Tomorrow I must turn in grades for the classes I taught at the college this Spring. Over the last few weeks I have fielded no less than nine appeals for mercy.
“If I don’t make a good grade I will lose my scholarship.”
“If I don’t make a good grade it will look bad on my pageant documentation.”
“I would have done better but ….
Well you get the idea.
These appeals to mercy are know as the argumentum ad misericordiam fallacy. In the Fall I plan on starting the semester with a discussion of it. Rather than present a reasoned argument with supporting information the appellant makes an attempt to evoke sympathy. Even if logically irrelevant such an argument can be successful if the one to whom the plea is made is a compassionate bloke. Personally, I would prefer that they bring me a shiny red apple — or a cup of Starbucks coffee.