I read these things and shake my head:
Last week’s column about Denis Rancourt, a University of Ottawa professor who is facing dismissal for awarding A-plus grades to his students on the first day of class and for turning the physics course he had been assigned into a course on political activism, drew mostly negative comments.
The criticism most often voiced was that by holding Rancourt up as an example of the excesses indulged in by those who invoke academic freedom, I had committed the fallacy of generalizing from a single outlier case to the behavior of an entire class “Is the Rancourt case one of a thousand such findings this year, or it the most outlandish in 10 years?” (Jack, No. 88).
That's Stanley Fish, the New York Times' interpreter of the academic world. Sounds like he has been accused of a hasty generalization in the form of "nutpicking." I'm not particularly interested in the merits of the charge–Fish seems even to concede it. One minor observation. I'm sure we are all guilty at one point or another for reasoning that badly. The difference is that Fish gets to air out his errors in the New York Times. Anyway, he makes things worse as he defends himself. He writes (following directly):
It may be outlandish because it is so theatrical, but one could argue, as one reader seemed to, that Rancourt carries out to its logical extreme a form of behavior many display in less dramatic ways. “How about a look at the class of professors who … duck their responsibilities ranging from the simple courtesies (arrival on time, prepared for meetings … ) to the essentials (“lack of rigor in teaching and standards … )” (h.c.. ecco, No. 142). What links Rancourt and these milder versions of academic acting-out is a conviction that academic freedom confers on professors the right to order (or disorder) the workplace in any way they see fit, irrespective of the requirements of the university that employs them.
Eegads! "Carrying the behavior to its logical extreme" is the characteristic marker of the slippery slope. And its supported by an alleged fallacy of accident: certain very jerky professors are going to interpret academic freedom very broadly, and, since they will allege this, there must be a logical connection between academic freedom and being a complete nitwit. Well there isn't. Just because the connection is alleged by some–how many, not many I would guess–does not mean the connection obtains. What Fish has done, in other words, is compound the error of one fallacy (the hasty generalization nutpicking variety) with three more:the slippery slope, the fallacy of accident, and the implied hasty generalization again!