Appeal to Vanity




Also Known As: Appeal to Snobbery


This fallacy occurs when an appeal to vanity or elitism is taken as evidence for a claim. It has the following form:


Premise 1: V is presented, with the intent to appeal to the vanity or snobbery of person P.

Premise 2: Therefore, claim C is true.


This is fallacious because appealing to a person’s vanity or snobbery is not evidence.  Such an appeal can be psychologically effective because people can be influenced by a desire to think of themselves as part of an elite group.

While vanity and snobbery can be moral flaws, they are not in themselves fallacious. It is their use in place of evidence that results in the fallacy occurring.

This fallacy is often employed in advertising by trying to motivate purchasing a product because it is associated with someone famous or that having the product somehow makes a person part of a special group. It is also used in politics, religion, and similar identity-based contexts. For example, a politician might try to motivate their followers to accept a claim by asserting that they are the real elites because they believe what they are saying. While this fallacy can be combined with Appeal to Group Identity in such contexts, they are different. Appeal to Group Identity gets its psychological force from the positive feelings the target has towards the group they identify with while the Appeal to Vanity gets its power from vanity or snobbery. If I believe a claim because I am proud to be a philosopher, then I would be committing an Appeal to Belief. If I accept a claim because I think I am better than everyone else because I am a philosopher and philosophers are the best, then I would be committing an appeal to vanity.


Defense: While it is appealing to think of oneself as among the elite, an appeal to vanity or snobbery provides no evidence for a claim. If someone is attempting to appeal to your vanity or snobbery, the defense is to ask whether there is any evidence for the claim they want you to accept. If there is not, you should not accept the claim on the basis of this appeal.


Example #1

“Ben Affleck wears the finest suits. Of course, he buys then at the Harvard Yard Suit & Baked Bean Emporium. You should too.”


Example #2

“Such a fine watch is not for everyone, but only for those who can truly appreciate a majestic time piece. If you are one of the select few, you may arrange an appointment with one of our agents to discuss purchasing opportunities. We do not accept walk-ins.”


Example #3

“You, my supporters are not just the elite. You are the super-elite. Like me. We have more money, and we are smarter. Our houses are better. Our boats are much nicer. The best boats. You are the super-elite. We are the super-elite. So, you know I am right when I say that we need more gun control. We cannot allow the non-elites to run around with so many guns.”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More



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