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Also known as: Ad Misericordiam, Special Pleading

Description

The reader is told to agree to the proposition because of the pitiful state of the author. A logical fallacy in which someone tries to win support for their argument or idea by exploiting their opponent's feelings of pity or guilt.

The fallacy is committed when someone appeals to pity for the sake of getting a conclusion accepted.

An Appeal to Pity is a fallacy in which a person substitutes a claim intended to create pity for evidence in an argument. The form of the "argument" is as follows:

P is presented, with the intent to create pity.
Therefore claim C is true.

This line of "reasoning" is fallacious because pity does not serve as evidence for a claim. This is extremely clear in the following case: "You must accept that 1+1=46, after all I'm dying..." While you may pity me because I am dying, it would hardly make my claim true.

This fallacy differs from the Appeal to the Consequences of a Belief (ACB). In the ACB fallacy, a person is using the effects of a belief as a substitute for evidence. In the Appeal to Pity, it is the feelings of pity or sympathy that are substituted for evidence.

It must be noted that there are cases in which claims that actually serve as evidence also evoke a feeling of pity. In such cases, the feeling of pity is still not evidence. The following is an example of a case in which a claim evokes pity and also serves as legitimate evidence:
 

Examples

Jill: "He'd be a terrible coach for the team."
Bill: "He had his heart set on the job, and it would break if he didn't get it."
Jill: "I guess he'll do an adequate job."

"I'm positive that my work will meet your requirements. I really need the job since my grandmother is sick"

"I should receive an 'A' in this class. After all, if I don't get an 'A' I won't get the fellowship that I want."

Professor: "You missed the midterm, Bill."
Bill: "I know. I think you should let me take the makeup."
Professor: "Why?"
Bill: "I was hit by a truck on the way to the midterm. Since I had to go to the emergency room with a broken leg, I think I am entitled to a makeup."
Professor: "I'm sorry about the leg, Bill. Of course you can make it up."

The above example does not involve a fallacy. While the professor does feel sorry for Bill, she is justified in accepting Bill's claim that he deserves a makeup. After all getting run over by a truck would be a legitimate excuse for missing a test.

"I did not murder my mother and father with an axe! Please don't find me guilty; I'm suffering enough through being an orphan."

How can you say that's out? It was so close, and besides, I'm down ten games to two.

We hope you'll accept our recommendations. We spent the last three months working extra time on it.

I hope you'll stop demonstrating against our company. We need to raise mink to feed our own families.
 

Rebuttal

Identify the proposition and the appeal to pity and argue that the pitiful state of the arguer has nothing to do with the truth of the proposition.

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