Tag Archives: Appeal to Pity

Logical Gal tackles ‘Thou Shalt Not Judge!’

3 Feb

I’ve heard it said that the most famous Bible verse that even non-Christians quote from memory is John 3:16 because it is so often held up, painted on signs at football games. But ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged!’ from Matthew 7:1 is quickly overtaking the former in that category, given  our climate of tolerance.

Since we live in a topsy-turvy world where what society used to regard as  unthinkable is now ‘de rigeur’ or normal, we tend to tiptoe around evil and sin so a not to OFFEND anyone.

But come on, people!  America is a federal republic governed by a constitution with written, id est, legal protections of rights such as freedom of speech!

So what DOES a truth-loving, logic-valuing gal or guy do when clobbered with, “YOU CAN’T JUDGE ME!”

We do what Greg Koukl teaches: pull out a question and lay it on the one who made that claim. Here are some possibilities to get you started:

  • Why is that?
  • What do you think we are not supposed to judge?
  • The quote says that we can’t judge unless we’re willing to be judged.  What if I accept that condition?
  • What does it mean – to judge?

Actually there is even a Bible verse we can gently lob back to them – one that will REALLY start them thinking (the whole point of engaging with them!)

John 7:24 quotes Jesus as exhorting us:  Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.

I love that!  It brings us back to common sense and correct Bible reading.  The Bible is FULL of standards and judgments.  Only those who have never read God’s Word are those who think they own Matthew 7:1.

A reason for the blockage and misunderstanding regarding judging comes from not understanding how a court system works.

Just from a year of daily informal logic lessons my 7th graders learned to spot fallacies with glee!  When we examined the Appeal to Pity fallacy, we talked about where MERCY fits into a court case.  Many people inaccurately think that someone is either ruled guilty or they’re shown mercy.  That’s a category error.  A judge and/or jury must first RULE on the guilt or innocence of the defendant.  Is he guilty or innocent of the charge against him?  Once THAT judgment is made, then we can talk about what sentencing is appropriate.

What, then, are the judge’s choices in sentencing?  He can either give a just or fair punishment to fit the crime OR he can show MERCY.

Those who juxtapose guilt against mercy have it wrong.  First determine guilt or innocence, and then consider mercy.  Remember that Jesus had no qualms judging the woman caught in adultery.  She WAS guilty. Her action WAS wrong and against the law.  She, as well as everyone else, knew that.  She deserved stoning which was the pre-determined punishment.  But Jesus chose to show mercy.  He sequenced the events correctly.

So stealing, lying, envy, sex outside of a married heterosexual covenant ARE wrong according to God’s word.  We don’t have to apologize for the standard or the judgment. Stop cringing about Truth!  You have nothing to feel ashamed about in acknowledging standards.  But show mercy when appropriate, for you, too desire mercy, don’t you?

Logical Gal and how kids can benefit from studying Logic

31 Jan

A friend of mine’s daughter has her doubts about the benefit of studying logic.  It’s a required course for 7th graders at her classical school.  The curriculum introduces informal logic in the 7th grade and formal logic in the 8th grade.

Informal logic consists in all the fallacies or bad arguments people use.  Formal logic is the study of GOOD argumentation: its form.

But back to this pre-teen’s question about the relevance of her course of study.  I hear it as a French teacher and I’m sure math teachers have learned to shut their ears to this perennial question:

When am I ever going to use THIS!!!!

Here is how the study of poor argumentation can help anyone, no matter his or her age.  Armed with the ability to identify the fallacies of others, you will be able to stop them in their tracks when they come at you with:

  • …because I said so (Argumentum ad Baculum – Big Stick) – often used by parents!!
  • …because anyone who is anybody does it (Argumentum Populum – Mob Appeal)
  • …because Justin Bieber said they were the coolest running shoes (Celebrity Transfer)
  • …because these puppies and kittens will die if you don’t donate (Appeal to Pity – avoiding looking at other reasons, but relying on emotions)
  • You shouldn’t vote Joe for class president because he’s a nerd (Ad Hominem Abusive- attacking the guy’s character instead of looking at his platform)
  • You can’t trust what the disciples said about Jesus.  After all, they lived with him for 3 years (Ad Hominem Circumstantial – they must be biased)
  • You can’t tell me not to smoke because YOU smoke (Tu Quoque – you do it, too!)
  • You can either clean up your room now or before dinner. (False dichotomy – there are other times) again, a favorite of parents.
  • If you don’t let me have a cell phone at age 12, then I’ll never have any friends! (Strawman – reframing someone’s position incorrectly)- a favorite of kids!

These are just a few of the more common poor arguments or fallacies that swirl around us all the time. Can you see how useful it will be in giving both the adolescent AND the adult the key to identifying manipulative reasoning?  Even if you don’t remember the name of any of them, once you understand the thinking behind each, they are super easy (and fun!) to spot.  All you have to do, when someone tries to lay one of these babies on you,  is come back forcefully with,

That’s a fallacy!  

Try your hand at spotting what’s wrong in this argument!

How did you do? At least you could probably FEEL that something was wrong.  It’s invalid because of the Fallacy of Equivocation.    In this case, the word ‘headache’ is used equivocally, that is – in two different senses, thus creating the fallacy.  Equivocal words refer to two different concepts.  Both a pain in one’s head and an annoying condition can be called a headache.

Finally, the one fallacy I, as a parent, would want my child to have down pat before launching out on his or her own would be the Fallacy of the Non Sequitor.

If you have a daughter, think of a guy trying to get her to indulge in casual sex with him.  He lays this line on her: “If you love me, you’ll sleep with me!”

That, my dear readers, is an example of something that does not follow, hence a NON SEQUITOR.

Or how about this: “Why not try these drugs, you’re only young once!”

In both cases, there is absolutely NO CONNECTION between the first premise and the second.  Our children need to know HOW to respond before they are faced with the absurd and sinful choices, which will surely be thrown at them.

Question: Which fallacies have you succumbed to?

Poor things…..

6 Sep

So many puppies and kittens, what is an animal lover to do!

I once knew a dear woman who had a heart of gold.  Her house was a haven to 23 animals, a collection of mostly dogs but also a few cats that had ‘a pee problem’.   

I don’t need to say any more about the condition of her home!

Granted, it IS a good thing that some folks really love animals and are sympathetic to their plight. My heart breaks too, when I hear about abandoned or abused animals.

But before your abode becomes a rescue mission for stray pups, let’s talk about how NOT to decide to shelter another pet.

If you watch any TV, you probably have seen the commercials that display pitiful BUT cute puppies and kittens that need a home.  It’s one thing to give helpful reasons for adopting an animal; it’s another to use the emotional weapon or fallacy called the Appeal to Pity.  

So what’s so wrong with that?  These creatures ARE pitiful.  They DO need a home. Someone NEEDS to take them in, right?

Yes, but what happens is that if pity is the ONLY reason you employ to adopt a pet in crisis, then when YOUR needs are stronger than HIS needs, away goes the puppy.

But if your family has sat down and considered WHY they want to add an animal to the household, you have made a RATIONAL or REASONable decision.  When the puppy or kitten is no longer convenient, there will still be strong reasons FOR continuing to care for this sometimes messy, bothersome animal.

What might be some more ‘legitimate’ reasons for bringing a pet home? How about:

  • Company and a warm body for a lonely adult
  • A way to teach responsibility to kids
  • Companionship for another pet at home
  • To add a ‘ mouser’ to the family
  • To guard the family and warn against intruders
  • For cuddling
  • You just love animals and can’t imagine life without one
  • Getting a dog will be motivation for those daily walks you’ve been meaning to add to your daily routine

Remember that people often use fallacies as shortcuts.  Instead of presenting a reasoned case for why you should make a certain decision, they default to just using emotion to do their work for them.   You might encounter this in a court of law.  Imagine the hypothetical case of a single mom accused of stealing meds from her assisted living patients where she works.  She claims she sells them on the street to supplement her $12 an hour wage because she has three children to support.

The prosecutor needs to present enough evidence to convince a jury of her guilt. Her sad circumstances might mitigate harsh sentencing.  But trying to use the Appeal to Pity during the case is to introduce an emotional argument that has nothing to do with her guilt or innocence.   

Where do YOU manipulate by appealing to pity?