One thing leads to another, setting off a chain of events or actions from a single original event. A slippery slope flaw reasons that because the 'last link' in such as a chain is bad so is the original event. If the original event could possibly lead to the last event then this reasoning is not fallacious, the flaw occurs when the original event is not properly linked to the last event by making extreme and unjustified jumps. For example:
You should do some revision, if you do not get a B in your A level exams you won't be able to go to University and so won't be able to get a job and die a homeless man.
Here the links between events are far too extreme to be valid, not getting a B may stop you from going to your university of choice however to jump from this to not being able to get a job is unjustified.
Slippery slopes aren't always negative, turning the above exam around:
You should do some revision, if you get a B in your A level exams you'll be able to go to University and get a job paying £100,000 and die a millionaire.
This argument is as bad as previous, even if the last link in the chain is seen to be 'good'.
Critical thinking revision
What is an argument?
- An attempt to persuade someone of a point of view by using reasoning. It is made up of three parts:
- Reason – a cause that makes something happen & answers the question ‘why…?’
- Conclusion – a result or judgement that has been caused by the reason. It doesn’t always mean the final point in a written passage.
- An element of persuasion – something that tries to influence you into believing or doing something.
DON’T BE MISLEAD – other forms of language can sometimes be included to confuse you:
- Opinion – a statement of what someone thinks or believes. It is not based on fact that can be tested.
- Assertion – an attempt to persuade but doesn’t include reasons. It is an opinion with an element of persuasion, e.g. ‘you should do this.’
- Explanation – a statement that includes at least one reason and a conclusion but doesn’t include an element of persuasion, e.g. ‘my critical thinking class has both sexes in it because my teacher wants us to have discussions from both perspectives.’
- Indicator words and phrases – help the reader to identify a particular part of an argument.
- Conclusion indicator words – act like a signal to tell us which phrase or sentence is the conclusion of the argument. E.g. therefore, so, as a result, consequently, which proves that, this means that, it follows that, thus, hence, etc.
- Sometimes indicator words are not present so you need to:
-Find the phrase or sentence that you think represents the overall point of view the writer wants you to accept.
-Try putting an indicator word like ‘therefore’ or ‘so’ immediately before this phrase or sentence to see if it makes sense.
- A reason is a rational statement that aims to persuade the reader to accept a conclusion
- Reason indicator words include:
-For the reason that, seeing that, as, because, in view of the fact that, seeing as, since, given that, etc.
- Indicator words that link reasons include:
-In addition, also, as well as, etc.
Counter assertions and counter arguments
- Counter assertion - a statement (or claim) that goes against the main conclusion of the argument
- Counter argument – a complete mini-argument that opposes the main conclusion of the argument – it includes all three elements of an argument.
- The main difference between counter assertions is that counter arguments include a reason / some reasons
- Counter arguments and counter assertions are included so that they can be made to look weak. This, in turn, strengthens the whole argument.
- Evidence – used to develop, strengthen or support a reason in an argument. It is usually in the form of numbers and the data can be from research, surveys, statistical calculations, etc.
NOTE: the numerical reference can be qualitative, e.g. ‘in a survey most people preferred to shop at Tesco’ – this is still evidence even though…