Argumentum Ad Passions

“The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the man who is judging the case.” Aristotle


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about the logical fallacy of appeal to emotions. This occurs when emotion is manipulated to win an argument. Rather than presenting evidence or facts, emotion is used to persuade a desired viewpoint. In this fallacy of argumentum ad passions, emotion is used to weaponize opinion in place of reason. Consequently, the resultant logical construct lacks validity.

“Appeal to emotions is a logical fallacy that occurs when emotion is used to weaponize opinion in place of reason, resulting in argument without validity.”

Here is an example from the good folks at“X must be true because imagine how sad it would be if it weren’t true.” In reality, sadness has nothing to do with the statement for X being true or not because statements cannot, in of themselves, be sad (or happy). This fallacy is easy to spot because it will invoke emotions (e.g., sadness) for a belief in place of evidence.

Another example. Politicians argue that if you vote for their opponent, their opponent will cut programs that keep you safe. The appeals to fear and safety are being manipulated. Or, one we have all seen, commercials asking you to donate money as they show you a natural disaster or a scene of poverty. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with helping people after an earthquake or in desperate need; on the contrary, go out and help the downtrodden! But, as far as an argument goes, what you should be considering is the charitable organization, how much of donated funds actually get to the program in question, how well positioned the organization is for outreach in the affected area, etc. Emotional appeal distorts the argument because it preys on our desire to want to agree with a vantage point.

The use of emotion and persuasive language is a deceitful approach to discourse and seeks to succeed on the back of an emotional-based strategy. Don’t get emotional! Emotions are highly personal and, as grounds for an argument, cannot be verified. The biggest perpetrators are appeals to the negative emotions of fear, anxiety, anger and sadness and the positive emotion of hope. These are emotions we strongly associate with and thus create an opportunity for exploitation by those seeking to sway us.

On today’s Sunday Surgical Scrub, the call to action is to recognize that emotions are powerful and can evoke great appeal to your argument; however, it must be in the context of logic and evidence. Together, evidence and emotion are superlative. But, without evidence, you have a baseless appeal to emotion that is devoid of real meaning.


MEDICINE & MACULA: I’m at the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) 35th Annual Meeting in Boston this weekend.

Later today, we will be presenting one of our studies: “Efficacy of Intravitreal Sustained-Release 0.7mg Dexamethasone Implant For Diabetic Macular Edema Refractory to Anti-VEGF Therapy: Meta-Analysis”. Alexander Ringeisen, first year vitreoretinal surgery fellow at VRS, will be presenting. Many thanks to our coauthors Zainab Khan, Robin Kuriakose, Maryam Khan and Eric Chin. This study provides further insight into the benefits of multi-modality therapy for diabetic macular edema, the most common cause of vision loss in working age individuals.


GRATIS: Also later today, Eric Chin and I – cofounders of Citrus Therapeutics – were selected as finalists for the inaugural ASRS Winning Pitch Challenge.

This will take place in the main auditorium and we will be presenting our new therapeutic, CTX1, a novel agent for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Stay tuned for updates!



My best to you,

David Almeida

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *