Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mea Culpa

Last Thursday I wrote that a banner ad sponsored by the Judicial Confirmation Network that appeared on the website of National Review Online included an "appeal to emotion, a horrible reasoning error."

I was quickly admonished, via email, by a friend who argued that while the ad was an appeal to emotion, it was "eminently justified by the facts." I thought that I had been taught that appeals to emotion were reasoning errors, no ifs, and, or buts about it and argued as such in my response. He retorted that appeals to emotion are not reasoning errors and that "emotion can be eminently rational!" and questioned whether I was "a Vulcan from Star Trek."

He's right, of course. After consulting with the professor who taught me how to reason effectively, I realized that my friend was correct. While appeals to emotion often are reasoning errors in the course of an argument, they needn't always be so. For example, the banner ad stated that "The Government Can Take Away Your Home." While that is most definitely an appeal to emotion, it is also what SCOTUS decided and, therefore, is not an error. Here the ad was providing necessary information to the reader. Yes, it was emotional, but it does not constitute a reasoning error on behalf of JCN.

I was wrong, you were right. Case closed.


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