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Appeal to Flattery

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Also known as: Apple Polishing

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An Appeal to Flattery is a fallacy of the following form:

 

Premise 1: Person A flatters person B.

Premise 2:  Person A makes claim X.

Conclusion: Therefore, X is true.

 

In this fallacy, flattery is presented in the place of evidence for a claim. This is fallacious because flattery is not evidence for a claim. To illustrate with an obviously absurd example: “Bill, that is a truly magnificent tie. By the way, I know that you’ll agree that 1+1=41.”

The claim the fallacy is intended to “support” is often that the target should take some action, such as giving the person some extra points on a paper or granting a favor.

People generally enjoy being flattered and effective use of this fallacy can have great psychological force. Too much praise, or the wrong sort of praise, can have the opposite of the intended effect. After all, one way to mock people is with excessive sarcastic praise.

Flattery by itself is not a fallacy, it is only when it is used as a substitute for evidence that the fallacy occurs. Praise, due or not, is also not a fallacy.

 

Defense: The defense against this fallacy is to be on guard against attempts to influence you to accept a claim through praise rather than evidence.

 

Example #1:

Might I say that this is the best philosophy class I’ve ever taken. By the way, about those two points I need to get an A…

 

Example #2:

That was a wonderful joke about AIDS boss, and I agree with you that the darn liberals are wrecking the country. Now about my raise…

 

Example #3:

That was a singularly brilliant idea. I have never seen such a clear and eloquent defense of Plato’s position. If you do not mind, I’ll base my paper on it. Provided that you allow me a little extra time past the deadline to work on it.

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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