- Recognize appeals to pathos
- Evaluate appeals to pathos
Up to a certain point, an appeal to pathos can be a legitimate part of an argument. For example, a writer or speaker may begin with an anecdote showing the effect of a law on an individual. This anecdote will be a means of gaining an audience’s attention for an argument using evidence and reason to present the full case as to why the law should/should not be repealed or amended. In such a context, engaging the emotions, values, or beliefs of the audience is a legitimate tool being used effectively.
An appropriate appeal to pathos is different than trying to unfairly play upon the audience’s feelings and emotions through fallacious, misleading, or excessively emotional appeals. Such a manipulative use of pathos may alienate the audience or cause them to tune out. An example would be the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) commercials featuring the song “In the Arms on an Angel” and footage of abused animals. Even Sarah McLachlan, the singer and spokesperson featured in the commercials, admits that she changes the channel because they are too depressing (Brekke, 2014).
Even if an appeal to pathos is not manipulative, such an appeal should complement rather than replace reason and evidence-based argument. In addition to making use of pathos, authors must establish credibility (ethos) and must supply reasons and evidence (logos) in support of their positions. An author who essentially replaces logos and ethos with pathos alone is risking losing his or her audience.
See below for the most common fallacies that misuse appeals to pathos:
|Appeal to fear:
|using scare tactics; emphasizing threats or exaggerating possible dangers.
|“Without this additional insurance, you could find yourself broke and homeless.”
|Appeal to guilt/appeal to pity
|trying to evoke an emotional reaction that will cause the audience to behave sympathetically even if it means disregarding the issue at hand.
|“I know I missed assignments, but if you fail me, I will lose my financial aid and have to drop out.”
|Appeal to popularity
|urging audience to follow a course of action because “everyone does it.”
|“Nine out of ten shoppers have switched to Blindingly-Bright-Smile Toothpaste.”
|making an unsupported or inadequately supported claim that “One thing inevitably leads to another.” This may be considered a fallacy of logos as well as pathos but is placed in this section because it often is used to evoke the emotion of fear.
|“We can’t legalize marijuana; if we do, then the next thing you know people will be strung out on heroin.”
|Appeal to the People
|also called stirring symbols fallacy; the communicator distracts the readers or listeners with symbols that are very meaningful to them, with strong associations or connotations.
|This fallacy is referred to in the sentence “That politician always wraps himself in the flag.”
|Appeal to Tradition
|people have been done it a certain way for a long time; assumes that what has been customary in past is correct and proper.
|“A boy always serves as student-body president; a girl always serves as secretary.”
|Loaded-Language and other emotionally charged uses of language
|using slanted or biased language, including God terms, devil terms, euphemisms, and dysphemisms.
|Example: In the sentence “Cutting access to food stamps would encourage personal responsibility,” the god term is “personal responsibility.” It might seem as if it would be hard to argue against “personal responsibility” or related god terms such as “independence” and “self-reliance.” However, it would require a definition of “personal responsibility,” combined with evidence from studies of people’s behavior in the face of food stamp or other benefit reductions, to argue that cutting access to food stamps would lead to the intended results.