Often the best response is a combination of these. One can admit that certain claimed effects would be horrible, but deny that these horrible effects really are likely. Then one can acknowledge that some more minor problems will ensue, but argue that these costs are outweighed by the benefits of the program.

To determine which, if any, of these responses is adequate, one must look closely at each particular argument and ask the following questions:

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Are any of the claimed effects really very bad?

Are any of these effects really very likely?

Do these dangers outweigh all the benefits of what is being criticized?

If the answers to all these questions are “Yes,” then the causal slippery-slope argument is strong. But if any of these questions receives a negative answer, then the causal slippery-slope argument is questionable on that basis.

Classify each of the following arguments as either (H) an argument from the heap, (C) a conceptual slippery-slope argument, (F) a fairness slippery-slope argument, or (S) a causal slippery-slope argument. Explain why you classify each example as you do.

1. We have to take a stand against sex education in junior high schools. If we allow sex education in the eighth grade, then the seventh graders will want it, and then the sixth graders, and pretty soon we will be teaching sex education to our little kindergartners.

2. People are found not guilty by reason of insanity when they cannot avoid breaking the law. But people who are brought up in certain deprived social circumstances are not much more able than the insane to avoid breaking the law. So it would be unjust to find them guilty.

3. People are called mentally ill when they do very strange things, but many so-called eccentrics do things that are just as strange. So there is no real difference between insanity and eccentricity.

4. If you try to smoke one cigarette a day, you will end up smoking two and then three and four and five, and so on, until you smoke two packs every day. So don’t try even one.

5. A human egg one minute after fertilization is not very different from what it is one minute later, or one minute after that, and so on. Thus, there is re- ally no difference between just-fertilized eggs and adult humans.

6. Since no moment in the continuum of development between an egg and a baby is especially significant, it is not fair to grant a right to life to a baby unless one grants the same right to every fertilized egg.

7. If we let doctors kill dying patients who are in great pain, then they will kill other patients who are in less pain and patients who are only slightly disabled. Eventually, they will kill anyone who is not wanted by society.

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