Sunday, August 11, 2013

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to Pity

Argumentum ad misericordiam - Appeal to Pity, Appeal to Sympathy The Galileo Argument

How you feel about someone or something effects your opinion about the someone or something. Nevertheless, it's totally irrelevant to the argument at hands.

"Power of Weak" is an effort to create sympathy to one of the arguers, thus causing the majority to side with the "weak one".

"Think of all the poor, starving Ethiopian children! How could we be so cruel as not to help them?"

A US jury has been shown graphic images of people burned to death in the 11 September 2001 attack on the Pentagon. The jurors will decide whether al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui should be executed or jailed for life... Prosecutors hope such emotional evidence will persuade the jury to opt for the death penalty.

Pro-life campaigners have recently adopted a strategy that capitalises on the strength of appeals to pity. By showing images of aborted foetuses, anti-abortion materials seek to disgust people, and so turn them against the practice of abortion.

"I did not murder my mother and father with an axe! Please don't find me guilty; I'm suffering enough through being an orphan."

"My client is an integral part of this community. If he is sent to prison not only will this city suffer but also he will be most missed by his family. You surely cannot find it in your hearts to reach any other verdict than "not guilty"."

"I am a single parent, solely responsible for the financial support of my children. If you give me this traffic ticket, I will lose my license and be unable to drive to work. If I cannot work, my children and I will become homeless and may starve to death. Therefore, you should not give me this traffic ticket."

"You guys are young men...are you unemployed? How can you spend so much time refuting an old lady with a bad hip. You both know that from having checked me out last year. I am who I say I am.
I have an excuse to be here. My life has shut down due to age and a disability."

"My life has never, ever been as busy as it is now, and I actually neglect things I need to get done for work and myself to spend as much time on --- as I do. I cannot afford to continue doing this."

This fallacy is also called "the pity card"

One variation of this is "the Galileo Argument"

"Scientists scoffed at Copernicus and Galileo; they laughed at Edison, Tesla and Marconi; they won't give my ideas a fair hearing either. But time will be the judge. I can wait; I am patient; sooner or later science will be forced to admit that all matter is built, not of atoms, but of tiny capsules of TIME."

This includes the idea that the opponent is "suffering for their beliefs". You know "laugh now, but I'll show you!"

"I must be doing something right, or I wouldn't be attracting all this attention from the Big Green Machine."
-- response from a person arguing that there is no global warming, when she is met with opposition

The Galileo Fallacy is often accompanied by the Gadfly Corollary. It goes something like this
"Great thinkers throughout history have make people upset, angry, irritated, or insulted. I make people upset, angry, irritated, or insulted. Therefore, I must be a great thinker."

Whenever someone says, "I'm really getting under people's skin -- I must be doing something right," or, "If people are this pissed off at what I say, then I must be doing my job" -- that's the Gadfly Corollary in action.

Variant of this is when the opposer refuses to answer the questions about their claims because "you're mean, you've hurt my feelings" or because the question is "personal".

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