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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 many of his 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.

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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.

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More of the dialogue needs to be cited. Cut off as it is, the second quotation clearly looks like a tacit appeal for pity. It isn't. Socrates merely presents here certain facts about his situation - yes, he has a 'family, indeed three sons, men of Athens, of whom one is an adolescent while two are children' (Apol. 34C). He then goes on to say that when someone is brought to court and seeks pity on the basis of such facts, that person disgraces himself and that he, Socrates, would disgrace himself if he did the same (34E).

More than that, the reputation of the whole city is damaged - it becomes 'a laughing-stock' - when the jury fails to decide impartially purely on the evidence relevant to the charge and instead tolerates and is swayed by 'these pitiful dramatics in court' (Apol. 34E-35B).

Double-bluff? An appeal for pity disguised as contempt for any such appeal? It's possible but hardly likely. If Plato wrote the dialogue in order to represent Socrates in a favourable light, one might wonder how he failed to spot the inconsistency between a rejection of any appeal for pity and, immediately following, an 'explicit' (questioner's term) appeal to pity. Perhaps Plato had an off-day but another point is more important.

Socrates' whole attitude to the court is one of scarcely veiled contempt. At the start of the trial he accuses an accuser, Meletus, of 'dealing frivolously with serious matters' because he does not know what he means by his own charges (Apol. 24C-27E). Socrates later tells the court that regardless of its decision he will continue his philosophical task: 'to examine myself and others' (Apol. 28E). There is no hint anywhere in the dialogue of a conciliatory or supplicatory attitude to the court such as the supposed contradiction involved in passage b) is taken to suggest.

(Translations taken from G.M.A. Grube in Plato: Complete Works, ed. J. Cooper, Indiana: Hackett, 1997.)

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