Rick Santorum’s ‘Slippery Slope’ Challenge

Rick Santorum is taking some heat in various places for some remarks he made about the failure of the Left to understand where our rights come from. In this case, as in so many other positions Santorum expounds on throughout his campaign, his views are informed by a belief about human nature that was shared by America’s Founding Fathers and by all who believe man was Created by a loving God. First, let’s listen to what Santorum said that he is being criticized for, in some circles. Then, I’ll explain the main disconnect between those who agree with the views Santorum is expressing here and those who disagree with them .

Video at Breitbart:

Transcript excerpt:

When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. You are a bigot and a hater because there’s no rational reason. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no inalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do, and when you’ll do it…and France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but, if we do, and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, that we are headed down that road.

The criticism is that Rick Santorum is using a “slippery slope fallacy” either to intentionally scare people or because of ignorance on his part. The slippery slope fallacy is also referred to as the Camel’s Nose:

When the camel’s nose enters the tent, can the rest of the camel be far behind?

In order for a slippery slope argument to be a fallacy, it must lack an argument for inevitability. Most people probably understand that the Camel’s Nose proverb is indeed a fallacy because most of us probably know that a camel may very well stick his nose into a tent without ever entering the tent. We might say it’s common sense. It does take some awareness of camel behavior to know whether or not this is a fallacy, and enough information is known by most people for them to recognize that the argument fails. The “nature of the camel” is something that one must know in order for the Camel’s Nose argument to be recognized as a fallacy. So it is with Rick Santorum’s argument about the HHS mandate. One must know something about human nature in order to understand that evil actions do set one’s feet on a path toward even more seriously evil actions.

If you do not have a good understanding of human nature, you will probably believe Rick Santorum’s argument is a fallacy. Naturally, you will come up with alternative explanations for his claim, such as that he is either ignorant or willfully scaring people. Logically speaking, if human nature is not at all what Rick Santorum believes it to be, then it would mean that he is ignorant. But if Rick Santorum is “ignorant” about human nature, then so is the Catholic Church and so are America’s Founding Fathers because his view is in keeping with both.

From the Declaration of  Independence, we have a reference to human nature in the quote about Natural Law [Emphasis mine]:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

From the Catholic Church we can look to the Summa Theologica in which St. Thomas Aquinas explained that when man commits evil acts, he will develop a habit of evil, and when he practices virtuous things, he will develop virtuous habits. Certainly, we Catholics believe also that God’s grace is both necessary and available to us in this process, but most parents, Catholic or not, can tell you that letting a child get away with bad behavior will result in the child developing bad habits. So it is for each of us because we all have human nature. We should hope and pray that this is still common sense, because if it is not, America is in deep trouble.

As for Rick Santorum’s reference to the French Revolution, I have heard him make this case many times on the campaign trail. He underscores the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution in the context of each country’s claim about where rights come from. As previously noted, the American Founders stated that our rights come from God by virtue of our being created by Him. Not so, with the French.

From the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789:

The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

It is the above principle that Rick Santorum claims, and rightly so, that the Left in America believes in, as opposed to the American Founders’ contention that the fact that we have rights (our sovereignty) resides in the fact that we were created by God and that no nation may legitimately usurp those rights.

The claim of the Left is that it is important for the Obama Administration to force the Catholic Church to pay (through healthcare coverage) for contraceptives, including abortifacients, as a matter of “fairness” to women. This is generally what the Left in America claims to be about: “Fairness”. In this, they are claiming that they are “fair” and the Catholic Church is “not fair.” As such, they are claiming that Catholic teaching is unjust. They believe that they decide what is “just” and what is “unjust” and have decreed that the Church is opposed to their view of justice. If such a precedent were allowed to remain in “good standing” in American law, that the Catholic Church is unjust and must be oppressed wherever the state determines it to be unjust, could the guillotine really be so far away as Rick Santorum claims? This would be my only criticism of Santorum’s claim, that we are “a long way” from the guillotine.

It is precisely because so many in America, and certainly Santorum’s political opponents, fail to understand human nature and apply their erroneous understanding to their positions on the law that he will face a challenge in making the argument to the American people that the Left is not about “fairness” at all. Rather, they are about deciding for us what our rights are even though they are incompetent on the matter of human nature which was so clearly understood by those who Founded our country and penned the Bill of Rights based on that understanding.

We really do have a choice now, in this election, to choose the Constitution and the reasoning behind the rights it delineates, or to choose a view of rights that history has already shown us will lead to the guillotine.

I choose Rick Santorum.



37 Responses to Rick Santorum’s ‘Slippery Slope’ Challenge

  • I have aproblem with one thing Santorum said. It wasn’t the Catholic Church that supported Obamacare, it was many of the U.S. bishops. They are not the Catholic Church properly speaking. The teaching magisterium is. And, I am sure Santorum would agree, that there is no magisterial requirement for supporting a takeover of one sixth of our economy. But in saying it the way Santorum does, he gives that impression. As an informed Catholic, he ought to know better. And given the stage he now occupies, he has a golden opportunity to explain what Catholic social teaching really is and how it and conservatism are interdependent in our presnet circumstances. I pray he not blow it!

  • I agree with you that he should not have said “the Catholic Church” in that context, but Rick Santorum is not experienced in apologetics. He isn’t running to explain Catholicism to the American people. He’s running as an American citizen to fulfill the duties of the presidency and he also happens to be a faithful Catholic.

  • “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” rather than the Camel’s Nose?

    I suspect that if he were experienced in apologetics, it would be used against him. Even supposedly conservative folks can get funny about the vocabulary involved in apologetics, and even I– really not a big apologetics person– find myself having to explain basic vocabulary in that context.

  • Frankly, I welcome the language Santorum is using. It’s the first time I’ve heard a any candidate, much less one running for president, use the terminology of Catholic Social Doctrine in his speeches. Many Catholics use terms like Social Justice, common good, human nature, rights (without ‘duties’) and really are not familiar with their proper understanding or usage in the Catholic Church…hence the over 50% vote for Obama.

    Santorum seems to be slowly spoon feeding the public in a lesson of Social Justice, and I would argue Catholic Social Justice. Not always perfect but I for one applaude his efforts. It’s about time. I wish this lesson would come from the pulpit at our homilies.

    A great book to start is a book by J. Brian Benestad, “Church, State, and Society an Intro to Catholic Social Doctrine”. I’m a life long Catholic but just beginning to understand CSD. The Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine is the Churches offical teaching, but Benestad does a great job of breaking the Compendium down (not dumb down) with examples from the encyclicals, Church Fathers, our Popes and especially Thomas Aquinas and a proper understanding of the terminology. A MUST READ!

    Go Santorum! You’ve got my vote

  • Oh…..thanks Lisa for a great post!
    WWC <

  • Santorum voted with Barbara Boxer with this: S Amdt 3230 – Gun Lock Requirement Amendment
    Rick Santorum voted for H J Res 47 – Debt Limit Increase Resolution – Key Vote
    Rick Sandtorum flip flopped here by voting FOR Title: Firearms Manufacturers Protection Bill and here he voted against it!
    Rick Santorum voted against S 1805 – Firearms Manufacturers Protection Bill
    Rick Santorum voted for CAFTA that Removes duties on textile and apparel goods traded among participating nations which resulted in almost ALL textile companies to leave the South! and this bill..
    Rick Santorum voted for taxes in the Internet Access Tax Bill

  • Logical fallacies are a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Yes, there are such things as logical fallacies. And they are rightfully employed in logic class. But there is a major confusion – to say an argument contains a logical fallacy is only a very strict application of certain rules of formal reasoning. An argument can contain a logical fallacy and therefore not be “true” as a matter of formal reasoning, but still be true in the real world as shown by history and experience. In fact, most logical fallacies can not properly claim that the conclusion reached is false, but only that the conclusion reached is not by necessity true (a far different thing from claiming something is false in a real world sense). In a logic class, slipperly slope and any number of other arguments may not be valid proof for a conclusion, but in the public policy arena, they are perfectly valid arguemtns for or against a particular course of action given our history, experience and knowledge of human nature. Post hoc is a similar example.

  • Incidentally… “Slippery slope” is a fallacy in formal logic because it involves conclusions not stated in the premises. Formal logic can’t conclude that the sun rises in the east without a stack of background. “Human nature” would be among those– including “guys tend to like sex” level of obviousness.

  • *lol* Great minds, c matt….

  • Oh, good grief…. and people wonder why PaulBots get so much hate…. (here is the earliest example of the same cut-and-paste text that I found in a few seconds of searching Bing.)

    I forget, guys, do we remove cut-and-paste spam that shows no sign of having actually read the original topic?

  • Lisa:

    I understand that he is running for president. But anyone who has even paid cursory attention to American politics in the last 40+ years knows that a misunderstanding of what the Church teahes especailly regarding socio-economic issues has had a deliterious effect on the American body politic. Setting the record straight on this will go a long way in fixing what plagues this country in the political arena. I am shocked and dismayed that most serious Catholics simply do not understand that.

  • When you marginalize God’s gift of Faith and the free will to relate to God as a Father, you deny the sovereign personhood of every human being, brought into existence when two become one, and his immortal soul with sovereign personhood and free will, endowed with unalienable rights, who, with his sovereign personhood constitutes the sovereign nation. You annihilate the sovereignty of the nation because of the nation’s absolute dependence upon the Supreme Sovereign Being, WHO was denied admittance to the public square without being found guilty of any crime deserving such punishment. Atheists are unable to change their minds. Citizens are denied absolute Justice informed by absolute TRUTH.
    Justice is predicated on intent. Slippery slope, camels’ nose, the elephant is already in the room. “From the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789:
    The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.”
    According to this, the office of President is infallible and anybody who dares to object, is violating the sovereignty of the nation. So when Obamacare infringes on my human dignity, Obamacare is correct, and my freedom is persona non-grata…just like the Supreme Sovereign Being’s sovereignty driven from the public square. Infallibility means that the TRUTH is true, otherwise it is a lie. Obamacare, then supposes to be absolute truth. Justice is predicated on intent. Obama intends to subject the citizen’s response to the will of God, man’s response to the gift of Faith from God, to Obamacare. Vested interest, conflict of interest, anti Catholic bias, religious persecution, injustice wrought by the intent to do violence to the sovereignty of the human person, the American citizen. Obamacare’s consent to do injustice and mandate violence to the human being’s sovereignty, violates TRUTH. Obamacare is a LIE, in whole and in part, now and forever.

  • @Foxfire: “Human nature” is modified by “the laws of nature and nature’s God”

  • Mary De Voe-
    either human nature is a part of nature’s laws, or that’s an entirely different subject; “human nature” is the way people tend to act if there’s not a modifier.

  • @westcoastcatholic: Charity is an act of generosity made by the sovereign person’s free will. Charity is a corporal work of mercy and an expression of the free man’s response to the gift of Faith from God. Government cannot do charity as tax money is taken by law. In other words, a citizen cannot refuse to pay his taxes or that part of his taxes that are used by government agencies to do social justice programs, because charity is violated by the taking of tax money by law for charity. Charity is the realm of the church, and must be used with intent to help those less fortunate and to save our own souls. Especially since Obama does not acknowledge the immortal soul of man, charity is not in Obama’s lexicon. Terri Schiavo would be alive today if the courts had allowed the corporal works of mercy to feed the hungry, and appointed her parents guardians, when Michael Schiavo refused to feed her. Aborting the unborn to save them the suffering of this life is not a work of mercy and cannot be conscienciously funded.

  • @Foxfier: ““human nature” is the way people tend to act if there’s not a modifier.” Oh, but there is a modifier and it is our founding principles. Persons who repudiate our founding principles repudiate their own SOVEREIGN personhood and forfeit their citizenship. For example, take the atheist. When the atheist faces God he is going to blame us. On our part, let us point to our founding principles and shake the dust from our feet against the atheist.

  • Mary De Voe-
    That is an entirely different topic, and no, people don’t have their citizenship removed for going against the US’s founding principles. Might think they SHOULD, but it’s got nothing to do with how people tend to act.

  • My personal Rule of Thumb for the Charity (love of neighbor):

    If you did it with someone else’s money, talent or time (your most valuable resource) it don’t count.

  • Foxfire: When individuals kick their founding principles to the curb, that is their freedom to do so. Please do not blame me, they already have. Part of citizenship is constituting our nation with one’s sovereignty. Discarding the source of sovereignty, our Creator, leaves an individual where?

  • 1) citizenship isn’t the topic of the post
    2) if you think someone SHOULD be a citizen or not doesn’t change the fact that they are
    3) folks have slammed the source of our rights since we got started; again, a totally different topic.

    Human nature is a matter of what people DO.

  • Foxfire: When someone consents to comit a capital one crime, he forfeits his citizenship, in the same way that when someone consents to comit a mortal sin, he self-excommunicates himself. (Prisoners on death row do not vote) Sovereign personhood is at the core of being a human being, composed of body and immortal soul, unless one considers human nature to be without the immortal soul, the soul being separate and aside of human nature, and I concede that this is not possible. Sovereign persons is WHO WE ARE. “Human nature is a matter of what people do” as sovereign persons. Human nature cannot exist outside of human existence. Human existence is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights. “…for you are men sacred to me, for I, the Lord, your God, am sacred”. Now I know I am preaching to the chior, but for clarity’s sake, please know that the human person exists from the first moment of conception and his sovereignty constitutes our nation. This is what human nature does. Human nature is what the sovereign person does.

  • P.S. The perfect moral and legal innocence and virginity of the newly created immortal soul, (God does not create sin or evil or imperfection) is the only acceptable standard of Justice and is the compelling interest of the state in preserving our constitutional posterity. Our civil rights come to us from the CREATOR and it is the duty of the state to provide and protect our virginity, innocence and our constitutional posterity, hence to acknowledge the CREATOR. What the First Amendment tells us is that the state may not create our Creator.

  • thank you for providing such an insightful and informative response.

  • Again, has nothing to do with the topic, and conflates being found guilty of a death-penalty level offense with committing one.

  • Perhaps Santorum’s choice of words was not 100% exact, but the point he was making is 100 correct. Santorum is using reason and logic. Reason and logic drive leftists into insanity. leftists do not use reason and logic. They have nothing more than their ideology. To leftists, ideology trumps all – freedom, reason, faith, logic, human nature, basic human decency. It took less than 100 years for leftist (Communist – the most exact and extreme form of leftism) dictatorships to kill more people than all other governments in all other centuries that preceeded them. Source – The Black Book of communism…the most insightful – and saddest – book I have ever read.

  • Foxfier says:
    Saturday, February 11, 2012 A.D. at 8:28am
    Again, has nothing to do with the topic, and conflates being found guilty of a death-penalty level offense with committing one.
    Actually, this goes beyond being found guilty and committing one. This goes to the act of the free will to consent. The act of the free will to express oneself as a sovereign person who constitutes government. In the words of Father Stanislao: “We must all rally together to insure that those who work for us ingovernmentnunderstand the w

  • Foxfire: shall I continue? Please explain what you mean.

  • I really wish you wouldn’t, since I’ve been pointing out for several cycles now that it’s got nothing to do with Santorum and logical fallacies….

  • The humanity of sovereign personhood has nothing to do with Santorum? Logical fallacies is an oxymoron, a dead end.

  • Now you’re just trying to drag things out.

  • Joe: Thank you for reading. God bless

  • Foxfire. I learned much from your posts. God Bless and keep you

  • First of all, this absolutely is the slippery slope fallacy. Santorum tries to save himself on it by saying “We’re not there yet”–an irresponsible rhetorical action. Here is a list of even more fallacies he commits: non sequitur, argumentum ad misericordiam, ad baculum, ad novitatem, and my favorite–all-or-nothing. Does our Catholicism really make us so blind to the inadequacy of other Catholics that we find it necessary to give our vote to someone so intellectually and morally vacuous? Do you think it responsible of Santorum to use an analogy that is patently inappropriate and blatantly incendiary, intending, as it does, to give people with a smidgen of education the idea that he speaks with authority and is saying something accurate? The French Revolution (which, btw, toppled an unjust and ineffective government and ushered in democracy) reach its violent excesses because an immoral leadership used incendiary rhetoric to incite the poor and oppressed to unthinkable actions. I am so sad that our Catholicism takes away our logic and turns our senses against us. If you knew your Augustine as you should do, you would know that misusing speech is a terrible sin. What Santorum did in this speech should not make him a hero to Catholics: it was irresponsible and unethical. That you should defend him sickens me.

  • “The French Revolution (which, btw, toppled an unjust and ineffective government and ushered in democracy)”

    Actually it ushered in the Terror, which ushered in the Directory, which ushered in the Consulate, which ushered in the First Empire, which ushered in the return of the Bourbons, which ushered in the Second Republic, which ushered in the Second Empire, which ushered in the Third Republic, which ushered in the Vichy State, which ushered in the Fourth Republic, which ushered in the Fifth Republic.

  • Funny, argumentum ad misericordiam is the basis of all the slippery slopes we’re on.

    The old tradition of “throw stuff until it sticks” is with us, I see….

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