The AP English Exam: The Slippery Slope Fallacy

The last logical fallacy we talked about was faulty causality, which makes an argument based on a presumed sequence of events that is not substantiated by evidence. Another fallacy you will need to know for the AP English Exam is the Slippery Slope Fallacy. A slippery slope fallacy is one very common type of faulty causality. In a slippery slope argument, the person making the argument claims that one event will cause another, by passing many points that would have to occur in between to connect the two events.

Slippery slope arguments often presume that the stakes of a single decision are higher than they really are, creating a false set of extremes in order to make the argument more convincing. They are called "slippery slope" arguments because they all share the (sometimes unstated) premise that making the decision in question will send the decision-maker down a slippery slope; he will not be able to stop his slide until he has gone all the way in (committed fully to whatever the situation is).

Here are a few examples:

- "The US shouldn't get involved militarily in other countries. Once the government sends in a few troops, it will then send in thousands to die."
- "You can never give anyone a break. If you do, they'll walk all over you."
- "We've got to stop them from banning pornography. Once they start banning one form of literature, they will never stop. Next thing you know, they will be burning all the books!

As you can see, all these examples ignore the possibility of a middle ground, wherein a small number of resources are committed to a project or a small number of things are limited from public access without everything being thrown in or thrown out.

Like with all faulty causalities, on the AP English Exam it is important to watch out for others making slippery slope arguments, but most important to avoid making them yourself. Remember, the people grading your AP English Exam essays are looking for a few things. They certainly want to see how well you write in terms of grammar and style, but they are also paying attention to how well you put together arguments using evidence and logic to build up your claim.

That means, don't threaten your readers with any slippery slopes- instead limit yourself to the actual question at hand. You can still write about consequences in your essays, but be realistic instead of extreme, even if the point seems less compelling.

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