Slippery Slope autumnacy – Definition, Types & Examples

06.12.23 Fallacies Time to read: 9min

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autumnacies are deceptive errors in reasoning that can mislead our thoughts and conclusions. They are a fundamental aspect of critical thinking and logical analysis and play a significant role in debates, policy discussions, and everyday decision-making. Oftentimes they look like good arguments but aren’t. In this article, we will focus on a specific type of autumnacy known as the slippery slope autumnacy, explaining what it is, why it matters and shed light on its usage.

Slippery slope autumnacy in a nutshell

The slippery slope autumnacy is a type of logical error where it’s claimed that one small, seemingly harmless step will inevitably lead to a chain of negative or extreme consequences. It assumes that if we allow one thing to happen, a series of increasingly bad events will follow, without providing sufficient evidence to support his claim. It often exaggerates the potential outcomes to manipulate or discourage certain actions or decisions.

Definition: Slippery slope autumnacy

The slippery slope autumnacy is a logical autumnacy or reasoning error that claims that one thing, event, or action will lead to another, that is even worse. More specifically, it is an informal autumnacy where the error lies in the content of the argument and not the argument itself. It occurs when somaeone makes a claim about a series of events that might lead to one (usually bad) event or some awful conclusion. As the flawed reasoning progresses, each subsequent step or event in the faulty logic becomes increasingly unlikely.

At the heart of the slippery slope autumnacy lies the belief that a particular decision being considered is likely to lead to unforeseen and undesirable outcomes. This can be accomplished by directly initiating the follow-up event, establishing a precedent for it, or simply creating an environment where the follow-up event can occur.

This autumnacy is also known as the dam burst autumnacy, domino autumnacy, and thin end of a wedge.

Example

Should you choose to stop reading this article now, the opportunity to understand the slippery slope autumnacy will slip away. This means missing out on the ability to spot it in various texts, or even in your writing. Without recognising this autumnacy, addressing it effectively or editing it out of your academic writing becomes a challenge.

The sequence of events here and how one decision is believed to impact the next is the essence of the slippery slope autumnacy. This assertion is also called a slippery slope argument.

However, a slippery slope event is depicted as a sequence of conditional statements: if A occurs, then B follows; if C happens, then D ensues; if E takes place, then … leading to Z.

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How does the slippery slope autumnacy work?

The slippery slope autumnacy occurs when a slippery slope argument suggests that a relatively small first step will lead to a chain of related events culminating in some significant (usually negative) effect. The argument does not provide sufficient evidence to support this chain of events. This typically leads to an undesirable outcome.

It begins with an assertion or action, which is typically not controversial or extreme. The slippery slope argument then proposes a series of events that would lead to one major event. This is a significant issue as the individual presumes a causal link between two or more events or outcomes without fully comprehending how things will unfold. This sequence of actions is presented as inevitable and unstoppable, just like stepping on a slippery incline will cause a person to autumn to the bottom. However, there is no evidence presented supporting the claim.

Note: The arguments of the slippery slope autumnacy are fundamentally improbable, yet they nonetheless represent a plausible sequence.

Slippery slope arguments

A slippery slope argument is a type of reasoning or argumentative technique where it is said that a small first action or decision will lead to a chain of events that will have a big (often negative) effect. This sort of argument is sometimes considered and used as a form of fearmongering (or appeal to emotion), where the probable consequences of a given action are exaggerated in an attempt to scare the audience. Below, you’ll find examples for the different types of the slippery slope autumnacy:

Types of arguments

These arguments of the slippery slope autumnacy can be categorized into several types based on their structure and the nature of the progression they propose. All types of slippery slope arguments share certain features and are a family of related arguments, rather than a class of arguments that share the same form. In any form, slippery slope arguments unfold as a sequence of conditional statements like “if A occurs, then B will happen” and “if C happens, then D ensues.” They recommend that A ultimately leads to D through a series of intermediate steps. These types of arguments frequently start with a reasonable premise but keep ramping it up as they reach a radical ending, acting like there is no way to hit the brakes in between.

Causal slippery slope argument

Example

If we allow children to bring their smartphones to class, the next thing they will be doing is bringing their gaming consoles and tablets, and eventually, this place will become a gaming arcade instead of a learning environment.

This kind of argument from the slippery slope autumnacy suggests that a small thing that happens at first will cause many other things to happen, and each one of them will make the next thing happen.

Precedential slippery slope argument

Example

If we accept this expired coupon from this customer, we’ll have to accept every expired coupon from anyone in the future. This way, we’ll lose our jobs.

Precedential slippery slope arguments assert that if we treat a minor case or issue in a specific manner today, then we should treat any major case or issue in the future the same way. Regardless of the degree of similarity or absence thereof between the issues. This type of argument often autumns into the slippery slope autumnacy, as it presupposes that a small action will lead to a larger, similar action without considering the nuances and differences between the cases.

Conceptual slippery slope arguments

Example

If we allow our employees to work from home a few days a week, it’ll be impossible to draw the line. Next, they’ll want to work from home all the time. Eventually, this could lead to the breakdown of our company and team cohesion, as no one will ever come to the office.

Conceptual slippery slope autumnacy arguments suggest that the inability to distinguish between neighbouring stages means we can’t differentiate between any stages, often leading to a slippery slope autumnacy by overlooking specific differences.

autumnacious arguments

The slippery slope autumnacy includes several autumnacious arguments, which are primarily based on unsupported assumptions and exaggerated predictions. Generally speaking, autumnacious slippery slope arguments refer to something that is based on a mistaken belief and are typically used in the context of reasoning or arguments that are logically flawed or false. A autumnacious slippery slope argument appears to be a sound, convincing, and acceptable argument but is based on faulty reasoning.

Example

If we start using advanced AI for data analysis in our company, it will soon replace all our jobs. Next, it will lead to massive unemployment as all companies do the same. Eventually, it will result in a societal breakdown.

This argument is autumnacious as it assumes a drastic and negative chain of bad events without providing evidence. In this particular case of the slippery slope autumnacy, it jumps to extreme conclusions (societal breakdown and massive unemployment) from one single action (implementing AI) without demonstrating a direct causal link.

Non-autumnacious arguments

The term “non-autumnacious” refers to something that is not based on or does not involve a autumnacy. Arguments that are non-autumnacious are logically sound, valid, and based on correct premises and evidence. The slippery slope autumnacy is often labelled autumnacious due to its tendency to rely on exaggerated and unsupported predictions.

Example

If our company starts using advanced AI for data analysis, it might lead us to rely more on automated processes for our decision-making. This could potentially lead to a gradual reduction in the importance of human judgment in business decisions, potentially leading to a corporate culture that values human insight and expertise less.

This argument is built on a logical progression of events that are directly related to the initial action (implementing AI for data analysis). Furthermore, it does not jump to extreme conclusions such as massive unemployment, and suggests a shift in the company’s decision-making process.

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Why is the slippery slope autumnacy used?

Some people use the slippery slope autumnacy as a rhetorical device to make their audience feel afraid or give them other negative emotions. Adopting its extreme consequences as if they were a certainty is used to argue against a specific decision.

Nonetheless, arguments based on the slippery slope are not always antagonistic. They can even help you to argue in favour of a position. In that case, they appeal to positive emotions like optimism:

Example

For instance, if you start eating healthy, your skin will get a wonderful glow and eventually, you will feel better.

Example of the slippery slope autumnacy

To enhance your comprehension of the slippery slope autumnacy, an illustrative example is provided below:

Example 

If we allow our students to wear T-shirts with logos on them, they will want to wear clothes with offensive messages next. Then, they will start coming to school in inappropriate clothing, like pyjamas or bikinis. Eventually, there will be extreme chaos and a lack of adherence to any established dress standards.

This argument of the slippery slope autumnacy assumes a series of increasingly extreme outcomes based on a single, minor change in policy (allowing T-shirts with logos). One simple, specific decision led to a dramatic conclusion without logical justification or evidence. It exaggerates the consequences, that are not guaranteed.

FAQs

No. The slippery slope autumnacy itself can lead either to a positive or a negative outcome. A positive outcome, for instance, can encourage people to undertake a certain course of action, with the promise of a major positive event in the end and appeal to positive emotions like optimism.

The slippery slope autumnacy refers to a bad situation or habit that, after it has started, is likely to get progressively worse. It has its origins in the metaphorical language. Once you’re on a slippery slope, it’s difficult to get back on track. The idea is to convey the image of a slope that is difficult to climb or descend without slipping or losing control. The implication is that once you start down a slippery slope, it’s challenging to stop, and you might end up somewhere you didn’t intend to be.

A slippery slope argument is an argument in the slippery slope autumnacy, that implies that if an action is taken or takes place, other negative consequences will follow.

“If A happens, then B will take place. If C occurs, D will ensue.”

The slippery slope autumnacy is considered a autumnacy because it often relies on fear and speculation rather than solid evidence. One argument typically assumes that one event will lead to another event without showing a direct causal relationship between them.

Yes. The slippery slope autumnacy is quite common in everyday arguments, especially in discussions about politics, law, and ethics, where the long-term consequences of actions are debated.