Introduction to Logical Fallacies (Workshop Style): Appeal to force/emotions

Trying to persuade others by means of coercion or by appealing to their emotions. This is a more obvious form of appealing to consequences.

Example: There may be a lot of cases in which this fallacy happens in our ordinary lives. I remember my own dad’s response to my question of “Why?” was usually given as a shout of “Because I say so, and you know what happens when you don’t listen to me boy!”. It was obvious to me, even at my very young age, that his way of coercion does not make things he wanted right. There must have been reasons behind them other than his sheer force[1].

Perhaps the simplest and most common examples are some students at the end of the semester “You cannot fail me Professor Smith, if that happens I’ll be expelled/ My dad will kill me.”

Professor Smith may be quite sorry that these things may happen, s/he may even consider passing the student, but there is absolutely no logical reason for that. The argument is flawed since it only appeals to emotions and abandons the reason behind a fail grade, that the student simply does not know enough about the subject at hand[2].

Propaganda is another less common form of this fallacy. It is a media based movement devoid of any substantial reason, but based on excitation of the feelings that people may have on a particular subject. An example for movement is the so called “pro-life” movement in US. Most of what is presented by the pro-life could be considered as propaganda. Read a part of the poem written from an unborn child’s mouth against abortion:

please don’t let them kill me,
it wasn’t my fault mommy.
and if you think you’re doing what’s right
then ask yourself, what if it was me?

Remember that no argument is presented, if one tries to argue against abortion, one has to do so by means of reason and evidence, not just by writing poems of this sort, designed only to provoke emotional response instead of giving a message by means of reasoning. Most propaganda exists exactly because there are no good reasons to appeal to, only emotions.

________________________________

[1] My father died some years ago, it’s a pity he died as the same person as is portrayed here.

[2] There is a humorous story based on this fallacy: There was a very poor writer who lived in a very bad state. He wrote a book and took it to a publisher as a last ditch of effort to earn some money. The publisher asked: “What’s the book about?” to which the writer responded: “It’s a story about a woman who’s in love with a young man. They marry each other, and she gets pregnant, but the man is eaten by a shark, the child is born dead, and she finally commits suicide from heart-break. Also, if you don’t publish the story, its writer will die of hunger!”

Advertisements