Self-Serving Slippery Slopes
Analogies can be tricky things. That’s something that Dr. John Corvino has noted. Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, our old friend EV has blogged about the recent case of the Columbia Professor charged with incest. Unfortunately some commenters have (expectedly) used this to engage in their anti-gay biases.
One good thing I hope comes out of the moral-philosophical analysis is the following insight: The existence of the self serving slippery slope. That’s something in which attorneys and philosophers who make moral arguments specialize. I tend to agree with professor Volokh that the slopes do exist. However, they tend to be misused by all sides.
There are good slippery slopes and bad ones. A good slippery slope is when a certain moral claim or a past court decision “slips” into your desired results. “Of course, Loving analogizes to gay marriage.” A “bad” slippery slope is when a position “slips” into something with which its proponents disagree. “Of course, gay marriage would lead to polygamous and incestuous marriages.”
A is not B. Once you try to connect A with something that is not A, other folks can connect it with C, D, and E. The slippery slope doesn’t just work against the things you want it to. If you want to connect A to B, but distinguish it with C, D, and E, you make a law office argument.
As I’ve noted before, I’m willing to hold off the Loving analogy to same sex marriage (so the opponents of SSM don’t feel like they are accused of being bigots) as long as opponents do not analogize homosexual relations to bestiality, pedophilia and relations with inanimate objects (because if they do, then they are bigots). So invoke any of those three I will automatically analogize interracial relations to same sex relations and demonstrate why on logical grounds I’m justified in so doing.
But permit me to make an exception for incest today, to demonstrate the claim that the slippery slope doesn’t necessarily work the way YOU desire it to: Proponents of incest in no way need homosexuality to take advantage of the “good” (for them) slippery slope; they have Loving. Indeed, one can argue that incest is MORE analogous to interracial relations than to homosexual relations because prohibitions on miscegenation and incest, unlike with homosexuality, relate to NOT wanting such couples to procreate. Whereas homosexual relations were prohibited in large part because such relations could not procreate.
Indeed prohibiting incest and miscegenation arguably could be viewed under the rubric of “consanguinity” regulation: With incest, the couples are too closely related, with miscegenation, too distantly related. And where does one draw the line? Whether one believes in evolution, the Bible or both, we are all related if we go back far enough. Everyone practices incest with their very (and sometimes not so) distant cousins. And everyone race mixes, if we take the one drop rule literally enough.
What else could connect to “incest” in the sense of “that which is not incest justifies it”? Well, the Bible. If one believes in Young Earth Creation, where did Cain and Abel’s wives come from? They probably practiced biblically justified brother sister (or parent child) heterosexual incest.
Yes, I know the Bible elsewhere speaks against incest. But, as I’ve observed, even the most seemingly literalist of fundamentalists can read a sense of “generality, with exceptions” into places where the Bible seems to speak in absolute terms. The Bible speaks against lying? But what about righteous deception like when the Nazis ask you whether you are hiding Jews in your basement?
Again, because I’ve dealt with this so much, Romans 13 seems to categorically FORBID rebellion against government. Even before the “would you submit to Hitler, Stalin and Mao?” reductio, hundreds of years earlier Christendom dealt with the problem of tyrannical Kings and began to carve out exceptions to a rule that seems absolute in the way St. Paul articulated it.
Indeed, I have a co-blogger who, not alone in this method, looks through the biblical record for examples of seemingly righteous, Godly biblical characters who seemed to rebel against tyrants contra St. Paul in Romans 13. Othniel is one such example. Using that method, one could view what Lot did with his daughters as righteous incest, something where an exception carves from a general rule.
Historian John Boswell did the same thing in his quest for a pro-homosexual Bible.