Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The need for emotional appeals and the caution on use

I have become, as followers of this blog hopefully realize, a person who cares about making as well as recognizing good arguments. It's a good skill to have because it helps to prevent one from being fooled. And, wow, this is a skill that has made me realize that people are out to fool others a lot! (On a side note, I think a lot of the people who try to fool others have been fooled themselves and are merely repeating the bad arguments that fooled them. It's not like they are intentionally out to fool. But I digress.)

One tactic I see used a lot is appealing to emotion. It is understandable why this is. When we get emotional, we can become irrational. So if you are out to fool someone, it is to your advantage to get your target into an irrational state. But, unfortunately, another flaw with us humans is that we are often not persuaded by reason alone. Emotion motivates us. So for people like me who want to make good arguments, this gets to be a bit of a bit of a conundrum.

The thought that I've had on this is that appeals to emotion can be acceptable as long as they are backed up with arguments that are good. But this is still a risky endevour. Even if I am being as honest as I can about my position, I may not be able to see flaws in my argument due to my own personal biases toward my position. For the sake of determining truth, it is good to be able to have others try to find such flaws. But if I've deliberately taken away that ability by making the emotional much for that! Best way to put it is to say it is similar to a catch-22.

But, when action becomes necessary (as can be in the case of debating politics*), I am going to have to fall on the side of using emotion.

* That's a hint I'm working on some political posts that are going to evoke an emotional response.

Oh, look! While this was sitting in draft, I watched this The Daily Show clip that is rather relevant to the discussion.

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