Slippery coke

Check out this  Brian McFaden Comic (at the Daily Kos):*

Slippery slope

Seems like your standard slippery slope argument to me (in addition to some poignant commentary on how wasteful this particular argument is). We’ve talked about this a lot here–here’s one by Scott from a few weeks ago.  The question there was what distinguishes the slippery slope from the bumpy staircase.

I think of this whenever I walk through the outdoor area separating the building that houses my office from the rest of campus.  It used to be that smokers (such as I once was) would occupy tables in this covered area.  Now the area is off limits to smokers.  I can see a smoker’s argument going something like this:

banning smoking outdoors in this one place will lead to banning smoking outdoors in another place, and eventually to the banning of smoking in all public places on campus.

This is certainly a slippery slope argument, but it doesn’t seem fallacious to me.  There’s no significant conceptual distinction between the various moves.  I imagine the justification is that the University has the right to regulate toxic chemicals on campus.  They only do it piecemeal so as not to shock anyone.  Full disclosure, I look forward to the universal ban.

Back to Bloomberg.  Aside from the general question as to why start with giant soft drinks, this argument seems to be like the smoking argument.  If city government has the power to regulate such things, then there is no conceptual distinction between various other food-related regulations.  There seems in other words to be no relevant difference between the giant softdrink and the megabaconator.  Banning the one is just like banning the other.

*an earlier version mistakenly attributed the comic to Tom Tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Slippery coke”

  1. Hey John, I have a quick question about whether some objections to slippery slope arguments can be framed as compositional/divisional fallacy objections. Let me try your smoking ban case. It seems we can concede that a college can ban smoking in any area, but does it follow from the allowance for any one to all? My thought would be that the support would have to go the other way (they have the right to ban in all, but only do it in some as a matter of easing into all). The same reasoning seems, but this time fallaciously, to be at work in the comic above: If B will ban any x for the sake of health, B will all x for the sake of health .

  2. Hey Scott,

    Interesting question. Imagine the city has the right (or the duty) to outlaw any unhealthy things. It would seem to follow that for all (any) x, if x is unhealthy, then x is ban-able. My point was, I think, is that x is of the same relevant type. So you’re not composing things of different types (as you would with composition).

  3. Hi John, this seems right. And I think it’s because of the way the support goes, not from the parts to the whole, but from the whole to the parts.

  4. Not speaking to the argument, but the comic is not from Tom Tomorrow, it is from Brian McFaden, a Daily Kos staffer.

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