In a fallacy that appeals to the heart, the arguer uses emotional appeals rather than logical reasons to persuade the listener. The fallacy can appeal to various emotions including pride, pity, fear, hate, vanity, or sympathy. The appeal to sympathy is actually a formal fallacy labeled ad misericordiam.
Generally, the issue is oversimplified to the advantage of the arguer. For example, in 1972, there was a widely-printed advertisement printed by the Foulke Fur Co., which was in reaction to the frequent protests against the killing of Alaskan seals for the making of fancy furs. According to the advertisement, clubbing the seals was one of the great conservation stories of our history, a mere exercise in wildlife management, because “biologists believe a healthier colony is a controlled colony.”
Have you ever run into this? For instance, take the following pro-choice argument. Is it a principle or a fallacy?
Pro-choice argument: A woman should have control over her own body.
This statement, while arguably true when applied to the individual, does not address a number of details.
First, her baby has its own body, brain, heartbeat, blood type, sex, and genes–half of which was donated by the father. Does that mean the baby is half his, legally? Or is possession truly nine-tenths of the law? This assumes we agree children are owned by their parents, of course.
Second, it neglects the controversy of whether it is a ‘fetus’ or a ‘baby’. (A popular Right to Life slogan is, “If it’s not a baby, then you’re not pregnant.”) If it is a fetus, a mere sac of blood and tissue, surely it is within a woman’s right to have it removed, the same as one would have a cancerous tumor removed. If, however, it is a baby (thereby implying that the woman is indeed pregnant and not simply experiencing a random growth or venereal disease), then one wonders what rights the unborn child is allowed to possess.
The “woman should have control over her own body” argument appeals to a liberal, human rights slant. It fuels the emotional certainty that we should all have consummate control over our bodies and what goes on inside them, while neglecting the same control for the unborn child.
In heated issues where positions are characterized by a high emotional index, it is common for antagonists to hurl fallacies at each other, but this is immature. When considering such a devisive topic as abortion, it is often difficult to separate emotions from rational debate (but not impossible.)
Pro-choice is said to follow from the widely accepted principle that individuals have a right to control their bodies. The counterargument would have to examine to what extent the principle is applicable. For example, do people have a right to kill themselves? To damage their bodies through self-destructive habits such as drinking, smoking, taking narcotics or mountain climbing? If yes, do women have that right in full when they are pregnant or do mothers have obligations to limit self-destructive habits when they are pregnant?
To the extent you weaken the premise on which the argument depends, to that extent do you weaken the conclusion for pro-choice.