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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Appeal to Pity


As matters escalate at Texas’ southern border, I’ve heard many examples of appeals to pity. Regarding this fallacy, one source states:


The appeal to pity fallacy occurs when someone substitutes logical evidence in an argument with a claim intended to elicit pity or guilt. However, feelings don’t serve as evidence for the truth of a claim. When we accept a conclusion regarding what should be a logical issue just because we feel sorry, we fall for this type of fallacy.


As an example, consider the following:


Source: The crisis along America’s southern border is a political liability for Joe Biden. Polling suggests that just 27% of Americans approve of the president’s handling of immigration; more than twice as many say they trust Donald Trump, his likely challenger in November’s election.


Person 1: The majority of unauthorized migrants our nation is currently accepting have no legitimate case for asylum. As well, the very fact that these individuals are breaking the law to be here speaks to their character. Moreover, our own citizenry need the invaluable resources being devoted to people immigrating here mainly for economic-related reasons.


Person 2: How dare you! These people need our help. Just think of all the women and children in the migrant caravans. They’re fleeing poverty. They’re fleeing assaults which are perpetrated against them on a continual basis. They’re fleeing their homelands for a chance of a better life! They’ve suffered enough. If we don’t take them in, then we’re condemning them to certain death!


Although person two provided a retort to person one’s claims, the rebuttal was an emotive-based response meant to elicit pity or guilt. Nevertheless, emotions don’t bolster person two’s argument or serve as evidence regarding the truthfulness or falsity of person one’s claim.


Therefore, an appeal to pity of this sort is a fallacy that serves to distract from truth of a claim by the use of pity. This is not how a rational actor approaches a reasonable discussion.


While I understand arguments to many sides of the border issue, I advocate use of logic and reason to guide discussions of this sensitive matter. After all, if little else was learned from the hysteria surrounding the response to COVID-19, I think emotively-driven behavior is less healthy than measured approaches to a crisis.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

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Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

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Wikipedia. (n.d.). Donald Trump. Retrieved from

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