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This is confirmed by the truism that same-sex marriage has gained such rapid acceptance because people have simply gotten to knowbut they are not necessarily reasoning directly from a principle like individual autonomy, as our conservatives fear.The growing acceptance of same-sex marriages on the evangelical left, for example, has not necessarily been accompanied by an acceptance of pre-marital sex.In his dissent to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts offers a familiar ‘slippery slope’ argument: “Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective ‘two’ in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not.Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.Slippery slope arguments are, it seems to me, characteristically .The history of the expression suggests this: according to Etymonline.com, the term ‘slippery slope‘ was not used in this sense until 1844.But the image of a slippery slope also suggests something more dynamic: the risk of uncontrollably sliding down it.

And though I have just said that modern people tend to reason from principle to case, I still believe that most people most of the time intuitively approach ethical questions as a complex negotiation between principles and intuitions.From the French Revolution to the abolition of slavery, from the Civil Rights Act to the legalization of same-sex marriage, to be a post-Enlightenment liberal is to accept that ethical principles can be historically effective.This is why slippery slope arguments are not only logically valid but may be empirically predictive — at least in a context like ours.(This argument is a ‘conservative’ one, in the old-fashioned sense associated with Edmund Burke).Ironically, then, those who make slippery slope arguments often underwrite the very habits of thinking that would lead to their dire prophecies being fulfilled!

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