Appeal to emotion

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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon illustrating the fallacy of appeal to emotion.

An appeal to emotion is an argument tactic that is very similar to an appeal to popularity which attempts to circumvent rational thought in the hopes of “supporting” a conclusion with an emotional response in the place of real evidence. Many times, this fallacy is committed in concert with other fallacies as well, e.g. ad hominem.

Example

  • "Aren't you afraid to go to hell when you die?"

The above statement appeals to the listener's emotion of fear, but begs the question by assuming that hell exists in the first place.

The premise of this argument is faulty; Hitler was actually a devout Catholic. Even if the premise were granted, however, the attempted link between atheism and Nazism relies on an enthymeme (missing premise).

Counterarguments

Whether or not something is appealing has no bearing on whether it is true. Not everything that is real is pleasant, and not everything an evil person does is evil.

For example:

  • "Hitler was a vegetarian. Do you want to be like Hitler?"
  • "Hitler wore a mustache. Do you want to be like Hitler?"
  • "Hitler believed in the theory of gravity. Do you want to be like Hitler?"

The fact that Hitler was a vegetarian and sported a mustache does not mean that those things are immoral. And the fact that he believed in gravity does not make it untrue.

Similarly:

  • "This X-ray shows that you have a tumor on your liver. You don't want to have liver cancer, do you? Therefore, the X-ray is wrong."

This is an inverted form of wishful thinking: wanting something to be true doesn't make it true, and wanting something to be false doesn't make it false.


v · d Logical fallacies
v · d Formal fallacies
Propositional logic   Affirming a disjunct · Affirming the consequent · Argument from fallacy · False dilemma · Denying the antecedent
Quantificational logic   Existential fallacy · Illicit conversion · Proof by example · Quantifier shift
Syllogistic   Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise · Exclusive premises · Necessity · Four-term Fallacy · Illicit major · Illicit minor · Undistributed middle
v · d Faulty generalisations
General   Begging the question · Gambler's fallacy · Slippery slope · Equivocation · argumentum verbosium
Distribution fallacies   Fallacy of composition · Fallacy of division
Data mining   Cherry picking · Accident fallacy · Spotlight fallacy · Hasty generalization · Special pleading
Causation fallacies   Post hoc ergo propter hoc · Retrospective determinism · Suppressed correlative · Wrong direction
Ontological fallacies   Fallacy of reification · Pathetic fallacy · Loki's Wager
v · d False relevance
Appeals   Appeal to authority · Appeal to consequences · Appeal to emotion · Appeal to motive · Appeal to novelty · Appeal to tradition · Appeal to pity · Appeal to popularity · Appeal to poverty · Appeal to spite · Appeal to wealth · Sentimental fallacy · Argumentum ad baculum
Ad hominem   Ad hominem abusive · Reductio ad Hitlerum · Judgmental language · Straw man · Tu quoque · Poisoning the well
Genetic Fallacies   Genetic fallacy · Association fallacy · Appeal to tradition · Texas sharpshooter fallacy
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