The Volokh Conspiracy

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Slippery Slope Arguments

Slippery Slope Arguments in History: Aristotle


As I noted in my introductory post today, I'm planning on serializing my The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope article; and in between the substantive posts, I'll be posting some examples of slippery slope arguments from various famous sources (and responses to such arguments). It's mostly for fun, though partly to remind us about how deep these arguments run; here's the first, from Aristotle's Politics:

In well-blended constitutions therefore, if care must be taken to prevent men from committing any other breach of the law, most of all must a small breach be guarded against, for transgression of the law creeps in unnoticed, just as a small expenditure occurring often ruins men's estates; for the expense is not noticed because it does not come all at once, for the mind is led astray by the repeated small outlays, just like the sophistic puzzle, 'if each is little, then all are a little.' This is true in one way but in another it is not; for the whole or total is not little, but made up of little parts. One thing therefore that we must guard against is this beginning ….