Logical Fallacy Lesson 8: Appeal to Emotion

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Logical Fallacy Lesson 8: Appeal to Emotion
Category: Religion and Philosophy


Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 133, Logical Fallacy Lesson 8, Appeal to Emotion

LFL1: Argumentum Ad Hominem
LFL2: Red Herring
LFL3: Non Sequitor
LFL4: Bald Assertion
LFL5: Ad Hoc
LFL6: Argumentum Ad Nauseum
LFL7: Appeal to Faith
And Now LFL8: Appeal to Emotion

A logical fallacy is an error in logical reasoning. Stupidity - if you will. It's more than just being mistaken. Its applying arguments and facts wrong. Like... Tanning on a beach to relieve sunburn or crossing your fingers to fix a broken leg. It's just... Stupidity. Unfortunately human beings love this stuff and not only fall for it, but try to pass it off as valid reasoning. The embodiment of this is religion, of course, but today I'll be looking specifically at a certain kind of fallacy, not all fallacies. This blog is on the specific logical error known as Appeal to Emotion.

I probably shouldn't say "specific," because Appeal to Emotion is actually a more vague area, a genre if you will, of a whole mess of fallacies. Appeal to hope (faith), appeal to fear or threat (baculum), and appeal to pity (misericordiam), are all fallacies that fall UNDER the genre of fallacy known as Appeal to Emotion. So I guess what I'm talking about here today is an area of fallacy.

An Appeal to Emotion is just what it sounds like. Appealing to someone's (usually an audience or a jury's) emotions - rather than to their minds and logic. I must quickly state that Appealing to Emotion is necessarily, in and of itself, fallacious, as with most fallacies, its how/why you use it. Emotion is a good catalyst for action, and action is important. Being emotional about something is good - so long as it's the proper emotion to the proper degree for the proper reasons. Appealing to Emotion is only fallacious when the person making the appeal is trying to do so in the place of logic or evidence.

If asked to describe what makes such an Appeal to Emotion fallacious in one statement. I'd say: "Emotion cannot take the place of evidence."

Examples of the fallacy are very easily found in religion, as with most (or maybe all) fallacies.

"I know God exists cause I can feel him inside me. I feel his love. Yatta, yatta..."

Or worse,

"What's wrong with having an all loving being? Why take away the after life?"

Both of these are perfect examples of the logical error. Of the stupidity. In the first example it is clear they are trying to use emotion as evidence. Emotion, however, is only evidence of emotion. I'd start with that same line when refuting it: "Emotion cannot take the place of evidence." You can easily imagine something and feel moved by it. Evident in every other religion. If they say they know there is Jesus because they can feel his love, then why can't the Muslims say they know there is Allah because they feel his love, and they know Jesus isn't God, because they feel Allah's anger toward believing such? Why can't Polytheists say they know there are many Gods because they can feel the influences of them all on their lives? Anyone can make this claim. Anyone can imagine emotion. Anyone can summon it. Especially the insane. The man in the mad house feels great fear of those invisible squirrels. Are there really invisible squirrels after him? Well if you made the first example as an argument before, then by the same reasoning you'd have to claim that there really are invisible squirrels, because the mad man truly feels fear of them.
Unfortunately I highly doubt a theist would have the hardihood of making that statement. How sad it's the same thing when the theist says they know God because they feel him. They are the same as the mad man in the crazy house claiming he knows there are monsters, angels, demons, squirrels, or whatever. Again, emotion cannot take the place of evidence. Do not try to use it as evidence.

In the second example some one is literally trying to bribe you to believe what they believe. "Don't you want there to be a God and an after life?" Yes, you probably do. I, for one do. However I also wish I could fly. But that doesn't mean I'll go jumping off of my roof, does it? No. I'd have to be insane to start believing something just because I want to. And in religion, this is unfortunately what people do. They believe what they want to, and they do the equivalent of jumping off a roof. They sacrifice a lot of their time, veracity, money, and more on this logical fallacy.
Desire, emotion, proves nothing. Trying to make it prove something is fallacious.

Of course, there are several other forms of Appeal to Emotion. Like:
"All those poor starving children in Africa!" isn't a good argument for donating tons of resources, if it's resources we cannot spare. In this example, no amount of special pleading will make the impossible possible. It's a type of Appeal to Emotion known as Argumentum Ad Misericordiam (Appeal to Pity).

There is also an appeal to a threat, Argumentum ad Baculum, which I consider to be another form of an Appeal to Emption. For example, "Believe or be damned to hell!" That's trying to use fear of threat to make someone believe. Unfortunately this actually works in some cases, even though it's obviously not only illogical, be completely void of any attempt at argument. It works very well in convincing children, unfortunately, and so I greatly despise this fallacy, even more than some other fallacies.

And there are several other emotions you can appeal to. Just remember that emotion cannot be used in the place of evidence and that it never proves anything. If someone can prove something, then they can start using emotion as a catalyst for action. Or before hand - if they want to carry their logical arguments with lashing powerful words. But they can't ever use the emotion as the argument, evidence, of reasoning. That's when the usage of emotion is fallacy. Get it? It's really simple.

Logic without emotion is a useless and rotting log, which merely blends in with all the rest of the moss.
Emotion without logic is a wild, rampant, and dangerous beast.
You must have both.

Logic is the bullet. Make sure it is strong, clean, bright, and true.
Emotion is the pistol. A bullet will not go far unless fired for a decent and confident pistol, carried with conviction.

Logic is the steering wheel. With it you can find the proper roads and avoid accidents.
Emotion is the gas pedal. Without it you will never get where you are headed. Just make sure your wheel is working, or you'll only head into a ditch, and unfortunately you may bring someone with you.

Logic and emotion have their place. If emotion is not in its place, if it is void of reason, if it holds reason in contempt, if it tries to take the place of reason, then is the "Appeal to Emotion" logical fallacy.

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 132, Logical Fallacy Lesson 8, Appeal to Emotion