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Author Topic: Appeal to emotion: Discuss  (Read 2125 times)

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Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« on: October 21, 2010, 12:37:51 PM »
A passing comment made me think a little more about the fallacy of appeal to emotion. It's rooted in Socratic and Platonic (which one could argue are one and the same) philosophy, that the emotion is a blindness that must be overcome or circumvented with logic.

However, Socrates also thought it was a good idea to call the jurists at his own trial blind morons who clearly didn't know what in the world they were doing, making it quite clear that he thought he was the only one in the room who knew his asshole from his eyeball and they should therefore pay him for his services.

Maybe not the pinnacle of Socratic wisdom, there. >.>

I think that appeal to emotion is one of the more limiting fallacies; certainly you don't want someone trying to win a debate by stirring up so much anger that you have a riot on your hands. But what about compassion, or similar emotion? Should these be ruled out entirely? Why?

Discuss.

Offline Vekseid

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2010, 01:44:39 PM »
I need to fix that in the logic list.

Appeal to emotion is not always a fallacy. Logic alone cannot and does not set our ultimate goals in life, or tell us what we should endeavor to forge the world into. Emotions do not determine facts, but they can be used to determine a course of action.

One of the examples on the fallacy files site is a professor invoking the specter of a failing grade on a student seeking to weasel his way out of studying for a test (appeal to consequences). If the professor is using that same threat to promote a false fact, then the student's situation becomes a larger problem, but in the general case of a student who just wants to goof off, that isn't a fallacy.

Offline Jude

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2010, 02:20:52 PM »
I think there's a great deal of confusion on what an appeal to emotion is, or what an emotion is for that matter.

For example, if I was to point at starving people in Haiti and claim that we need to do something about it by giving a bunch of statistics on just how bad life in Haiti is, that doesn't mean I am necessarily appealing to emotion (though it might seem like I am trying to invoke compassion which is an emotion).  In actuality I'm giving evidence of harsh circumstances in order to prove that those people need help, because I am expecting other people to agree with me that something needs to be done on the basis of a moral value that I assume my audience shares:  responsibility to help those who are suffering and in dire need.

You can put together perfectly valid arguments with an underlying motivation without appealing to emotion -- and you should -- what you can't do is put together a sound argument without appealing to values.  Values are opinions on morality derived from philosophical or religious viewpoints.  Emotion is a gut feeling that you get in response to some sort of stimuli:  it is the opposite of reason because it is an automatic, knee-jerk reaction that isn't based on thought, deduction, consideration, or calculation.  Emotions just happen -- they are totally subjective, nonspecific, and not necessarily the result of a genuine cause/effect rational relationship.

However, emotions often have perfectly valid underlying values hidden within them.  Anytime you feel something, you do for a reason -- often a good reason.  Emotion is the hard-wired part of your brain telling you something is off.  Quite often it's a short, impulsive response that will come up with the same answer as reason to a particular issue or problem, but not always.

Example of emotion serving as a shortcut that ultimately is useful:  fear of the dark.
You feel this impulse because in the dark it's harder to perceive your surroundings, so you're more likely to be injured.

Example of emotion failing:  racism.
You come to associate blacks with negativity because of past experience, and as a result every time you see a black person you feel apprehension and nervousness.

Just as correlation implies causation but isn't causation, negative emotions imply a conflict that may not be there.  Appeal to emotion is a fallacy because it is passing inductive truth off as deductive truth.

I guarantee you any time an appeal to emotion seems necessary, further introspection on the issue will allow you to see that it's not.  It's okay to let your emotions guide your thought process, use them as a compass to investigate potential conflicts, but do not trust them over sound deductive reasoning.  If an emotion has a valid underpinning that is rational or principled, you can find it with enough consideration.  And if you can't find anything, there's probably nothing there.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 02:26:14 PM by Jude »

Offline MasterMischief

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2010, 06:40:12 PM »
Emotions are what make us human.  At one time, I believed them to be a weakness.  Now, I am not so sure.

Offline Jude

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2010, 06:45:36 PM »
Emotions are what make us human.  At one time, I believed them to be a weakness.  Now, I am not so sure.
Please elaborate on how you know this.

Offline Will

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2010, 07:58:55 PM »
I'm not quite understanding the difference between emotions and values.  At least, not in any way that makes a practical difference.  If emotions arise from values, how is an appeal to emotion not an appeal to values?

Offline Jude

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2010, 08:05:47 PM »
Emotion can arise from values, but it can also do so from pure instinct without any rational basis whatsoever.  It can also arise as a response to something observed that you can't quite put your finger on because it happened on a subconscious level.  Emotion is a complicated thing, and you can't know whether it's coming from something that has a place in discussion or if it's merely a baseless impulse -- not without pondering it a fair amount and dissecting it anyway.  There is no emotion that is based on a value which cannot be boiled down to that value, the mental exercise of doing so is useful and will allow you to learn quite a bit about yourself, and then the argument can be cared on simply by discussing that value if there is still disagreement.

Appeal to a particular value doesn't result in deductive correctness either, it just gives an additional premise (the value itself) which can be debated.  Emotion isn't debatable.  That's another good reason why it has no place in civil discourse; it stops it dead in its tracks.

EDIT:  That's my opinion, of course, and I don't have anything to back it up that's solid, but if you can think of an example that disproves it, I'd surely like to hear it.  I can't.

EDIT2:  Which doesn't necessarily mean I'm right either, I mean... In order for a theory to be proven wrong it has to actually be falsifiable.  I'm not entirely sure that what I've said is falsifiable.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 08:18:24 PM by Jude »

Offline Vekseid

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2010, 08:47:39 PM »
I'm not quite understanding the difference between emotions and values.  At least, not in any way that makes a practical difference.  If emotions arise from values, how is an appeal to emotion not an appeal to values?

Emotions are those notions we have of how the world should be and how appropriate or misplaced out position and status in the world is. Values are only a small part of that.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2010, 08:56:54 PM »
An appeal to emotion is always a logical fallacy. Logic concerns itself with the truth of certain propositions and emotion cannot speak to the truth value of a proposition.

That said, emotion is a valid drive to action, and as such an appeal to emotion has a place in both rhetoric and decision making. There is no cause to act on either logic or emotion other than personal preference. Neither guarantee a greater degree of benefit or harm. However, they are two distinct paths and should not be conflated.

Emotions are what make us human.  At one time, I believed them to be a weakness.  Now, I am not so sure.
This seems myopic and humanist. The expression of the emotion throughout the entire range of  Animalia has been documented at least back to Aristotle (and was documented particularly extensively and well in Darwin's Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals).

Offline Will

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2010, 09:04:32 PM »
An appeal to emotion is always a logical fallacy. Logic concerns itself with the truth of certain propositions and emotion cannot speak to the truth value of a proposition.

That said, emotion is a valid drive to action, and as such an appeal to emotion has a place in both rhetoric and decision making. There is no cause to act on either logic or emotion other than personal preference. Neither guarantee a greater degree of benefit or harm. However, they are two distinct paths and should not be conflated.

This makes sense.  But then, as a valid drive to action, does an appeal to emotion have a place in a debate format like this?  Or is this purely logic-driven?

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2010, 09:30:58 PM »
This makes sense.  But then, as a valid drive to action, does an appeal to emotion have a place in a debate format like this?  Or is this purely logic-driven?

I would think that it would depend on what you are debating and why.

If you are discussing the nature of a thing then no, there is no place (since our emotions can't tell us whether our claims are true or not, it becomes pointless to just tell each other how we feel).

If, on the other hand, you are trying to influence someone's emotions rather than their reason, attempting to evoke empathy or sympathy, actively discussing feelings on a subject, etc. then it is appropriate.

As an example: When I discuss the nature of HIV and the possible causes of immune escape, then I need to draw on logic; if I am instead trying to garner donations, convince people to volunteer in health care, or influence people towards safe sex, then appeals to emotion seem acceptable.

Offline Will

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2010, 09:47:19 PM »
Emotions are those notions we have of how the world should be and how appropriate or misplaced out position and status in the world is. Values are only a small part of that.

If values are part of emotions, then an appeal to values is a more specific sort of appeal to emotion?

Offline Vekseid

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2010, 10:09:42 PM »
If values are part of emotions, then an appeal to values is a more specific sort of appeal to emotion?

Values derive from purely emotional goals, in general. Whether or not humanity should perform an action changing the Earth is a different sort of concept than examining the means by which that action takes place and evaluating its consequences.

"We should build this bridge so that food and goods may be easier to exchange across the river."

"We should build this statue so that what she represents may never be forgotten by those who live here."

Logic does not make any particular distinction about what any ultimate goal should be. If your ultimate goal is improved trade and relations between two sides of a river, the bridge is a good idea. If your ultimate goal is that people remember something, you can debate the statue.

My instinct has generally been that an appeal to emotion, when used as evidence in order to determine some other fact of Nature, is a fallacy, and that appealing to emotion when talking about notions like justice (considering the emotional trauma caused by rape to consider that crime worse than mere assault, for example) is not.

There are times when this is going to be very direct and the sole reason for taking a singular course of action - choosing to visit a loved one before they die, for example. You might extend that a bit to say that what you are logically doing is preventing the regret you would experience later for not doing so... but that is still, fundamentally, an emotional reason.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2010, 07:25:56 AM »
Quote
An appeal to emotion is always a logical fallacy. Logic concerns itself with the truth of certain propositions and emotion cannot speak to the truth value of a proposition.

As a certain Roman governor might say, what is truth? How do you determine what is true, and what is the purpose of your truth? The Stanford Encylcopaedia entry on this topic in general and the topic of moral cognitivism in particular]http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-cognitivism/]the topic of moral cognitivism in particular is fascinating. Some of it is entirely too post-modern even for my tastes. For example, Baudrillard.

I suspect that I'm with Kierkegaard on this one - there are objective and subjective truths. An objective truths deal the 'facts' about being, while subjective truths deal with the way of being. Now, if logic concerns itself only with objective truths, then all it does is provide us with a crippling limited view on the mechanics of existence and says nothing about the nature of existence. So while emotions have limited use, as Alice says, in relation to objective truth, they are the foundation for subjective truth.

I thought that Ratzinger had an interesting take on this also in "Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions" - that there is more to truth than reason, and that the self-limiting Kantian vision of reason is arbitrary and short-sighted.

Ayer will always have a place in my heart, mostly because the emotivism he espouses gives me a justification for any discourse on human rights. Any statement about a human right is that 'X is good' is based on an emotional reaction to it.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2010, 10:35:40 AM »
I suspect that I'm with Kierkegaard on this one - there are objective and subjective truths. An objective truths deal the 'facts' about being, while subjective truths deal with the way of being. Now, if logic concerns itself only with objective truths, then all it does is provide us with a crippling limited view on the mechanics of existence and says nothing about the nature of existence. So while emotions have limited use, as Alice says, in relation to objective truth, they are the foundation for subjective truth.
No, you're really not with Kierkegaard since he doesn't say this. Kierkegaardian subjective truth is faith, not emotion; and stems from individual existence and experience. It is also definitionaly non-universal. So the idea that it says anything about the general nature of existence is absurd, rather it says something about the nature of your, individual existence. You may, of course, believe that there is an objective truth based on logic and a subjective truth based on emotion, but that doesn't mean Kierkegaard does.

So while emotions have limited use, as Alice says, in relation to objective truth, they are the foundation for subjective truth.
This has some independent merit. I would be interested to see this played out.

I thought that Ratzinger had an interesting take on this also in "Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions" - that there is more to truth than reason, and that the self-limiting Kantian vision of reason is arbitrary and short-sighted.
I would refer you to the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason for a succinct explanation of precisely how this is not arbitrary (ideally you will then continue on and read the actual work). Further, I submit that the (now) Pope Benedict XVI has one hell of a conflict of interest in this discussion and isn't a great authority to appeal to (although I highly doubt he is an emotivist).

Ayer will always have a place in my heart, mostly because the emotivism he espouses gives me a justification for any discourse on human rights. Any statement about a human right is that 'X is good' is based on an emotional reaction to it.
Again, interesting, but needs explanation.



Once again, I find myself asking for the most basic arguments. Philosophical name dropping is rather useless, especially when you don't even go into details on those philosophies (or indeed get them wrong). Give specific citations and references of where the philosophers make their own arguments or make your own. I reiterate that your ideas are interesting, but have yet to be presented with any kind of basis and as such remain statements of opinion rather than arguments. That doesn't really further the discussion (Although I have my suspicion that your post was aimed at re-hashing old contentions, rather than actually moving the conversation forward. If that is the case, far better to PM people or start your own thread than bog down a separate discussion).



Perhaps unwittingly however, mystictiger has introduced an interesting point for discussion, or at least an interesting caveat that we should bear in mind as we proceed: thus far we have talked about logic and emotion as a dichotomy, however it seems that they are only two of several things that influence action. Since Kierkegaard has been brought up, faith and aesthetics immediately spring to mind.

My question to the table is: Do you see emotion and logic as a dichotomy? If so do you see them in opposition? Where do things like faith and aesthetics (or even the concept of instinct) fall upon this spectrum? Are they part of one or the other, or do they stand independent? And how appropriate is their invocation?
« Last Edit: October 22, 2010, 10:38:10 AM by DarklingAlice »

Offline Serephino

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2010, 09:07:36 PM »
I think emotion has its place.  I mean, it doesn't do any good to get riled up and start screaming at the opposition, but if handled well, I don't think appealing to emotion is a logical fallacy.

First of all, we humans are complex beings, and not machines.  It's hard to even form an opinion about something without emotion being involved somehow.  Abortion is a good example of this.  If you are against it, it is because you place value on all human life, even those that aren't fully formed.  Why?  I don't even think valuing human life period is purely logical.  Yes, it's useful to care for those close to you that you depend on for survival, but what about John Doe in a poor neighborhood the next city over?  You've never met him, and you can survive just fine without him.  Yet if you hear on the news he was brutally murdered, at the very least you might want to see his killer brought to justice.

A reason many people, women especially, are for it is because they don't want to be told what to do with their own body.  It upsets them.  That, and people worried about incest and rape pregnancies.  As a man that wouldn't logically concern me, and yet, it does. 

Also, it's easier to connect with another through emotion.  Let's face it, to the average person, having a wall of plain facts thrown at you is boring.  Not only that, but many facts are subjective, or rather what the facts mean is.  We all see things differently.  Two different people can look at the same study and get different things from it.  I've seen it happen on this very forum.  But if you present a rational argument that explains how you feel about a certain subject it may be easier for another person to see things from your perspective.  We all understand emotion.  Empathy is how we as a species best relate to one another.

Using the abortion example again, I'm against it.  You can show me all kinds of studies that not many women do it, and those that do, do it early on.  You can show me graphs on how it positively effects population... whatever... it's not likely to change my mind.  However, if you state the reason I stated earlier, that you don't want the government telling you what to do with your body; that I can understand.  I know that if say... tattoos were outlawed for some reason I would be upset.  I have a tattoo, and wouldn't like being told I had to get it removed for my own good. 

It still may not change my mind, but I can better see where the other person is coming from.  Real people with real feelings are easier to relate to than studies and charts.     

Offline mystictiger

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2010, 12:00:39 AM »
/sigh

I agree with Kierkegaard to the extent that there are internal and external truths. I do not agree in how internal truths are defined as is self evident from my post.

I am 'name-dropping' in order to list alternative understandings of the word truth because I doubt that many people on the forum have the need to consider what truth actually means in any philosophical sense. The links I provided were for elucidation rather than argumentation.

Appeal to emotion is only a fallacy in certain ontological and epistemological conditions. This is a drum I keep banging as a result of reading something by Ratzinger. Because I say something is interesting does not mean I am appealing to it for authority. I am saying it is interesting because I think it is interesting:

Quote
Common to the whole Enlightenment is the will to emancipation, first in the sense of Kant's <sapere aude>ódare to use your reason for yourself. Kant is urging the individual reason to break free of the bonds of authority, which must all be subjected to critical scrutiny. Only what is accessible to the eyes of reason is allowed validity. This philosophical program is by its very nature a political one as well: reason shall reign, and in the end no other authority is admitted than that of reason. Only what is accessible to reason has validity; what is not reasonable, that is, not accessible to reason, cannot be binding either.

Now please, be less patronising.

Quote
My question to the table is: Do you see emotion and logic as a dichotomy? If so do you see them in opposition? Where do things like faith and aesthetics (or even the concept of instinct) fall upon this spectrum? Are they part of one or the other, or do they stand independent? And how appropriate is their invocation?

I do not regard emotion and logic as being comparable, but then this might be a matter of definition / understanding:

Logic, at least as I understand it, deals with what validity of inferences.
Emotions are... well. I'm not sure what they are. Judgements? A form of knowledge? Are emotions really the same thing as feeling? I have no idea.
Rationality, however, is another question entirely. I do not conflate rationality with logic.

Rationality and emotion are often at odds: emotional responses tend to stop us acting as rational actors.

At the same time those things that allow us to 'do' rationality' and 'emotion' are probably the same structures in the brain. At least that's what Antonio Damasio would have us believe (here's the TLS review). I've not read the whole book, but the chapters I did appear to suggest that damage to the post-central gyrus and prefrontal cortex dramatically curtail both rational and emotional responses.

Emotion, aesthetic, instinct, and faith are related in that they are all 'non-rational'. I have no particuarly strong feelings about aesthetics, beyond thinking Kant's First Moment notion odd - that the pleasure we take in seeing something beautiful is a disinterested one, one does not relate in a desire to possess. Maybe I'm just very greedy. The only comment I have in relation to instinct was reading "An Instinct for Dragons" (Apparently, dragon mythology arises from the fear that primates had for snakes, large reptiles, and birds of prey). It's a nice idea but entirely non-falsifable given the lack of early hominid brains.

Drawing from the shakey foundation of Damasio and poor Mr Gage, I suspect that rationality and non-rationality are both features of brain wiring. As such, I don't think that rational and nonrational are necessarily better or worse - they're different modes of 'thinking', perhaps even different epistemological paradigms.

As to when to invoke them? It would depend on the context and purpose. I would very rarely find myself moved by aesthetics. But then I have yet to hear someone claim that human rights are beautiful, but could easily imagine someone describing the TCA cycle as such. Or at least elegant. Your audience and your objective will determine when and how to evoke them.

As I've said in a number of threads, arguments about the basis of human rights usually come down to non-rational ways of thinking. They clearly work quite well. We've managed to hoodwink most of the world into believing that these things exist and that they're somehow special ;)

Offline Will

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2010, 12:23:01 AM »
As I've said in a number of threads, arguments about the basis of human rights usually come down to non-rational ways of thinking. They clearly work quite well. We've managed to hoodwink most of the world into believing that these things exist and that they're somehow special ;)

If you want to continue with that, you could probably start a new thread.

Offline Chevalier des Poissons

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2010, 10:20:58 PM »
A passing comment made me think a little more about the fallacy of appeal to emotion. It's rooted in Socratic and Platonic (which one could argue are one and the same) philosophy, that the emotion is a blindness that must be overcome or circumvented with logic.

This is a logical falacy known as Argumentum ad Misericordiam, which consists exactly on using emotions as a pseudo-base for a logical fallacy.

Quote
As I've said in a number of threads, arguments about the basis of human rights usually come down to non-rational ways of thinking. They clearly work quite well. We've managed to hoodwink most of the world into believing that these things exist and that they're somehow special

Argument of Valoration. If my latin still works, it would be something like Argumentum ad Valorem, which consists on using honour, law or other value to make said fallacy 'unreachable' or 'untouchable'. Example. Talk about Hitler and you will see someone saying "Of course he is a madman, he had nothing good inside him". This is an Argumentum ad Valorem.

I am thinking of PMing Veks with a list of logical fallacies.

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Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #19 on: October 23, 2010, 11:07:03 PM »
I am thinking of PMing Veks with a list of logical fallacies.

Have you seen the sticky here?

Offline Chevalier des Poissons

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2010, 01:22:26 PM »
Have you seen the sticky here?

Yes, and there are some small changes and additions. For example, 'Personal attacks' is better referred as "Argumentum ad Personam" than "Argumentum ad Hominem Abusive", by Schonpenhauer, or 'reductio ad absurda' instead of 'absurdum'. Also suggest him to ad the "Argumentum ad Veritas", consisting on stating something as a fact because it works for the person, "ad Valorem", a.k.a argument of valoration and 'Mutatio Controversa', which consists on forcing a subject change to another minor detail to avoid an argument.

But well, I digest.

Offline Noelle

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2010, 08:13:25 PM »
You might also digress, though if you've eaten recently, 'digest' would technically be appropriate.

Offline Chevalier des Poissons

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2010, 01:39:06 PM »
You might also digress, though if you've eaten recently, 'digest' would technically be appropriate.

Hm.

I blame "Family guy" for that. They used exactly that expression.

Offline Hunter

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #23 on: October 25, 2010, 01:41:41 PM »
Emotions are what make us human.

As someone with Asperger's, I'll disagree with this.

Offline Noelle

Re: Appeal to emotion: Discuss
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2010, 05:08:07 PM »
It's what happens when you use expressions without fully understanding them, I guess.