Appeal to pity
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An appeal to pity (also called argumentum ad misericordiam, the sob story, or the Galileo argument) is a fallacy in which someone tries to win support for an argument or idea by exploiting his or her opponent's feelings of pity or guilt. It is a specific kind of appeal to emotion. The name "Galileo argument" refers to the scientist's suffering as a result of his house arrest by the Inquisition.
- "You must have graded my exam incorrectly. I studied very hard for weeks specifically because I knew my career depended on getting a good grade. If you give me a failing grade I'm ruined!"
- "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, look at this miserable man, in a wheelchair, unable to use his legs. Could such a man really be guilty of embezzlement?"
- "Lord Byron shouldn't win the poetry competition: he doesn't need the prize money."
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Recognizing an argument as an appeal to pity does not necessarily invalidate the conclusion or the factual assertions. There may be other reasons to accept the invited conclusion, but an appeal to pity is not one of them (see also Argument from fallacy).
This fallacy is a frequent position espoused by Social Justice advocates - "because some arbitrarily defined group was historically oppressed, that justifies giving them preferential (rather than equal) treatment now, excuses mistreatment of an alleged historically power-holding group, or somehow creates an impetus to redistribute power & privileges from one group to another". See also the fallacious belief Two wrongs make a right.