Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Appeal to Emotion to End All Appeals to Emotion

The Appeal to Pity is a type of appeal to emotion in which one attempts to play on someone's sympathy or empathy to get that person to support a conclusion. The idea is that you make your audience feel pity for some subject, and then you can get them to support the policies that you claim will help that subject. When I teach this topic in my classes, some student invariably raises his or her own hand to offer the following commercial as an example of an Appeal to Pity. Without further ado, here it is

Now I am a sucker for dogs, so I am clearly the target of this video. It is almost impossible for me to avoid tearing up when I see dogs suffering (particularly that poor dog whose back legs don't seem to work). Thus, even though I can recognize this video for the fallacious argument that it is, it is still remarkably effective. And this is the major reason these fallacies continue to exist and proliferate. They work, even on people who know that they are being manipulated. I really need to donate to the local SPCA.

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