Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2004
This paper is a critical examination of the so-called slippery slope argument for the conservative position on abortion. The argument was discussed in the philosophic literature some time back, but has since fallen into disfavor.
The argument is first exposed and a general objection to it is advanced, then rebutted. Rosalind Hursthouse's more detailed and stronger objection is next aired, but also found less than convincing. In the course of discussing her objection, the correct form of the argument is identified, and it's noted that rejection of the argument requires finding fault with its inductive premise. That, in turn, requires either (a) identifying and defending a cutoff point other than conception, or (b) not identifying a cutoff point but directly attacking the argument's conclusion. As far as (a) is concerned, all except one alternative cutoff point have severe problems that have been well discussed in the literature. The one that doesn't, the appearance of the ‘primitive streak’, is examined in detailed, but ultimately rejected. As for (b), five different grounds for rejecting the conclusion are identified and discussed, but none is found plausible.
Variations on the slippery slope argument, concerning different conclusions that it may have, are then distinguished, related to each other, and critically discussed, and the paper ends with some cautionary remarks about the defense of the argument tendered.