Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Poetry, Art, and Objectivity: An Exploration

I have written about poetry before. Those of you who have had the good fortune (mirabile dictu) to hear one of my many rants will know that I have said much before about poetry. So why do I turn once again to this art emeritus? Simply because it need not be an art emeritus: it need not have retired, to be replaced by the self-indulgent trite which passes for modern poetry. It can rise once more, like Beowulf returning to arms after years of peace to defeat the dragon, to show once again what a true hero may be. So too can poetry return once more to the realm of art and appreciation, slaying the dragon of self-indulgence and esoteric subjectivity, showing once again what art may be.

I do not write to rant. Not this time, anyway. I write, as per the title, to explore what it is we mean when we talk of art in poetry, and what place objectivity has in making these two meet. My thoughts here are not didactic, but rather initially Socratic, in the sense that they seek the answers to the questions laid out above, and ultimately exhortational, that we may begin the ascent once more to the heights of Parnassus.

So what do we mean when we speak of poetry as an art form? Indeed, what do we mean when we speak of anything as being art? This is of course a huge question in itself, and far greater minds than mine have written hundreds of pages on the matter: far be it from me to add a drop to the ocean, or to engage in a detailed abstract discussion of the nature of art. Rather, I hope to point to two aspects of art which I feel would be generally agreed upon as characteristic of art. 

First, I think we can all agree that art must be, to some extent at least, public in form. This does not mean that art must be displayed in public, nor even that it should be the sort of thing that would be popular were it to be so displayed. I do not mean that sort of 'public'. Instead, I mean that it ought to be public in that someone who has no experience of this art could examine it with an open mind and find something in it to understand its 'artistic beauty', even if that person doesn't agree with it. Take, for example, the main building of the University of Technology, Sydney:

Now this building was design as a work of modernist architecture, modernist art. Most people find it an eyesore (I must confess I myself am extremely fond of it, but that is neither here nor there). Nevertheless, anyone could either think through its features and find aspects of it in which they can understand its beauty, or they could read more about modernist art and architecture and see how it exemplifies that. They could, in a word, appreciate the UTS building for what it is, irrespective of their own opinion of it, or indeed of modernist art in general. This is what I mean when I say art should be more or less public.

Second, art is emotive. This is distinct from emotional, which can be seen as emotive run wild. Rather, art is emotive insofar as it appeals to the emotional side of the subject. Much has been written on this in the past, and on what exactly this entails (Kant, for example, argued that art connects Man to the Sublime, and I personally am  inclined to say it connects us to or points us towards Objective Beauty, but these are controversial topics), but we need to bother with that here. We can afford to remain fairly general, and say that humans have an emotional side, and art always appeals in some fashion to that side, whether it be to shock it, console it, or otherwise. My distinction between 'emotive' and 'emotional' is important, however, so I will explain: art is emotive inasmuch as it touches the emotional side of humanity,  but, given the first characteristic of art listed above, it must remain intellectually 'public', and thus it can not roam free, so to speak. 'Emotional', then, is that which appeals only to the emotional side, that which Plato would call the Appetite, to the detriment of the rational side, Plato's Intellect.

Given these two characteristics or, if you will, criteria of art, we may now proceed to draw certain conclusions about how this applies to poetry. Given the first criterion, art, and therefore poetry, must be formal, even if only internally. What I mean by this is it must have structure. Why? Because for something to be intellectually or rationally 'public', it must be able to be analysed, and this can only be the case if there is structure or form of some kind. One simply can not analyse that which has no form or structure, because to analyse is to pick apart under headings, so to speak. The Chaos Theory is a perfect example of the mind's inability to analyse without at least positing a form or structure. Now, while I personally have a strong dislike, even disdain for free verse as a general rule, my statements do not preclude it; as I say, it must have at least internal structure. Given this, I do in fact quite like some free verse, such as some of e e cummings's work.

From this, if a poem has form and structure, and is given this by the poet's choice, then it must be rationally justifiable. Once again, this doesn't mean everyone needs to agree that it was the best choice, but one must be able to argue rationally that it is a legitimate choice made for some reason other than 'I may as well' or 'I felt like it'. This may seem overly rationalistic to some; some may reply that I'm ignoring the second criterion, that it be emotive; not at all. I am once again drawing the line between 'emotive' and 'emotional':  but perhaps it is better to work from an example.

e e cummings wrote a poem entitled Cruelly, Love, a classic example of free verse. The lines are broken up at sometimes unexpected or awkward moments; indeed, there are certain places in this poem where I disagree with his choice of line-break, but I can nevertheless appreciate and understand his choice. I can see his rhythm, such a crucial aspect of poetry. That is not the case with Originally, a poem by the current UK Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. In this poem the line-breaks certainly seem less awkward, but they are also pointless; the rhythm is such that it can only be read and understood by ignoring the lines, in which case why break the lines up at all? Or why not break them up after every word? This, then, is the difference between 'emotive', which remains rationally justifiable, and 'emotional', which does not.

This is but a brief word or two on poetry and art, so I leave it incomplete, but it seems to me that with these two criteria in mind we can return once more to the heights of Parnassus from which we have fallen; we can see the beauty of John Donne or Thomas Hardy, and understand just how much Peter Skrzynecki falls short of their art. Art is always justified in the subjective, the emotional: we must learn to justify it in the emotive which, while it retains subjective character, touches also the objective, and is intrinsically connected with the intellectual side. Only then can we truly understand why Shakespeare and P. G. Wodehouse are great authors, and why Yeats an excellent poet; why Byzantine art deserves the name, and why Bach that of an artist.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Agent Regret and Relationships: Thoughts

I've not posted for quite some time, I'm aware. I feel rather bad about that, to be honest. I had these visions of publishing a post a week, and have fallen abysmally short of this objective. Never fear, however! You try, you fail; you try, you fail; the only true failure is when you stop trying. So I shall try once more to be a little more regular in my posts. Let's see how that goes...

I'm writing today to discuss a topic I consider of great importance, and one which is sadly under-appreciated: namely, the importance the concept of agent regret has for a relationship. Before venturing further I would like to make it very clear now that I am not referring only to romantic relationships: certainly, what I have to say here applies very well there, but it applies equally to friendships, and even familial relationships. Basically, wheresoever a relationship is, there also is this topic.

That aside, let us examine what agent regret is, before turning to its relevance to relationships. Agent Regret is a concept from Moral Philosophy, first put forward by Immanuel Kant, and it features rather prominently in his answer to the problem of Moral Luck. Anyone who knows me well will no doubt be unsurprised that I should be referencing Kant, but I ask you to hear me out; what I have to say is nought of fan-boyishness, no, the connection is mere coincidence.

Agent regret is the feeling of guilt, culpability, or anything of the like, in response to a situation outside your influence, a situation which is nevertheless connected to your actions. A classic example is the case of two truck drivers who consciously neglected to maintain their brakes, so that both had brakes below safety level (let us assume both were equally below safety level). Driving along on two separate roads, both drivers have a child run in front of the truck, and each driver slams on the brakes. Due to the nature of the roads, one driver is able to stop before hitting the child, the other is not, and the latter kills the child. In this case, while the first driver may feel guilty for not maintaining his brakes, the second driver will usually feel guilty both for that and the killing of the child. Kant says, however, that both drivers are equally guilty, the driver who killed the child no more so than he who did not kill the child: the second driver feels worse as a result of agent regret. That is, his actions caused the child to die, and thus he is the agent, but that of which he is guilty in a purely moral sense is deliberately neglecting his brakes, so he can not feel guilt for the killing, but only regret for his actions and his being the agent.

This in a nutshell is agent regret. Now, how does this have relevance to a relationship? I believe that it is in fact not only relevant, but crucial. Often in a relationship one party feels guilty for, say, making the other angry, or hurting them, despite it being necessary: often one party is incapable of acting they way they wish to, or feel they ought to, simply for fear of the resulting effect on the other party, and the accompanying guilt; in all these and other cases, what one feels is agent regret, not guilt. What must be done must be done, and it is important, and, I think, some small comfort, to remember that feeling it is one's own fault, feeling guilty, feeling bad, these are but the effects of agent regret, and do not render one culpable, or heartless.

It is helpful here to examine an hypothetical scenario in more detail, in order to see how agent regret applies to relationships. With the proviso mentioned above, i.e. that this is not exclusive to romantic relationships, and certainly not to difficult or 'messed up' relationships either, I nevertheless will use such an example here. I do this because I find it is easier to see a point more clearly when applied in the extreme, which then serves to make it easier to apply in the more usual. Thus, I shall draw the picture of what might be termed a 'messed-up' relationship.

Let us picture, then, a one-sided relationship, boyfriend-girlfriend, etc. Probably teeny-boppers too. One party is temperamental, moody, egotistic, illogical, possessive, and highly emotional; the other party is quieter, tries to please, and so forth. The former has become unbearable, and the latter feels they are slowly losing who they are, or who they ought to be; feels they are slowly dying, to put it dramatically. The latter feels it is time to draw the line, perhaps time to put an end to the relationship, but can not actually do so, and instead continues to subsist, continues to decline this or that opportunity because the other wouldn't like it, continues to give in at every conflict so as 'not to cause a fuss'. They can not act, because they feel it is unkind, heartless, hurtful, or any other variation, and they feel that they can not be responsible for making the other angry or hurt.

How can one act, when every action causes pain? How can one act, when every action makes one responsible for some awful, emotionally draining situation? It is here that agent regret enters from the wings, delivering a monologue to empower our landlocked protagonist to set sail once more on the sea of freedom, to break from the perceived yet non-existent chains that inhibit action. Agent regret serves one to understand that while, as a result of one's actions, the other may react in anger; while the other may be hurt; while the other may make an emotionally draining scene; nevertheless there is no guilt to lay at one's door. The result of one's actions in the given scenario, for example, may be the sobbing, the sorrow, the fury of the other, but these are not the fault of the first. Certainly, they come as the result of one's actions, and certainly, it is sad, regrettable, that this should come to be, but it is not one's fault. The sorrow one feels, agent regret helps us to understand, is the sorrow that something sad has happened, not the sorrow that something has been done, no matter how that sorrow may be perceived.

To do what is right is not always to do that which causes the smallest scene, no, but it is to do that which must be done. The results of doing right may not be what one wishes, but that does not make it any less right to do it. If my best friend's husband or wife is cheating on them over any given period of time, for example, and I find out, I am bound by duty, if I consider myself any friend at all, to tell that friend that their spouse is cheating. That friend may hate me for, may be furious with me; that friend may never speak to me again, and I will feel genuine sorrow about that, I will feel bad about telling them, for the rest of my life perhaps, but that does not make my action any less right. I will regret that we no longer speak, and I will regret that my actions led to that, but the fact we no longer talk, while it resulted from my actions, was not caused by my actions. My friend made that choice, not me; even if I knew they would make that choice, that does not make it my fault.

I believe that agent regret helps us to understand our actions in a relationship, and to see them in a clearer light. I have found agent regret to be of some small comfort myself, and it is my hope and belief that it can serve to help those who struggle with doing that which they want to do, or think they ought to do, but know could have regrettable consequences. Agent regret helps one to see that one can not always blame oneself for the result of one's actions: sometimes, as with the truck drivers, the result is outside our control.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

We're the Millers

So, I imagine most of you have seen posters for We're the Millers--that comedy which doesn't look remotely amusing, unless the joke is in labeling it as a it happens, however, I'm not here today to talk about what is wrong with comedy, though that sounds a fascinating topic, and I may well return to it at some later date. No, rather I am writing this to address a far more disturbing and, I feel, dangerous aspect of modern society; identity. Okay, maybe it's not MORE important... Comedy is after all the life-blood of a good society, but it's at least equal.

The problem of identity is not an old one by any means: it features quite prominently in the branch of philosophy known as epistemology, for example. The question is always along the lines of 'What makes me me?' This question is not as easy to answer as some people may at first assume--am I my mind? My body?  Am I both? Assuming this issue solved, however, one passes on to another topic, one perhaps more relevant to most people's day-to-day life. The question now is what to do with anger, lust, sorrow, jubilation, and the like--are these too considered to be part of who one is, or are they separate, external to oneself, yet exerting a binding influence on oneself? Every time someone with an abusive anger problem says "It wasn't my fault I did that (whatever that may be), I was just so angry--you know I would never do that!', that person is standing within the paradigm of the latter position. This positiion is wrong, however, one is who one acts. This, too, I will leave for a later date, however.

The particular issue I am discussing today is the more general topic of self-identity, the consideration of what to use when describing oneself, the debate over hat it is that defines one. In the standard poster advertising We're the Millers, there is a series of arrows pointing to the four main characters with some statement about them which aims at an introduction: one is 'drug-dealer', another 'stripper', the third 'runaway', and the fourth, 'virgin'. It is this last which bothers me particularly; why on earth is his lack of sexual history a defining characteristic? Is he somehow not yet a person because he has slept with noone? Is he more? Neither, because it is irrelevant. Every other label on that poster tells you something about the character, about what they have done or what they do--it is genuinely informative to learn that someone is a drug-dealer, or a runaway, because it directly defines or influences their actions. The others all say what the character does or has done, but the label of virgin tells you something he hasn't done--it's like labeling someone 'not a bankrobber'; it doesn't tell us anything about the person in question.

So the first issue I have with this label is that it is irrelevant an uninformative, and therefore fails to be a defining aspect of one's characer. Secondly, I object to it because it ascribes to the view I mentioned briefly in my last post, the view that we are animals--or, to put it differently, the view that our bodies and our physical urges are what define us. I object to this strongly. I am right-handed, but this does not define me; I'm right-handed, but I still play guitar left-handed, yet this also does not define me; I am constantly drawn to chocolate, yet this does not define me; what is more defining is that I choose not to indulge in this desire in the majority of cases. This is defining because it tells something about who I am, how I act, how I think, et cetera. 

Now, one may object here that to define one as a virgin is defining according to my second point, because it refers to actions, or to the abstaining from action. The reason I do not consider it relevant is because it says nothing; one could be a virgin because one has chosen to abstain; because one has grown up alone on a desert island; because one has constantly tried to sleep with people, but through pure chance has never succeeded. This list is not exhaustive, and that is why the label 'virgin' means nothing; it in no way defines the character of the person in question; I may concede that the reason for his being a virgin may be defining (or it may not), but that is a different matter entirely. Again, to return to the 'not a bankrobber' analogy, it tells us nothing because it doesn't tell us why he isn't a bankrobber.

Why does this bother me so much? Because I believe it ties directly in with narcissism, with egotism. To focus only on one's feelings, one's hard luck, to focus on how things affect oneself, this is to exclude the bigger picture, to lose oneself, ironically, in the focus on oneself. Yeah, life is often crap, bad things happen to good people, but that's life. Rosemary Sutcliff was inflicted with Still's Disease when she was very young, and went on to become a world-renowned author--that is what defines her.

We are, then, not defined by our physical characteristics, nor by what we have experienced, nor by what we have not yet done. We can not be defined by these because they say nothing about us, about our choices, about our lives--even were I to lose my legs in an accident, what defines me is my reaction to that loss, not that loss itself. We are who we act, this and this alone is what defines us. If you want to know someone, know their actions.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Man: Animal or No?

I'm sure we've all heard the famous definition, 'Man is a rational animal', which I believe can be found in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (though don't quote me on that, I'm more Platonic in my interests). In addition, Plotinus, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others have worked with a very similar definition (believe it or not, even Freud talked about it!). In the past, the emphasis was often on the first of these complements, that is, the rational aspect; perhaps the strongest example of this can be found in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, both of whom lay heavy emphasis on reason and rationality. In more recent times, however, the emphasis has broadly shifted towards the second, namely, man as an animal.

This shift I find disturbing, not to mention largely uninteresting except for the concerns it raises. But first let me give a brief example of this rather base shift: on a bus home recently, I had the rather unusual experience of overhearing one girl ask the boy next her why he had not slept with anyone yet, despite being attracted to them. The boy evaded the question by asking why he ought to have done so, to which the girl replied that 'We are all just animals', and thus we should follow our needs. At this point the girl was getting off the bus, so I know not where the conversation would have led, but the complete conviction with which she made this statement struck me quite strongly. What, then, is the point of civilisation, what of art, what of language? Why need we speak, why not merely grunt, and, should I feel an attraction to a girl, why not simply throw her over the shoulder and be off with her?? Because, I am glad to say, I am not my body. To be sure, I am not my mind either, but rather the synthesis of the two, but what sets me apart as a person, rather than a mere beast, is my rationality, my mind and soul.

The very fact that we can disagree, the fact that this girl could hold this position and defend it to another, declares an inherent and inviolable distinction between humanity and those beasts which roam the plains. Actually, I just really wanted to make an allusion to beasts which roam the plains. Nevertheless, regardless of the phrasing, the point remains. It is simply self-refuting to declare ourselves animals, because an animal does not do so. There is a poignant remark made by the Seventh Doctor (6:13 of this video), played by Sylvester McCoy (who, incidentally, is Radagast the Brown Wizard in The Hobbit), in the Doctor Who episode, The Remembrance of the Daleks: "When is a cat not a cat? When it builds its own cat-flap." There is a fundamental difference between an animal and a person; yes, a person has that animal nature, and yes, one might even argue that is part of what makes that person, but it is only part, and therein lies the difference.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Circle of Power

It's been a while since I last posted, I admit -- not at all what I intended, but, as always, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. I have been busy submitting my thesis, and working on applications for next year, but at last I return to my platitudinal work.

I want to look, today, at an interesting aspect of politics, namely, that it is circular. What this means is that to be a Left-wing extremist has in practice the same result as to be a Right-wing extremist, though the two differ vastly in philosophy and thus tend to hate each other anyway (cf. the USSR and Nazi Germany). The reason for this fascinating circularity, as I see it, lies with power and control. Every government, no matter what its philosophy, has to come to terms with questions of power, and to whom control should be given. Banal examples of this include industry, security, education, and so it goes on; the question is, in essence, should they be controlled by the government or the people?

This question parallels the question of big government versus small government: the question, that is, of how much the state has the right and duty to interfere, for want of a better word, with our lives. What is interesting about this is that the further Left one goes, i.e. the more one argues for socialist 'power to the people', the more one ends up arguing for big government rather than small. This certainly seems a contradiction, and indeed it is in a sense; it is indeed contradictory to the declared ideals of the Left, i.e. everything belonging to the community, everything being equal, etc, but it is also a logical conclusion from this same position. The more everything is nationalised, the more everything is given to the direct control of the people, the more one is led to ask, "Yes, I know we all have the power, I know we all own it, but who is actually going to control it?" The problem is, 23,272,737 people (ABS 2013) simply can't run, say, the military, or the public health system, nor even the education system -- There is no Council of Twenty Three Million, Two Hundred and Seventy Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty Seven based on an Athenian model which can function on a day-to-day basis, and so actual control must be relegated to a small group. This, by the way, is the inherent contradiction of national socialism, but that is not the issue here.

Carry this through to a scenario wherein everything 'belonged' to the people, and you end up with the government controlling everything. This is no longer the great democracy that Left-wing politics claims to be; it has moved outside of its own realm and met with Right-wing fascism. Now, you may ask, why is Fascism Right-wing? Because it doesn't claim to give power to the people, but instead focuses heavily on the individual: too much focus on the individual being free to act howsoever he should see fit, though, results in a Nietszchean battle of wills from which one individual emerges as supreme dictator.

Thus we see that power comes full circle, and politics must follow suit. What is interesting about this, apart from it being an interesting observation to me in and of itself, is what follows from this: politics is in fact only meaningful in moderation. A discussion can only be fruitful, useful, or something else  rhyming with 'ul' if both parties are from a Centre-based position. One may be Left relative to the other, making the other relatively Right, but, as the sailor keeps the stars to his right, so must the politician keep the Centre in sight.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Can I Change Your Mind?

In any given discussion where two parties differ strongly on a particular point, one or both parties may attempt to persuade the other by means of argument, in order that they will both agree. This is in fact not usually successful, but that doesn't stop us from trying; when it is successful, we talk of the opposing party having 'changed their minds'. But can we in fact change someone's mind, and, more interestingly, are we in fact trying to?

At first glance, the answer seems an obvious 'yes' to both questions: we disagree, I want to make us agree, and if I succeed, what has happened, if not a change of position from that originally held? It seems impossible for there to be any other explanation. But there is. In actual fact, when one tries to persuade another to agree, one is in fact not trying to change the other's mind in any sense; quite the opposite, in fact. Rather, the whole process of persuasion relies on the other not changing their mind, since any such change would be disastrous to the persuasion.

So what is persuasion, then, that it seeks to create agreement where disagreement once stood, and to do so somehow without a shift in position? Persuasion is in fact an attempt by one person to show another that in fact no disagreement exists in the first place, and the disagreement that exists stems from an erroneous judgement. Think about it: when you want to persuade someone, what do you do? You start from a common point of agreement, and then attempt to show that if you hold this initial point on which you both agree, then it is necessary for you in fact to agree on the matter at hand. Your opponent in turn tries to do the same to you.

The crucial point in persuasion is the point of agreement from which you start. Your whole argument is reliant on the belief that your opponent will not 'change his mind', and end up disagreeing on the starting point. Your persuasion relies on the belief that as long as you both agree, it will end up that you both in fact agree on the matter at hand also.

Persuasion, then, is about saying "No, you don't actually believe that; you only think you do. In actual fact you and I agree completely, let me show you." I assume the ideal end to persuasion is for you both to laugh about it together, wondering how you could ever have been so foolish as to think there was a disagreement. What usually happens, though, is that neither succeeds in persuading the other, and both go away thinking the other an illogical fool. But who says we can't try?

If you still don't believe me, look at what I'm doing right now, what I've been doing throughout this post: I've been persuading you to understand persuasion as I do, by arguing that you already agree, or, more precisely, that you already act in agreement, but just haven't realised.

So, can I change your mind? No, to be honest, I don't think I can, nor can anyone other than yourself. But that's okay, because 98% of the time, I don't have to; I just have to prove that you already agree with me. Sadly, that's not as easy as it sounds...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Slippery Slope: A Logical Fallacy?

The slippery slope argument. I'm sure we've all heard it before, on numerous occasions; perhaps we've even used it ourselves, since it seems to be a natural argument for people to give, even people who criticise it in others. And, of course, I'm sure we've all heard it swept aside with those five words: "Oh, that's a logical fallacy!" Okay, so you may wish to claim there are only four words there, since 'oh' is more a sound like 'umm', but the point stays the same, and I'm sure you all agree. This sweeping statement usually is sufficiently derisive as to discredit whoever is using the slippery slope argument (though it rarely makes him change his mind). The question is, are we right in calling it a logical fallacy?

At first glance, it certainly seems to be the case that it is an example of one of my favourite problems in philosopy: Hume's problem of induction. In essence, the problem runs as follows: no matter how many times you see something one way, it doesn't mean it will be that way next time. Hume uses this to show that we have no way to say something causes another; no matter how many times a glass breaks when I drop it, it may not the next glass I drop, simply because I don't know until it happens. To use one final example is swans. Until Europeans came to Western Australia, they believed all swans to be white, because indeed all the swans they had previously seen were white. Yet once they went to Western Australia, what did they see, but black swans! God, I love this problem.

Now, it seems to be the same case with the slippery slope argument, since the argument seems to run like this: If we allow you to push the boundaries this far, this will mean others will push the boundaries further, and eventually everything will end up in the gutter, so to speak. Even if the chap can bring historical evidence to back him up, surely, you may be saying to yourself, this is predicting future events based on past contingencies?? See how Hume turns in his grave, you say! Out, out, damned fallacy!

And yet, this is not all. The slippery slope argument, upon closer scrutiny, in fact reveals itself to be a lot subtler, and a lot harder to refute. Actually, I think it's impossible to refute, but we'll get to that. As is often the case with my discussions, it comes down to a very subtle distinction in understanding or meaning, a distinction which makes all the difference. The slippery slope argument is not saying, "If you let this slide, you'll have a landslide." Well, it is, but not in the way you think. Most people take it to be saying that this will happen immediately and necessarily, which would indeed be a logical fallacy. But the argument runs differently.

The slippery slope argument is the argument that if you let this slide, you set a precedent. You have, irrefutably, shaken the foundations on which we stand; now, certainly, the one who wants to push the boundaries may firmly believe that pushing any further is wrong, but he forgets one thing. What he forgets is that his mind has been formed in an environment with boundaries that go only so far. If he succeeds in pushing the boundaries, the future will be populated by those whose minds are formed by an environment with boundaries that go a little further. The point is, the mindset changes, and a precedent for change in this area will be part of what forms future minds. The slippery slope argument is that if you let this slide, you won't be there to make sure it stops safely, whether you want to be or not. And this is irrefutable. And this can be backed up by historical evidence. It is simply a logical fact that allowing the boundaries to be changed, changes the game.

I shall take one example, the example that, incidentally, started me on a defence of the slippery slope argument, since I used it against a Moral Nihilist philosopher (I know, right, who thought they still existed?!) while discussing this example. In 2011 in the United States, the Institute of Medicine made the recommendation that pregnancy be declared a disease under law, to enable health care provision for contraceptives and the like. Now, here one can make a plethora of easy arguments against this, and one of them is the slippery slope argument: by allowing pregnancy, a natural physical result of a natural physical act, to be considered a disease, a precedent is set. The precedent says that you can say whatever you want under the law, as long as you can get it approved, and it has the desired effect. This is an irrefutable claim, because if future change is opposed the current example can always be used as a "But you did it before" statement.

The slippery slope does not say things will continue to slide, it says you are enabling things to slide further. You may dream of a better world where things will not be changed past a certain point, but it remains that: a dream. In response to the slippery slope argument, one can only quote Yeats: "Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams."