sarahmichigan: (Default)
[personal profile] sarahmichigan
When pro-lifers/anti-abortionists put up big photos of mangled fetuses, they're appealing to your emotions/pity, rather than arguing about abortion law based on the facts.

This is a fallacy I think it's really easy to commit. I've been guilty of this a bit myself when appealing to your feelings of pity for small children when I advocate mandating childhood vaccines. Including a bit of emotional appeal is a long-standing tactic in debates, political speeches, and in persuaive speaking generally. It can be an effective technique, but that doesn't mean you're making a logical argument.

Date: 2007-02-09 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
But, there are some arguments that do come down to emotion or pity. The link gives a murder example. Should someone who mutilates, rapes, and then murders their victims be given the same penalty as someone that shoots them from afar? Or, even someone who murders someone by leaving them tied up alone to suffer a long and painful death, vs that same person leaving the person tied up, but keeping up with basic life necessities, until they are shot in the head one day. there are things that are morally distasteful to us, and we do make those decisions based on logic.

The abortion things, there are women that are still unconvinced about having their own abortions that would be swayed one way or the other by abortion protesters. There are no debates about the facts of abortion because the facts are well settled. It is the emotional and moral factor that we are still debating.

Date: 2007-02-09 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There are some decisions in which emotions should be considered along with factual information; I'd never advise someone to marry person A because the person seemed like a logical choice even if they were in love with person B, for instance.

However, in your first paragraph, it's not so much an emotional issue as aggravating factors. Shooting someone is one crime, while raping, torturing and killing is several crimes. It makes logical, as well as emotional, sense to give a harsher penalty for the second crime.

I'm not so sure all the factual matters on abortion are well settled. There's been misinformation about links between abortion and cancer rates posted on government websites just within the last few years. But, anyway, I take your larger point on this one.

Date: 2007-02-09 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is the correlary point i was going to mention, too. Sometimes, an emotional factor is a criterion by which a logical conclusion is being measured. Similarly, it can be an "assumption" used to seed a logical process.

"I empathize with cows" can be a starting assumption in the logical conclusion to not have a hamburger for dinner.

I can see why they included this as a "fallacy" on their list, but it's less a logical fallacy per se and more just a tactic of debate/persuasion. I agree that abortion is a good example: the goal of the sensationalist materials is simply to persuade, not to "convince" anyone of a logical conclusion. (At least one activist with whom i spoke about exactly that absolutely agreed; he said their goal was simply to save lives as they saw it, and that while the disturbing imagery was regrettable, he had hard evidence to support that it was worth it because it was effective.)

Date: 2007-02-09 11:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will preface this by saying that I am not a fan of the mangled-baby posters. However...

I agree that it is an "appeal to emotion," but I think it is moreso an appeal to people's morality/ethics than one to pity. I think what they are trying to counter is the idea that a "fetus is not a baby," they are trying to convince people that what is in the picture is a baby--because people are much less comfortable with "killing a baby" than "aborting a fetus." I actually think it's less intellectually dishonest than many pro-choice arguments that are really full of euphamism, and more logical.

The website said "This type of argument is fallacious because our emotional responses are not always a good guide to truth; emotions can cloud, rather than clarify, issues. We should base our beliefs upon reason, rather than on emotion, if we want our beliefs to be true."

I generally agree with this, in terms of emotions sometimes clouding truth. However, with this example in particular it seems that the logic can't be separated from the morality issue--and people base their beliefs upon their moral system all the time. Maybe I just don't get it, but it doesn't seem like beliefs always have to be based in "reason" to necessarily be true.

Not arguing, really, just thinking about it.

Date: 2007-02-10 02:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We should base our beliefs upon reason, rather than on emotion, if we want our beliefs to be true. ... it doesn't seem like beliefs always have to be based in "reason" to necessarily be true.

I think you bring up an important concept here. I'll take it a step further and (as best i remember it) share another quote that really spoke to me:

"Just because something isn't true doesn't mean it's a not a good thing to believe in."

Beliefs serve a purpose, and often that purpose is not best served by beliefs being "true", as people usually think of "true".

...but all that is a matter of opinion. Some people do want their beliefs to be "true", and that's fair, but they also must remember this, which i believe is fact:

Every belief is based in faith at some level, even if it be that of the core assumptions of a logical process. When we say something is "true" or "fact", all we really mean is that the faith at the base of our deductions is a faith very likely to be shared by fellow rational people. Truth, then, is essentially "cultural": the agreed-upon assumptions and axioms upon which logical reason is based are nothing more than a set of faiths that are derived from ideas and observations considered universal to this, the rational portion of our human culture.

So, while it is entirely fair for a person to wish their beliefs to be "true", it is essential (back to my opinion now) that they know what this means. Limiting one's beliefs to what is "true" seems only to mean that one is limiting them to what is "accepted". For contexts wherein it benefits us to have common beliefs with others (and there are many), there is obviously great benefit here. However, there are many contexts in which this commonality is not paramount, and also, there are tools other than commonality of belief that allow us to understand others and collaborate with them meaningfully. The desire to have one's beliefs be "true", therefore, should be checked with an eye toward exactly what contexts and purposes those beliefs serve. For many of us, there may be many situations in which the truly desired gain is best served by not limiting our beliefs via this requirement.

...or such is what i believe. :)

Also, not arguing... just thinking. Thank you for spurring the thoughts for me!

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