Utilitas

Research Article

Intertemporal Disagreement and Empirical Slippery Slope Arguments

THOMAS DOUGLASa1

a1 University of Oxford thomas.douglas@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

One prevalent type of slippery slope argument has the following form: (1) by doing some initial act now, we will bring it about that we subsequently do some more extreme version of this act, and (2) we should not bring it about that we do this further act, therefore (3) we should not do the initial act. Such arguments are frequently regarded as mistaken, often on the grounds that they rely on speculative or insufficiently strong empirical premises. In this article I point out another location at which these arguments may go wrong: I argue that, in their standard form, the truth of their empirical premises constitutes evidence for the falsity of their normative premises. If we will, as predicted, do the further act in the future, this gives us at least a prima facie reason to believe that the performance of this further act would be good, and thus something we should try to bring about. I end by briefly assessing the dialectic implications of my argument. I delineate a subset of slippery slope arguments against which my objection may be decisive, consider how the proponents of such arguments may evade my objection by adding further premises, and examine the likely plausibility of these additional premises.

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