hoc argument.

For example what if these things are actually moving in parallel? If the society in general is becoming more tolerant of non-traditional relationships then either or both might happen regardless of the order in which it happens. It is then just as likely that polygamy might be legalized first then gay marriage, at which point we would up-end the slippery slope.

On the other hand, the arguments against polygamy might prevail despite the legalization of same-sex marriage or, as traditional supporters of polygamy (Muslims and apostate Mormons) tend to homophobia, they would hardly be likely to support SSM.

That there likely isn't a slippery slope here is shown by the correlation between gay marriage and polygamy in countries in which polygamy is allowed. Likewise in Europe where there may be legal gay marriage, the pressures compelling various nations to deal with polygamy would exist without gay marriage. The same situation pertains in Canada.

It sounds to me that a logical slippery slope argument is the same thing as an argument ad absurdum.

It seems to me that the first post misses the point. As Melinda said:

"When a principle is used to justify one thing and can also be shown to justify other things, then that is a sound "logical slippery slope" argument."

Using a simplistic arguement that has been occasionally used in support of same sex marriage, for example: "We love each other so we should be allowed to marry." If this is a valid statement the logical slippery slope arguement as I understand it, could develope like this: If a state of love exists then those involved in that love should be allowed to marry. So if you love your neighbor of the same sex you should be allowed to marry. If that neighbor is married to a woman and she loves you as well, you should be allowed to marry. If you are all members of a Church community and you all profess to love one another you should be allowed to marry.

A relatively simple assertion about love leads to same sex marriage as easily as group marriage.

This is not to say that the actual social relationships will develope this way, but the arguement about the issue logically proceeds this way.

I don't know the distinction between slippery slope and ad absurdum but my guess without looking it up would be that there is an element of unreality or contradiction to the ad absurdum arguement conclusion.

They're both the same argument, William. When a person makes an argument like this:

1. Whoever loves each other ought to be allowed to marry.
2. Jim and Dan love each other.
3. Therefore, Jim and DAn ought to be allowed to marry,

A person might want to refute the argument by disputing the first premise. He can do that by taking the first premise to its logical conclusion.

1. Whoever loves each other ought to be allowed to be married.
2. Jack, Jill, James, Joanna, Jason, and Jennifer all love each other.
3. Therefore, Jack, Jill, James, Joanna, Jason, and Jennifer ought to be allowed to marry.

That's a logical slippery slope leading to an absurd conclusion. If we reject the conclusion, then we have to reject at least one of the premises it's based on. We can't deny that there is strange love, so we're forced to reject the first premise. Once we reject the first premise, then the first argument is refuted.

So a logical slippery slope and an argument ad absurdum are the same thing.

Sam,

Explain to me why #3 above is an absurd conclusion?

The point which has been missed is that there are specific arguments peculiar to each proposed extension of the right to marry.

There are benefits to the society as a whole if sexual relationships are given some stability. Also, no matter how one feels about it, children and property are going to be involved in many of these relationships and there is a compelling public interest in some normalization taking place.

"The sky will fall" type of arguments are usually absurd on their face, so in a free society, if the state is going to be involved in marriage, there needs to be real, compelling arguments before any category is excluded from being able to marry.

Experience with polygamy has given rise to some problematic situations of such gravity that the burden is on those who favor it to make their case. I am familiar with no such drawbacks to same-sex marriage.

Those who assert slippery slope situations usually cherry-pick their premises and that is why most such assertions fail on analysis.

William,

If you don't already recognize the absurdity of #3, then I don't know how I'd go about demonstrating it for you. But that's beside the point. My only point was to show you that an ad absurdum argument is the same thing as a logical slippery slope.

Alan,

You say:"The sky will fall type of arguments are usually absurd on their face," but you supply no arguement to back up this generality. Similarly this statement "Those who assert slippery slope situations usually cherry-pick their premises and that is why most such assertions fail on analysis." is your opinion unsupported by arguement.

A slippery slope arguement is one style or tool for debating an issue and can justified or unjustified depending on how carefully it is made. That doesn't necessarily make it true or false though. Just a better or worse arguement.

I speculate that you may be aware of no drawbacks to same sex marriage because it has not existed to this point in history. There are abundant arguements why same sex marriage would not be good for society even outside Biblical proscriptions. I am sure you can find them if you are interested. If you are interested in recommendations let me know.

I agree that society does benefit from the stability of male/female sexual relationships. Even if I set aside the Biblical Christian world view (Mt. 19:4-6), I remain unconvinced that other types of relationships are healthy by their nature for the individual or society and therefore appropriate for social support.

Sam,
I was just looking for a definition because I think that the two types of arguement(slippery slope and ad absurdum) may be similar but distinguishable. Guess I'll go look it up.

From Kurtz's report:
"The Plan
It’s like this. The way to abolish marriage, without seeming to abolish it, is to redefine the institution out of existence. If everything can be marriage, pretty soon nothing will be marriage. Legalize gay marriage, followed by multi-partner marriage, and pretty soon the whole idea of marriage will be meaningless. At that point, Canada can move to what Bailey and her friends really want: an infinitely flexible relationship system that validates any conceivable family arrangement, regardless of the number or gender of partners."

"Given time, growing public tolerance, increased pressure from Muslim immigrants, incremental court decisions, continued growth in Canada’s already burgeoning polyamory movement, and the return of a Liberal government, Martha Bailey and friends may yet achieve their goal."

This is the sort of crude speculation that gives slippery slope arguments their bad name. I googled a little and found this:

"Four papers made up this report: Dr. Bailey’s paper was the only one to call for the decriminalization of polygamy; two others called for more research; and the other said no change was needed to Section 293."

http://www.wluml.org/english/actionsfulltxt.shtml

Seems we already have an organized opposition to Bailey's proposals. This is what people do in a democracy - they propose and discuss. I went to the poll data and it didn't seem alarming.

One of the common tactics of the right is to pick an extreme proponent of a reasonable proposal and spin everything off of that. Ms Bailey may or may not want to eliminate marriage but same sex couples and polygamists want to preserve it and enlarge its scope to their cases. It is by no means a slam dunk case that enlarging the scope of marriage will destroy it - it may well strengthen it. Perhaps we have reached the point where marriage needs to be returned to the churches and the state deal with its concerns with civil unions. I just want to see reasoned arguments, not the sort of hysteria that we got from Mr, Kurtz.

William, let me know what you find. I'd be curious to know if there's a difference I've overlooked.

Sam

Sam,
Here is what I have found. I am not entirely satisfied but it is as close as I could get and I guess it helps when thinking on the type of argument presented by Kurtz. Slippery slope arguments can be valid if presented carefully. Let me know if you can expand on anything.

Slippery slope. A slippery slope argument is not always a fallacy. A slippery slope fallacy is an argument that says adopting one policy or taking one action will lead to a series of other policies or actions also being taken, without showing a causal connection between the advocated policy and the consequent policies. A popular example of the slippery slope fallacy is, "If we legalize marijuana, the next thing you know we'll legalize heroin, LSD, and crack cocaine." This slippery slope is a form of non sequitur, because no reason has been provided for why legalization of one thing leads to legalization of another. Tobacco and alcohol are currently legal, and yet other drugs have somehow remained illegal.
There are a variety of ways to turn a slippery slope fallacy into a valid (or at least plausible) argument. All you need to do is provide some reason why the adoption of one policy will lead to the adoption of another. For example, you could argue that legalizing marijuana would cause more people to consider the use of mind-altering drugs acceptable, and those people will support more permissive drug policies across the board. An alternative to the slippery slope argument is simply to point out that the principles espoused by your opposition imply the acceptability of certain other policies, so if we don't like those other policies, we should question whether we really buy those principles. For instance, if the proposing team argued for legalizing marijuana by saying, "individuals should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies," the opposition could point out that that principle would also justify legalizing a variety of other drugs -- so if we don't support legalizing other drugs, then maybe we don't really believe in that principle.

reductio ad absurdum
A method of proving that a proposition must be false [or true] by assuming the truth [or falsity] of the proposition and then showing that this assumption, taken together with other premises whose truth is already established, would lead to a contradiction (or, at least, to an obvious falsehood). This method is sometimes called indirect proof.

The first poster said, "We won't know if there is actually a slippery slope until the feared additional thing actually happens."

Someone correct me if I am wrong, but a "logical slippery slope" is not saying that if we allow A then Z will follow at some point in time, it simply says that if we allow A then there is no logical reason why we could disallow Z. Thus, what the first poster is arguing for is the proof requirements of a "causal slippery slope." A "logical slippery slope" requires only logic to prove its viability.

Paul, part of my point was that no logical slippery slope exists as each category must stand (or fall( on its own.

Hi Alan,
I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean. Are you saying there is no such thing as a "logical slippery slope"? If you are, this seems to be a rather bold claim that many reputable sources would flatly deny.

Or perhaps you were just saying there is no logical slippery slope in this particular case. If *this* is what you are saying, what is the principle that would disallow polygamy if the "marriage is whatever the state defines it to be" principle is used to codify same-sex "marriage"?

Paul

To address some of your earlier comments, Alan:
"There are benefits to the society as a whole if sexual relationships are given some stability."

You need to do some heavy qualification of this statement. For example, is there benefit to stabilizing teenage sexual relationships? Pedophilic relationships? Human-animal sexual relationships?

Further, I know of no data that suggests that any "stabilization" would occur. This argument isn't about stabilization, it's about recognition.

"Also, no matter how one feels about it, children and property are going to be involved in many of these relationships and there is a compelling public interest in some normalization taking place."

I agree with you on this, that for the sake of children (I couldn't care less about the property -- we have plenty of laws and courts for that), certain protections and benefits can/should be extended to those couples who drag children (unwillingly) into their dysfunction.

"... so in a free society, if the state is going to be involved in marriage, there needs to be real, compelling arguments before any category is excluded from being able to marry."

What would be the "real, compelling argument" against me marrying my computer? It should, rather, be the other way -- the state should only be involved in the regulation of personal relationships when they have a compelling state interest. In this case, the state's interest in regulating marriage is to secure the stability and continuance of the society via offspring. This is the normal, natural product of male-female relationships, and not the product of other unions. The state should not be poking its nose into any other relationship.

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