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To Appeal to a concept would seem to originally be (in the day of Greek metaphysics) a somewhat poetic device metaphorically gesturing toward whatever concept understanding might be sought from. Today I read it held often as a charge intended to reject statements for unsubscribable subjects as used in the coining of fallacies.

3 percent of questions on Philosophy SE use this term. There are no definitions or treatments of it here or anywhere else on the web, only its many different uses.

In "Philosophical Investigations" Wittgenstein variously employs the term in these excerpts:

170 ... And here we are indeed noticing a difference. And we interpret it as the difference between being influenced and not being influenced. In particular, this interpretation appeals to us especially when we make a point of reading slowly—perhaps in order to see what does happen when we read.

228 ... it gives expression to the fact that we look to the rule for instruction and do something, without appealing to anything else for guidance.

265 ...~ justification consists in appealing to something independent. ...~ surely I can appeal from one memory to another.

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Can you think of a particular place or context in which is came up? –  mixedmath Dec 13 '12 at 5:11
    
Ive tried improving the wording, and adding bounty. –  strainer Dec 17 '12 at 3:35

3 Answers 3

An appeal is, in basic terms, an argument of last resort. In philosophy, ideally, there is no appeal. Either the logic of your premises read out your conclusion or it does not.

In a more etymological sense, an appeal is a call out for assistance from a higher power. The word comes from the the Latin appelltus, meaning to entreat. In a very basic sense, we can understand this to mean that an appeal is intended to offload the burden of proof for some argument to some external object.

For instance, in the appeal to authority, the appellant (probably the wrong usage there) says, in essence, "if you can prove authority A wrong, then I am wrong."

Or in an argument to pity, the appellant says, "to disprove my argument, you must reconcile it with my circumstances."

So, in the wider world of rhetoric, an appeal is an argument which attempts to reverse the burden of proof by introducing a factor external to the debate, rather than relying on the logic of the premises.

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Entreat means beg consideration. Ideally logic is complete but I believe Philosophy has not achieved this? "Appeal to" was interchangeable with "an argument to" and the fallacies made the same sense, because authority and pity are clearly poor subjects. I think you have described appeals use in fallacy labelling, but not really substantiated it or explained its wide and common use. I thankyou for the answer but wonder why the question has no votes or other takers. –  strainer Dec 17 '12 at 13:41
    
Thanks again for your answer and apologies for my appetite SAHornickel. I do crave substantiation of this commonly advised deficiency of appeals, while i come across them in texts like quoted above, often no deficiency seems implied to me. –  strainer Dec 18 '12 at 18:06
    
If it sates your curiosity, it's helpful to think of the different meanings of "appeal" as different words. That is what they are, after all. The most common use of appeal is in law, referring to the passing on of one court's decision to a higher court for review. The most casual use refers to pleasing qualities. They are in the mind, however, different adjectives describing a conceptual object, and their meaning depends on context. In the realm of natural language processing, "appeal" is considered a problem word for this very reason. –  SAHornickel Dec 19 '12 at 3:03
    
This could be an appeal to ambiguity, or to selective interpretation. Appeals to person are familiarly different than those to and between concepts, some employments by Wittgenstein are examined in this discussion. I did not selectively choose examples, I included all occurrences from the first text queried. If words attain new meaning it is important to be aware of their intention at the time of writing and translate to the authors intention avoiding our own familiarities. –  strainer Dec 19 '12 at 11:30
    
What you're describing is, in literary theory, called new historicism. If you read any reasonably modern literary critique (after the rise of Greenblatt) of Wittgenstein's Remarks which deals with the concept of an appeal, then his intention should be illuminated. If there is no such critique, realize that any reasonable answer to Wittgenstein's intention would take several months of dedicated research. –  SAHornickel Dec 19 '12 at 13:33

I second SAHornickel's reply above. And, here are some examples from Part V of Wittgenstein's Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics that he was specifically thinking about:

§1. It is of course clear that the mathematician, in so far as he really is 'playing a game' does not infer. For here 'playing' must mean: acting in accordance with certain rules. And it would already be something outside the mere game for him to infer that he could act in this way according to the general rule.

§2. Does a calculating machine calculate? Imagine that a calculating machine had come into existence by accident; now someone accidentally presses its knobs (or an animal walks over it) and it calculates the product 25 × 20. I want to say: it is essential to mathematics that its signs are also employed in mufti. It is the use outside mathematics, and so the meaning of the signs, that makes the sign-game into mathematics. Just as it is not logical inference either, for me to make a change from one formation to another (say from one arrangement of chairs to another) if these arrangements have not a linguistic function apart from this transformation.

§3. But is it not true that someone with no idea of the meaning of Russell's symbols could work over Russell's proofs? And so could in an important sense test whether they were right or wrong? A human calculating machine might be trained so that when the rules of inference were shewn it and perhaps exemplified, it read through the proofs of a mathematical system (say that of Russell), and nodded its head after every correctly drawn conclusion, but shook its head at a mistake and stopped calculating. One could imagine this creature as otherwise perfectly imbecile.

We call a proof something that can be worked over, but can also be copied.

§4.If mathematics is a game, then playing some game is doing mathematics, and in that case why isn't dancing mathematics too?

Imagine that calculating machines occurred in nature, but that people could not pierce their cases. And now suppose that these people use these appliances, say as we use calculation, though of that they know nothing. Thus e.g. they make predictions with the aid of calculating machines, but for them manipulating these queer objects is experimenting.

These people lack concepts which we have; but what takes their place?

Think of the mechanism whose movement we saw as a geometrical (kinematic) proof clearly it would not normally be said of someone turning the wheel that he was proving something. Isn't it the same with someone who makes and changes arrangements of signs as a game; even when what he produces could be seen as a proof?

To say mathematics is a game is supposed to mean: in proving, we need never appeal to the meaning of the signs, that is to their extra-mathematical application. But then what does appealing to this mean at all? How can such an appeal be of any avail?

Does it mean passing out of mathematics and returning to it again, or does it mean passing from one method of mathematical inference to another?

What does it mean to obtain a new concept of the surface of a sphere? How is it then a concept of the surface of a sphere? Only in so far as it can be applied to real spheres.

How far does one need to have a concept of 'proposition', in order to understand Russellian mathematical logic?

and, this too:

§48. Does a line compel me to trace it?--No; but if I have decided to use it as a model in this way, then it compels me.--No; then I compel myself to use it in this way. I as it were cleave to it.--But here it is surely important that I can form the decision with the (general) interpretation so to speak once for all, and can hold by it, and do not interpret afresh at every step.48. Does a line compel me to trace it?--No; but if I have decided to use it as a model in this way, then it compels me.--No; then I compel myself to use it in this way. I as it were cleave to it.--But here it is surely important that I can form the decision with the (general) interpretation so to speak once for all, and can hold by it, and do not interpret afresh at every step.

The line, it might be said, intimates to me how I am to go. But that is of course only a picture. And if I judge that it intimates this or that to me as it were irresponsibly, then I would not say that I was following it as a rule.

"The line intimates to me how I am to go": that is merely a paraphrase for:--it is my last court of appeal for how I am to go.

The point is that justifications come to an end somewhere; there is no continually higher court of appeals. This sort of notion is connected here with rule-following and what the grounds are for justifications. These sections below are from On Certainty:

§471. It is so difficult to find the beginning. Or, better: it is difficult to begin at the beginning. And not try to go further back.

§472. When a child learns language it learns at the same time what is to be investigated and what not. When it learns that there is a cupboard in the room, it isn't taught to doubt whether what it sees later on is still a cupboard or only a kind of stage set.

§473. Just as in writing we learn a particular basic form of letters and then vary it later, so we learn first the stability of things as the norm, which is then subject to alterations.

§474. This games proves its worth. That may be the cause of its being played, but it is not the ground.

§475. I want to regard man here as an animal; as a primitive being to which one grants instinct but not ratiocination. As a creature in a primitive state. Any logic good enough for a primitive means of communication needs no apology from us. Language did not emerge from some kind of ratiocination [Raisonnement].

That is to say, the grounds for appealing to a higher court or a sounder foundation come to an end: how do we know how to follow a rule? --It is not a question of "knowing." In §287 of OC, W. states that because the "squirrel does not infer by induction that it is going to need stores next winter as well...no more do we need a law of induction to justify our actions or our predictions." We cannot and need not appeal to justifications ad infinitum.

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I read in this example, Wittegnstein is using the term appeal sensibly in his description of what is not sensible. Regard his other uses of the term which I cited too. In your section he says this appeal does not work, not because any appeal does not work (then it would not need said). We can seek simplicity and completeness, but if we mistake language in the drive for that, sense is lost before it is even examinable. –  strainer Dec 18 '12 at 21:36
    
Really,do reconsider - "To say mathematics is a game is supposed to mean: in proving, we need never appeal to the meaning of the signs" He is describing the folly of this. He is saying we must appeal to the meaning of signs. –  strainer Dec 18 '12 at 21:49
    
@strainer.It was disingenuous of me to add that citation without remarking on the context of the conversation up to that point in RFM. I shall add the section that came before as to prevent misreadings; it should be clear what he is saying now. –  Jon Dec 19 '12 at 23:50
    
i.e. --The person ignorant of the meaning of Russell's symbols does not, and cannot, appeal to their meanings. How could this person work over the proofs if he "needed" to appeal to the signs' meanings? Also, check out Chuck's answer to my question, "How do we know how to follow a rule." It directly relates to the passages you cited originally. –  Jon Dec 20 '12 at 0:03
    
It is a wonderful segment thankyou for bringing it. I cant resolve entirely what at that point is "needed". While he is reportedly informing the problem of a thing (appeal) he is constantly employing it, seemingly caught between its applicability and this (his?) advice to decline... -- "To say mathematics is a game is supposed to mean: in proving, we need never appeal to the meaning of the signs, that is to their extra-mathematical application." -- "concept of the surface of a sphere? How is it then a concept of the surface of a sphere? Only in so far as it can be applied to real spheres." –  strainer Dec 20 '12 at 2:31

(Caveat: I reject the hyperrationalism of modern anglophone philosophy. So I may be more tolerant and gracious of appeal than others.)

Anywho, an "appeal" in its broadest sense is an argument that makes reference to something outside of its own scope for its power. It can be, as noted above, a fallacious tactic used to conflate argument with persuasion. It can also be, however, a device used to very broadly invoke the spirit of other arguments and positions. You can "appeal to materialism" to broadly invoke the metaphysical claims of materialistic views. This is especially useful in the body of an argument where the "implementation details" of a particular view are not what is immediately at hand.

An appeal does not have to be towards a particular view or to one of the fallacious subjects noted above. An argument that seeks to defend a particular viewpoint inductively through empirical data will appeal to the data; an argument that seeks to defend itself through a teleological defense can be said to "appeal to teleology." You can even, slightly more loosely, say things like "appeal to the law of noncontradiction" to make totally deductive claims (if one wishes to avoid defending noncontradiction, that is).

On the whole, I wouldn't consider "appeal" a particular technical word in the vocabulary of the philosopher, but rather more of a broadly applicable rhetorical device.

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'An "appeal" in its broadest sense is an argument that makes reference to something outside of its own scope for its power. ...', I like the broadness of this and wonder about "something which may extend outside of its scope" –  strainer Dec 18 '12 at 17:57
    
The other answers did not provide any specific or clear reference that appeals carry the indications of inadequacy so often attributed to them. For its persuasion that advice seems to appeal -weakly to expectations or 'shoe fitting'. From almost limitless examples of appeals use, i find it means simply to include a thing for consideration in a way which will hopefully be indicated by contextual, intelligent reading. I think that is very close to your summary. –  strainer Dec 23 '12 at 11:49

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