Hazel McHaffie

Slippery slopes

Anybody who’s given some thought to ethical dilemmas will have come across the old slippery slope argument. Quick intake of breath. Oooh, no. Once you allow … or …, the whole of society will slide into decadence and ruin. Don’t even venture a toe there.

I’ve been tiptoeing through the mountains and forests of philosophy and ethics for rather a long time now, and some of the old chestnuts can taste rather stale at times. So I was delighted to hear a novel illustration used to refute the danger of slippery slopes in relation to assisted dying.

The occasion was a debate on the subject at the Royal Society of Edinburgh last week. No less than Professor AC Grayling was speaking (I’ve long been in awe of his way with words).

He said, if someone gave him a carrot he didn’t refuse to eat it because of the risk of having to eat a million carrots.


For me it was the highlight of the evening. So I thought this week I’d share that smile with you, and perhaps at the same time modify my putative reputation as a pedlar of serious and sad!

Just in case you’re interested, the audience voted overwhelmingly in favour of assisted dying: 77 to 3 before the debate, 68 to 11 after it. What do you make of that?

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2 Responses to “Slippery slopes”

  • Lindsay says:

    ‘Thin edge of the wedge’ is another phrase like ‘slippery slope’that people use. However they forget that a wedge has all sorts worthwhile uses and not just used for splitting pieces of wood.

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