Have you ever been in an argument with someone, and they try to win you over by making you feel sorry for them? Maybe they start talking about how hard their life is or how much they’ve suffered. This is an example of the appeal to pity fallacy.
The appeal to pity fallacy, also known as argumentum ad misericordiam, is a type of emotional appeal. An emotional appeal is when someone tries to win an argument by making you feel a certain way instead of using logic or reason.
Appeal To Pity Fallacy Examples You Can Refer To
Here are two appeal to pity fallacy examples that can help improve your understanding.
Imagine you’ve been working on a school project for weeks, and you’re almost done. But then, the night before it’s due, your computer crashes, and all your work is lost. You’re scrambling to try to recreate it, but there’s no way you can finish in time.
When you present your project to the class, your teacher says that since you didn’t turn it in on time, you’ll have to get a zero. You plead with them, telling them about your computer crashing and how hard you’ve worked on the project. But in the end, the teacher sticks to their decision and gives you a failing grade.
In this example, you’re trying to get the teacher to feel pity or guilt for you so they’ll give you a better grade. But even if the story is true, it doesn’t change the fact that you didn’t turn in the project on time. The teacher has every right to give you a zero because you didn’t do what was required.
Let’s say that a new law is being proposed to increase the drinking age from 18 to 21. People who are for the law argue that it would make roads safer because there would be fewer drunk drivers. Those against the law argue that 18-year-olds are adults and should be able to decide about alcohol consumption.
But someone else argues that we shouldn’t pass this law because it would be heartless to take away 18-year-olds’ freedom to drink. They talk about how many 18-year-olds are going through tough times and how drinking can help them relax and escape their problems.
This person isn’t addressing the issue at hand; they’re just trying to make us feel sorry for 18-year-olds, so we’ll be more likely to oppose the law.
How To Spot An Appeal To Pity Logical Fallacy
If you’re ever doubtful about whether someone is using the appeal to pity fallacy, just ask yourself these four questions:
- What evidence does this person have to back up their claim?
- Are they using emotional language (e.g., “I’m so sorry,” “I’m going through a tough time,” etc.)?
- Are they trying to generate sympathy?
- Would their argument still be valid if we removed all emotional elements from it?
If you can answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, then it’s likely that the person is using the appeal to pity fallacy. And remember, just because someone is generating sympathy doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily wrong – but it is important to be critical of their argument and ensure you’re not being swayed by emotion alone.
Similar to the appeal to emotion, an appeal to pity fallacy is a common one, but that doesn’t make it any less fallacious. Just because someone tells a sob story or tries to tug at our heartstrings doesn’t mean we should abandon our critical thinking skills. Next time someone tries to win you over with pity, remember these examples, and don’t let yourself be swayed!
An experienced author and writing professional who graduated from the University of North Carolina. He has worked as a ghostwriter, editor, and content creator for various academic sites.