The Fallacy of Appealing to Emotion

By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)

The Fallacy of Appealing to EmotionA logical fallacy is a discrepancy in reasoning. It is a misapplication of logic and reasoning such that the desired conclusion of a line of argumentation does not necessarily follow. Furthermore, logical fallacies also involve inappropriate appeals to make a certain point. An example of this is the fallacy of an Appeal to Emotion. An appeal to emotion is a faulty application of logic and reasoning since such an appeal, while persuasive to some, has nothing to do with the truth of a person’s position. Briefly defined: An Appeal to Emotion: is a fallacy of attempting to persuade people by stirring powerful emotions rather than making a logical case.1

Within an apologetics context, the skeptic will often appeal to the horrid nature of Noah’s flood, or the Israelite conquest of the Land of Canaan to stir emotions so that listeners or the skeptic’s debate opponent will become sympathetic to the idea that God is not good or just because He commanded the death of the people of Canaan, or that He brought a flood upon the earth which killed all the men, women and children upon the face of the earth except Noah and his family.

While these biblical stories are difficult for some people to grasp, it has nothing to do with the truth of the stories in particular, or the Bible as a whole. For instance, even if we grant that such instances of God’s judgment are difficult even for Christians, it does not logically follow that the stories are false, or that God is not good or just. Christians who understand both the nature of God as revealed in scripture, and the contexts in which those stories are recorded know that there are logical and biblically consistent responses to such objections. The point here is to understand that appealing to emotions is not a valid means of disproving the biblical narrative. Indeed, such emotional appeals are themselves logical fallacies.

The ability of identifying logical fallacies is an important tool in apologetics in particular and critical thinking in general. If one is able to quickly point out such fallacies it will make them better equipped to engage all forms of unbelief, and better protect themselves from faulty reasoning within their own thinking.

1. Jason, Lisle: Introduction to Logic. Masters Books: Green Forest, Arizona, 2018. P. 157.

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