Thursday, September 11, 2008

Slippery Slope Logic

In a discussion with a friend I brought up the "slippery slope" as a partial justification for my reasoning. She smiled, somewhat triumphantly, and pointed out that the slippery slope argument is illogical. After all, we draw a line in the sand and say that anything beyond it begins a slippery slope, but why is the line in that position to begin with? We can just move the line and hold firm there. There is no philosophical justification for the possible maintenance of one abstract line and not another.

She's right, of course, yet in the non-theoretical world when this concept is applied, for example, to freedom of speech, I believe the illogical. Or perhaps there is a real-world constraint we are ignoring. I agree with the ACLU that the KKK's first amendment rights should be defended. The KKK speaks out against me and everything I believe in, yet without their right to insult me, I might not have the right to protest in return. Once one exception is made, the door is opened to others - the slippery slope. And so I illogically maintain that to prevent Palin from banning books, we must also support her right to speak at the Alaska Independence Party convention and our own right to vote against her.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is not quite the "slippery slope" argument that you mention. In this case, I do not see an arbitrary line that separates the KKK's rights from yours that everyone can agree on. So that form of the slippery slope argument does not seem illogical. If you do not trust the ones making the determination on what lies to which side of the line, you want to put the line far enough so that any determination would likely save your rights. :) It is just a principle that logically gives higher priority to (in this case) make is possible for valid views to be voiced than to prevent offensive views from being voiced.