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Emotional Versus Logical Appeals Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011

What Reasons Does the Writer Offer?

To help you see whether the writer's appeals are based on logic or emotion, break down her argument. The writer offers three different reasons for opposing the mandatory recycling proposal. List them here.

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  

You probably noticed that each of the three paragraphs deals with a different reason that the writer opposes the mandatory recycling program. They are:

  1. Recycling programs do not help the environment, and people who support the mandatory recycling program do so simply in order to make themselves feel better about a declining environment.
  2. The people who support mandatory recycling also supported a failed program to increase city bus routes.
  3. A mandatory recycling program would not actually cause people who do not presently recycle to begin recycling.

Are the Appeals Logical?

The next step is to see if these reasons are logical. Does the author come to these conclusions based on reason, evidence, or common sense? If you look carefully, you will see that the answer is no. Each of the writer's arguments is based purely on emotion without any logic to support it.

Begin with the first reason: Recycling programs do not help the environment and people who support the mandatory recycling program do so simply in order to make themselves feel better about a declining environment. Is there any logic behind this argument? Is this statement based on evidence, such as poll data showing a link between feeling bad about the environment and supporting the program, or environmental reports showing that recycling doesn't improve the environment to any appreciable degree?

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with this author, you can probably see that this argument is based only in emotion rather than in logic. The argument crumbles when you break it down. The author tries to blunt any skepticism about her argument by saying that "everyone knows" that recycling doesn't accomplish very much and that people support it mostly for selfish reasons. She states this as if it were an established fact, but she fails to establish it with evidence. Even though many people may agree, no one can correctly claim that everyone knows this to be true—as presented, it is mere opinion. In fact, many people would argue in turn that recycling does a great deal to help clean up the environment. And if the writer cannot say for a fact that recycling doesn't work, how can she convincingly assert that people support it for selfish reasons?

Even without this flaw, the writer's argument is not logical because there is no evidence in this essay that the particular mandatory recycling program being discussed by the city council will not work. The author moves from stating her opposition to the program in the first sentence to a paragraph of unconvincing generalities about recycling programs in general.

The author's second argument is that the people who support mandatory recycling also supported a failed program to increase city bus routes. Is there any logic in this statement? No, not if we bear in mind that the point of the argument is the recycling program and not the bus route program. Readers who are sympathetic to the underlying message that many government programs are wasteful may get caught up in the emotion of their opinion and lose sight of the fact that the author is not even talking about the proposed mandatory recycling plan. The argument is designed to succeed by appealing to this underlying sympathetic response rather than by addressing the merits and demerits of the proposal being considered.

The third argument is that a mandatory recycling program would not actually cause people who do not presently recycle to begin recycling. Again, the author offers no evidence for this claim. Instead, she works on her readers' sense of shame about their own failure to comply with local ordinances or on their cynicism about whether their fellow citizens will comply with such rules. She doesn't offer evidence that people won't comply, or that the law enforcement authorities will be ineffective in forcing compliance, instead suggesting that the proposed program would be an undue burden, forcing good people to act "surreptitious," or stealthy, about everyday, innocent actions. Again, she avoids supporting her argument with logic, reason, or evidence.

TIP: Certain words are sometimes used to communicate or reinforce bias, a person's individual opinion or interpretation of something. Biased words often illustrate the writer's emotions, and can also trigger emotions in a reader. Biased words are not rooted in fact. Instead, they convey judgment and personal belief. Here are some words that demonstrate bias:

  • best
  • favorite
  • horrible
  • awful
  • mailman (this word is gender-biased, as it pertains only to the male sex)
  • strange
  • smart
  • stupid
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