Logical fallacies are all around us. Building on a previous episode, Emma and Brittany talk about the “appeal to emotions” and how it can be used against you in a philosophical discussion or debate.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Emma.
Emma: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: So, in an older episode, Connor and I quickly ran through the list of about four or five logical fallacies. We didn’t do all of them because there’s so many, but as a refresher, a logical fallacy is an error in reasoning or maybe a false assumption, or a false belief. And it might sound really impressive when you’re talking about it and when like these people do these arguments that just don’t work. We talked about a straw man. We talked about, oh goodness, we talked about several, I’ll link to that episode, these show notes. But these logical fallacies don’t really do anything. It might make the person who’s using them feel better about themselves, but it doesn’t actually make an argument, right? It actually stops an argument. So, logical fallacies are something I wanna talk about today, but I wanna talk about one specific one. Emma, how much do you know about logical fallacies?
Emma: Well, before I started working with the Tuttle Twins. I used to do some stuff where I would be on TV occasionally.
Brittany: Yes, you’ve dealt with that.
Emma: Talk about politics on tv. So I feel like any logical fallacy in the book, I have probably heard someone say it trying to prove their point or use a logical fallacy, I should say. So, I love that we’re talking about this because there are a lot of people running around using a lot of logical fallacies and just not really getting checked on it and not having people call them out for it. So, I’m excited to get into this.
Brittany: Exactly. And luckily, the Tuttle twins have a whole book about logical fallacies. So we will go through a couple of these throughout, you know, our podcast. But today I wanna talk about one, but first. So the reason these are so important is because by understanding these logical fallacies, it’s gonna make you not only a better thinker, but a better debater, a better argue. You’re gonna be more effective at persuading other people about your beliefs. You’re gonna be able to, what they call poke holes and incorrect arguments by others. You’re gonna see where they’re flawed in their thinking. So, you know, Connor and I give a brief handful of a bunch of ’em, but I wanna focus today on one that we didn’t talk about, and that is an appeal to emotion. So, Emma, when I say an appeal to emotion, what comes to your mind?
Emma: The first one that comes to mind is something from this COVID thing where people would say, oh, you know, you’re a grandma killer. You’re heartless. Yep. You want people to die. Or when you talk about maybe government programs and how they should work, they say, well, you just want poor people to starve. Which of course is not true. Yeah. That’s a horrible thing to accuse somebody of. but that’s what people do to try to rally support for their cause, is they just totally demonize people that disagree with them by just appealing to emotions and appealing to, you know, oh, well, surely you don’t want anyone to die of covid, or surely you don’t want anyone to starve. So it’s kind of a cheap shot.
Brittany: Absolutely. So an appeal to motion too, like it’s actually very formulaic, meaning it has like structure to it. So an appeal to emotion usually consists of three parts. And the first one is, so person A in a conversation states their position, their belief, and then person A expresses an emotional story. So we see this a lot in presidential debates. So let’s use the COVID example. I think that’s a good example. And, we’ll talk about some more examples later. So let’s say somebody says, you know, I think everybody should wear a mask. And then you ask, you know, well, why? Well, because I had a grandmother who got sick and she died, and, or, you know, my, actually, one thing I really love is when they say something like, a friend of a friend’s grandma, got COVID and she died, and it was all because somebody came over to her house and wasn’t wearing a mask. And so if you don’t wanna do this, blah, blah, blah. So the third part of this is person A like concludes from all this that you have to accept their position, and if you don’t, yeah, it means that you want someone to die. So I’m really glad that you brought up that. Yeah. But to have the construction, I can’t even speak constructive conversation, which is one that is productive or a debate with someone. It’s basically using emotional manipulation when you do the appeal to emotion instead of arguments and it can be really frustrating and emotions are powerful. You know, we’ve talked about storytelling before. We’ve talked about how that’s how we as humans relate to things and learn things. But, you know, it’s not always logical and it doesn’t always lead to logical conclusions. Many of us have heard the saying, you know, something along the lines of feelings aren’t facts. and I think that that’s very true Here.
Emma: It is. Absolutely. it’s like that think of the children thing. Yes. That you hear all the time. It’s become sort of its own cliche, but this is, it happens all the time, especially in politics, when you’re talking about policies that maybe you wanna change or advocating for, you know, maybe a different system to be put in place. People immediately go to this extreme of, well, think of the children. Yeah. People will starve, people are going to die, kind of like we talked about earlier. And it’s this like, extreme thing, and they’re just trying to get this emotional response. And like you said Brittany, emotions are very, very powerful, and humans innately are very driven by emotion and the way that things make us feel. So that’s why this is such a bad thing to misuse and to abuse, to try to push your own agenda and make your own point. You can make an appeal to emotion that is not based on falsehoods. Yes. Or that’s not an exaggeration. You can, you can bring up good points that maybe pull on people’s heartstrings, like, you know, say you want to talk about COVID and you know, why people should be careful or something like that. And there are a lot of different opinions on this, but the best way to get through to me, when you’re talking about, you know, COVID and sort of how it’s spread between people is to say well, if you want to be respectful to your neighbor and respect them as a person, then you know, a little space from them. Or respect, their wishes as your neighbor for how they want to be treated. Because I personally really care about re-treating people the way that they wanna be treated. So there’s sort of ways that you can appeal to people’s humanity and their emotions without making it this fallacy appeal to emotion, which there, there is a difference between talking about emotions, which are super important. Yes. And then going down this rabbit hole of being super extreme and, you know, calling someone a bad person because they disagree with you on something.
Brittany: Well, and I think a lot of time when people use their emotional arguments, it’s because they can’t find or poke holes in your argument. Right. They feel stumped and they think, okay, and you know what? I’ve done this before. I, used to do it all the time before I matured a little bit and started reading into logical fallacies, but I wouldn’t like what somebody was saying, but I didn’t have a real argument. And so it was like, well, I have a friend do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. No matter what the issue was. And I look back now and I laugh because the second I hear someone doing that, now I just kind of giggle. I’m like, all right, well, you don’t know you don’t actually have an argument. And you know, like you said like we both said, emotions are powerful and so, many people fall for this. Actually kind of reminds me, we talked about Thomas Sowell in another episode, and I’m gonna butcher the quote so I won’t try to quote him exactly, but someone, Dave Ruben did an interview with him and asked him, because he used to be a socialist, and he said, why are you not a socialist anymore? And he’s like, cuz I finally started reading the facts.
Emma: Yeah. that’s so powerful.
Brittany: And I right? isn’t it? And so I wanna get into a couple of things and we’ll talk about different public, or yeah, excuse me, public policies where we see this come into play. But I’ll just kind of branch out from what soul said. So when socialism, every time I encountered a socialist in a college, that was always the thing, right? oh, you’re an evil capitalist. You don’t care about the corporations exploiting the worker and making them work under poor situations and not paying them enough. And think of all the children that don’t have enough money and don’t have food on the table because they’re, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, I always saw a lot of that in college, and it’s really hard to make your argument to people like this because they tend to just what’s called cognitive dissonance. Yes. They tend to just shut off when they hear anything that isn’t what they’re used to hearing. So it can be a really hard thing, but what other public policies do you think, Emma, where this is used a lot? This appealed to emotion.
Emma: Yeah. I mean, there are so many, I think.
Brittany: There are.
Emma: pretty much any, public policy thing. There will be people that try to use this fallacy to get their point across, but the ones that come to mind especially are minimum wage. that’s a huge one that’s been in the news lately. People saying, oh, if you, if you cared about working-class people, you would make sure that they could get paid a living wage. And then it’s this interesting question of like, well, what is a living wage? Yes. And why would we ever put a number on that? But that’s, maybe that’s a conversation for another episode, But that’s a big one. You know, why do you want people to not be able to put food on the table for their families? Huge emotional appeal there. And then affirmative action. Yeah. Which is basically this idea that people should be given special favors in the workplace and from the government, depending on their identity. So it could be their race or their gender, or another, thing that’s beyond their control. And it comes down to this thing of, well, you’re just bigoted. you’re just. Yep. You’re prejudiced against people because you don’t want us to give them extra help. And, you know, if you’re looking into the facts, you know, we’re talking about facts are not the same thing as feelings. You look at the facts and people who are given affirmative action typically tend to actually be damaged by it and be harmed by it. So that’s one of the ones where maybe if someone does bring that up to you, if you find yourself in a conversation about affirmative action for some reason, you can actually say, well, if you want to talk about how this harms people and how this, how this can be a damaging thing and how it’s cruel, let’s actually look at the facts. Because facts, a lot of the times can be actually used to reach people emotionally and to reach them in a feeling kind of way. But it needs to be rooted in facts. It can’t just be something that you just toss out there. And, you know, Brittany, you talked about socialism, that’s a huge one that we see this with. so many people use these arguments to try to push for socialism, even push for raising taxes. You know, if you don’t want a tax, the rich, you’re a capitalist pig. And you know, you don’t care about the working class. And, which is interesting cause a lot of those tax dollars actually end up given back to corporations, to corporate.
Brittany: We talked about subsidies. I think that’s a big one.
Emma: Exactly. Exactly. And war too. People use this as an excuse for us to go get into all kinds of wars and countries that are thousands of miles away from us. Because if we don’t step in, people will die. If we don’t do this, then it’s gonna be our fault. And, you know, yada yada. And it’s another thing where it’s, that’s not necessarily true. You can look at the facts when you find yourself in these discussions because if you do talk about politics at all, especially, with your friends, people will start to make these arguments with you. I remember when I first started getting interested in politics and talking about it with my friends, I would hear a lot of the appeals to emotion because these kids were just repeating what their parents had been saying to them.
Brittany: Or their professors or their college professors.
Emma: Right? Yeah. Or their teachers. If you, especially if you’re in public school, I got all, kinds of that. Cause I grew up in public school. Same. So, it’s, yeah, there are things that you can do when people bring up the appeals to emotion, a lot of times just asking questions, asking, well, what do you mean by that? Where did you get that information from?
Brittany: That’s a very good point.
Emma: Yeah. What makes you say that responding with questions and engaging people in debate is important. It’s not always a good idea to just go, well, that’s an appeal to emotion.
Brittany: Yeah, no, that’s not gonna get you anywhere.
Emma: Right. You don’t just win the argument just by saying, well, that’s a logical fallacy, you know, you need to understand how to respond. But that just comes through practice. So I would say try to maybe in your mind, as you’re talking to people, if you hear them say something you disagree with or you hear them do one of these fallacies just kinda be thinking through like, Hey, I think that was an appeal to emotion there. And that’s the beauty of when you start to learn these things and you learn logic and reasoning. It gives you the ability to have a really great discussion with people, Yes. Where you can get your point across without having to yell at them or without having to, you know, be this jerk person. Yes, you can do it in a way that’s kind and that’s nice to your neighbor, but also that ultimately gets the point across and focuses on facts rather than just, you know, blindly appealing to people’s emotions.
Brittany: And you brought up something I really liked when I was a teacher. we taught with Socratic method and we never asked, we always asked a question. When somebody asked a question, we responded with, well, why do you think that? Or how do you think that? But we never said, why do you feel that way? So one thing our teachers were trained to do is we never brought that into it because when we were talking about things that were academic or philosophical, we wanted to say, okay, how do you know? We said, how do you know a lot? Or Why do you think that? Or why did that happen? And so, like you said, we don’t have to be jerks about it. Nobody’s gonna wanna talk to you if you’re a jerk. So if you just, you know, are calm and you say, if you control your own emotions, and you say that you would just ask questions. I think that’s really important. And I think that will help get a good dialogue going.
Emma: Exactly. And that’s the ultimate thing at the end of the day that you want, is you want dialogue to help show people the light and help get them thinking about things the right way. If we just go around just owning people and, you know, focusing on just making them look like an idiot because they’re using all these fallacies, that’s not actually going to advance the things that you believe in. So if you can engage someone in a respectful dialogue where you’re thinking clearly and you’re learning how to think on your feet and how to respond and have these debates, that’s gonna be a lot more powerful than just saying, Hey, that was an appeal to emotion, but understanding these different fallacies is the first steps. Yeah. So stay tuned for more episodes on this. We’re gonna go into a bunch more of these with you guys. it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We will put some stuff in the show notes where you can read more about fallacies. I’ll put a link to our book that we have on logical fallacies. We’ve got a guidebook on this. That’s awesome. And we will talk to you guys later. Thank you so much, Brittany.
Brittany: Talk to you later.