[Source:] I know I flunked every exam, but if I don't pass this course, I'll have to retake it in summer school. You have to let me pass!

Why is this a fallacy? I agree that the speaker desires sympathy and commiseration, but what is fallacious about his objective (reasonable, to me) to avert retaking the course (in the summer)?

This question was motivated by pp 154 of 180, A Rulebook for Arguments, by Anthony Weston

  • I think it's a bad example, namely because I have a hard time seeing a fallacy when the conclusion isn't a proposition. But I don't see any sound reason either. Perhaps it's because I'm a non-cognitivist in ethics that I don't find any relation between morality and logic. Aug 2, 2014 at 5:13

2 Answers 2


I agree that this is a poor example of the fallacy. The similar one from wikipedia is much better:

You must have graded my exam incorrectly... If you give me a failing grade I'm ruined!

In this case there is an independent argument, "you graded my exam incorrectly", and a statement which appeals to pity in a fallacious attempt to support that argument.

In the example in the OP, however, there isn't a clear independent argument other than the appeal to pity itself. If the argument itself is that the action will harm the arguer, then it is not intrinsically fallacious just because it appeals to pity.


this is a "Non sequitur".

The conclusion at the end does not follow from the argument. The first bit is entirely true, if they fail, they will have to go to summer school. There is no attempt to link this fact to the conclusion that follows.

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