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Argument by Emotive Language

(also known as: loaded words, loaded language, euphemisms)


Description: Substituting facts and evidence with words that stir up emotion, with the attempt to
manipulate others into accepting the truth of the argument.
Logical Form:
Person A claims that X is true.
Person A uses ver powerful and emotive language in the claim.
!herefore, X is true.
Example #1:
" re#ecting $od, ou are re#ecting goodness, kindness, and love itself.
Explanation: %nstead of #ust &not believing' in $od, we are &re#ecting' $od, which is a much
stronger term (( especiall when $od is associated with &goodness'.
Example #2:
% don)t see what)s wrong with engaging the services of a professional escort.
Explanation: !hat)s #ust a nice wa of saing, &soliciting a hooker'. *o matter what ou call it,
unless ou live in certain parts of *evada (or other parts of the world), it is still illegal.
Exception: +anguage is powerful and should be used to draw in emotions, but never at the e,pense
of valid reasoning and evidence.
Language and Logic
Functions of Language
!he formal patterns of correct reasoning can all be conveed through ordinar language, but then so
can a lot of other things. %n fact, we use language in man different was, some of which are
irrelevant to an attempt to provide reasons for what we believe. %t is helpful to identif at least
three distinct uses of language:
-. !he informative use of language involves an effort to communicate some content. .hen %
tell a child, /!he fifth of 0a is a 0e,ican holida,/ or write to ou that /+ogic is the stud
of correct reasoning,/ or #ot a note to mself, /1ennifer2333(4567,/ % am using language
informativel. !his kind of use presumes that the content of what is being communicated is
actuall true, so it will be our central focus in the stud of logic.
8. An e,pressive use of language, on the other hand, intends onl to vent some feeling, or
perhaps to evoke some feeling from other people. .hen % sa, /9rida afternoons are
drear,/ or ell /:uch;/ % am using language e,pressivel. Although such uses don<t conve
an information, the do serve an important function in everda life, since how we feel
sometimes matters as much as2or more than2what we hold to be true.
4. 9inall, directive uses of language aim to cause or to prevent some overt action b a human
agent. .hen % sa /Shut the door,/ or write /=ead the te,tbook,/ or memo mself, />on<t
rel so heavil on the passive voice,/ % am using language directivel. !he point in each of
these cases is to make someone perform (or forswear) a particular action. !his is a
significant linguistic function, too, but like the e,pressive use, it doesn<t alwas relate
logicall to the truth of our beliefs.
*otice that the intended use in a particular instance often depends more on the specific conte,t and
tone of voice than it does on the grammatical form or vocabular of what is said. !he simple
declarative sentence, /%<m hungr,/ for e,ample, could be used to report on a phsiological
condition, or to e,press a feeling, or implicitl to re?uest that someone feed me. %n fact, uses of two
or more varieties ma be mi,ed together in a single utterance@ /Stop that,/ for e,ample, usuall
involves both e,pressive and directive functions #ointl. %n man cases, however, it is possible to
identif a single use of language that is probabl intended to be the primar function of a particular
linguistic unit.
"ritish philosopher 1. +. Austin developed a similar, though much more detailed and sophisticated,
nomenclature for the variet of actions we commonl perform in emploing ordinar language.
Aou<re welcome to e,amine his theor of speech acts in association with the discussion in our
te,tbook. .hile the specifics ma var, some portion of the point remains the same: since we do in
fact emplo language for man distinct purposes, we can minimiBe confusion b keeping in mind
what we<re up to on an particular occasion.
Literal and Emotive Meaning
Cven single words or short phrases can e,hibit the distinction between purel informative and
partiall e,pressive uses of language. 0an of the most common words and phrases of an
language have both a literal or descriptive meaning that refers to the wa things are and an emotive
meaning that e,presses some (positive or negative) feeling about them. !hus, the choice of which
word to use in making a statement can be used in hopes of evoking a particular emotional response.
!his is a natural function of ordinar language, of course. .e often do wish to conve some portion
of our feelings along with information. !here is a good deal of poetr in everda communication,
and poetr without emotive meaning is prett dull. "ut when we are primaril interested in
establishing the truth2as we are when assessing the logical merits of an argument2the use of
words laden with emotive meaning can easil distract us from our purpose.
inds of Agreement and Disagreement
%n fact, an e,cessive reliance on emotivel charged language can create the appearance of
disagreement between parties who do not differ on the facts at all, and it can #ust as easil disguise
substantive disputes under a veneer of emotive agreement. Since the degrees of agreement in belief
and attitude are independent of each other, there are four possible combinations at work here:
-. Agreement in belief and agreement in attitude: !here aren<t an problems in this instance,
since both parties hold the same positions and have the same feelings about them.
8. Agreement in belief but disagreement in attitude: !his case, if unnoticed, ma become the
cause of endless (but pointless) shouting between people whose feelings differ sharpl about
some fact upon which the are in total agreement.
4. >isagreement in belief but agreement in attitude: %n this situation, parties ma never
recogniBe, much less resolve, their fundamental difference of opinion, since the are lulled
b their shared feelings into supposing themselves allied.
D. >isagreement in belief and disagreement in attitude: Eere the parties have so little in
common that communication between them often breaks down entirel.
%t is often valuable, then, to recogniBe the levels of agreement or disagreement at work in an
e,change of views. !hat won<t alwas resolve the dispute between two parties, of course, but it will
ensure that the don<t waste their time on an inappropriate method of argument or persuasion.
Emotively !eutral Language
9or our purposes in assessing the validit of deductive arguments and the reliabilit of inductive
reasoning, it will be most directl helpful to eliminate emotive meaning entirel whenever we can.
Although it isn<t alwas eas to achieve emotivel neutral language in ever instance, and the result
often lacks the colorful character of our usual public discourse, it is worth the trouble and insipidit
because it makes it much easier to arrive at a settled understanding of what is true.
%n man instances, the informal fallacies we will consider ne,t result from an improper use of
emotionall charged language in the effort to persuade someone to accept a proposition at an
emotional level, without becoming convinced that there are legitimate grounds for believing it to be
true.
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"#apter $ %#e &se of Language
$'1 %#ree (asic Functions of Language
.%nformative: !he first of these uses of language is to communicate information. +anguage used to
affirm or den propositions, or to present arguments, is serving the informative function.
.C,pressive: +anguage that serves an expressive function is not intended to inform us of an facts or
theories concerning the world@ it is not presenting information. %t is used to e,press emotions felt b
the writer or speaker and to evoke similar feelings in the reader or listener.
.>irective: C,pressive discourse as expressive focuses on neither true nor false. !o appl onl the
criteria of truth or falsehood, correctness or incorrectness, to a piece of e,pressive discourse, such
as, a love poem, is to miss the point and to lose much of its value. !he clearest e,amples are
commands and re?uests.
$'2 Discourse )erving Multiple Functions
Almost an ordinar communication will probabl e,hibit all three uses of language. !hus a poem,
which ma be primaril expressive, also ma have a moral and thus also be directive. And, of
course, a poem ma contain a certain amount of information as well. Cffective communication often
demands that language serve multiple functions.
$'$ %#e Forms of Discourse
Sentences are commonl divided into four grammatical forms: declarative, interrogative,
imperative, and exclamatory.
0uch discourse is intended to serve two or possibl all three functions of language2informative,
e,pressive, directive2at once. %n such cases each aspect or function of a given passage is sub#ect to
its own proper criteria.
+ogicians are most concerned with truth and falsehood and the related notions of the correctness
and incorrectness of arguments. !hus, to stud logic we must be able to differentiate discourse that
functions informativel from discourse that does not.
Summar !able
C,amples of Sentence 9orm and 9unction:


$'* Emotive +ords
!he informative function derives from the literal meaning of the words in the sentence2the ob#ects,
events, or attributes the refer to2and the relationship among them asserted b the sentence. !he
e,pressive content emerges because some of the words in the sentence ma also have emotional
suggestiveness or impact. .ords, then, can have both a literal meaning and an emotive meaning.
!he literal meanings and the emotive meanings of a word are largel independent of one another.
+anguage has a life of its own, independent of the facts it is used to describe.
!he game confirms what common e,perience teaches: :ne and the same thing can be referred to b
words that have ver different emotive impacts.
A disagreement in belief is a disagreement about the facts of the matter at hand2for e,ample,
whether or not an event has taken place. A disagreement in attitude is a disagreement in the wa the
parties involved feel about the matter at hand2for e,ample, whether or not the approve or
disapprove of it.
$', Four -inds of relations between two people discussing some event or other matter of fact:
-. !he ma agree in their beliefs regarding the occurrence of the event and in their attitude toward
it.
8. !he ma agree in their beliefs about the event, but disagree in their attitudes toward it.
4. !he ma agree in attitude, et disagree in their beliefs about facts giving rise to that attitude.
D. !he ma be in complete disharmon, disagreeing about the facts as well as in their attitudes
toward what the think the facts to be.
>etermining whether a given disagreement is one of belief, or of attitude, or of both, is sometimes
difficult. %t ma depend on some interpretation of the words of the disputants.
!he distinction between disagreements of attitude and disagreements of belief is ver useful@
awareness of the different uses of language helps us to understand the kinds of disagreements we
ma be confronting.
$'. Emotively !eutral Language
*eutral language is to be preferred when factual truth is our ob#ective. .hen we are tring to learn
what reall is the case, or tring to follow an argument, distractions will be frustrating@ and emotion
is a powerful distraction. !herefore, when we are tring to reason about facts, referring to them in
emotive language is a hindrance.
+anguage that is altogether neutral ma not be available when we deal with some ver controversial
matters. +anguage that is heavil charged with emotional meaning is unlikel to advance the ?uest
for truth.
%f our aim is to communicate information, and if we wish to avoid being misunderstood, we should
use language with the least possible emotive impact.
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