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Fallacies of Emotion

Estimated Lesson Time: 30 minutes (self-evaluated option) / 1 hour 30 minutes (instructor-evaluated option)

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Lesson Introduction

In this lesson, we cover five fallacies that are directly related to emotion: Appeal to Ridicule, Appeal to Pity, Appeal to Fear, Appeal to Emotion, Appeal to Desperation, and Appeal to Anger. We are both creatures of emotion and logic, and despite what some may want to believe, emotion is a very important part of our humanity. Reason alone cannot guide our actions, but emotions often get in the way. In this lesson we will discuss this important distinction.

By the end of this lesson, students will learn

how pity should not guide reason

emotion can be both a powerful ally and foe to reason

desperate times may call for desperate measures, but not irrational ones

how talking louder and with more anger does not make one more right

how powerful fear can be in clouding our ability to reason

Lesson Resources

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Lesson Videos

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Introduction to Lesson 7 (01:04)

Appeal to Emotion (04:17)

This is the general category of many fallacies that use emotion in place of reason in order to attempt to win the argument. It is a type of manipulation used in place of valid logic.

Appeal to Desperation (03:25)

Arguing that your conclusion, solution, or proposition is right based on the fact that something must be done, and your solution is "something."

Appeal to Fear (02:31)

When fear, not based on evidence or reason, is being used as the primary motivator to get others to accept an idea, proposition, or conclusion.

Appeal to Anger (02:46)

When the emotions of anger, hatred, or rage are substituted for evidence in an argument.

Appeal to Pity (03:33)

The attempt to distract from the truth of the conclusion by the use of pity.

Lesson Key Points

Appeal to Emotion: This is the general category of many fallacies that use emotion in place of reason in order to attempt to win the argument. It is a type of manipulation used in place of valid logic.
Using appeals to emotion as a backup to rational and logical arguments is not only valid, but a skill possessed by virtually every great communicator.
Appeal to Desperation: Arguing that your conclusion, solution, or proposition is right based on the fact that something must be done, and your solution is “something.”
Appeal to Fear: When fear, not based on evidence or reason, is being used as the primary motivator to get others to accept an idea, proposition, or conclusion.
When fear is not the primary motivator, but a supporting one, and the probabilities of the fearful event happening are honestly disclosed, it would not be fallacious.
Appeal to Anger: When the emotions of anger, hatred, or rage are substituted for evidence in an argument.
Appeal to Pity: The attempt to distract from the truth of the conclusion by the use of pity.
Appeal to Ridicule: Presenting the argument in such a way that makes the argument look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or the use of exaggeration.
Misplaced ridicule can appear as a sign of desperation, but carefully placed ridicule can be a witty move that can work logically and win over an audience emotionally.

Lesson Assignments

Assignment #1:

This assignment is for students with the instructor-evaluated course option.

When is the use of emotion fallacious? Provide some examples, either real examples or one you make up. (1-2 paragraphs in the space below)
Assignment #2Take a minute to answer at least one of the following questions in the discussion section below:

What was the most important thing you learned in this lesson?

What question do you have about this lesson?

How would you sum up this lesson in one sentence?


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Lesson Quiz

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Lesson Progress Course Progress Here you will see a visual and numeric representation of your course progress. Lessons

Lessons greyed out are for enrolled students only.

#3: Appeal to Common Belief
#4: Fallacies and Religion
#5: Deception Through Confusion
#10: Fallacies of Poor Statistical Thinking
#11: Black and White Thinking
#12: The Impossible and the Possible
#13: The Red Herring
#15: Special Pleading
#16: The Analogy - Both Friend and Foe
#17: A Look at Nature
#18: Fallacies Worthy of Mention

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Geoffrey Aguirre
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Student since Jan 12 2017
Davo Faulkner
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Lesson Quiz

Be sure to click the "Submit Quiz Answers" at the end of the quiz to save and submit your quiz answers. Select the best answer.

1) When the emotions of anger, hatred, or rage are substituted for evidence in an argument.
a) Appeal to Anger
b) Appeal to Ridicule
c) Appeal to Pity
d) Appeal to Emotion
2) When fear, not based on evidence or reason, is being used as the primary motivator to get others to accept an idea, proposition, or conclusion.
a) Appeal to Desperation
b) Appeal to Fear
c) Appeal to Ridicule
d) Appeal to Emotion
3) The attempt to distract from the truth of the conclusion by the use of pity.
a) Appeal to Ridicule
b) Appeal to Emotion
c) Appeal to Pity
d) Appeal to Anger
4) This is the general category of many fallacies that use emotion in place of reason in order to attempt to win the argument.
a) Appeal to Ridicule
b) Appeal to Desperation
c) Appeal to Pity
d) Appeal to Emotion
5) Arguing that your conclusion, solution, or proposition is right based on the fact that something must be done, and your solution is "something."
a) Appeal to Anger
b) Appeal to Pity
c) Appeal to Desperation
d) Appeal to Ridicule
6) Appealing to Emotion
a) is always a fallacy
b) is always a good idea
c) is generally a good idea as long as it is not in place of reason
d) could get you killed
7) Appealing to fear is so common because
a) people are generally stupid
b) it works very well
c) we are all natural pessimists
d) we see it all the time on the news
8) Anger is probably more convincing than an emotionless argument because
a) anger is a form of passion, and passion is powerful in persuasion
b) anger helps people make more rational arguments
c) people like to hear angry people
d) angry people are funny
9) Desperate times call for desperate measures, but the measures
a) don't have to be irrational
b) could be based on reason
c) could be taking no action
d) all of the above
10) A form of the Appeal to Pity is known as
a) The Chewbacca Defense
b) The Wright Brothers Defense
c) The Galileo Defense
d) The Tom Cruise Defense
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