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Hey, if any readers are from Scotland, I’ll be a guest at the Dunfermline Comic Con on March 11!


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  • Weatherheight

    This just keeps getting better and better…

  • thebombzen

    The Professor is just worried that discussing the slippery slope is a slippery slope to slipping up and treating the slippery slope as though it were not some formal logical fallacy.

    • Kid Chaos

      “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
      –from “Self Reliance”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson 😎

      • “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
        –I have no idea. Who said anybody said this? Maybe nobody said it. Maybe it doesn’t exist. Maybe you’re dreaming right now, and reality is your brain in a jar.

        • Kid Chaos

          Don’t make me hurt you. 😜

        • Weatherheight

          Don’t you give us any so-lip-sis…

        • Mindsword

          Oscar Wilde said it. Hypothetically.

          • Oscar Wilde is an urban legend.

      • telk

        They key word there being “foolish”.

        • Kid Chaos

          Oh, and I suppose you’ve got a not-so-foolish consistency, eh? Well, c’mon, let’s hear it. 😎

          • TSED

            Every time I do simple arithmetic, I get the answer I expect.

            Watch, I’ll do it again: 2 + 2 = 4!

          • Kid Chaos

            Not what I was expecting…but I’ll allow it! 😎

          • Jay Blanc

            I’m just going to leave this paper titled “When Two plus Two Does Not Equal Four: Event-Related Potential Responses to Semantically Incongruous Arithmetic Word Problems” here. http://faculty.washington.edu/losterho/CogSci_2010.pdf

          • Jay Blanc

            “Two plus two is four”
            “How many cows is two cows plus two apples?”
            “Two plus two is four when you are adding together identical items.”
            “Two cows plus two negative cows is how many cows?”
            “Two plus two is four when you are adding together identical items of the same value.”
            “2 plus 2 equals 11”
            “Two plus two is four when you are adding together identical items of the same value in decimal base.”

    • Lostman

      I feel that running into a fallacy is going to happen conversation no matter.

    • Mitchell Lord

      Nope. He’s worried that treating the slipperly slope as if it were a principle is the END RESULT of discussing it without smarts. (And he’s right. The ‘slippery slope’ is a formal logical fallacy.)

      If A, then sometmes B. If B, then somettimes C. If C, then sometimes D, etc.

      Thus…If A, then ALWAYS Z. In many cases, there is even an area where, say…If G, then H…is no longer there.

      Note that this is separate from “Appeasement”, where an opponent is asking for multiple items. And, by adding one item, you make yourself weaker to the rest of the items. This can also be called “If You give a mouse a cookie…” Aka: “Adam Sandler Housesitter” argument.

      In many cases, the slippery slope is actually siilar to Zeno’s Paradox, arguing that each INDIVIDUAL step is no different…but ignoring that, collectively, people recognize that the large steps DO. (While there may be no difference between a heap of sand, and a heap of sand with one grain missing…there IS a difference between a heap of sand, and a heap of sand that has been halved).

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Slippery_slope (Sourced!)

      • thebombzen

        Perhaps I was making a joke.

        And no, it has nothing to do with Zeno’s Paradox, which is 1. not a paradox, or even false and 2. the statement that a nonnegative series can converge even though the set of partial sums does not have a maximum.

  • Frank

    A twisty-minded Asian man talking about a slippery slope… the Internet has ruined me. Anyway, love the arc.

  • Anondod

    His face in the last panel perfectly captures how I feel when someone brings up the slippery slope.

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    Ah, gee. stop making that evil, evil old man so adorable.

    • Smithy

      Awesome, awesome old man.

    • Danygalw

      He ain’t evil, Darkoneko wow what a name.

  • Kid Chaos

    “You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity; all it takes is a little push…” (maniacal laughter) 💀

    • Philip Bourque

      Not a big deal, if you have a good bungie cord.

    • Zac Caslar

      Yeah, that’s bullshit.
      Madness is a stream of piss chewing away at the foundation of the mind.
      And yes, Joker quote. I know.

      • Kid Chaos

        The Joker (in “The Dark Knight”) is trying to “prove” his point by doing a lot of evil shit, then saying “Watch this!” as he eats a kitten (or breaks Harvey Dent, whichever comes first). 😱

        • Zac Caslar

          I’m just over it. The profundity of “People suck” from the avatar of brand-requisite plot armor is spent.

          • Kid Chaos

            Shhh! Do you want Hollywood to stop making movies with too many explosions and too little plot? (*cough*”Underworld: Blood Wars”*coughcough*) 😜

  • Axel_Celosar

    I’m honestly sick and tired of people claiming the Slippery Slope is not a real thing. You just need to look at any alcoholic or drug user to see it’s an actual thing that occurs all the damn time.

    • Masala Nilsson

      It absolutely is a real thing; however, bringing it up as an argument in any and all contexts isn’t helpful. There are so many cases where the slippery slope is relevant, and so many cases where it isn’t.

      • Axel_Celosar

        But even in the concept of good and evil being discussed right now, it makes no sense. By denying the slippery slope, you’re basically saying that people go from good to baby-kicking, murderous psychopath in just one go. And that there’s no slow and gradual degradation of bad choices over and over.

        • Carl

          There is a difference between “a progression” and what a philosopher means by the slippery slope argument. Gurwara is not arguing that nothing ever follows a somewhat predictable course over time.

        • deebles

          In my view, the slippery slope is just one of many hazardous ways of projecting beyond one’s data. To take your example, the slippery slope prediction from a data point of “my teenage child smoked marijuana” would be “they are going to end up a homeless alcoholic crack-whore”. Whereas in reality there are a wide range of ways their future drug-taking behaviour and life in general could go.

        • Psile

          The ‘slippery slope’ doesn’t have a hard definition because it’s a figure of speech designed to encompass a broad philosophy. The slippery slope, as a fallacy, implies that once you take a single step on a path the only logical conclusion is that you arrive at the end of that path. For example, if you pirate movies then it is only a matter of time before you’re cheating on your taxes or stealing a car. What you’re referring to, while alluded to in the slippery slope, is actually the opposite of it because it admits that actions exist on a spectrum and that arrival at the end requires slow, gradual degradation of bad choices and isn’t reliant on a single action.

          • Axel_Celosar

            But the warning against that is still technically a slippery slope of bad choices leading to a horrible end.

          • Psile

            Yes, the the slippery slope ‘fallacy’ is judging the current choice by potential future choices. Judging pirating movies is the same as stealing a car because it will, as a forgone conclusion, lead to auto theft. It is the finality of it which makes it a fallacy, as though we are not creatures of free will able to discern the difference between one action and another.

          • Axel_Celosar

            But its not a fallacy to claim that feeling its ok to do bad things can make you accustomed to doing more and eventually worse things.

          • Fortooate

            But it /is/ a fallacy to claim that it WILL or MUST make you do worse things

            plenty of people make a single exception for a percieved benefit and then… never do so again. lots of people try cocaine once, lots of people only drink at parties, and lots of people only smoke at funerals. the fallacy is about drawing conclusions, not stating possibilities

          • Freemage

            The issue is not that it ‘can’ make you accustomed. Rather, it’s that it will. That’s why the slope is ‘slippery’–it’s the whole point of that word being part of the phrase. It’s very difficult to stand still on a greased slide–you end up either moving fast enough to get back up to stable ground, or just pause long enough to slide further down.

            In reality, however, it’s remarkably easy to take step one and never take step two. Most casual marijuana users never indulge in harder drugs (and of those who do, the vast majority don’t get hooked).

            So it’s not a slippery slope, but a staircase. You take one step to get to the next one, but you can stop there. You can even turn around–sure, it’s a little more effort to go up than down, but it’s almost EASIER to stay still entirely.

          • Axel_Celosar

            So then how do you explain someone who becomes a hardened criminal? Do they literally just go from normal civilian to serial killer/mob boss in one go? To use your example, do they just jump down all the steps at once in your stair analogy?

          • Chani

            Seriously? You’re pretending the only way to use stairs is to jump past them? I mean, that was lots of fun in, like, grade 7. Kinda hard on the knees once you’re an adult though.


          • Axel_Celosar

            It was a metaphor. Not literally. -_-

          • Lysiuj

            There was never just one consequence for any of their actions though, that’s the point. Say as a kid they did the local mob boss a favor. The slippery slope argument would say – “well now you’ve started down a slippery slope, and there’s no way to avoid becoming a career criminal.”
            But the fundamental error is in assuming that a far off consequence is inevitable. You ignore that at each point “on the way down” there are many possible consequences that may prevent the outcome, or even just prevent the next step. And you ignore a person’s free will to choose differently, instead pretending they’ve already made the only choice that matters.
            That’s why it’s a fallacy, because it’s not interested in debating one possible outcome at all, it’s interested in claiming an outcome is the inevitable and only result. And that there’s a slippery slope leading there, and once you take one step there’s no way to keep from sliding all the way down.

          • Axel_Celosar

            But again, by claiming that there is no slippery slope, you’re denying the reality that continuing to do crimes would come easy to this kid if they kept doing favors and would eventually end up doing even worse things if they continued.

          • Lysiuj

            Well I was referring to ‘slippery slope’ in the sense of inevitable consequences; are you now talking about ‘slippery slope’, meaning that something becomes easier the more you do it?
            Cause I think the latter issue is an important conversation to have in a lot of cases; but I feel like ‘slippery slope’ is still a counter-productive term for it, on account of including the whole ‘sole inevitable outcome’ angle.
            It makes for a conversation where a person only really has full control of an initial action, but has set themselves on an unavoidable path with all the rest. Instead we should talk about personal accountability for each action we take, and about the ability to turn it around at any point, and about how if you keep making bad decisions then that’s a bad decision you make every time and you should always think about what you’re doing instead of just getting used to it and acting out of habit.

          • Axel_Celosar

            But again, if you treat each action separately, you’re denying the influence past actions you make have on your current behavior.

          • Lysiuj

            I’m not ignoring that, just denying that we can predict what the indluence on future events will be.

          • Axel_Celosar

            So basically you’re saying this:

            A: “We gotta stop him from drinking so much! He’s going to hurt himself or someone else!”

            B: “What?! That’s not true at all! He can keep drinking all he wants! You have no proof he’s going to do something bad because of it!”

          • Lysiuj

            Not really. If someone is drinking a ridiculous amount it’s reasonable to warn them or even stop them, cause it’s easy to predict harm to themselves or others as a *direct* result.
            But that’s very different from “don’t drink even one alcoholic drink, it’ll necessarily lead to you being an alcoholic down the line, that’s the only way things can go down”.
            The difference is how much you can establish the result:
            “Completely drunk = You’re goind to hurt yourself”: Very likely. Immediate action should be taken.
            “Drinks a lot = You’re developing a drinking problem”: Possible. An intervention may be a good idea.
            “Takes one drink = You will inevitably become an alcoholic”: Ridiculous, we have no way to establish that the chain of events leading there must occur. And it’s, in fact, a relatively small likelyhood. Social and educational warnings about alcoholism in the general public, so the person will no not to drink to much, are a better tool to prevent this than banning all alcohol consumption due to a remote chance.

          • Freemage

            Sure, and it’s easier to get to Step 5 of the staircase from Step 4, rather than jumping down from Step 2. But even when you’re on Step 4, there’s no immediate push down to Step 5.

            Now, in this scenario we’ve laid out, there ARE parts of the slope that are quite slippery. For instance, having taken payment for minor criminal actions, the mob themselves might regard you as a member, to the point where you are now expected to perform further tasks on their behalf, and where defying those expectations would be regarded with suspicion that could result in some very hostile action by the mob. At that point, you ARE on the Slippery Slope, because there’s an external feedback loop, pushing you to greater crimes, and your choices are either to try to fight it (most likely by turning state’s evidence, or at least running away), or to go with the flow and take further actions on behalf of the mob.

          • Freemage

            Some rare ones do, yes. But again, it’s not about whether or not taking Step One is a necessary antecedent to Step Two. It’s whether or not Step Two is a necessary subsequent to Step One. That’s what the Slippery Slope claims. Without the slope being “slippery”, even if it’s a Slope, most folks will only go down as far as they wish, and no further.

          • Random832

            So maybe some slopes are more slippery than others. And while it can be helpful to point out the assumptions someone has smuggled in regarding how slippery a particular slope is (or what direction it goes in) so they can be discussed, calling it a fallacy is equivalent to saying no slopes are slippery.

        • motorfirebox

          That’s not what the slippery slope is, though. The key thing about a slippery slope is inevitability: you shouldn’t do X because X will inevitably lead to Y. If I’m a good person, and one day I tell a white lie, I’m not inevitably going to kick babies. There’s nothing in telling a white lie that would lead me to a worse act that would lead me to an even worse act that would eventually lead me to kicking babies.

          What you’re talking about isn’t a slippery slope, it’s just a gradient. Some bad acts are worse than other bad acts. In order for a gradient to be a slippery slope, each bad act has to propel you to commit a worse act.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        Gurwara isn’t saying that the slippery slope isn’t always a thing, he’s saying it isn’t ever a thing. There’s an important difference.

        • saysomethingclever

          no, he’s saying that he hates hearing the phrase because people keep using it wrong. like my reaction to the so-called word “momento” in place of memento. it really makes me cringe.

      • Weatherheight

        Some slopes are slippery; other are not.
        Some slopes are sticky; others are not.
        Some slopes appear to be steep and in fact are; while other appear to be steep but in fact are not.
        Some slopes appear to be gentle and in fact are; while other appear to be gentle and in fact are not.
        The perception of the slope is difficult to confirm until one starts down that slope; failing to start down the slope means one can never confirm or deny their perception of it.
        And one can always turn around if one wants to – but that requires more effort in the long run.
        And humans tend to be lazy, given the option.

        Thank you, my babies, thank you…

        ::wishes he had hands so he could punctuate this with syncopated best poet finger-snapping::

        • palmvos

          ::throws apples and clementines at weatherhight::

      • Donald Simmons

        In my experience 98% of the time when someone invokes the slippery slope it’s just because they can’t be bothered to change anything.

    • Matrix

      I think that the fallacy here is that it occurs in every case. Which is not true. The Slippery Slope Fallacy is that one action always creates one result. Because of A, you always get Z. While it does happen, which is irrefutable, It doesn’t ALWAYS happen. There are other factors. Action A can give way to situation Z BUT if you have Action B or Situation C added to it, you do NOT get Z.
      Not all people that drink alcohol are alcoholics, a fact that is also irrefutable. So claiming that all consumption of alcohol or drugs causes everyone to become alcoholics is not true.
      To bring this back to the story: Allison is not a bad person for committing one bad act. Her feelings on how to improve the world are not suddenly nullified by one act of aggression or one crime. This is what is called a “Learning Experience” and if she atones for this crime or pays for it in another way is not the point, yet. It is the learning from making the mistake that we are seeing. The Prof here is only STARTING to teach. He put the groundwork down and is now just getting to the point of the discussion. An Axiom is useless in and of itself, but action is what matters.

      • Axel_Celosar

        But then at what point does in become invoked? How many bad choices does Alison have to make? How much harder does the alcoholic have to drink before you admit that they’ve gotten worse because of their choices?

        Again, without the slope, you’re stating that a person goes from good to evil in just one choice, no slow degradation, no making worse and worse decisions over time. By not intervening at any point during these choices, you’re denying the reality that they WILL get worse if they keep going this path.

        • Matrix

          She has so far only made one bad choice. She knew it was a bad choice, she is seeking help in resolving it and learning from it. Just because someone gets drunk once doesn’t mean that they are an alcoholic. How many you ask? Well, I think that this depends on the person. Yes, it CAN be a slope to go down but so far I have seen that she just fell into a hole and is picking herself up out of that hole.

          You also assume that she WILL keep going down the path. So far, I have seen that she is trying NOT to. Seeking advice, seeking to understand her own descision.

          If you go back to the Alcohol analogy: She is a person that got black out drunk once. This scared her and makes her wonder if she is an Alcoholic and is destined to become one. Not the case. The very fact that she is scared seems to indicate otherwise. No facts are being ignored. Yes, keep drinking that heavily and she will be but ONCE? nope.

          I recently talked to an Alcoholic about Alcoholism and ask him when do you think that someone should be worried if they are an alcoholic. He said that for him, it was to the point that he didn’t feel normal unless he was drunk or had had alcohol. Sober he felt that he was not right. Following along that logic: She will become evil when the evil acts that she is committing seem to be good acts to her. And it is perfectly reasonable and justifiable. No fear there. No understanding that what she did was even wrong. Just…Normal. When she gets to the point that the actions are what she feels everybody should be doing and wonders why she is being persecuted THEN she is evil. True the transition will happen earlier but as a definitive moment that you can point to as a beyond the doubt moment, that is it.

          • Axel_Celosar

            So basically you’re saying that you cant use the Slope as an argument for someone going evil, until they actually go evil.

          • Cokely

            I’m going to steal blatantly from wikipedia on this point, because it’s pretty succinct about fallacious and non-fallacious use of the argument. This in particular seems relevant:

            “By definition, any case involving a valid establishment of a positive feedback mechanism constitutes a non-fallacious use of the slippery slope argument, since the slippery slope argument precisely describes a positive feedback mechanism.[3] The argument is fallacious when it is assumed that a certain action behaves with positive feedback without any prior evidence or logical reasoning that it does, but if evidence of a positive feedback mechanism is found, the slippery slope argument may be an accurate description. Positive feedback mechanisms are common in sociology, including positive network effects, and the bandwagon effect.”

            In the context of this page – of this argument at large – it’s valid to use the argument based on this description if you can show that Alison is receiving some kind of positive feedback for her actions. I think you could make that case purely on the external results – everything is great, organ shortages are now a thing of the past, and Feral is able to live something like a normal life.

            The internal results, however, muddy the issue by showing Alison as tormented by the action. She thinks she should be having positive feedback here, but doing so has gone against deeply held principles and the conflict there has been both emotionally painful and physically painful for her (to the point of being nauseated by her actions).

            As such, in this case the use of slippery slope is based more around whether you think she will find the results sufficiently attractive to disregard her moral qualms and keep doing the same. Quite a bit of this conversation has made it clear that she can’t do so that easily.

          • Matrix

            Not at all. I was just mentioning that 1 instance does not make a slope. In math terms you need several points to define a slope. Just the same here, 1 bad decision does not make it a pattern of behavior. Getting back to the “Slippery Slop Fallacy” example, this postulates that If A (one situation) happens then Z (being evil) must happen. That is too simplistic of a viewpoint. And just that 1 point. I don’t think she is in danger of going evil just yet. Do you consider Feral evil? She committed several evil acts as stated. Then she turned it around and is doing good.

            Why is it that people are so quick to judge all future behavior on one example? Both Good or Bad. You are judging her on 1 action. There have been TONS of other actions that she has done good. True it is not a bank, you can’t simply bank good actions and then balance them out with bad actions and if you have more good than bad you are a good person. Doesn’t work that way. But judging all of her future behavior on the assumption that she WILL be going evil because of one criminal (some would say evil) act? Don’t think so.

          • I’d say that’s true. It’s something that you can only see in retrospect.

          • Axel_Celosar

            So basically it’s wrong to convince someone to tell them to stop doing bad things because they’ll tell you they can just stop at any time. And you’re just supposed to take their word for it.

          • Zach Marx

            Basically the argument against the slippery slope is that if someone is repeatedly doing bad things, the reason that they are doing so is very likely not that the bad things they are doing have an inherent charm but that there are other factors in their environment that are also affecting their decision making. In the case of drug addiction, you can give rats free access to heroin and if everything else about their rat living situation is great, they don’t get addicted. They will indulge occasionally, but they don’t escalate doses, or show other signs of habituation or addiction. The idea is not that some actions don’t lead to other actions, but instead that very few things don’t contain their own slippery slope inside of them.

            In the example of criminals, most people who become hardened criminals or mob bosses have more than one thing pushing them in that direction. It’s not that they randomly took an action that was criminal one day and the action itself inspired them to take more actions that lead them to become a prominent member of a criminal organization. They were lead and mentored, and they had reasons, probably bad ones but still reasons, to do the things they did. Every step of the way was influenced by many factors, not just the inescapable slippery seductiveness of crime.

          • Zach Marx

            This isn’t to say that heroin is not addictive, or that crime is not in some ways and cases seductive! But it is to say that that is not a sufficient analysis in and of itself, and that to argue solely from that can be a fallacy, depending on what conclusions you are trying to reach in your argument.

          • saysomethingclever

            this isn’t the case at all. it’s not wrong, and they may tell you that, and they may even turn it around… but the right move for you is to try to intervene because what if *they* believe they have no other course?

          • It’s not that simple. But, there IS some truth to that. How do you convince someone of something? You can appeal to their emotions — shame, pride, compassion. You can appeal to their self-interest. Someone they respect — maybe you — can tell them to do something. (Aristotle called these methods of persuasion “pathos”, “logos”, and “ethos”, and Aristotle’s Rhetoric is still a good basis to start from.)

            And you should. But after that, yeah. They’ll tell you they’ll stop. And what else can you do but take their word for it?

            Your choices are persuasion and force. And maybe there IS a role for force. I believe it’s generally speaking morally wrong to use force to make someone act in their own best interest, but I’ve done it. And I both think I was morally wrong to do so, and I am not ashamed of it. A person who is now a clear benefit to the world, and a huge one, exists in the world because I got them involuntarily committed to a psych ward until they were able to turn things around and stop being suicidal. So, while I’m apparently arguing against you — I’ve also done something that is in the same neighborhood as what you’re talking about.

            And the person is now grateful to me, and the world is a much better place because of it — but I am not convinced that my actions were morally correct.

            Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I’m with the Professor on this — “it’s not as easy as all that, is it?” I believe that one should do the right thing. I believe that it’s not always clear what the right thing is, and sometimes you can only do the least-wrong thing, and sometimes, you just have to… I dunno. Do SOMETHING.

          • Freemage

            No, but you should make certain the ‘bad things’ you’re telling them not to do are actually bad in and of themselves in some fashion, rather than telling them they’re bad because someday in the future they MIGHT also do something worse.

            Example 1: Someone has a glass of wine at dinner. While, in theory, this might be the window to a life of alcoholism and greater drug addiction, it’s… probably not. So it’s a fallacy to claim that there’s a slippery slope from ‘glass of wine at dinner’ to ‘heroin overdose in a gutter’. And so telling them to not drink wine at dinner so they don’t become a junkie statistic is… fallacious.

            Example 2: Doing a ‘favor’ for a mob boss. This, on the other hand, does lead to a potential slippery slope, because getting involved with the mob can have all sorts of negative repercussions–including both the scrutiny of law enforcement and the potential that the mob would continue to come to you for ‘favors’, with both the pressure to provide those favors, and their criminality, increasing, because that’s how the mob handles a good bit of their recruitment.

    • Robert

      Why a slope? Why slippery? To envision a terrain that is conducive to arriving at a destination with less effort from the traveler is to take responsibility for the journey away. I have done drugs, and alcohol, to excess. My body became accustomed to them, one line, one drink, at a time. There was no “slippery slope” that propelled me towards addiction.. it was my decisions, and my actions, and mine alone that put me there.

      It was also my decisions and actions alone that carried me out. Certainly encouragement helped me make my decisions, and gave me reason to guide my actions, but at the end of all things, we are where we put ourselves.

      Terrain or slickeryness not withstanding.

      To me, placing any blame anywhere but where it belongs is a bad habit to develop. It leads to believing that being a victim is ok. It’s not MY fault… it is a natural progression, I don’t need to feel responsible… I just stepped onto a slippery slope, and slid aaaaallll the way down… It’s {insert favorite scapegoat here}’s fault, not MINE…

      Saying that, one would be wrong. Until one can take full and terribly complete, responsibility for one’s actions/thoughts/words etc. One will never find the path to inner peace (which is also a lie, just like cake…)

      • Chani

        “To me, placing any blame anywhere but where it belongs is a bad habit to
        develop. It leads to believing that being a victim is ok.”

        That has merit, but it can also be twisted into something harmful – blaming someone for being upset that you hurt them, or insisting someone failed because they’re lazy or bad instead of considering they might need medical help. Or telling yourself you can stop any time you want.

        I guess that’s part of what Guwara was trying to teach – humans don’t fit neatly into little boxes that you can always apply simple principles to. Humans are messy and complicated. Principles are tools, and they can be used for both good and evil. So you have to actually *think* about which direction you’re really going in, regularly, and that’s hard.

    • Elaine Lee

      How can the slope be slippery if not everyone slips on it? Not everyone who drinks or takes a drug becomes an addict. So maybe it’s the soles of the particular person’s feet that are slippery.

    • And also an actual thing that fails to occur all the damn time. Yes, all alcoholics and drug users started somewhere where they weren’t an alcoholic or drug user. But the majority of people who use alcohol or drugs aren’t alcoholics or drug addicts.

      I’ve started to think of it more as that different people have different points that they’re drawn to. If you are a person who is in a horrific situation, and you are introduced to alcohol and/or drugs, which give you a reprieve from your horrific situation, then you are likely to have an end point that involves a whole lot more drugs or alcohol than someone who doesn’t need the refuge.

      I mean, I don’t KNOW that. It’s just what I sort of anecdotally have come up with. But it feels like drugs and alcohol are only an attractive force for some people, and for other people, it’s more that they’re trying to get away from the pain of non-drugged life, rather than being attracted to the drugged experience.

      Is the slippery slope a real thing? Sure, in some cases, but I think that you kind of really need something pushing you down it in order to slip.

    • The Distinguished Anarchist

      Of course the slippery slope is a real thing, but what the Professor is referring to is the tendency to use it as an end-all resolution to never take risks. As though any possible course of action that could possibly one day produce an undesirable result should be pushed aside and never looked at again. It distracts from the issue at hand and instead puts the focus on extreme hypotheticals. If there is no reasonable proof to suggest the whatever bad thing someone is positing will actually occur, then it becomes an appeal to emotion by leveraging fear and tainting the other person’s argument with unsubstantiated conjecture.

      The truth is that human beings are great at working with potential slippery slopes. We build stairs.

      • saysomethingclever

        yes!!! THIS. <3

  • Dean

    An encounter with a slippery slope is the reason Gurwara needs a cane now.

    • Rugains Fleuridor

      It’s his worst enemy. Get ready, because next page begins the dark and edgy backstory of how the Slippery Slope Clan buried his family in debt, burned down their home, and killed his mother.

      • llennhoff

        But what he should have remembered after taking his vengeance was bastards have brothers! (obRomancing the Stone)

    • Dwight Williams

      That would not surprise me.

    • Tdoodle

      Not cool to make fun of a disability, even in a comic.

    • palmvos

      it was no accident.. he was pushed.

  • zellgato

    I swear he really is pushing her thinking to eventually going “ohj.. mind reader.. we really are a like.. and he was kind of right about the great good overriding small acts of evil”

  • Lostman

    I feel that I should said this last panel: but replace power with control, to have power is to be in control.

    Also I feel that it’s impossible to anything big without doing major harm.

    • It is, no matter what you try, people are going to get caught in the crossfire.

      • Lostman

        Or get angry, then it becomes who and many you angered.

      • Incendax

        Getting offended works the same way. You always offend someone. How many and how deeply are the important question

        • Seer of Trope

          I don’t think how many is as important as how deeply, but in a way, taking only “how deeply” into account would probably skew bias toward the kind of people we know more intimately because we probably don’t actually understand people we’re not very familiar with.

      • Matrix

        There are always those that see the “Status Quo” as something to be preserved and there are those that wish to fight against it. Yes, people are going to get angry and hurt and yes people are going to be upset. But does it matter? How does it matter? That is the question to be answered.
        If the person that a law is going to hurt is someone that is going against the law then the law is doing it’s job. If you make a law: Killing Blue Haired people is bad and punishable by X sentence then it is saying that Killing Blue Haired people is not a good thing. If I say, “But I Like killing blue haired people” and get angry over the law and say it is descrimitory and it infringes on my rights to kill blue haired people then the answer is obvious. HELL YES it is descriminitory to you, you should not be killing blue haired people, stop or face the consequences. I don’t care if you get upset or angry at the LAW.
        In this manner laws are inflexible. This is why people get involved and questions need to be asked and judgment needs to be made: Was Killing the Blue haired person purposeful? Did you kill the blue haired person in defense of others or was it just for your enjoyment? The questions go on. So it is a judgment. Principles are a type of person and moral law. BUT we are still people. We need to evaluate the results and evaluate the implementation of the principle. This is where we go from the oversimplified term of the axiom and apply it to life in an admittedly uneven fashion. No morality should be absolute. There is no ONE TRUE WAY. While this may smack some hyper-religious types in the face it is true. For those that think that it isn’t, well I am sure that with enough research on what your book, or written word you take as absolute, that I can cook you with your own absolute words.

  • mendel

    Society runs on trust (as do animal societies, but then animals don’t lie). “Good” actions are what preserve this trust. It’s relative to the situation, but whatever principles promote trust are probably good.

    Utilitarism is not, since a utilitarian will sacrifice anyone if they can justify it somehow. But since societies without trust operate at much higher costs, utilitarism should abolish itself, by its own logic.

    • JohnTomato

      ” animals don’t lie”

      You never met my ex-wife’s cat.

    • deebles

      I would argue that society generally operates by rule utilitarianism. We behave, for the most part, according to a set of rules which are beneficial for everybody to live by. Quite a few of them get written into the law books.

      • Weatherheight

        I up-vote this for using the words “dollop” and “expediency” in the same sentence.

      • mendel

        “We behave, for the most part, according to a set of rules which are beneficial for everybody to live by.” — [citation needed] Was ancient Rome living on rules beficial for everyone? medieval feudalism? modern western democracy? beneficial for *everyone* means nobody gets exploited, nobody suffers needlessly: counterexamples abound in most human societies at most times in history. I do not think you can defend this point.

        • It’s an interesting point, but I suspect it comes down to definitions and understandings; deebles shorthand could be restated as “We behave, for the most part, according to a set of rules that we believe are beneficial for everyone we define as real people to live by.” This strikes me as more accurate, but not terribly helpful to the current discussion.

          • mendel

            Well, more simply, “beneficial for our friends”, and whom we consider to include in that group we care about changes as we grow up. Enter “Kohlberg’s stages of moral development” (and yeah, they’ve been criticized and improved upon, but still a good starting point).

          • What is the definition of a real person, though? I would argue that, as a rule, we tend to relegate people that we are unwilling to protect via society’s laws as “not real people” regardless of whether they are our friends or not- and those that we are willing to protect via society’s laws may not be our friends, but we are willing to extend protection to them because they share traits that we identify as human (or, more accurately, have not evidenced traits that we identify as not-human).

        • deebles

          “Do not murder”, “do not steal”, etc. are basically beneficial to all of us that everyone lives by. Similarly, on the road, it’s beneficial to all of us that certain standards of safe driving are enforced. In the workplace, it’s beneficial for everyone in it that certain health and safety standards, contractual standards, etc. are maintained.

          And if we do look to ancient rome, medieval feudalism, and so forth, you could pick out many examples of both laws and social mores that were of general benefit to the common good.

          It’s not a perfect system, of course, since so many other laws and unwritten social rules become only “beneficial for everyone with the power to enforce their will”, even before politics, religion, prejudice etc. muddy the water further.

    • “Uutilitarism should abolish itself, by its own logic.” This is what in fact happened with e.g. Eliezer Yudkowsky and his idea of Timeless Decision Theory. But since people don’t like to admit they used to be wrong, even when they in fact have changed their minds, he still calls himself utilitarian, even though he is not.

      • mendel

        Any idea of Yudkowsky being abolished is good news, from my point of view, but I must admit it’s been a few years since I examined his writings, and I have never heard of TDT before. Has anyone made the point yet that that kind of Bayesian decision theory is simply codified prejudice?

    • Tylikcat

      Actually, animals lie pretty frequently. Deceptive mimicry – this isn’t probably the formal term, this isn’t my field, but where animals present in ways that imply they’re something that they’re not is *everywhere*. Think of all the moths with eye spots. Think of all the insects with coloration that makes them look like something poisonous, but which aren’t. Lying is a common strategy.

      • Mechwarrior

        In group-living animals like monkeys, it’s not an uncommon tactic for a monkey that sees another monkey eating a particularly delicious bit of food to sound an alarm call, causing everyone in the troop to flee and allowing them to steal the desired food item. Unlike defensive mimicry, this is an act of voluntary deception.

        • mendel

          Monkeys are primates, so I’m going to argue that they’re too much alike to us. However, because the deception is successful, it still supports my main point, namely, that the monkey society runs on trust. Now if you can teach primates to distrust each other…

          • Mechwarrior

            There are birds who do the same trick. Blue jays are known for imitating the calls of hawks in order to frighten other birds away from food sources.

          • mendel

            Other Bluejays?

          • Mechwarrior

            Mostly other species. The jays tend to be smart enough to not fall for the trick.

          • saysomethingclever

            if we’re going to bring birds into it, don’t forget the biggest deceiver of all… the cuckoo.

          • Mechwarrior

            That’s a bit different from imitating predators or giving false alarm calls.

          • saysomethingclever

            very much so. is there a reason we are sticking only to one kind of deceit?

          • Mechwarrior

            I was trying to stick to examples of learned/taught behavior. Stuff like the cuckoo’s parasitic reproductive strategy is more instinctive.

          • Weatherheight

            Apparently there is a type of penguin that builds nests with rocks – just watched a nature program wherein Penguin A was stealing rocks from Penguin B’s nest, dropping it on his own nest, and then deliberately turning away when Penguin B (from whose nest he stole the rock) returned – but only when a rock was actually taken. Whenever the penguin of the second part had not stolen a rock, it appeared to be watching the incoming rock to see if it was nest-worthy.

            This probably was just clever editing, but it sure did seem like Penguin A was all “Don’t mind me, just looking over here at all these other penguins, not interested in your nest and the rocks there.” whenever Penguin B showed up. And it didn’t seem to be a thing every penguin did.

          • Mechwarrior

            Chipmunks and squirrels will sometimes watch other members of their species burying nuts, then steal the nuts for themselves. But squirrels have been observed actually faking that they’re burying a nut when they know that another squirrel is watching them, then running off and actually burying the nut somewhere else while the would-be thief is distracted.

        • Weatherheight

          So BBC America has been blasting nature shows this week, and I could have sworn I saw meerkats doing something very much like this (I was a bit distracted and wasn’t paying full attention). I do reserve the right to be wholly wrong on this, thereby. 😀

          This behavior probably comes up more often in communal animals than solitary animals.

          • Mechwarrior

            Yes, it happens in meerkats as well. As far as I know, it’s not a behavior that’s ever been documented in solitary species: since it requires social interaction in order to succeed it would be difficult to get going in a solitary species. And it doesn’t seem to occur in species that eat mostly grass or leaves, either- when the food source is ubiquitous there’s less reason to steal it.

      • mendel

        Well, in context I am referring to animals lying to other members of their social group. Mechwarrior gave an example, but mimikry wouldn’t be one.

        • Tylikcat

          Would you count deceptive mating? Where a member of a mated pair mates outside of that pairing in secret?

          • mendel

            Well, does the other member have the potential for distrust? Will they ever exhibit signs of distrust? If not, they’re still using trust to make their lives work.

      • Weatherheight

        I think your point is valid but maybe the example isn’t. Most mimicry works not by intention but by synchronicity – a series of random events (coloration and behaviors) coming together to exploit that coalescence (i.e. those lucky bastards got to survive because of dumb luck, not because they planned it).

        Mechawarrior’s example is definitely relevant; behaviors of lyre birds using sirens and other sound effects to (apparently) frighten off predators also fits the bill. Some forms of threat display also probably excellent examples of your point.

        • Tylikcat

          Volition is an interesting one – when is a behavior counted as intentional versus reflexive? I mostly work with invertebrates, so a lot of the examples that come easiest to mind don’t involve a lot of smarts. And I certainly can’t think of a time when slugs deceive other slugs, though they do arguably deceive lobsters…

          (When we’re talking something that’s behavioral, rather than something that’s based on body plan, like eyespots… it can be a pretty tough sort of debate. I mean, the debate between what is nociception and what pain is more involved than might be obvious. I usually shrugged my shoulders, and tried to be as careful as possible about anesthetizing my slugs, 20k neurons or no.)

          • Weatherheight

            That whole “was that an intentional on an unthinking response” things has caused me a lot of personal problems, too. 😀

            I would be willing to bet that cetaceans would also provide examples of apparently intentional deceit both within their social structure and without. The problem with being a dilettante and wanting to know something about everything is you end up not knowing much about anything.

            For some reason, I had a brief mental image of a tiny little bar with a whole bunch of slugs all drinking from tiny little glasses and standing behind it saying, “So, what’s your pleasure?”

  • Pol Subanajouy

    Al: “What are your thoughts on the slippery slope?”

    Gurwara: “>:P”

  • I’ve found that very few things actually improve the world in any real sense, and having “principles” isnt among them. It’s just a way to try and enforce order on a ridiculously chaotic world, even though you’re not actually changing anything about yourself, you’re just changing how you view the rest of the world. In reality, you’re just swept along the tides of history like everyone else.

    • deebles

      Well, having principles does nothing unless you act on them. But what “few things” would you argue do improve the world, and, by extension, what things that are popularly perceived to improve the world not improve it?

      • “God damn it, babies, you’ve got to be kind.”

  • JohnTomato

    “Please don’t say anything else.”

    Followed by four paragraphs…

    Don’t play poker with philosophers. They never shut up.

    • palmvos

      I thought the key to interrogation was to keep the target talking- in poker you want to know what is in the other guys hand right? keep him talking and sooner or later it will slip.

      • JohnTomato

        Unless they’re animated all the bleeping time. Much easier to get a tell on a player trying to conceal than one who is telling you about his mother’s hair dresser’s cousin who has this great dog but it throws up all the time and the yak is kinda blue green but the hair dresser just bought a Subaru so your mom thinks she may be a lesbian NTTAWWT and mom is thinking about baking a pie for the school fund raiser for left handed blondes.

  • Isaac Burke

    I knew he wasn’t a real philosophy professor! The slippery slope is not a formal logical fallacy.

    It’s somehow slipped onto some pop-culture lists of logical fallacies, and it’s certainly often wrong, but it’s entirely valid formal logic to state

    1. I do not desire situations that have or will eventually have property A.

    2. Situations with property C will eventually have property B

    3. Situations with property B will eventually have property A

    4. Therefore situations with property B will eventually have property A (2 &3)

    5. Therefore, I do not desire situations that have property C (1 & 4)

    Whether {1,2,3} is true is an empirical question. Indeed, it’s easy to point to countless examples where it’s the case.

    It’s certainly possible to make a slippery slope argument that’s fallacious, but that would contain an actual formal fallacy at some point that you can point to. Guevera is 100% talking out of his ass.

    … although, I mean, he’s right. If being slightly inconsistent led to a slippery slope ending in sociopathy, there’d be no good people left after a week.

  • Michael Sullivan

    It’s not a formal logical fallacy.

    • Beroli

      No, it is. You’ll find it in textbooks that list logical fallacies. The thing is that most, or all, logical fallacies take at least minimal effort to distinguish from valid logic. The fallacy of the Slippery Slope is “thing that I wish to reject will inevitably lead to thing that we both agree is obviously bad. I do not need to explain how, merely state that it will.” But some people look at that form and declare that it’s invalid to say that anything could lead to anything. There should be a fallacy of inappropriate declaration of fallacies.

      • Michael Sullivan

        It’s not a formal logical fallacy. Rather like the appeal to authority that you committed in the above post, it’s often listed as an “informal logical fallacy,” in that it need not be illogical but often is.

      • Cokely

        Isn’t that the fallacy fallacy?

        • Freemage

          Not quite. While the fallacy fallacy does cover poorly applying the fallacy in question, it also goes further. In a formal debate, while identifying your opponent’s fallacies is useful to showing how their arguments do not hold water, it’s also necessary to show that yours do. The full fallacy fallacy occurs when you rely solely on pointing out your opponent’s arguments’ weaknesses, and then assuming you’ve won the discussion.

    • In fact, slippery slope arguments are analagous to the paradox of the heap:

      1. One grain of sand is not a heap.
      2. Adding a single grain of sand to other grains of sand which are not a heap, does not make a heap of sand.
      3. Therefore, by induction, you can never have a heap no matter how much sand you have.

      This is not a “formal logical fallacy.” It is logically valid. People refute it not by saying it is logically fallacious, but by denying the second premise.

      The problem with that is that the second premise is obviously true.

      The reality is that the slippery slope is a paradox, like the paradox of the liar, and it does not have a logically consistent solution.

      • Matrix

        Number 3 is jumping to a conclusion without taking the whole into account.

        A Paradox is defined as something that is Seemingly Contradictive, not as something that is contradictive. People get the meaning of a Paradox wrong all the time.

        But back to the “Paradox of the heap” argument you have.

        1. One grain of sand is not a heap.

        2. Adding a single grain of sand to other grains of sand which are not a heap, does not make a heap of sand.

        If this is ultimately true then you have already defined the grouping of grains of sand as not a heap. The evaluation has happened before you added the grain of sand. So number 3 is meaningless. You have already made up your mind that adding one grain to a not-heap will not make the not-heap a heap.

        Going back to the “Slippery Slope”, here is a quick definition that I could find: an idea or course of action which will lead to something unacceptable, wrong, or disastrous.

        Finding a definition more related to it “The Slippery Slope Fallacy”: You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.

        So again, the evaluation is made prematurely. If A then Z BUT that is the assumption that A causes Z, so stop A. In actuality A does not cause Z, but SOMETIMES Z is a result of Z. There are times where Z is not a cause of A. The other thing that occurs to me is that If A, then you add B, could produce something other than Z. This means that A could still be a good thing and does not need to lead to Z.
        So an “Axiom” could be a good thing, it just can’t be the ONLY thing. Some basic thinking here was lost.

      • Kid Chaos

        Yeah, but if you keep going, you eventually wind up with a heap of sand; it just takes a while. And it depends on how you define a “heap” of sand. It’s all very subjective! 😎

      • Zac Caslar

        Sure, it’s Achilles and the Turtle.

      • The problem, obviously, lies in accurately defining what a heap actually is: if a heap consists of 100 grains of sand, then statement 2 must reflect that. Similarly, if a heap consists of ten thousand or ten million or ten billion. Until a precise definition of heap is introduced, the second statement is semantically meaningless.

        • Weatherheight

          If it’s at all helpful, I can say with assurance born out of careful experimentation by multiple data collectors over a period of six months that, in the town in which I live, asking a McDonald’s drive-thru for a “buttload of ketchup” will reliably result in eight packets,

          If it’s at all helpful. 😀

          • This gets quite cogently to the heart of the problem; if we change the paradigm from heaps to buttloads, then…:
            1) one packet of ketchup is not a buttload.
            2) Adding one packet of ketchup to a group of packets of ketchup less than seven does not create a buttload.
            3) Adding a packet of ketchup to a group of packets equal or greater than seven does produce, at a minimum, a buttload of ketchup. It may even produce a heap of catsup.

            The buttload/heap problem has been solved!

          • Weatherheight

            Now, of course, we need to confirm the buttload:heap ratio and we begin making significant progress.

            Of course, there is the problem of heap relativity – to wit, does a heap represent a variable quantity relative to the substance used in its assemblage? Does heapness vary dependent on the material used to create said heap? Is there such a thing as a material that, regardless of how high or wide it is stacked, it cannot ever be considered a heap?

            Is there such a thing as a heap of philosophy, for example?

          • palmvos

            probably but i don’t know how to search amazon by topic and book thickness. I think 4 inches or a multiple of 4 inches would qualify as a heap.

        • mendel

          A heap is not a quantity, but an arrangement. Leaves on a lawn aren’t a heap, rake them together and they are. If you have an arrangement of things where one does not touch the ground, I’d say that’s a heap for sure.

          • If I accept your definition, then the entire argument is (as I was saying) semantically meaningless, because it is based on the assumption that a heap is a quantity.

        • Words are defined by other words, and by pointing. The other words are defined in the same way, so ultimately all words are defined by pointing. Pointing does not “accurately define” anything, so if you are right, all statements are “semantically meaningless.”

          But you are not right: everyone understands me when I say “look at that heap of sand,” even though I did not say how many grains of sand is required for a heap, so it is not “semantically meaningless”; and in fact defining a certain number would no longer be talking about a heap in the way people normally talk about it, but about a certain number, which is quite different.

          I realize people hate to face the fact that even logic only represents the world imperfectly, and so they engage in wishful thinking, telling themselves it is just a matter of “accurately defining” things. But that’s wrong.

          • Um… no. The argument is semantically meaningless because it misdefines what a heap is and implies that a heap is a question of number. If I accept that a heap is associated with a number of elements, than the number must be defined; if it is not, than the argument is, in fact, wrong.

  • Graeme Sutton

    It’s weird to hear the professor ask for evidence of something. So far his whole shtick has been based on ignoring all the empirical experience of what actually works for creating a (more) just and happy society because it doesn’t fit into his weird and nihilistic theory.

    • Zach Marx

      I don’t think he’s ignoring evidence, just that he disputes the existence of an easy or proven answer for what empirically creates a more just and happy society.

      • Graeme Sutton

        Except that by almost any objective measure we have created a happier and more just society than almost any that has previously existed. So we actually have a fair amount of empirical evidence on the subject and a lot of it is in direct conflict with Gurwara’s ideas.

        • saysomethingclever

          Was it Churchill who said “Democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others”?

        • Zach Marx

          The first part is pretty true, sure. The second part, a little less so: just because we got somewhere that is pretty good right now doesn’t mean we know how we got here, or that it is going to stay good, or how to make it better. And it’s a lot harder to define ‘better’ or prove the hows and the whys than it looks, I promise. I don’t see Gurwara as ignoring the evidence, but in disputing some of the inferences you might like to draw from it.

          • Graeme Sutton

            Well we do have a very recent, controlled experiment in how to abruptly make it worse.

  • Elbadasso

    You know, it might not be a slippery slope. It might just be a slope. Maybe YOU just have poor balance. HOW BOUT DAH? CASH ME OUTSIDE GURWARA.

    • qixlqatl

      More like trying to go up a down escalator. It takes effort just to remain in place.

      • Weatherheight

        Unless you’re at the Con.
        Cause… you know, that escalator is probably broken down and people is walking any which way.
        Just sayin…

  • GreatWyrmGold

    Actually, Prof, the Slippery Slope is an informal logical fallacy. A formal fallacy is one which is always wrong due to its logic, but an informal fallacy is wrong due to its flawed premises. A slippery slope argument has a valid logical structure but, generally, flawed premises.

    For instance:
    1. Laws against theft discourage some forms of acquiring property.
    2. If we accept laws against theft, soon we’ll have laws discouraging other forms of acquiring property.
    3. Discouraging the acquisition of property would be devastating to the modern economy.
    C: Therefore, we should not have laws against theft.
    The logical structure of this argument is flawless, but premise 2 is blatantly flawed. However, it is possible (though rare) for arguments with a similar but accurate premise-2 to be made. For instance:
    1. Smoking regularly for a long period of time risks various health consequences.
    2. If you smoke regularly for a period of time, you are likely to become addicted and keep smoking.
    3. Health consequences are bad.
    C: Therefore, you should not get into the habit of smoking regularly.
    Logical logic, factual premises, valid argument…but still follows the slippery-slope format.

    • palmvos

      I did something radical- i googled the slippery slope fallacy and your examples fit the explanation of why its a fallacy. for slippery slope to work it must be demonstrated that there is a positive feedback loop to pull or push one down. your first argument about theft lacks a positive feedback loop. addiction is by definition an positive feedback loop so your second example is a valid slippery slope. (i’d add that the postive feedback must be a net positive feedback just identifying a single positive feedback loop ignoring negative feedback loops is not good form)

    • Psile

      I get your point, and certainly agree that we should not reject arguments out of hand due to it conforming to pre-conceived notions of what we consider a logical fallacy. Logical fallacies are now starting to become what they were designed to prevent: a thought shortcut. It allows you to avoid thinking by seeing if an argument conforms to a fallacy, and can therefor be discounted. However, I am curious if you have a ‘positive’ example of a slippery slope argument that does not involve an addictive substance, as those are the only convincing slope arguments I have seen.

      • Freemage

        I’ve even heard it described as the fallacy fallacy–the notion that in order to prove your own point, you ONLY need to discredit your opponent’s by highlighting some fallacy they used in their argument. This, of course, ignores the possibility that your opponent’s conclusion could be correct, despite faulty reasoning.

      • palmvos

        ok. an slippery slope argument that has an overall negative result that shows a correctly used slippery slope. (I.E. has a positive feedback loop in it)

        the easy one I can think of goes like this:
        1. a group of ‘sellers’ realizes that the market they are in is saturated with competition, Lowering prices and limiting profits.
        2. they form a group and manage to get some regulations enacted that have the net effect of limiting the ability for new entrants to enter the market as sellers.
        3. the sellers with capital then go around consolidating many of the weaker sellers in that market.
        4. this gives the remaining sellers the ability to raise prices increasing profits.
        5. the amount of profit in the market stabilizes at a new level.
        6. the existing sellers want to increase profits in their market.
        hows that?
        the weak point here is how much awareness the buyers in this market have of this kind of activity and how much push back against further regulation/consolidation they give.

        and I googled it after I typed the above… ::evil grin:: I found a manual… at least it reads like one.


        found in the wikipedia footnotes- a Harvard Law Review article about this topic (PDF document) all 113 pages of it! footnotes everywhere (the first two pages are at least a third foot notes.) according to the table of contents it contains examples and the intro promises to show how evaluate them. you have been warned…

    • saysomethingclever

      i found it in a list of logical fallacies in *formal debate*. soooooo… maybe the formal doesn’t refer to what you think it does.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        A formal logical fallacy is a pattern of logic which is always erroneous due to a flaw in its structure.
        Logical fallacies in formal debate are a different thing; you see, the adjective “formal” applies to a different noun.

        • saysomethingclever

          //grin// that’s exactly why i was trying to say that the noun to which formal applies was absent. I was trying to make it out to be a squishier usage than it actually is… as a joke. it totally failed to be funny. i think i’ll go back to leaving the comedy to others. 😉

  • Tylikcat

    For a moment I thought he was going to discuss how much of all of philosophy is post-facto rationalization. (Which considering there is some support in neuroscience much of our reasons for our actions is post-facto rationalization was totally going to be a Chip’s Chips moment for me. Alas.)

  • Kerlyssa

    ok, slippery slope spitface has officially converted me to the pro-professor party.

  • Philip Bourque

    She asks for someone to tell her how to live her life and then when he starts talking she tells him to shut up. Can’t she make up her mind?

    • Weatherheight

      Heh. She’s like when you’re at the store and they have those candy cylinders that you pull the lever and the candy comes out and you pull the lever and nothing happens and you pull it a little more and nothing comes out and the you pull it a little more and then you gots candy all the way to the top of your bag and all over the floor and everyone is looking at you.
      And you’re like, “I only wanted a little something to gnaw on, not this…”

      • Beroli

        She’s been thinking implicitly, for a long time, that there is a one-punch solution. That if she messes up, it’s because she doesn’t act in accord with the simple and obvious-once-one-sees-it correct morality. Instead of telling her “this is why what you did is justified” or “this is how you were wrong and what you should have done instead”–what she was looking for–he’s effectively telling her, “Yep, it’s a big mess, and you’re going to spend the rest of your life in the middle of it. Not only that, it’s a lot bigger and messier than you were just feeling like it was. Look here, and here, and here…”

        • StClair

          Yup. There is no One Answer to Solve Everything. It’s an ongoing process of engagement and serious thought. And that’s hard.

  • Roman Snow

    This is it. This is the best page.

  • IE

    I have never agreed with a comic character more.

  • AshlaBoga

    I don’t know if the slippery slope is a FORMAL fallacy, but it’s rarely used in a positive context. If such a chain of event following a moral axiom can lead to evil, can it not also lead to good? Rarely is the continuum fallacy referred to in a positive manner.

    • mendel

      Oh, it is, usually when someone wants you to invest your money in their project (or whatever else they’re peddling).

      • AshlaBoga

        I guess the first example that comes to mind is a pyramid scheme, I feel like there’s probably many other examples that would fit.

  • M. Alan Thomas II

    So . . . virtue ethics? I mean, those aren’t the only two available ethical systems.

  • pidgey

    There are perfectly serviceable axioms that don’t get deconstructed into oblivion when carried to some logical conclusion, though. The Golden Rule being probably the most famous.

    The fact that philosophers all seem to be incapable of accepting an axiom that doesn’t uncover some secret formula for perfect generic behavior doesn’t mean such an axiom isn’t appropriate.

  • mendel

    The question is if “living a principled life produces a better world, or is somehow more just?”.

    Now these are not necessarily the same. Christian ethics argues that the world should not be just. Forgiveness is a thing that makes the world better, but it is not just. So let’s drop justice.

    The first statement is easily disproven: it is logically equivalent to “if a person makes the world worse, they can’t be living a principled live”, and since “America first” or selfishness are principles, there you go.

    So what we’re really asking is, is there a set of principles, that, when lived, lead you to make the world better? And again, the answer is obvious: “Make the world better in everything you do.”

    And thus we finally come to the obvious problem: who decides what “better” means?
    If we decide this individually, for ourselves, and if we can’t help but act out this principles, then our actions always make the world better: our actions define what “better” means to us. And then we’re back at page 117, sort of, where power defines what “right” is. (“The world” certainly doesn’t.)

    Choose your friends wisely. Live beautifully.

    • Chani

      “And again, the answer is obvious: “Make the world better in everything you do.””

      Ah, but what if you hit a local maxima? 🙂 If there’s a “better” state that can only be reached by first going down to a “worse” state, do you pursue it, or stay on your hill?

      Or maybe that’s a part of trying to define “better”…

      • mendel

        Is it ok to make it worse now, so it can become better later? This is actually something that children learn as they develop, too: can I control myself now to achieve an end that’s more distant? Does the morality of your action change if you don’t succeed? or if it turns out there was a better, less damaging way to do it? (Alison speculates on that on the previous page.)

        I am very suspicious of people positing the necessity of worse states, those states are often better for themselves.

        So, what if you made the world worse because you wanted it to become better, but in fact you enabled an evil master plan of someone working against you who prevents you from achieving the second step?

        In something as multidimensional as the world is, getting stuck at a local maximum usually means there’s a dimension you’re not considering.

        P.S.: 1 maximum, 2 maxima. Latin plurals are fun.

  • Lee J Rickard

    I hope you’ll give some glancing awareness of virtue ethics…

    • M. Alan Thomas II

      That would seem to be particularly relevant for a superhero, given that we often consider them on a meta-level to be embodiment of virtues.

      • Lee J Rickard

        Yes indeed. In virtue ethics, the role of the exemplar is key.

        • M. Alan Thomas II

          So what does Alison stand for? It doesn’t seem to be Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Perhaps this is, indeed, the true point of her maturation and quest: Discovering what she stands for.

    • Harlequin

      That was on page 25. Too far into the book for this comic.

  • J4n1

    I disagree with the good prof about beliefs not creating actions.
    Problem is that people really tell you what they, deep down, actually believe, usually you get the beliefs they will admit to, or claim to have, even to themselves.

    People will act according to their beliefs and convictions, but those beliefs and convictions are not always straightforward or consistent, or even known.

    The old “don’t tell me what you believe, tell me what you do, and i’ll tell you what you believe”.

  • Tsapki

    Regarding the slippery slope.


  • R Lex Eaton

    Okay, first time posting here. And I really like how all this is spanning out. Especially since it’s becoming more and more obvious how our dear Professor is…well, to put it bluntly…pathetic.

    I don’t mean that the character is bad–far from it, I do enjoy how revealing this conversation has been. But as a person, I’m tempted to root for Alison to pay no mind to someone who has given up on life and all it has to offer. Things like morality, justice, and freedom exist because people make them exist as concepts. Alison has been granted power, and thus the agency to affect change, but this conversation seems less likely to make things better. At least, as far as we’ve seen. I’ll be happy to eat my words in the future.

    Short version: cynicism is my least favorite trait in humanity. It’s a dead end of thought that grants horrible individuals solace that the universe doesn’t mind their passive whining. If the world is cruel and horrible… why not do good? If it matters to any living thing, it matters. Period.

    Anyhoo, nice to meet you all. ^_^;

    • Arkone Axon

      I agree with you about cynicism. It’s easy to be a cynic – you don’t have to DO anything.

      However… he’s actually doing a great deal here. For starters, he’s talking to a superpowered being with a lot of blood on her hands, who has just confessed serious crimes to him. The fact that he didn’t politely excuse himself and flee for his life is already fairly courageous.

      Furthermore, he’s trying to help her get her head on straight. He’s working to help her figure out the right thing to do. Helping her to determine what is the right thing to do. She did horrible things while trying to do the right thing. She’s desperate to know what IS the right thing.

      He admits to being tired (and he IS an old man who limps with the aid of a cane), but he’s not calling it quits just yet.

      • R Lex Eaton

        Thanks for the perspective! ^^

    • Filthy Liar

      He’s conversing with someone who can actually change the course of global events and trying to bring her around to his version of morality. He’s done really well so far. Imagine it more as a person talking to a naive God and you’re closer to the mark.

  • Jac