1332: Slippery Slope

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Slippery Slope
Sure, taking a few seconds to be respectful toward someone about something they care about doesn't sound hard. But if you talk to hundreds of people every day and they all start expecting that same consideration, it could potentially add up to MINUTES wasted. And for WHAT?
Title text: Sure, taking a few seconds to be respectful toward someone about something they care about doesn't sound hard. But if you talk to hundreds of people every day and they all start expecting that same consideration, it could potentially add up to MINUTES wasted. And for WHAT?


"Slippery slope" argumentation is an informal fallacy that takes the form of "if A happens, then B will follow as a minor but expected consequence. B will lead on to C, C leads onto D, and so on. Each consequence gets progressively worse until an undesirable situation is reached." A slippery slope argument proposes that A should not be allowed, because if it is, then the resulting chain of consequences will inevitably lead to the undesirable situation.

For example, someone who is trying to avoid washing the dishes might try to justify themselves as follows: "if I wash the dishes tonight, then tomorrow night, I might be asked to do the dishes and also to wipe down the kitchen counters. If I do that, then pretty soon I'll also be asked to mop the kitchen floor. If I have to mop the kitchen floor, eventually I'll be asked to mop ALL the floors of the house, and eventually this will extend to washing the windows and taking out the trash and doing laundry, and I'll be doing EVERYTHING around here and NEVER get any time to myself. Therefore, I will not wash the dishes tonight, so I can still have enough time for myself."

What makes the chain of reasoning fallacious is that there is nothing about the task of "washing the dishes" that in any way implies the additional responsibilities that this person imagines (such as wiping down counters or mopping floors). The slippery slope fallacy manifests when there is no cogent basis for believing that the proposed chain of events is likely to follow, especially when the proposed course of action has a clear extent and limitation which would adequately prevent the "slope" from being "slipped down." In the above example: there is an implied extent and limitation to the defined task of "washing the dishes" - namely, the task would be complete when the household dishes have been washed. Additional household chores, like wiping down counters, would be negotiated seperately with other members of the household.

(It is worth noting that a fallacy has NOT been committed if there is a reasonable basis for the concern. For example, the reluctant dishwasher might live with an abuser who will foreseeably intimidate them into taking on an unreasonable share of household chores, on the faulty basis that "if you're willing to do the dishes, surely you must also be willing to wipe down the counters..." In such a scenario, "wash the dishes" may carry an encoded message of "do what you're told," in a form that appears reasonable on its surface. Thus, in assessing whether or not a slippery slope fallacy has been committed, it is important to take ALL the relevant factors into consideration, and not merely the explicitly articulated ones.)

In the comic, White Hat uses a slippery slope argument to Cueball to justify being inconsiderate to people. He argues that if he expends minor effort being considerate to one person, he will be expected to be considerate to everyone he meets, which - he wishes to argue - is an undesirable situation. Thus, he justifies being inconsiderate as a form of avoiding the slippery slope.

This idea is extended in the title text, where he continues extrapolating the train of thought to conclude that minutes of time would be "wasted". Rather than condemning the slippery slope fallacy per se, Randall's point here seems to be more that White Hat's priorities are callous to the point of sociopathy. All people desire to be treated with consideration and respect, and taking a few seconds to acknowledge another's feelings is (for most well-meaning people) a small price to pay for improving that person's day, or at least not making it any worse than it needs to be. As such, these seconds would not be "wasted" at all, but would be actively making the world a friendlier place. White Hat's hyperfixation on not wasting time appears ludicrous given how much good feeling he could contribute to the world for so little of his own time. (White Hat also appears to be discounting the possibility that being considerate towards others will encourage reciprocity, which could result in SAVING him time since they will be more willing to help him out should he ever find himself in need.)


[White Hat talking to Cueball.]
White Hat: Yeah, but if I'm considerate toward one person about one thing, what's next?
White Hat: Being nice to other people about other things?
White Hat: Where does it end?

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Wow, and I used to think White Hat was well-meaning but stupid; the inverse of Black Hat. I never knew he was such an asshole... 09:11, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

My own first thought was "That's a Black Hat Voice...". Then I started wondering what White Beret would have said, in his stead, and that sufficiently distracted me... 13:49, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Maybe he's being sarcastic? 23:19, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
I read that as more of an introverted perspective (though to an extreme) than him being an asshole. 16:20, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I don't really understand what Randall's trying to say by making him a White Hat.--Ricketybridge (talk) 23:43, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
I always assume Randal made a mistake and forget to color in the hat, because this is obviously a BlackHat argument. 18:25, 17 May 2016 (UTC)
Remember that it is this page that has put Cueball and White Hat tags on these persons. Randall does not follow this page... Hence he can change them at will, and especially the Cueball character behaves quite different from comic to comic - sometimes there are more than one Cueball in the same comic. On the other hand, I do believe that Randall uses White Hat as "the same person" every time. However, where White Hat may not wish to go out of his way to be nice - this has nothing in comparison to Black Hat who will go out of his way (a long way) to be mean to everyone. So this is not a typical Black Hat discussion in the comic. Kynde (talk) 10:54, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
I also wonder what the deal is here with White Hat. I usually think of him as the proponent of "conventional wisdom," which is often misguided,smug, and self-righteous... but not usually malicious. Black Hat obviously has that one cornered. And yes, I do understand that Randall "doesn't read this site," but that doesn't mean that he isn't saying something by using White Hat here. He's obviously put a sign out there. It's up to us to decode the signifier. Orazor (talk) 06:50, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
Malice is active and/or deliberate harmful behavior, not the absence of kindness. So his attitude isn't malicious, it's selfish because he's putting his time far ahead of the wellbeing of others. -Pennpenn 06:07, 11 December 2015 (UTC)

"Where does it end"? - Marriage, obviously. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:29, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Reminds me of a scene in 3
10 to Yuma (2007) with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) speaking to Dan Evans (Christian Bale): "Yeah, that's why I don't mess around with doing anything good, Dan. You do one good deed for somebody... I imagine it's habit-forming. Something decent. See that grateful look in their eyes, imagine it makes you feel like Christ Hisself." 20:24, 19 February 2014 (UTC)CAM

In the U.S., the satellite company DirectTV has a series of humorous commercials using the Slippery Slope argument as part of their "Get Rid of Cable" campaign. They all start with a person using cable tv, having problems of some sort, and then ending up in a dire situation such as waking up in a roadside ditch, selling your hair to a wig shop, etc. 22:43, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Am I the only one thinking maybe we might take the literal meaning out of this, too? Seems like every day someone else gets fed up with being a douche. 23:19, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

The classical "slippery slope" argument against cannabis legalization is that if we legalize cannabis, we must also legalize other drugs, eventually leading to legalizing heroin. This also mirrors the slippery slope argument in the comic. 11:44, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

Updated and expanded explanation. Is it sufficient now? 23:49, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

I perceive a problem.

Both examples of "slippery slope" arguments provided in the explanation are stereotypically bad arguments taken from a more conservative perspective, and the explanation goes on to criticize these bad arguments for being "largely made out of baseless fear and prejudice."

For one thing, this comic has nothing whatsoever to do with "arguments that are largely made out of baseless fear and prejudice" - furthermore, the criticism is a leftist's interpretation of the grounds for these perspectives (alleged fear and prejudice) rather than acknowledging whatever legitimacy there may be to actual conservative beliefs on these issues. Certainly, a thinking conservative who encountered this depiction of their beliefs would object strongly that their beliefs are quite warranted, and are not grounded in "baseless fear and prejudice" at all.

One possible solution would be to remove one of the examples and instead present an example of a bad "slippery slope" argument made from a left-leaning perspective: for example, arguing that "outlawing same-sex marriage will inevitably lead to outlawing interracial marriage as well" or "tightening up controls on illegal immigration will result in more onerous restrictions on legal immigration as well."

I am more inclined, however, to simply find a single example that isn't nearly as politically-charged and that anyone can agree to. I'm thinking of drafting such an example and then making the change at a later date, unless someone finds a reason for me not to? Discussion is welcome. 18:54, 22 December 2020 (UTC)MeZimm

Changes made. Let me know if I overstepped or if something needs to be reworked, thanks! 18:47, 4 January 2021 (UTC)MeZimm