If you're new to this series, welcome; if you've visited one of last week's entries, welcome back! This series discusses logic, hopefully in a way that will be useful at Daily Kos as well as in everyday life. For now, I'm compiling these diaries on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays.

I'd especially like to thank those whose support & advice have helped me, as a non-professional, to improve this series. Your help has been greatly appreciated!

Here I'll list the diaries in this series so far:

Propositions & Arguments
Ambiguity Fallacies
Personal Attacks

The last several diaries have each described a number of informal fallacies, or certain kinds of argumentation which can distract from the issue of whether something is true or false. For the latest group of relevance fallacies, follow me past the Kos Decorative Divider...

Today we'll be discussing a list of relevance-fallacies which textbooks usually call "appeals" — that is, those that argue emotions or abstractions rather than facts.

Authority-Appeal (Argumentum Ad Uerecundiam).
A student of Pythagoras remarks "The master says so." An Italian Fascist chants "Mussolini is always right." While these examples make the point rather bluntly, they show the essence of the appeal to authority: Not how authoritative someone or something is in terms of knowledge or usefulness, but merely its being an authority in some area — whether or not that authority has any importance to the argument at all.

Force/Fear Appeal (Arg. Ad Baculum/Timorem).
Appeals to fear or force differ from mere threats in that they assert the danger of some kind of bad consequence as the reason some belief is true or action is right ("You'd better believe I'm right — remember who signs your paycheck!") One periodically sees this sort of thing in Internet flame-wars, often accompanying over-all efforts to destroy dissent.

Pity-Appeal (Arg. Ad Misericordiam).
Sarah McLachlan's ad spots for the ASPCA which air around the winter holiday season  broadly make a strong emotional appeal to audiences in order to keep up donations to help the SPCA continue finding good homes for abandoned, neglected, or abused animals. While that shows an appeal to pity used in a good cause to help with a real problem, all too often advertising gives examples ranging from tacky toy ads (pleading that only you, little girl, can rescue this lonely chunk of plastic & nylon from the cold, cold store — batteries not included) to various cults & scams (intoning that if you, young man, don't donate enough time, effort, & especially money to the cause, what happens to millions of people worldwide will be your fault) that may have less than honorable goals. Moreover, the practice of saying something is true because Feel Sorry For Me has 1000s of years of history, as philosophy students who have read Plato's Apology, relating Socrates' defense against capital "corruption" & "blasphemy" charges can testify.

Popular (or Popularity-) Appeal (Arg. Ad Populum).
Whenever anybody cites slogans like "Millions of people can't be wrong" or tells you "3 out of 4 surveyed agree" as the reason for you to agree as well, that's this fallacy in its most basic & blatant form. Indeed, any time a news organization uses an opinion poll as a tool for persuasion, they're employing this trick on the psychological level.

Note, however, that which kind of appeal applies to a given argument can depend on context, & sometimes one "appeal" can look like another at 1st glance. The question "Do you really want several thousand angry protesters picketing your office" may be merely an unpopularity argument to a CEO, but to a politician it may constitute a threat of unemployment. In another case, a fascist citing "the People" may seem to be appealing on popularity grounds, but in the "codewords" of this brand of political doctrine this is typically synonymous with the party or the "all-people's state", & thus is actually an appeal to authority.

I now open the floor for questions, comments, & suggestions!

5:54 PM PT: Just a quick note to thank the kind Rescue Ranger who has scheduled my diary for the Community Spotlight! Thank you very much!

Originally posted to Brown Thrasher on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging, Systems Thinking, Logic and Rhetoric at Daily Kos, and Community Spotlight.


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