Slippery slope principle simply explained

Valerie asked:

Hello. In groups of four, we have to teach 15 minutes about a philosophical topic. We got terms which we have to explain to the other students. My topic is ‘the Slippery Slope principle’. I cant find much comprehensible information in the internet etc. So I’d like to ask you. Id would be very nice, if you could give me some simple explanation. Maybe you also know, how I could teach it to my colleagues in form of game, video or maybe music. Thank you for your answer, I’m very happy and I’m sure, that I would get some good help!

Answer by Craig Skinner

You ask for a simple explanation.

Here it is with two examples to illustrate.

A ‘slippery slope’, literally, is a sloping surface on which it is difficult to gain a foothold so that one slides downhill on it. Such as an icy hillside.

The ‘Slippery Slope Principle’ uses the term metaphorically, saying that if a certain course of action is allowed, it is the first step on a slippery slope, and further, less desirable actions will then be allowed, and then yet more, even less desirable, ultimately leading to totally unacceptable actions.

So, the argument goes, we should not take the first step.

An example is legalizing assisted suicide. Many people are against this on the slippery slope principle. They say the next step could be pressurizing old people, who need expensive medical and social care, to agree to assisted suicide. Then local Euthanasia Centres which routinely terminate old or disabled people. Finally organized death camps such as the Nazis set up.

Of course, the argument may be used to try to stop a progressive slide which many people see as an improvement. For example, in my lifetime, homosexual activity was a crime, and many people said that allowing it would be the first step on the slippery slope: next, people would be openly gay; then same-sex marriages would occur; then gay couples would be allowed to bring up children; then some Churches would say it wasn’t wrong; finally the Pope would give it his blessing. The argument was sound, all of this has happened, except for the Pope’s blessing.

You can think of other examples for yourself.


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