0

Source: pp 235-236, With Good Reason, An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (2000 6 ed) by York U. Prof. S. Morris Engel

  This fallacy [Appeal to Pity, abbreviated to AtP] is very common. It is also ancient, as we know from a reference to it in Plato's Apology, describing the trial in 399 B.C. of Plato's teacher, Socrates. Speaking to his judges, Socrates says:

a) Perhaps there may be some one who is offended at me when he calls to mind how he, himself, on a similar or less serious occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with many tears, and how he produced his children in court, which was a moving spectacle, together with a of relations and friends; whereas I, who am probably in danger of my life, will do none of these things.

Despite Socrates's stated refusal to employ appeal to pity, he goes on to make explicit use of it.

b) The contrast may occur to his mind, and he may be against me, and vote in anger because he is displeased at me on this account. Now if there be such a person among you—mind, I do not say that there is—to him I may fairly reply: My friend, I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and not "of wood or stone,' as Homer says; and I have a family, yes, and sons, O Athenians, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are still young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to petition you for an acquittal. (34C)

Socrates's use of the appeal to pity here is subtle.

How is the above an AtP? Socrate's use is too subtle for me to discern. It appears a Valid Syllogism to me, if I summarise the argument:

Premise 1. If someone produces emotive ostentations before judges, then these ostentiations are AtPs.

Premise 2. If something is an AtP, I do not do it.

Conclusion: 3. I do not do emotive ostentations before judges.

3

It is not a logical argument or "syllogism" whatever; it is a piece of rethoric, that runs as follows:

i) if some one, on a similar occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with many tears, and produces his children in court, ... he is using the "appeal to pity";

ii) myself (Socrates) "I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and I have a family, yes, and sons, O Athenians, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are still young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to petition you for an acquittal."

In denying to having recourse to the "appeal to pity", Socrates is doing exactly this.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.