How useful in social, moral and legal lawmaking are slippery slope arguments?

Slippery slope arguments are really about judging people before the results and indirect consequences of their action unfold.  They imply that if a person gets an inch in time it will become a mile.  The exception is said to prove the rule.  That is nonsense.  There can be no exception.  There are times the rule does not apply for it cannot.  That is not an exception but a different rule.  So if you give a an exception a will come back looking for another one and then b will be wondering if she or he could get an exception too.  An exception smashes and insults the rule.  "I want special treatment but I don't rid of the rule."  Its a licence for hypocrisy.  It setting the rule on the road to collapse.  That is the logic.

The interesting things about slippery slopes is that a good action can be worse than a bad one in time.  If you know what Hitler is and save his life ... get the picture?

Religion has boundaries but they only led to Catholic parents virtually letting priests rape their children and leaving it to secularists to do something about it.

If you bring in a law or change a rule and end up with no clear place to draw the line control will eventually prove impossible and things will go too far. You need a principled boundary that cannot be crossed.

This warning is often described as the slippery slope argument.

A simple rewording will debunk it.

If you bring in a law or change a rule and end up with no clear place to draw the line control will eventually prove TO BE A CHALLENGE and things MAY go too far. You ARE ADVISED TO HAVE a principled boundary that cannot be crossed.

This is just reflecting how a slippery slope may not be that slippery after all. A particular law need not be the reason for the slope getting too steep and slippery. It can be the context. For example, a liberal abortion law can in theory be virtually unused if the culture is responsible and avoids unwanted conception in the first place. The problem is not the law but the kind of society there is.

Slippery slope concerns crop up nearly always in the following issues only: abortion, divorce, illegal drugs, same sex marriage and euthanasia. Insurance rules getting too stupid lead to a compensation culture and that is certainly what we have.

One example of the slippery slope kind of thinking is that, "You should ban direct killing of an unborn life always. Any exceptions end up being applied by mistake or becoming too liberal. At least with the boundary you know where you stand. You can work hard at avoiding the temptation to cross it."

Some say that allowing abortion at all leads to more dead bodies - the bodies of babies who should not be aborted but are within the law.  For example, a woman may lie so she can use a law that permits abortion when it is a case of rape.  Others say that that is one slippery slope so abortion law leads to more abortion.  Others say it creates other slopes too.  They say that if you think you have the right to abort your baby that has a disease that will kill it soon after birth then you should claim the right to get rid of a fully grown son or daughter who is suicidal and who won't get better so that you can be free of them and grant them peace in the process.  However abortion for rape when the foetus is seen not as a person but as a person to be does not justify euthanasia or assisted suicide or lifestyle abortion.  Its slippery slope is confined to women insulting the law by abusing it and lying that their child is the result of rape.  Then you can also argue that the slope is not the abortion law but its abuse.

Abortion activists think of an unborn becoming a person gradually. Its a process. Euthanasia activists think that a person who needs that "service" is becoming less and less of a person. This thinking terrifies many for it suggests a human person may not be as valuable as the next person. The person at fifteen weeks in the womb has less value than the one who is there thirty weeks and so can be aborted.

It is true that nature does all things gradually. No process or growth is really simple and each growth is intertwined with other developmental forces and creatures. That is why slippery slopes are a problem in top ethical matters.

People will not agree where to draw the line. And the hypothetical is important too for it speaks of how you think of others and yourself.

With abortion, the line may be drawn at conception and then you end up in principle being willing to see women die if you knew that their month old pregnancy will eventually kill them.

We are not saying all women choose abortion lightly but hypothetically suppose there are. Pro-choice people say it is the woman’s body and her choice but they never let her abort a late unborn child on demand. Those who say that "It is my body" implies a right to abort up to birth are really thinking that late abortion will only be chosen for extreme reasons such as when the baby will not survive anyway. But that is not pro-choice. Such an extreme situation cannot provide for choice. It is not about the woman's body or right to control it. Genuine support for pro-choice means abortion should be allowed up to birth just because the mother does not want the baby.

The Sorites Paradox helps with our thinking about the slippery slope. If you are a man and have no hairs on your head then you are bald. If one hair is implanted that does not mean you can say that you are not bald anymore. So if you keep adding hairs until there are thousands and thousands you cannot then say he is bald. So we don't know at what point he ceases to be bald. We cannot work out the number of hairs that determines that. You cannot firmly decide. But you don't need to. General is enough. Just work out what ENOUGH SENSIBLE people would broadly agree on. You cannot say, "As you cannot find the boundary between non-bald and bald there should be no limit determined." That is rubbish. It is still okay to draw a line regardless of how weak the foundation is for you need to draw it and that is that.

With abortion law, the same problem happens. Where does the line go? With abortion moralising (religious or secular) that is again an issue. One thing is for sure, principles or facts cannot help you so draw it at the best possible place. Its not firm but it will have to suffice.

Another example is deciding when you let the young person in your care access social media? Maybe 18? But you are aware that it can be as damaging then as 15. It depends on the person and how he or she responds to its presence and influence. Maybe 25? Maybe the person will end up as badly damaged as she or he would be if 18 was the chosen age. You lay down the boundary though you know you have probably not found the perfect place to lay it down.

One reason religion needs the extreme thinking behind slippery slope objections is that it allows and encourages society to reason, "There is a good number of good people in the religion so I respect it - ie fawn to its doctrine and give it members and money" when some members turn out to be dangerous in the name of faith and demonstrate how faith like a knife can lead to bad.  The religion knows that a good organisation should be wound down if certain evils are done in it and that the good people cannot be abused as an argument for letting it remain.  It does not apply the slippery slope to itself - fair is fair.

Put the fence somewhere. That is all we can do.  Slippery slope arguments are typically just about scaremongering and the fear of relinquishing control over others and society.  They remain the chief weapon used by religious activists who won't let politics alone.